Missed part three? Read it here.
Sifani picked up the sphere of Lightleaf she had set by the tub and pocketed it. “Thank you, Namiss,” she relented.
The girl’s night-dark eyes lit up appreciatively.
Sifani jerked her thumb at the door good-naturedly. “Come on, let’s go to supper. I’m sure Lorin’s starting to miss me.”
Sifani gave herself a cursory glance in the mirror as she headed for the door with Namiss on her heels. She saw what she expected to see – a woman less boyish now that she was out of her dusty riding clothes, but with a face that was still too babyishly round for beauty, and long hair not light enough to be called golden yet not dark enough to be called brown. Fortunately, it was not her job to impress anyone, only to show up and let others weigh, measure and categorize her and Lorin from sunup to sundown until they figured out something new about Reehlers and the epheria.
The two women’s booted feet echoed in the empty stone corridor that stretched away from the room they shared. As usual, only one torch burned at the far end of the hall, just enough to fitfully illuminate the doorway beside it.
Sifani opened it, and she and Namiss passed through into the circular chamber beyond.
Jatan was already sitting at the head of the long table on the other side of the room, hands folded as he watched Lorin sink his teeth into a juicy rabbit leg. His aging head swiveled toward Sifani and Namiss as they entered, and the light of a smile touched his thin olive cheeks.
“You made good time.” Jatan stood, gesturing to the empty chairs and the food spread out on the table.
“I would never dawdle,” Sifani replied pleasantly, taking care to make her exclusion of Lorin in that statement as egregious as possible.
Namiss rounded the table to take her regular seat beside Lorin. Balking suddenly, she rapped her knuckles on his head as she passed behind him. “Unblessed!” she exclaimed as she sat, eyeing his already half-eaten food.
Sifani touched Jatan’s shoulder in greeting, then settled down in her chair across from Lorin. “Were you really so hungry you would risk dishonoring the Deities by starting without us?” she addressed him.
Lorin grinned, one cheek still stuffed with food. “What can I say? Carrying as much weight as I did this afternoon really wore me out.”
Namiss gasped exaggeratedly, pretending offense on Sifani’s behalf. Lorin winked at her roguishly.
Jatan looked back and forth between them with ever-present longsuffering. He seemed to give up trying to understand, and instead went right to business, his soft accent full of that quiet earnestness that had always endeared Sifani to him.
“Sifani,” he turned to her, “Lorin has told me of Ileniel’s agreement to return to us. It will be well to have him back again. His knowledge of the forgotten literature will be invaluable in the coming days. Perhaps you were right – perhaps he has missed his partnership with us after all.”
The image of the screeching Pipers and the trotting, robed men flashed across Sifani’s mind. “Trust me, Jatan, the life he’s leading now looks positively oppressive.” Her voice dropped to a wry murmur. “I suppose it would have to be, for him to agree to come back into my presence so quickly.” She glanced around, and only then noticed the empty chair next to her. “Where’s Antian?” She had grown used to Antian’s presence, after all those days of him trailing her around the tower with a book and pen.
“Buried in his notes, I’ll wager,” Jatan shook his head with something approximating affection. “He can hardly wait to observe you in the epheria again. Since our discovery last week, he’s barely budged from his writing table.”
Namiss piped up vehemently after slapping Lorin’s hand away from the roll on her plate. “Don’t you think you all know enough about Sif already? Bother Lorin for a while, and give her a little rest, why don’t—“
Shaking her head, Sifani interrupted. “It’s fine, Namiss. I want to learn about the epheria as much as anyone else here. The more we understand it, the more we can teach other Reehlers to act properly within it.”
“And, the more we have an advantage over those who would misuse reconstitution,” Lorin added.
“That, too.” Though so far, the only one who had managed to misuse reconstitution was her.
“Eat up, then,” Jatan said. “It seems you have work to do, Sifani.”
Sifani nodded and prepared to dig in to her food at last. When she looked down, though, her roll was gone. She trained her eyes on Lorin with brows furrowed.
As always, he somehow managed to balance very beautiful with very stupid as he pretended to examine the faded tapestry hanging on a nearby section of wall, innocent as a lamb.
Sifani sighed. “I’m always working, Jatan,” she said.
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