Written: Winter 2005
Summary: A young woman meets the little brother she’s forgotten.
These characters, stories, and ideas are the original, copyrighted work of Nicole Sharp and are protected under a Creative Commons License.
“How can you not remember me?” he asked, the urgency in his voice growing.
She pulled her hand away from him, stepping back as she did. “You’ve mistaken me for someone else, sir. I don’t know anyone from other parts, especially not from the South.”
“Taealwhyn, I’m your brother! You can’t tell me you can’t remember Grylland,” he insisted, recovering the distance between them with a subtle forward movement as he spoke. “You used to tell me stories before I went to bed.” His voice faded, and he reached out, his fingertips just brushing the edge of her jawline. “Gods, you’re as beautiful as Mother was…”
“My mother?” she whispered. Tears were forming in her eyes, a threat both to her composure and her identity. How was it that a stranger could reduce her to tears with only a few words? She shook her head, denying him and the tears he brought with him. “No, you don’t know me. No one knows me.”
Before she could step away, his hands encircled her waist, and he drew her closer. “They told me what happened to you both in the Pass, and they also said that you still have nightmares about it.”
“Nightmares about what?” she demanded. “Vague flashes of light, terror, running. That could be anything, but whatever it is, it’s certainly none of your business.”
“Nightmares about what they did to you both. How they killed her.”
Even as he whispered the words, she heard the gut-wrenching sound of steel on bone, the screams, the clatter of horses’ hooves. A single instant of the murkiness cleared: the look of horror and anguish on the woman’s face as the blow fell and exactly how her eyes flicked to the child at the final instant. A ghastly farewell.
She doubled over, retching, but he continued to hold her steady. Her throat burned rawness, and this time there was no denying the hot tears that blazed down her skin. Her knees gave, and he lowered her to her hands and knees, where she dug her fingers into the grass to distract herself from the awfulness. Her shoulders shook such that she could hardly breathe, or maybe it was that she couldn’t breathe, so her shoulders shook. It was hard to know anything until she collapsed, rolling onto her back.
“They would have done the same to me,” she whispered once her breath returned. “They would have done the same with me.”
He nodded, squatting before sitting beside her. “And, if they’d known that they could have…”
“Gods, we never even considered it,” she replied, covering her eyes with one hand. “How could we?” And what if they found out that she had a brother? “You shouldn’t be here,” she said. “You should never have come here.”
“I had to see you,” he answered. “I had to find out what happened. Neither of you ever considered what it might be like for us, suddenly left behind by the two we adored more than anyone on earth. Gwaldyn nearly threw himself off the cliff, and I had half-a-mind to join him.”
Her face grew serious and still. “But did you ever consider what would have happened if we stayed? Did you ever consider what could happen to you if they find out?”
“Do you think I’m afraid of dying?” he asked, a quizzical look on his face, the sort a warrior wore in Grylland when you asked them if they were afraid of battle.
“I think that you should be,” she answered.
“What sort of man would I be if I feared death, Taessy?”
She lowered her eyelids, wanting to smile at the old nickname, but things were far too serious for that now. “There are fates worse than death to be had in these times, my pet.”