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The gift & the pledge
#11
There was no apparent aftermath to her shirking the question, though who truly knew the thoughts of an Aes Sedai? Still, Lythia’s interest did not seem to have waned as Nythadri might have expected. That was often the way things went, in Nythadri's experience. It was well documented how difficult she could be to engage, how detached she was, how miserably she failed to meet her potential. Aes Sedai were busy women and Accepted were expected to steer their own studies, so it was not surprising those inclined to teach had their favourites upon which to bestow their wisdoms. It was a game Nythadri was more than capable of playing, yet her disagreeable tendencies had sent her traipsing a thorny path instead. One down which she sometimes reflected she had become somewhat stuck.

Lythia's offered answer fluttered dangerously close to a lecture, which would usually be the point at which Nythadri’s interest switched off. But it also cut close to the quick. Her thoughts drifted to a midnight garden, a faceless gaidin, and a white orchid. Memories of his advice softened what she might have otherwise taken in a negative frame. “That was more than one word, Aes Sedai.”
Her lips tilted into a somewhat wry smile, dancing upon the edges of propriety, but her tone lacked its razor edge; it was not intended as an insult. Not that her abrasive sense of humour was often met with a kind reaction when aimed at a superior, whether she sugar coated it or not. The intensity of her gaze lost its focus as she truly gave it thought, apparently unperturbed to still be under the weighing gaze of an Aes Sedai as she did so. Has Arad Doman had such a profound effect that I'm really going to consider this? She titled her head back, absently surveying the decor of Lythia's rooms in a way she hadn't bothered when she'd stood here alone.

In all honesty? She had never thought of Greens like that. Bastions of life. Hadn’t she told Jai to live? And hadn’t the faceless gaidin told her to find some way to consolidate her ideals with the life the Tower bound her to? Only she didn’t know if she was selfless enough to ever fit the image of the sort of woman Lythia painted. The speech panged her heart with an aching longing rather than lifted her up to noble righteousness. She wanted the life she could never have, even as the person she had become drifted ever distant from the kind of person who could ever find contentment in the ordinary. Admitting to any of that left her terribly vulnerable, though. She knew she could never have the life that had so nearly been within her grasp, and it had taken a long time to accept. Was she even capable of moving beyond that uneasy forgiveness? Was it even forgiveness at all if somewhere dark she still blamed the Tower for those things she had lost?

Through the story of Logan (past tense, she noticed) she listened, but drew into herself thoughtfully. For the most part. Men, simple creatures? Loyal? Her brow rose in cynical disbelief, though it was not a point upon which she dwelt. Nythadri had expected a pitch, and had convinced herself to meet it with an open mind. So far this meeting was interesting, but not surprising. And then the conversation took an odd turn. Her gaze had wandered as she considered everything Lythia said, but now her attention returned with a curious tilt. She knew of the Traitor’s Tree; she knew the Black Tower was renowned for its ruthless justice. But, as Lythia herself pointed out, even an Accepted’s education didn’t include the intricacies of its laws – unless it was a subject she pursued of her own volition. She watched the Green pause to finish her tea, but did not now touch her own. She anticipated some veiled insinuation of Arad Doman, but found herself dumbfounded by the words that left the Green’s lips.

An agent? On my behalf? Nythadri was proficient at keeping cool. Even when things spiralled away from her understanding, she could bluff and follow the flow until a picture built itself up; she had done as much in Arad Doman, to work out as much as she had in the short time she had spent there. But maintaining that apparent flawlessness now – pretending she understood what in the Light Lythia was talking about – served little purpose, bar preservation of pride. Not that she was completely ignorant. She could fill at least some of the spaces in Lythia’s words, though the smallest part of her wondered if therein lay the trap. “If I was ever inclined to bid someone to act on my behalf, I can assure you the trail would not lead back to me if I did not want it to.”
She might baulk from the Great Game, but that was through stubborn choice; she was not incompetent in its execution. Her brows knit in a deliberating frown; she did not bother to hide it. She studied Lythia's face, and then she looked away.

