I am drowning in women, both present and absent. If I repeat their names in my mind, the words become a song, a sound, the beating of my blood through my veins: Rizika. Qarie. Aellynne. Iladrei. Fable. Sage. Mother. Harlo.
Rizika. The Captain’s sister. Not by blood, but by a bond I will not question. She is sweet and beautiful, and I am having difficulty keeping in mind that she is a grown woman, capable of defending herself. She is staying in the Lodge, and thus interacts often with the Rangers. Some of them are young men whose eyes most certainly find her easy to look upon, and I am having to rein in an unexpected protectiveness over her.
Qarie. She has joined the Defense Initiative. I have never loved her, but we spent many months keeping one another’s bedrolls warm, and the fondness between us is genuine. Time has not touched her. She is as much of a wildfire as ever. She will either be a great friend to the Captain, or one of them will end up killing the other.
Aellynne. The Commander, and yet as the second summer of our acquaintance passes on, I find it difficult to think of her by title. She is the closest friend we have; she is the only person who is part of both our personal and professional lives together. When first I met her, the softness of her demeanour and the sweetness of her smile called to me, and had she not had companionship at that time I might well have sought to provide it. It would have been a mistake. I know she both deserves, and seeks, happiness and peace. I pray they come to her soon.
Iladrei. I think of her no more, nor any less, since I sold the house to the Crusade. She is a ghost that will ever linger behind my shoulder, unseen but unforgettable, and in many ways I am grateful for the reminder of what I have lost. She is the foremost incentive to avoid repeating the same mistakes.
Fable. I know she is alive. I know this. Mother says she must be dead, or she would have returned to us by now, or sent some word. But she is my phantom half, the heart that beat in the womb with me, and I would know if she were gone. This I must never lose faith in.
Sage. My niece. I was never her favourite uncle, but I tried so very hard to make her happy. I succeeded. Until Creed. One moment of temper, one moment of idiocy, and I broke my already battered family. Every week in the Court she passes me without a word, with hardly a look, as she wheels my brother by. And I am too much of a coward to ask her to stop.
Mother. Mother. The one family member I yet speak with, and even then through letters. It is three Winter Veils apast that last we saw one another. But yesterday she came to the Lodge, without my knowledge, and met with Harlo. She says she misses me. She wants to know us, and Thorn. She wants our family to be together again. These are all things I knew, or at least suspected, and yet they become suddenly more relevant when she brings them not to me in letters, but to Harlo in person. I have wanted to make a move forward with my family. Not only for mother’s sake, nor my own, but for the woman I treasure above all.
Harlo. My Captain. My lover. And, should all go well, my future wife.