"Springblossom?" someone asked. "Springblossom Sunrise?"
Ruin turned, because he already knew who this had to be, even if he couldn't quite believe it: Milathyra Antithian, one of his mother's Old School Friends and mother to the bladecrafter Amaranth. The last time he'd seen her had been in Annun, and she'd been out shopping: dressed in fine clothes with a certain amount of jewelry on display.
Much, it seemed, had changed. The woman before him was leaner than when they'd last met, and dressed in a simple brown robe, albeit of good quality cloth. A fox sat beside her right ankle, studying him carefully.
As a result, his voice was gentler than he'd originally intended when he answered her: "My name is Ruin."
"You finally chose that?" she asked, evidently approving. "Amaranth thought you might. It suits you."
"And you've become a druid," he observed.
She nodded, blushing slightly. "Yes, I-- after we fled Annun, I needed to do... something. It still seems very strange sometimes, but... yes."
"It suits you," Ruin said quietly. "You seem... happier?"
Milathyra laughed. "I'm not sure I'd qualify being chased by murderous pretenders across half of Duendewood as happy, but it was certainly stimulating." She must have arrived with Alnira, then, and he hadn't recognized her as anything more than another wolf in the pack.
"More relaxed, then." Ruin offered a smile in return. "And how is Amaranth?"
"She was well when I left her, though that was months ago now." Milathyra looked briefly wistful. "She said she was going to find a place to set up a hidden smithy and provide weapons to the Resistance. She has an apprentice, though he's barely old enough for it, and she took everything she could from her shop before we left."
"She's still making those magnificent blades, then." Ruin was pleased. Pleased to know she'd escaped Annun, too.
"She showed you her shop?" Milathyra sounded surprised, then shook her head. "Of course she did. I was the one ashamed of it; she never was. How you two never ended up together..."
"Milathyra," Ruin said gently, "Your daughter and I weren't friends at school. We never had much to do with each other at all. I'd count her as a friend now, but we only had two days together in Annun. And it may be indelicate to say it, but... your very obvious desire for your daughter to hook up with one of the Twiceborn made it all very awkward."
"Oh." Milathyra looked away for a moment. "I really was sort of horrible, wasn't I?"
"Perhaps a little bit," Ruin told her. "Amaranth was more bothered by it than I was."
"Well... I suppose that's some comfort, since she did make it a point to take me with her when she left Annun." She sighed. "More to think on, I suppose. There's been much of that, but I suppose I brought it on myself. I wonder if there's a way to send her a message?"
"Ask Alnira," Ruin advised. "She might know something."
Milathyra blinked. "She might at that. It's good to see you, Ruin. I'm glad you and your friends arrived when you did."
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