The ward of castoria, p.38
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       The Ward of Castoria, p.38

           Robin Silverglate

  Chapter 15


  Dane hated his new role in the Vanguard, yet he did it without complaint. The attacks were spread out enough that Beckwyn and Castien were able to take turns going into the Reflection. Only once in the past three weeks had Dane been allowed to go on an assignment because the other men were already in the Reflection. He had been forced to stay home for most of his time.

  To everyone he met, he was always polite and respectful. Even at Yara’s dinner parties, he tried to take over his share of the conversation. Dane honestly thought he was doing a good job of hiding his true emotions, but that delusion ended one night when he was sitting by himself next to the fireplace in the family room. Dane had tilted his chair so he could just stare into the flames. He did not even notice Yara had come in until she placed her hand on his shoulder. She gave him a light squeeze and said, “Are you ever going to tell me what is bothering you so much?”

  Dane turned his head to the side and asked, “What do you mean?”

  “I’m no fool, dear brother. It saddens me to see you with such a sober face.”

  Dane sighed and said, “I’m just upset about the change in my role as Protector. I miss being in the Reflection.”

  Yara caressed his face just as she used to do in order to comfort him when he was a child. “No,” she said thoughtfully, “I don’t think that’s it. You were like this even before Tetari changed your job.”

  Dane did not know what to say. He shook his head and continued to stare into the fire.

  Yara moved to sit down next to him on the couch. “Why will you not confide in me? I have loved you longer than anyone else in this world.”

  Dane shook his head again and watched the orange blaze popping onto the grate. After several silent minutes passed by, he could see Yara straighten her back. He knew she was bracing herself up to say something unpleasant. “My darling, I’m sorry you are sad but I am tired of patiently waiting for you to get better. What you need is a change in your life. A change will make you forget your troubles.”

  “What kind of change?” he asked suspiciously.

  “For one, I am no longer going to have dinner parties where I invite all the single girls in the area.”

  Dane agreed this was a good change. He always hated going to them. But he knew his sister too well to think she would give up like this, so he stared into the fire and waited for the blow.

  Yara continued, “Second, I want you to help me with the strengthening of an alliance.”

  Dane knew his sister had never given up on the idea of him marrying a foreign girl. He shook his head at her and said, “I told you I did not want you writing to other provinces.”

  “Hear me out,” Yara said as she placed her hand on his arm. “I didn’t initiate this in any way. Today, I received a letter from Khidell in the Northern Province. You know how strained everything has been between us since father’s death, so when he asks for a favor, I think it best I comply. Well, he has asked me to allow his daughter to visit us for a while since she has expressed an interest in our province. She apparently wants the grand tour. Her father is someone that cannot be refused, so I wrote back and told him we would be happy to have her stay with us for as long as she would like.”

  “What does this have to do with me?” asked Dane.

  “I would like you to be her tour guide and show her all the principle sites,” said Yara pleasantly.

  Dane gave Yara a sarcastic grin and said, “I assume she is of marriageable age, as well.”

  Yara did not appear surprised at all by his question. “Yes, I believe she is.”

  Dane knew Yara was hoping he would end up marrying her. He couldn’t stand the thought of being coerced into a union with this girl. “No,” he said adamantly. “My job is with the Vanguard. I will not babysit some foolish girl who wants to go sightseeing.”

  Yara flattened her mouth. “Your role has been significantly reduced in the Vanguard. If need be, I can officially end it.”

  Dane bolted upright in his seat. “You can’t take away the one thing that gives me purpose in this life, Yara.”

  “It doesn’t seem to be making you very happy right now. Maybe you need a different purpose? This girl could be the perfect match for you. I’m sure if you work your charms on her, she will agree to marry you before her trip is over.”

  “I don’t want to marry her,” he said roughly. “I don’t even know her.”

  “But you will get to know her eventually. You remember how I originally felt about Feredir when he first visited Castoria. But I continued to spend time with him and got to understand his strange idiosyncrasies better. Then, one day, I realized I actually enjoyed his company. I opened my heart and fell in love with him. He makes me happy even though at one point, I thought he never would. Give this Northern girl a chance.”

  Dane ran his hand through his hair in frustration. “I do not want to spend time with her.”

  Yara stood up and said in her most authoritative voice, “I’m tired of waiting for you to fall in love.”

  Dane blurted out without thinking, “I already have, Yara.”

  This statement seemed to stun Yara into silence. Dane watched her face go through a series of emotions: from confusion to excitement and then back to confusion again. After a while, she asked, “Who is the lucky girl?”

  Dane wished he had not said anything at all, but he could not turn back now. “You don’t know her.”

  “Of course I know her,” said Yara. “I know everyone here.”

  Dane glanced back into the fireplace and said, “She’s not from here.”

  “How is that even possible? You spend all your time either here or in the Reflection?”

  Dane glared at her intently when she said the word Reflection. He could see the exact moment when the comprehension hit her. The disappointment on her face was clear. Yara attempted to say something, but then stopped herself. Dane would have found Yara’s behavior amusing if he didn’t feel so pitiful.

  Finally, she asked, “How long have you been in love with this girl from the Reflection?”

  “Two months.” Dane watched Yara close her eyes as if he had actually caused her pain by admitting this.

  “What is her name?” she asked when she was able to control her voice.


  “How did you two meet?”

  “She was one of the people I was assigned to protect.”

  “How can you fall in love with one of them?” she asked through gritted teeth. “They aren’t like us.”

  Dane felt compelled to defend Bryn. “She is smart and kind-hearted and beautiful.”

  “Ah,” said Yara. “Of course she is beautiful. I understand now. I’m sure you have been unfairly swayed by her loveliness.” She waved her hand in the air dismissively. “This feeling will wear off once you look past her superficial attractiveness.”

  “Do you think so little of me? Bryn is so much more than that.”

  Yara’s eyes were mere slits as she glared at him. “Have you thought this through carefully? She’s not allowed to be on this side of the Reflection.”

  Dane decided to put Yara out of her misery. “There’s no point in continuing this conversation any longer. She does not love me back, so you have nothing to fear.”

  Yara snorted and said, “I find that hard to believe. I’m sure she’s just waiting for the right opportunity to sink her claws into you.”

  “Stop talking about her like she’s some sort of opportunist,” Dane said as he abruptly stood from his chair. He moved toward the fire and forced himself to take two calming breaths. With his back toward Yara, he lowered his voice and said, “She is nothing like that. I would know if she was. Because frankly, half of the girls you’ve been inviting to dinner over the past few months were just that. I am telling you truthfully, Bryn wants nothing to do with me. I told her about my feelings and she did not feel the same way. End
of story.”

  Yara’s face softened somewhat and she moved to place her hand on his face. “My Dearest. Is this the reason why you have been so sad lately?”


  “How can I help you?”

  Dane took a deep breath and said, “You can help me by never talking about this again. Tetari knows and Beckwyn suspects, but does not know the details. No one else is the wiser and I prefer to keep it that way.”

  “As do I,” Yara agreed.

  Dane stood up from his chair and said, “And you will have to find someone else to babysit the Northern girl. I’m in no mood for sightseeing.”

  “She will not be here for a little while. I’m sure we can come to an agreement by then.”

  “I’m serious, Yara. I don’t want anything to do with her,” said Dane impatiently.

  Yara did not answer him back, but kissed him on the cheek instead. Dane did not have any desire to carry on this conversation further, so he said goodnight and excused himself from the room.
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