For a long moment she was quiet. Thinking. The Green could be lying – indirectly, of course. ‘He’ could be anyone. But they both knew who she meant. Talk of Asha’man had not been incidental. And neither, apparently, had mention of their punishment system. What in the light has he done? Dereliction of duty seemed the most obvious given the rift between his and Daryen's ideologies, but Lythia had insinuated Nythadri’s involvement. No, not even simple involvement; manipulation. And if I accept this offer, what? She will extend her protection to him, insofar as it will reach? For a Green, it was a net neatly cast, if Lythia presumed Nythadri cared what happened to him. With anyone else she might have assumed the Aes Sedai was exaggerating to tug an emotion reaction from rational thought - and dismissed it accordingly. With Jai? He really might have done anything, the bloody idiot. And it's hardly up to me to intervene. I hardly know the man. Except she'd hardly known him when she'd tried to protect him from Imaad's barbs, either.

Why does Lythia think it's my fault? It bothered her, and she didn't hide it. It was an unusual consternation to feel so lost, for the puzzle pieces to be so distant she couldn't grasp a clear enough picture. Lips pursed, she followed the vein of honesty. It would be easy to feign entire ignorance, but instead she greeted Lythia’s forthright nature with her own. “My interests... You make me sound wonderfully mysterious. I feel like you have me at a slight disadvantage, though. Or, at least, you've overestimated my abilities. What has Asha'man Kojima done?"
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#12
Nythadri seemed on the verge of fading, walking in and out of visibility through what little light streamed on her. Lythia thought she'd lost her more than once, but she was encouraged the Accepted's attention returned upon mention of the Black Tower. Further when Nythadri's initial answer was followed by a long period of thoughtful silence. It was a cool response, admitting to nothing except the potential to have participated. Neither was she proclaiming innocence nor admitting to the conspiracy. In fact, her response was clever, and until now, Lythia had not considered it a possibility. Did she want the trail to lead back to her? While Nythadri pondered her options, Lythia tilted her study anew. As though looking upon a fresher face than what previously occupied her guest.

If so, it implied much. Nythadri would have had to coordinate just enough of a scent left behind that only the right people, Aes Sedai, would make the connection. It was no secret the Greens were the most well informed when it came to the internal affairs of their Black Tower brothers. Hmm. Possibly, but it seemed a stretch, even for Nythadri. She couldn't rule it out of the question, though. Especially when the Accepted returned with such an honest expression. If she were more invested in the outcome, Lythia might have been taken aback by it.

Hmm. More curiosities. She'd not expected the abstract talk about 'him' to transform into an identity so soon. Nor with so much formality, but then again, to edge the boundaries of formality fit with the picture that was Accepted Nythadri. She rarely behaved contrary to established norms, even if she skirted the edges with her flippant comments now and then. Only one word, indeed. Lythia had to swallow a smile at that.

"Oh,"
she began off handedly. She had absolutely no intention of explaining the full extent of her knowledge in response to one innocently posed question. What has he done. She tried to imagine 'him' walking the streets of Caemlyn. Of course it was a shapeless image, as she had little idea what he looked like beyond faceless facts. Facts, though, she had in abundance.

"An Accepted's general studies would include recognition of House economics. Probably any number of Accepted would recognize House Winther, if she may not be so sure of the particulars of their power. I don't imagine such is the same with you."
There was little gaming in her initial response, other than to position the relevant knowledge to the forefront of Nythadri's mind. Letting her string together the understanding that Lythia was not ignorant of her background, but only because her desk in the adjacent room was strewn with the reports she'd immediately requested. House Winther's enemies, public and private alike. Their stake in the claim to the throne, if future Wars of Succession ever arose again. Allies forged on deals that might have turned ill in recent days. Every bit of information she could piece together about the man in question. "The High Seat is surely released by now. Even the Queen cannot command so highly ranking a nobleman to imprisonment in the absence of violent charges. I imagine the Grays are quite excited over all of it."


Lythia spoke of the Grays with a sweet sense of amusement. Grays were natural allies with the Greens, but negotiations never lasted indefinitely. As permanent as the Grays would lead everyone to believe they were. "His defense should not have held such sway with Elayne, nor struck so close to the heart of Andoran court. Since the Dragon Reborn renounced his desires for taking the throne himself, such should extend to his Asha'man. But Nobles are touchy, and Lord Winther is a well-spoken orator, and then of course he has a witness."
Lythia swung her head thoughtfully side to side. That was the err, leaving someone who could claim the use of channeling against them. One simple encounter could escalate from debacle to ruin very quickly. She banished the sudden manifestation of faces before her. Byron would succeed. He had to.

"We have the Three Oaths to protect the White Tower from such allegations.."
she paused to let their wordings cross Nythadri's mind. "They have no such buffer. Only the hungry beast of rumor wherever they go."


