Gheris went to check on Falenath one more time before turning in. She leaned over her sleeping uncle, found his breathing shallow but steady. Looking back over her shoulder, she saw Casidhe in the doorway, watching her. “I’m glad you got him back,” the duelist said.
She shrugged with one shoulder. “Yes. He can go back to the clan now… he doesn’t have to worry about me or Geoffrey any more.”
“Because you aren’t going back.” It wasn’t a question.
“No.” Gheris crossed her arms and went to the window, a darkened street under a blanket of snow visible outside.
She tilted her head and raised her eyebrows. “Good?”
“It’s like I told you before. They’re done with you. You should be done with them.”
She shrugged again. “Things could be different with Naessa as Keeper… I don’t know. I may never go back. We’ll see.”
“Where will you go, then?”
“Do you have a map?”
Casidhe nodded, then tiptoed out into the main room and returned with a folded parchment. He unfolded it and held it up to the candlelight; Gheris moved for a closer look. “Teresa uses this map in her… work.”
Gheris peered at the map. “I recognize some of the landmarks, but… where are we? I, uh…” She ground her teeth. “I cannot read.”
“Oh.” Casidhe seemed thrown, but only for a moment. “Well, here’s Lothering. The Iar camp was here…” He pointed out most of the major sites, trying not to go too fast.
Gheris ran her fingers over the map. “I’ve had enough cold. I’d rather not stay near the Templars, and passing too close to the mages is a bad idea.” She looked at Casidhe. “Have you ever seen Amaranthine?”
“No. I hear it’s pretty, though.”
“How many days has it been since I – since we first met you?”
Casidhe began counting on his fingers. “It was the fourth of Kingsway when the winter started.”
“How do you remember that?”
“It’s my birthday.” Casidhe sighed. “Not the first birthday I’ve spent in a tavern, either… Anyway, today was the twenty-second, so… eighteen days.”
Gheris nodded, looking a bit surprised by the amount of thought she’d put into this. “Wherever I go, I’m not sure what I’d do. Denerim’s a good place for me to start, though. I know it well enough, and surely it’s forgotten me by now.”
Casidhe smiled. “As it happens, Teresa and I are headed for Denerim tomorrow. I have a little house there… You’re welcome to stay there… at least, until I sell it. That’s why I’m going.”
“That’d be intruding on your time with Teresa.” Gheris shook her head. “I know some people… and if not, I can find a place myself. Why not keep the house?”
Now Casidhe looked out the window. “It isn’t who I am any more. And it’s worth enough that I can sell it and buy something nicer here in Lothering.”
“With Teresa,” Gheris said.
“Yes. She, um… she doesn’t know about us.”
Gheris raised an eyebrow. “She doesn’t? Or do you underestimate her?”
“Probably the latter,” Casidhe said with a sigh that almost became a yawn.
“She hasn’t eaten you alive. I’d say that is a good sign. She is… far too good to you.” Gheris smiled very slightly.
“It’s true. I still have to tell her. I just… I don’t want my relationship with Teresa to cost me your friendship.”
Gheris’s customary aloof expression vanished as her eyes widened slightly. “Friendship?”
“Sure. I consider you a friend, Gheris. A true friend. I don’t know about you, but I don’t have very many of those.”
She tilted her head, considering Casidhe. “Lethallin,” she said quietly. “And I am lethallan.”
Casidhe’s head tilted as well. “I’m sorry?”
“It – it refers to a cousin or a clansman. Someone with whom you are familiar with. It was never used towards me. But I think we have nearly died together enough times that it counts.”
He grinned. “Then we’ll form our own clan, leeth allan.” His accent was terrible.
She grimaced. “Leth-ah-LAHN.”
“Leth-ah-LAHN.” Much better, this time. He pointed at her arm; Naessa had healed the wound, but the damage to the armor remained. “So tell me, lethallan: what happened to you?”
“Attacked by the Silent Lord. He said he learned fencing from ‘the Fionnlagh.’”
“He made a… reflection of my father. I had to fight it. I had to kill it.”
“It was… I never thought I’d see him again. And I never thought he’d try to kill me.”
She slowly, briefly, touched his elbow. “It wasn’t him. There may be comfort you can take in that.”
Casidhe stifled a weary yawn. “I’m just glad to be alive.”
“Living’s a good thing, or so I hear. How long has it been since you lost your father?”
He looked at the ceiling. “Two years ago.”
“…I see. When you bury them, it is… hard to dig them back out again, even if only for a moment.”
Casidhe’s eyes came back down to Gheris. He asked, softly, “Was there a reflection of Gialinn, too?”
“It wasn’t a reflection.” She frowned at the map.
“You saw your mother?” Casidhe crossed back to her.
She inspected the ring on her hand. “She… I don’t know what was wrong with her. She wanted to help him destroy Ferelden… She thought I would want to help her!” She had a hard time keeping her voice down, but managed it, barely.
“Maker’s breath, Gheris. Did you have to fight her?”
“No. We… Naessa and I reminded her of where she came from. And he destroyed her.”
Casidhe needed more than one moment before saying, “I can’t imagine what you must have felt. What you must be feeling now.”
She shrugged. “I don’t know. I had buried her already… I thought I had. I guess…. she cared. In the most ridiculous, absurd way possible, but it’s something?” She paused. “She is still not my mother, though. She is my mother, but not my mother.” She didn’t look sure as to what she meant. Pointing at Falenath’s sleeping form, she leaned against the table and said, “That… that’s my mother.”
Casidhe glanced from Gheris to Falenath, then back. “Not as pretty as I remember,” he said. When she furrowed her brow, he raised a hand and said, “Sorry. Just trying to lighten the mood.”
“I’m just not sure what I’d tell Geoffrey, if I see him again. ‘You know our mother? I saw her again, then she died again.’”
“He was too young to remember her… maybe he doesn’t need to know.”
Gheris sighed. “I don’t know. There is very much I don’t know… and I am tired of lingering on it. If I get the chance to know, so be it. If not…” She shrugged.
“Seems as sound a plan as any.” Casidhe yawned again. “Listen, if you’re coming with us to Denerim, we should both get some sleep. There’ll be plenty of time to catch up on the road, lethallan.”
She smiled lightly. “Now you’ve got it. Ma nuvenin, lethallin.”
Casidhe nodded and laid down near the couch. Gheris found a spot at the foot of the bed, pausing to turn her mother’s ring so the stone didn’t show. Lying on her right side pained her hip; she reached into that pocket to find a gold necklace, whose pendant held a light brown-green stone. She sighed, shoved the necklace back down, and turned to her left side.
When she dreamed, it was of pleasant things.