"Any word of Darvinin?" asked Ruin, as he seated himself at the table. One of the servants deposited a plate in front of him: baked, honeyed fruits, delicately-cooked eggs, and breaded strips of roast quail with a drizzle of lemon-butter sauce.
"He's alive, at least," answered their mother, setting aside the letter she'd been reading. "I've been able to look in on him a few times, but he mostly seems to be either drinking or passed out afterwards."
Ruin frowned. "But you don't know where he is?"
"All things considered, I thought it was better that I didn't." His mother, whose usual expression varied between kindly and vaguely daft, was fully focused on him now. "The Provost seems to have set him up with some sort of retirement, or perhaps a rest cure. It takes him off the playing field without killing him -- which I suspect the Provost would prefer to avoid, as too many deaths will inevitably raise suspicions. I have no good way of tracking him down without..." She gestured.
"Bringing him back into play? And likely alerting the Provost?"
"Just so. And I don't want to do that until I have a better feel for how the Provost and his cabal will react. He'll suspect that I've at least checked in on your brother, but as long as we don't make contact Darvinin should be relatively safe."
Ruin considered that, then settled back and took a bite of his food. "Much as I hate to avoid him, I agree." He took another bite. "I did have another question, O my mother."
Her mouth quirked. "Oh?"
"This amulet you gave me, the one that came from an 'old, dear friend'. I thought it was some sort of tutelary item, meant to offer guidance for skills I might find interesting... and it is. But it's also connected to your own amulet, and let us find you in the Dwarf-home."
Baethira nodded slowly. "It's both. Tamisira Eldrish was my closest friend at school, a true elf and possibly something more. We were both of us, in our own ways, fascinated with acquiring knowledge. I became a wizard... and she became something else."
"A hunter?" asked Ruin. "An explorer?"
"Both," answered Baethira. "And a warrior, and a scholar. You would like her, I think -- and she would like you. She was amazing. And not long after we finished school, she left."
"To explore the world?" asked Ruin.
"To explore the worlds," answered his mother. "She left her amulet with me when I wouldn't come with her. And for all that you are your father's child, you remind me of her -- so I gave it to you."
Ruin swallowed his mouthful of breaded quail and touched his amulet, confirming his mother's presence at the other end of the table. "That seems a very intimate gift, O my mother," he said slowly.
"You didn't think your father was my first and only love, did you?" asked Baethira .
Ruin didn't answer, because of course he had. He swallowed, looked at his mother, tilted his head, and took another bite.
"Tamisira is still out there, somewhere," Baethira said. "She would be pleased to think of you as a nephew."
Ruin nodded and swallowed. "I'd be lying if I said I wasn't fascinated by what the amulet has to show me, O my mother. I'll continue my studies. And if your lover returns just in time to save us all, well... I hope my father isn't too shocked."
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