The M'Hael and Lythia were close enough she could speak with him, if she wanted. It was no guarantee he would listen, and mercy was not in his character. However, protecting Nythadri's young Asha'man was not necessarily the 'interests' Lythia mentioned; she glanced at Nythadri's collar as though imagining a glint of gold under the gown. She couldn't fathom the desire to save one's family from turmoil given Lythia's lack of such a dynamic when she was in the same rainbow hem. However now she was blessed with sisters, and for them, she could fathom much. Such as now. Nythadri's interests were sweet, and Lythia appreciated the touch of vengeance to them, but Accepted would eventually have to leave such things behind if she were to be Aes Sedai. Or at least better cover her tracks.

For the foolhearty Asha'man, well, if the boy was half as he was described, Lythia would attempt to salvage what she could. It would be a terrible shame to see such a spectacular creature go to waste. She was still waiting for Nythadri's agreement.
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#13
“Caemlyn.”
She had hoped for a straightforward answer – and she supposed in Lythia’s mind it may well have been, since she seemed to assume Nythadri’s understanding of the surrounding context. Lacking that, and disinclined to protest to the innocence she had already stated once, Nythadri made what she could of the explanation. It was a vague picture, but it had enough substance to begin to stoke an ember of discomfort. What’s he doing in Caemlyn when he’s supposed to be in Arad Doman? Her lips twitched a frown. She had cut all ties with Caemlyn and her family when she had left, and kept no tabs on the city’s current affairs; it would be hard to care less about the political cesspit that had been her old home. House Winther was known to her, of course, but it meant very little personally. So why did she get the feeling that Lythia thought it should mean something?

Her skin was tingling cool, like the blood within was running ice. It was never pleasant to be one step behind, but it was more than that. She didn’t like the conclusions that were gathering like clouds on a clear day, darkening the edges of her vision like the morning she had received Tashir’s sigil. Her expression stilled with serious gravity, the look she pinned on Lythia a sort of silent intensity. Why is it my fault? A more astute question to have asked, perhaps, but too late now. She blinked her gaze away, assimilating this information. Wiser to analyse it later, though, or darkness was going to rush up and choke her. She could feel it now, as intoxicating as the breath of saidar - and just as dangerous. Balanced on that brink, she pulled herself back. The details were unimportant, for now. Best focus on the present. Just the 'what', not the 'why'.

So he’s broken one of the oaths. To speak no word that is not true; to make no weapon with which one man may kill another; never to use the One Power as a weapon. And of those three, she was pretty certain which Jai must have transgressed. But why? The idiot! Her quickest impulse was defence; did Lythia know what Jai had come from? What Daryen was up to? Not that such stresses were excuses for poor judgement and reckless behaviour, but she had seen his reaction to Tamal’s arrow; knew something of the rashness of his anger. Asha’man were bred for war. If Jai had done something stupid, she was convinced that it must have a defensible rationalisation. Probably. Only where was the anger in the apparent calculated fall of a House Lord?

None of those armoured words ever left her lips; it was the wrong battle to fight. Calm had found purchase now that the shock of revelation passed – or had at least been contained - and some of her wry humour returned in its stead. “Isn’t that why we’re supposed to stand by our brothers.”
It was not a question so much as a statement; and a superfluous one at that, given her company. She could not think of a Green more closely affiliated with the Black Tower, or one less likely to jump to the aid of an Asha’man unfairly charged. It was also the barest hint of alliance, the first deliberate whisper that Nythadri might be taking the offer seriously. Between Jai and Daryen, she had developed a rather resolute opinion of the White Tower’s counterpart. Different though the Towers may be - and they were different - it was a chasm marked wider by White Tower arrogance. Asha'man were to be the first line of defence, yet too often Nythadri had heard derisive opinion.

For a while she was quiet, chewing idly on the treats the Aes Sedai had provided. Were there not such an abyss between their respective ranks, she might have pursued the topic further. But Lythia had not brought her here for that reason; her offer still hung in the air, unanswered. Did Nythadri think she needed Lythia's protection? No. Not that it would not have its benefits, but it did not sway her. “When they discovered the Spark in me, I was days away from running away with the Tinker wagons.”
Granted, that had not been down to pacifist ideals, but it amounted to the same thing. She had no interest in bearing arms in the traditional sense. Looking at the weapons mounting Lythia’s walls did not glitter her with the dream of glory. It was necessity, but the necessity of others who had the talent for it. “Not many people know that. At least, they will not have heard it from me. I shirked many duties to my House because I was too busy living. And I've erred once or twice since donning the white, too. I’m not a noble person. And I have no interest in weapons or glory,”
– her hand waved vaguely at Lythia’s walls, to distinguish that she meant it in a physical sense. It was a purposeful list of stereotypical Green qualities. And once Lythia knew Nythadri better, she might be able to distinguish it as her rather strange sense of humour at play.

