Disclaimer: This popped up from nowhere and insisted that it continue to beat me upside the head until I wrote it. So…here it is! Yay! And I own nothing. Really. And I have…sixteen dollars. And that's about it. And I forget where I put my sixteen dollars anyways…so I might not have that, either.

Warnings: Implications? Dunno. Warnings from me are kinda silly, since I write from the top down, and don't like going back up and adding stuff, unless I'm fixing something…-coughs- Yeah, odd and kinda silly, but…that's me.

Note: My titles always suck. Sooo…if anyone out there has a really good title…hit me with it? Please?

Time—An Emelan Fanfiction

By Forever3330

            Most of Emelan's people slept now, readying themselves for another day. Some, though, as the person occupying a secluded study in one of the oldest towers, had yet to see their beds. Sun-tanned hands set down the worn quill carefully, as the figure stood, leaving the official looking documents to dry.

            The old woman moved slowly, though not from the weariness of time which she indeed felt. It was rather a grace, a wisdom, which she had learned over her years, something that came to some. And an inherent sadness, etched across her features, stoic as they were. She lifted her dark black skirts as she walked, making a note to find something more comfortable later.

For all the summers she had seen, her skin was smooth, though wrinkled, pulled tight over her thin frame, her back unbent by the many seasons. Hands, though, those were calloused and gnarled from work; certain places padded more from the threads she still worked.

Sandriline fa Toren, the mage-duchess of Emelan sighed, cornflower blue eyes gazing out the fine glass doors leading to the study's balcony, full of a weight she did not often indulge in, as she did now. As she opened the doors, carefully, wisps of white-gray hair came free of the regal braided coronet, though the woman paid them no heed.

She folded her arms atop the railing, examining the colorful gardens from above with her fading sight, and thinking. Fa Toren. It had been twenty years, now, since she had again taken up that name, leaving behind that of her husband's. But then, it was her right. And though she had been fond of the courtier, and he had been kind to her, it was a marriage of convenience, no more and no less. For there was the matter of an heir, which she had known she must see to. And a marriage of love, considering all of who she was and those she cared for, was impossible.

Her children, two sons and a daughter with daughters and sons of their own, she loved, despite the vagueness between herself and her dead husband, named Robert. But their closeness was strained, she knew. Sandry found that the affairs of state were hard-pressing; even in her youth, with the exuberant energy she still retained when the moments came, she had not seen them grow as much as she would have liked.

She had not lived as she would have liked, had she the choice, though. Her childhood was something she was grateful for. Though she had been forced to see her lacking areas in regulations and obscure rules, the old woman would never have given those times away, for all the learning she may have done.

And now, she was left with regrets, for all the peace Emelan had held. Fifty years or so, was it?

Fifty years. Fifty years of the happiness of her people, weighed against the time lost, the moments missed, the happiness of herself lost. But then, that was her role.

It had been so long.

"You still haven't cried." The crisp, familiar voice came from behind her, and Sandry allowed herself a smile as another old woman, or crone, as said woman preferred, leaned against the railing with her, sharp gray eyes taking in everything, coils of dark gray hair going every which-way and not at all conforming to the many braids. Trisana Chandler frowned at the other woman, lips in a thin line, and sighed, the lines on her skin deepening as she did so.

"Are you going to scold me now?" Sandry's lips quirked as she took in her friend's own mourning colors, though the other woman looked as uncomfortable as she felt. The hot summer air pressed in, as ever.

The weather-mage snorted and gave the Duchess the same look she always gave her in such situations; the one that made the powerful woman feel awkward and slightly abashed, and very much amused. "You need sleep."

            "So we're not going to talk about the crying." Quite used to Tris's blunt ways, Sandry smiled. "You know you're the only one who isn't afraid to tell me what I'm doing wrong, now."

            "Sandry, don't be stupid. Evvy would be quite happy to tell you all this, but she's old and not near, and busy scaring her grand-children." The prickly woman's gaze softened, and she sighed. "We're too old to go about ignoring things and not crying. You've spent most of your life now looking strong for Emelan. And you are strong. But you need to cry sometime."

            "Have you?" The stitch-witch reached into the bag around her neck, and pulled out an old circle of thread, with four evenly spaced lumps. Holding the thing in her hand, she felt peaceful. Memories washed over her, voices and laughter, and she almost felt young again. "You know, this light lasted longer then any of us thought it would." Sandry gestured to the other object in the bag, half-smiling.

            "You don't need it anymore." Tris's tone was measured.

            Sandry glanced over at her friend, eyes crinkling in amusement. "So you haven't cried."

