James and Poppy were suitably horrified to learn of the war, but Poppy admitted to having an idea of her former mistress being a sea witch. Being bound to near silence, though, it was impossible for her to ask if it was true or to warn anyone. Even speaking with James in the castle could have spelled her execution. James, for his part, admitted he knew his cousin would always be a better ruler than him, so it was no hard decision to run away.
Abigail’s hands were still shaking as the day turned to the afternoon hours. With Merike’s death, the storms were beginning to dissipate and the sea was starting to quiet. But the unknown her death brought made Abigail nervous, which made her hands clench around the hands of the dying.
After a subdued morning in the kitchens, where she struggled to talk with Rosa, she’d fled to the quiet of the infirmary and its rooms of the dying. The quiet gave her mind the space to spin and twirl, coming to grips with the fact the mermaid princess was dead.
The woman lying in front of her was breathing with a rattle in her chest. She’d been struck with a respiratory illness while out at sea. After spending nearly a week languishing, the ship had finally brought her back, where the healers were unable to do anything but ease her pain.
Abigail bowed her head, a tear slipping down her cheek as she clutched the woman’s hand. Fortunately, the woman was the room’s sole occupant, but the fact that she’d had to catch her death aboard a war vessel tore her heart out. After all, she’d had something to do with James running away.
A hand touched her shoulder, startling her out of her dark thoughts, and she quickly wiped her tears away, dismayed to discover the woman had passed away without her notice. Fresh tears stabbed at her eyes, but she quickly blinked them away.
A handkerchief was presented to her and she gratefully took it. It smelled fresh and clean, like the magic of Clarice.
“No matter how hard we try,” a soft voice murmured above her, “we can’t save everyone.”
Abigail looked up, into the solemn eyes of a fae who was known for her smile and skill with fabrics.
With a heavy sigh, Clarice settled herself on the floor beside Abigail. For long moments, Abigail watched as the fae stared blankly at the woman’s body. There was a new weariness in her being, one that threatened the lightness and delight with which she moved when it came to fabrics.
“I can’t stay, Abigail.”
“Of course,”Abigail said, dipping her head. “Your skills are needed elsewhere, and it has been some time since you’ve been back at The Spindle.”
“No,” Clarice said, her shoulders slumping a little. “I mean I can’t stay in this world much longer. It’s breaking my spirit, Abigail.” She turned to look up at Abigail. “When the war is over, I’m going to the linked world.”
Abigail took a slow breath. “For how long?”
Clarice offered a one shouldered shrug. “I don’t know. But I want to see what the other side of the portal offers. I don’t intend on wandering too far into that world; my powers will wane the further I wander and I may not recover them when I return. But, surely, someone there could use a fae seamstress. After all, several people from here have permanently relocated there.”
Abigail nodded absently, her eyes turning away to stare unseeing at a wall.
“If I could go, I think I would, too,” she whispered.
“Your place is here,” Clarice said gently.
Abigail gave a single, solemn nod. “It is. But I hope you will still come and serve the royal court.”
Clarice reached out a hand and clasped one of Abigail’s. “Always. As much as I can.”
“My Lady,” a breathless voice suddenly called.
Startled, both women turned. In the doorway, Kyanan leaned against the frame, a hand pressed to her breast as she tried to catch her breath. Her hair, done in tiny braids, hung in front of and around her face as she bowed her head, but she didn’t bother pushing them away.
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