"I accept your offer, of course."
Said flippantly as she reached to replace her empty cup on the table, though accented with a brief look up and glimmer of a smirk. Foregone conclusion, really. If even the Blues had asked nicely, and bluntly, she might have said yes. Lythia’s speech had touched something, granted, but she was not about to admit to it. "Presuming the Sitters approve of my aspirancy."
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#14
Following the afternoon tea with Nythadri, Lythia journeyed to the Black Tower. Her path to the M'Hael was unguarded, but she had been unable to sway the man from his decision concerning Jai. She, like so many others, found herself surprised at the role Lennox would come to play in all of it. Yet despite the strange ending- Why the sword? What was its significance? - her unease was not so strong as to keep her from moving on. Instead, she would come to rely on Aileen Sedai to keep a close eye on further developments. Eyes saw broadly and Ears heard every corridor, but informants in the Black Tower were largely unprepared to act should circumstances arise. Aileen was probably the only Green Sister who knew the ways of the Black Tower as intimately as Lythia. Although Aileen's perspective came from the ground floor up, whereas Lythia's peered from the heights down. Together their views provided a great perspective of Black Tower life, and they understood the men who held it up. Aileen would do well making sure Jai remained okay, and thus fulfilled that part of Lythia's bargain with their new aspirant. If she cares at all. She hadn't seemed too interested. Maybe I overestimated things.

Thoughts for puzzling out the M'Hael were soon put aside as well. Lythia understood why the man had done what he had, for all the political reasons, nationally, and with his own men. He had to rule with an iron fist. Shadow had done much the same. Yet at the same time, had been completely different.

Now, she was taken to Caemlyn to fulfill the more difficult side of her bargain. Ellomai was not staying at the palace today, but rather in one of the guest quarters at the nearby school. Ellomai had the mind of a Brown in this regard. She could dig through a mountain of information and come away with the one detail she needed that a table of scholars would otherwise miss. Yet her heart was never swayed by the Browns. She knew the day she came to Tar Valon that she would be a Green. For she had left Malkier just before her homeland was overrun by the Blight, and she never forgot what it was like.

It was at the school that Lythia met Ellomai. They would have time and privacy to talk without interruption. Nor would Lythia suspect anyone would think anything odd about Aes Sedai meeting in such a location. It was politically neutral, after all. There, Ell showed Lythia the copies of things that had stolen the focus of the young man that rainy day at the Archives. The paperwork meant nothing to Lythia for the most part of their meeting, for she spent the majority of the time listening to Ell guide her through it all. Much the same was in the report that started this whole affair, but there was something to be said about looking at things with your own eyes rather than just reading about them.

"Keep up the good work, Ell. And keep digging. Oh before I go, I forgot to ask you. You recognized his sword, didn't you?"
The Sister was a bubbly woman. She was quick to smile, unless she was working, then she was difficult to rouse from concentration. However, when her lips pursed to a grim line, the gray in her hair seemed all the brighter, and the saddness seemed to surface. So, Ell had known it. "And it was--?"
She nodded sadly. Then Lythia did as well. It explained so much, and her heart understood the breaking that had been Jai's. She couldn't bring herself to tell Ell it was destroyed now. The entire nation was almost completely erased from existence. "I'll be in contact. Go in the Light, Sister."
The two Greens parted, warders flanking each as they went.

Armed with fresh knowledge, Lythia knew Mishael Vanditera and his daughters left town. It wasn't a spectacularly notable event, but then again, she had been looking for it. Events going on at the bank in question were relatively unchanged, since affairs of this sort took a long time to process. They were still organizing the charges they were levying at Matias Winther, who in turn, was levying his own charges back at them. Grays were already sparking up talks between the two groups, and mediating between them and the Queen's men. But Matias had plenty to keep him busy, as more and more he redirected attention from his financial frustrations toward the proximity of the Black Tower. So far, nobody seemed aware that anything unusual was going on at all with the Vanditeras. Lythia intended to make sure it stayed that way. Ellomai would be in town anyway, but she would make sure they were well advised once they returned. This left Lythia free to spend the remainder of her trip in Caemlyn working damage control on the war waged against her brothers.