            "You knew that already." The woman didn't bother arguing, already fully aware that her friend would be able to read the lie. Their magical bond was as strong as the bond between friends was; and Sandry had spent all her life after her first twenty years dealing with Court.

            "Yes." Sandry admitted, before frowning, and looking…old. Tris frowned. Through all these years, Sandry had looked as young to her as ever, even as she grew. Well…no. It was wistful thinking, in the end. "I'm tired, Tris."

            "Then go to bed." Practical as ever, the fiery woman was apparently set on being contrary.

            "You know what I mean."

            Tris watched her friend once more, and put a wizened arm around the other woman. "I know."

            "I miss them."

            "…So do I." She looked across the gardens as Sandry had been doing. "It's hard to believe that we…are all that's left."

            "You make it sound as if we're the only people in the world!" Sandry kept her tone light.

            "You're the last of the people I love." This caused the duchess to look to her friend. Tris was rarely so straightforward about her emotions.

            "I know. I…when I came here…I wish I had seen them more. I regret so much." Sandry sighed wistfully, allowing her grief to show. "I wish I could see them once more."

                        "I know." Tris looked up at the sky, and remembered nights of sitting on an old thatched roof, making up stories about the pictures they saw there. Though the more entertaining stories had been of Sandry and Briar's creation, Daja had spun some good ones. And she remembered, proudly, a particular tale she'd told to leave them all gaping.

            "When I think about…" Sandry's voice trailed off. Tris didn't press it.

            She had grown to know her foster-sister better then herself, in ways, as time passed. Perhaps it was because she had stayed at the castle with Sandry, reading and advising her friend when the girl asked it. At first there had been envy from the Council, at how the Duchess listened to a young witch who always had her nose in a book, but she'd kept at it, and eventually earned her own place.

            Tris was glad she had stayed, though she had missed the lives of the other two in their quartet. Oh, she had seen them often enough; but Briar busied himself with matters away from the capital, and Daja had always been traveling. She suspected both of them did so for reasons of their own, and was aware of discomfort whenever Sandry's late husband was brought up.

            She herself had never liked the man, and she knew him to dislike her just as much. Though he had reason to; his wife spent more time with her then she did him. But Tris's own personal grudges never held on her friend's children, as much as she tried to dislike them. They were so much Sandry that she couldn't help but care about them, in her own prickly way.

            Briar and Daja. It had been thirty years now since Briar. In the year of the Fever. Sandry had been almost catatonic, and Daja had returned for two years. The three girls were inseparable for those two years, though Tris would hardly call those happy times. There had been no body to bury; as all the fever victims were, he was burned.

            Daja, a month ago. Lost at sea. It was fitting, in a way. Sandry was past going into states as she lost those she loved. The loss of their teachers, one by one, had done that to her.

            Tris couldn't say she was much better, but she didn't have the weight of a country on her shoulders. And in the end, she was the last pillar Sandry had. Sandry's children were never entirely close to their mother, though they loved her from a distance. And Evvy and Pasco had never quite known how to approach the duchess after the loss of her friends, her teachers.

            "I wish I could know if they were happy…in life, I mean." The duchess was whispering, and Tris looked over at her.

            "They were as happy as they could be." Tris sighed. "But…you know."

            "Yes. We all would have been happier without these responsibilities. Together, back at Winding Circle. But mostly…just together. Do you think we'll ever cry, Tris?" Sandry laid her hand on top of the one Tris had on her shoulder.

            "I don't think we could ever cry enough." The weather witch gazed out, eyes locking on the rising sun. "There are no words which can explain the parts of us that are dead."

            "I want to sleep." The other woman laid her head on the taller girl's shoulder and sighed.

            "So do I."

            "You won't leave, now, will you?" There was slight humor in the noblewoman's voice.

            "Have I ever left?" Raising her eyebrows, Tris glanced down.

            "True." A pause. "We should change into more colorful clothes. The people will be expecting me to come out of mourning, now."

            "Sandry?" Tris watched her friend turn, having moved away from the woman.


            Tris tried to gather what she wanted to say, what she'd wanted to say to Briar, to Daja, what they had wanted to say to her, to Sandry. All the words lost and all the moments forsaken.

            "Tris?" When Tris looked up, the old Duchess was smiling, a real smile. "I know."

            The two old women paused, before leaving the balcony with smiles, in understanding. Behind them, the doors were left ajar.

Notes: Hmm. That turned out different then expected. Oh well…anyways, CC is always nice, if you deem this oddity worthy. Or anything you feel like throwing out there. Um…yeah. That's about it.