Colm sat in the empty armoury, sharpening his weapons there for the last time. He and Neimi had decided to stay at Renais Castle for a few days while they recuperated from the final battle, but now that his wounds had healed, he was growing restless. In comparison to the twisting streets and haphazard houses of his hometown, the ordered activity of the caste was way too neat. It was well past time for him to return home and start exploring what was left for him there.
As he put one sword aside and reached for the next, the door to the armoury swung open with the low groan of poorly oiled hinges. Invaders, it seemed, didn't much care for general maintenance. Colm tensed instinctively – even though the nation was now at peace, it would take time to master the urge to be on guard at all times – but relaxed when he realised that it was just Neimi. He nodded a greeting at her before returning to his work.
"I haven't seen you much lately," she said, sounding strangely nervous.
"We've both been busy."
The ranger nodded slowly. "I suppose. Colm, I have a favour to ask you. Artur… Artur asked me to marry him."
Colm's hands halted as he stared up at her in shock. He had known that the pair were close, but he hadn't realised that their relationship had turned romantic. Then again, he supposed he wouldn't; he and Neimi hadn't spent much time together over the past few weeks. She had been training with Artur and Amelia, whereas he had been spending most of his time talking with Kyle about their plans for healing Renais. "What did you tell him?"
Neimi smiled. "I said I would love to."
Trying to buy himself some time to process her announcement, the assassin turned his attention back to the remaining sword. He was surprised by the disappointment that swelled within him at her words; he would have thought that he would be relieved not to have to look out for her anymore. One less responsibility to attend to; one less person to keep safe.
But we grew up together, he thought, and he immediately knew that he had hit on the crux of the issue. They had always leaned on one another when life got hard; somewhere along the way, she had become as much a part of his family as his parents and brothers. Perhaps he was just as dependent on her as he had thought she was on him; faced with the prospect of returning home without her by his side, it felt like he was losing part of himself.
He took a deep breath. "Does he make you happy?"
When Neimi replied, it was clear that she was no longer the timid girl she had once been. Her shining eyes were more knowing, more confident – there was no trace of fear or doubt in them. While he had been looking the other way, she had grown up without him realising it. "He really does."
Colm nodded. He still wished she would come home with him, but that wasn't his choice to make. "Well," he said, trying to sound glib, "you haven't been crying as much recently, so I guess that's an improvement."
She opened her mouth to respond, but then she closed it again and shook her head with a soft smile. "No, I guess I haven't."
"You said you had something to ask me?"
"I do. Artur and I are planning on having a small ceremony next week – just us, Moulder, and two witnesses. We were hoping that you and Lute would agree to be there. I know you were planning on leaving tomorrow, but it wouldn't be the same without you by my side."
There was only one thing he could say. As much as he longed for home, at the end of the day, she was family. "Of course, I'll be there."