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#15
The Accepted Tower
Later the same evening...


Restless, she was so bloody restless. There was too much to think about; too much to understand, balanced against a whole lot she was desperate not to think about. She couldn’t sleep. The accepted tower had been quiet for a long time - even the usual late-night whispers through the walls silenced as their owners succumbed to sleep - when Nythadri finally gave up staring blindly at her ceiling. She’d slipped from her bed, remarking at how quickly the warmth went from so small a room after the flames of her hearth died. Her skin still pebbled, but the discomfort was only periphery now that she was settled into her studies at her desk. An earlier trip to the library had furnished it with a dozen and more books she’d not yet had the time to look at. Andoran House lines, the Black Tower judicial system and general history, as well as a few volumes likely to detail biographical profiles of a few public figures (most of them Green Ajah). Bubbles of light made a halo of her head, which was bowed over a hefty tomb of lineage she was not sure she was permitted to have liberated from the library. It was not the usual Accepted study material.

The Winther line sprawled across a double page, at a first glance too ancient to be of any use. A finger scrolled down the unfamiliar names, then flipped a page in frustration, until she found Matias’ entry. Names reignited the vague recollection of faces, but the associated memories were maddeningly elusive. She’d put so much effort into ignorance back then that it was like squinting in smoke. Three sons branched from the High Lord’s name, no daughters. It was a moment before the curling script roused anything close to the memory of living breathing flesh, and what did surface was not exactly an epiphany so much as a dismal reminder of the daughter she had been.

She remembered her father begging her to attend another in a long line of functions, but the words were muddled by the resonance of harp strings. She could even recall the piece she had been playing at the time – that was so clear the resonance of each note still vibrated a memory through her fingertips. It must have been after he had tried to coerce her into letting him sell the instrument, after he had exhausted all of Caemlyn’s banks and money lenders. She had never loved that harp more than when he had tried to take it away. Her fingers had burned, plucking harder to drown out the voices, but it only brought discord to the music. So she’d agreed, irritated, and her father had retreated, Tashir on his heels. He didn’t wear the pendant back then. She remembered that with a pang, and then an echo of his scathing comment sparked in her memory; moments before the door had clicked shut, and the harmony of her retreat continued. “—doesn’t matter anyway. Winther isn’t interested in wedding one of his sons to a family begging for his money.”

Her finger hovered over a name: Pathor. Her father had wanted to introduce them, but she never had gone to that function, and she never had met Matias’ youngest son. And I can’t have insulted a man that I never met. One theory disproved, but another already sprung up to take its place. Though she’d known of her family’s impending financial turmoil, she’d never shown interest in the details. If her father had borrowed coin from the Winther’s, Nythadri had been unaware at the time. But the pieces fit perfectly in hindsight. A dangerous gamble, to owe money to your competitors in the game; which would have been exactly why her father would have wished to cultivate an alliance of marriage – to buffer that risk. And it might have worked, if only he could have gotten through to his daughter. In the dead of night, emotion tattered and mind overworked, guilt simmered beneath the surface of this new understanding. But familiar ice froze it over before it took hold. Nythadri couldn’t change anything. It happened. It’s over.

She pushed the book away, still open, and pulled another from the pile. And now Lord Winther has been arrested. Conjecture abounded, rational and irrational both, but she wasn’t going to find the answer to that in dusty books from the Tower’s library. So she moved on to something more concrete; she could at least find out what Jai faced - the punishment Lythia had suggested was down to Nythadri’s meddling.

Her mind was buzzing, but she was too worn to concentrate properly. She read the same page three times before anything sank in, and she skipped ahead from the introduction to the pages labelled Crime and Punishment. A graphic illustration of the Traitor’s Tree marked the title page, and she stared at it for a long time in the flickering light cast from her spheres of saidar. “Do you know what they do to one of their own that commits a crime short of alliance with the Shadow? It can be rather cruel.” Lythia had insinuated that whatever Jai had done, Lord Winther had spun it as a play for power on the Asha’man’s part. Harming someone with the Power aside (and he must have had a reason, right? Even his attack on Tamal had not been unprovoked), that was the most serious infraction; or would be, in the eyes of the Black Tower. Years after the taint had been cleansed, negative rumour still held strong. Any tarnish to the fragile beginnings of a better reputation would be a serious issue. And for a crime committed so close to the Black Tower’s own doorstep? She flipped the page, and began to read.

