visit your sister, and you can ask him while you’re there,” Garen suggested. “If he refuses, that’s fine, of course. It’s his choice.”
“It would be nice to visit Rayne,” she said. “Are you sure it’s not too soon, though? They’ve only been home for a couple of days and I don’t want to intrude.”
Garen felt his temper rise at the sheer loneliness in Salene’s voice. The urge to speed travel to Berria and thrash the young Gryphons for causing his daughter such pain rose up fast and hard. He didn’t believe that Salene was even angry at the Gryphons, let alone that she would part from them for the reason they’d been given. He knew his daughter too well for that, as did Lariah, Trey, and Val. But she was an adult now, and they couldn’t force a confidence. She had a reason for not revealing the truth, and whatever that reason was, they had to respect it as they respected her. Even so, he was able to fight down the urge to confront the Gryphons only because keeping his promise to his eldest daughter was more important than whatever satisfaction he might derive in the breaking of it.
Instead, Lariah, Trey, Val and he had spent the entire night trying to think of a way to implement Jareth’s suggestions. He’d recommended that Salene be given something to do for others, since that was something she always took seriously, as well as some sort of physical activity that would engage her while not requiring her to concentrate much. They’d come up with two ideas, one of which he’d just implemented.
The patio door slid open behind them and they both turned around, surprised to see Aisling Gryphon.
“Good morning, Highness,” Aisling said to Garen, though her eyes were fixed on Salene.
“Good morning, Aisling,” he replied, surprised and grateful that she’d come so quickly.
“Would you mind if I speak with Salene alone? I won’t take but a moment.”
“Of course not,” Garen said, mentally crossing his fingers that this would work. “If you’ll excuse me, I’ll just let your mother know you’ll be a few minutes late for breakfast.”
Salene nodded, watched her father leave, then stepped forward to hug her favorite aunt. “Hi Aunt Ash,” she said. “What brings you here so early?”
“Straight to the point, as usual,” Ash said, smiling as she hugged Salene tightly. “I’m here for you, of course. Olaf told me this morning that you’ll be taking the Ember to get your brothers from school in a few weeks. Is that right?”
“Wow, news travels fast around here. Ata just asked me a few minutes ago, but yes, I agreed.”
“I wanted to look into your eyes and make sure that this is something you’re ready for,” Aisling said. “Not something you feel obligated to do.”
“I’m ready, and relieved,” Salene said. “Today is only my third day home and I already feel like a fish in a bowl. Everyone’s watching me in case I go belly up.” Aisling’s soft, warm chuckle brought back childhood memories, as so many things seemed to be doing lately. This time she thought of the hours she’d spent with Aisling learning how to throw knives at targets, and how much fun it had been.
“Aunt Ash, would you have time to work with me for a few weeks, until I leave for EDU-11?”
“I always have time for you,” Aisling said, surprised, but pleased. “What is it you want to do?”
“I want to train.”
Aisling studied Salene for a long moment, looking deep until she found the feelings her honorary niece was trying so hard to hide. She was shocked and confused to find pain so deep, and so vast, that it required all of her control not to flinch away from it. She’d heard about the argument onboard the Armadura , and she definitely understood Salene’s reaction to the Gryphons’ determination to set off after the Doftles without her. But what she’d just seen was far, far more than the hurt feelings she’d
Naomi Brooks Angelia Sparrow