The ward of castoria, p.34
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       The Ward of Castoria, p.34

           Robin Silverglate
 

  *****

  Dane silently sulked in his chair as he had to endure another one of his sister’s dinner parties. Yara had stubbornly insisted on inviting a few eligible women in the area and her hopes were painfully obvious to everyone. For tonight’s dinner, she had summoned the Meadowbrook family. They had two daughters of marriageable age. The oldest daughter was very pretty, but boring to talk to. She just tended to repeat what she had heard other people saying. Dane thought if she ever had an original thought in her head, she would not know what to do with it.

  The youngest daughter was almost more annoying than the other. All she did was laugh. She laughed when they were introduced. She laughed when the meal was served. She laughed when Yara told a story about a friend of hers who was feeling ill. Dane truly believed if he had said to her, “My tooth is aching. My nephew tripped and cut his knee. The kitchen cook burned her hand in a freak accident and the Queen has declared war,” she would laugh hysterically.

  During the dessert course, he felt a slight vibration on his finger. He glanced down and saw his ring was glowing purple. Teteri needed to see him and Yara could not object to him leaving now. This was his duty, after all, and he could not neglect it. He lifted up his ring finger and said to his sister, “I’ve been summoned. I’m sorry, but I must go.”

  Yara seemed slightly annoyed, but nodded.

  “You must go?” asked the oldest daughter. “What’s wrong?”

  “Someone in the Reflection is about to get attacked,” said Dane. “It’s my responsibility to save the human.”

  “Be careful,” said the youngest daughter and then she laughed on cue.

  Dane gave his sister a kiss on the cheek and then ruffled the hair of his niece and nephew on his way out of the dining room. He congratulated himself that he was able to get out of the dinner obligation at a relatively early hour. He was grateful for Tetari’s summons for another reason, as well. He knew she would have an assignment for him which would help keep his mind off of Bryn and the mysterious blonde-haired boy. As long as he kept busy with work, he would have no time to think about how miserable he felt.

  When he entered Tetari’s quarters, he saw her sitting at her table with her head in her hands. She seemed so frail. “Are you all right, Tetari?” he asked gently.

  Tetari looked up and gave him a weak smile. “Yes, yes. I’m just not as young as I used to be.”

  Dane had no idea how old she was, but he guessed she must be in at least her Fourteenth Age. Ever since he could remember, she had always had her long, white hair and grandmotherly sweetness. Dane thought she looked just the same as the Tetari from his childhood, yet she did not seem as strong as she used to.

  He sat down next to her at the table and placed his hand over hers. “Did you ask for me?” he said kindly.

  “Yes. I’m getting glimpses of another attack.” She described who the next person was along with what she knew of his location. Dane listened intently and asked, “Do you know when the attack with be?”

  “I believe it will happen right after sundown.”

  That was only six hours away and he should leave as soon as possible. However, manners dictated that he ask, “Is there anything I can do for you before I leave?”

  Tetari looked at him and said, “I think either Castien or Beckwyn should take this one?”

  Dane was disappointed. He had wanted to go himself. “Why?”

  “Because I think you need a break.”

  He sat tall in his chair and shook his head. “I can assure you that I do not. I need to be in the Reflection.”

  Tetari eyed him full of sympathy and said, “But that does not appear to be helping you. There is still sadness in your heart.”

  Dane was taken aback by her comment. He had worked hard over the past few weeks not to let his true feelings show. He did not want anyone knowing about what a fool he was. Dane decided to feign ignorance. “I don’t know what you are referring to. I’m fine.”

  “You’re fine?” she asked in disbelief. “Have I only been imagining the sadness in your eyes ever since you returned from the Thorner assignment?”

  Dane averted his eyes from her knowing ones and said, “No.” After a long moment of silence, he said, “But this hasn’t affected my duties as Protector.”

  “You were distracted in the last assignment.”

  Dane sighed. “Only for a short time. I still killed the carrath.”

  “I think it best you keep some distance from the Reflection. At least for the present. Beckwyn and Castien are capable males. They will take over your duties in the Reflection. You will remain the person I contact when I have a vision, but you will only be sent on an assignment when both Castien and Beckwyn are busy in the Reflection.”

  There was nothing else that Dane could do. She was the final authority in the Vanguard and he had to obey her command. He sighed and said, “Yes, Tetari. I’ll go find Castien immediately and tell him of the assignment.”

  Tetari gave him a gentle pat on his hand and said, “This is only temporary. Just until I sense you are no longer burdened by your sadness.”

  Dane stood up from the table in order to leave the room. He paused just before the door and asked her a question that had been on his mind. “Did you foresee this happening?”

  “Yes.”

  His legs suddenly felt weak. Dane leaned against the door and asked, “You knew what would happen when you charged me with the protection of her?”

  “Yes.”

  “Then why would you deliberately put me in a situation that you knew would break me?”

  Tetari thought for a moment before she spoke. “There may be damage to your heart now, but wouldn’t you rather it be there than to have never known love at all?”

  Dane shook his head in confusion. “I don’t understand.”

  Tetari slowly got up from her chair and walked over to Dane. “Let me put it this way. Would you rather I had sent Castien to protect her?”

  “No,” Dane said a little too forcefully.

  “Then I did the right thing by sending you.” He frowned at her logic. Tetari gently placed her hand on his shoulder and said, “This is just temporary, young one. Take this time to straighten out your thoughts.”

  Dane nodded and left to find Castien. He found his friend staring absentmindedly into the fireplace with a frown etched on his face. Dane wished he could sit down next to him and frown into the fire as well, but he couldn’t think about that just now. Dane informed him of the details of the assignment and Castien grunted that he understood. He swiftly left the room in order to collect his weapons.

  Now that Dane was done with his one and only duty, he felt it was his obligation to go back to Yara’s dinner party. He really did not want to go back though. Dane knew his sister would assume he was on an assignment, so she would not expect him to return. He decided to take Tetari’s advice and straighten out his thoughts. He ran to the first place he could think of.
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