She ended up reading the whole book cover to cover, sickened. The subject focused her mind, at least, once she had unhooked it from her reasons for seeking the information in the first place. So absorbed, it took her from the blackest part of night to the first peeks of dawn on the horizon. The bell for breakfast had already tolled, half unheard, when she flicked the pages back to the image of the Traitor’s Tree. Her thoughts, so jagged and jerking not hours ago, were still now; dull. The horror sat placid. She had a good idea of what he might face, but it seemed so much depended on the M’Hael. What kind of man was he? That information was scarce; this book had been written some time after Shadow al’Mere’s death and Tambrin’s succession. At least one more M’Hael had reigned since then. As such, she knew next to nothing about him. Or his notion of justice.

Suddenly exhausted, she let the redundant balls of light wink out, and massaged her head. Her neck ached, and she was freezing. Thank the light for a channeler’s endurance; a long day loomed ahead.
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#16
She looked at it a long time, undecided. Every letter ever sent from home, she had burned without reading.

Pleasantries and banalities, meandering as if circling a point he did not know how to best address. She skimmed the words, mouth dry, jaw rigid, eyes burning. Her father spoke of her sisters. Her mother. No mention of Tashir’s pendant. It took a moment for her to realise that this letter must have been sent before hers could have possibly arrived. So why contact me after all this time? The last of the letter fell into an innocuous code that took her exhausted mind a moment to fall back into. Mishael spoke of, she thought, a scandal. Lord Winther, then. And of a vast, anonymous donation of… of coin.

Money?

Oh. After most of the night reading and speculating and running her mind in tired circles, it suddenly fell into place. The clarity cut. She did remember Matias Winther, not from the scarce memories of noble gatherings she had racked her brain for, but from the fogged weeks following Tashir’s death. The same day her father had withdrawn his support into the inquiry of the murder. The same day it had been declared a tragic accident. Nythadri tried to halt the epiphany in its tracks; tried desperately to beat back the fevered race of thought from its inevitable conclusion. She had never wanted to know who had killed her brother; never wanted a target to pin blame. The Tuatha’an taught forgiveness, and to Farune she had pretended so pure an absolution – a tragic twist of the Wheel, blameless. Easier to hate herself than burn with the bitterness of vengeance.

She never quite let the thought crystalise, but she knew. She knew what Winther had done.

Her eyes had squeezed shut. When she opened them, the letter shook in her hand. Her father was worried about the paper trail. His old debtor falls from grace, and suddenly he finds himself rich; and with more than one motive to see the man fall. Light. She blinked her tired eyes. Lord Winther had talked himself out of Elayne’s grasp; Lythia had told her he walked free to spout lies of an Asha’man uprising. But he must know himself that wasn’t true. He’s covering himself. Her father called it an anonymous donation; that spoke of bribery; none of this must be in the public eye. Jai. A son of one of the most prestigious banks in Tar Valon.

At least it now made sense why Lythia thought Nythadri so invested. And why she was so sure Nythadri had engineered the whole thing. Her family stood to gain in the whole affair. And the bloody pendant. Of course Jai had sent that, thinking she would be grateful – oh, light, now it dawned even clearer –grateful for justice. The bloody idiot, the bloody idiot! He’d gone after Tash’s killers, and had jumped straight into the blazing fires of House politics in the process. Fury burned in her chest. She’d told him about her brother in confidence; a tentative offering of trust, not an incitement to arms. And certainly not an invitation to invade the most fragile pieces of her past.

Her eyes caught on the drawing of the Traitor’s Tree, as the second bell rang for breakfast. Her anger dipped – not caught in her usual net of control – but drained to something uncomfortably like responsibility. Had she been naïve to tell a man like Jai about her brother’s murder? Had any part of her considered that he might act on the information? No, it hadn’t occurred to her; she had not even been thinking about herself when she’d spoken, only about the pain in his expression. She’d meant to offer comfort, but regardless of her intentions, he had acted anyway. For what reason she couldn’t fathom; it still left her at the epicentre. If I hadn’t said anything, none of this would have happened

Just like if she hadn’t been at that inn, Tash would still be alive.
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#17
[[continued at Loose Ends]]
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