"Can you see the Goddess?" Thom asked his sister. They were lying on the spongy summer grass behind Myles' house in the middle of the night. George, Buri, Thayet, Liam, Coram and Rispah had joined them, lounging in chairs or sitting on the grass. The twins, however, lay with their heads side by side, their bodies in opposite directions. When Liam had asked about their peculiar behavior it was Coram to explain that stargazing in this very manner had long been a pastime of the Trebond twins. Then he proceeded to shake his head and laugh, urging Liam not to try to understand the quirks that the twins portrayed when together. It wasn't worth the headache.
"Over there," Alanna answered, pointing to the left at a constellation of stars. She turned her head to look at her brother and he did the same, mirroring her smile. "I missed this"
"Me too. I haven't lain on the grass for ages. And I haven't seen the constellations in anything other than books for just as long," He turned back to the stars. "I'm glad you're home."
"I'm glad I'm home, too. It is good to be warm again," she took a deep breath, smelling the warm summer air and shifted in the grass.
"Is that the only reason you returned?" George called from his chair a few feet away. "To gaze at the stars and enjoy the warm air?"
Alanna turned to stick her tongue out at him, laughing and enjoying the mischief in his eyes. Liam smiled as well, enjoying this new side of her. He noticed that, although Alanna worried constantly about her twin's health, Thom always managed to bring a light to her eyes that Liam had never seen before. It was clear to everyone that she loved to be with her twin. She was probably the only one.
Suddenly, Alanna felt foreign objects on her face: Thom had tossed a handful of grass onto her when she was distracted. "Thom!" she scolded, fighting the urge to laugh as she wiped her face. She turned to face her twin, who was grinning with mirth. "Don't make me dunk you in a pond again. I can do it you know!"
"Oh, I am well aware of that sir knight," he teased. "I am the one who dubbed you the Lioness after all."
"Really?" Thayet asked.
"No you didn't," Alanna argued.
'Well, maybe I didn't call you that but I made you your shield and came up with idea. No one would have called you the Lioness if I hadn't put one on your shield,"
"You've got a point," she relented. "I guess I'm glad you didn't put a spider or something gross on it."
"No. Lioness suits you. Besides, it reminds me of when we set those lions of cook so that he wouldn't tell Father about the cherry pies. Do you remember?"
Alanna laughed, and Coram guffawed. "I knew it was ye two! The both of ye have taken years off my life, all the tricks ye pulled. Enough to drive a man mad." Alanna just laughed harder as Thom lifted his head in order to raise an eyebrow at Coram.
"I think it was a good thing we drove you a little mad, Coram. Otherwise you would have taken Alanna straight back when you figured out we had switched."
Coram blushed and Rispah laughed, hugging him around the shoulders in consolation. Thom grew serious. "We owe you everything Coram. Thank you. But I'm sure Alanna has told you that."
Coram nodded at his young master. He had never particularly taken to his mistress' twin but she loved him and Coram liked to see her happy. "I'm proud of both of ye. Yer mother would've been proud, too. As to yer father, well ye both know what he would've said."
"A disgrace to the family!" Alanna supplied, jokingly. "Dragging out great family through the mud!"
"Thom, how dare you disobey me!? But I am still proud of your success. However, Trebond no longer has a daughter Alanna," Thom continued harshly.
"I wish you had died instead of your mother," Alanna went on softly, gazing back up to the stars, all joking gone from her voice.
Thom turned suddenly to her, eyes wide. Everyone focused on her, trying to read the emotions of her face. "He said that to you?" He asked, shocked.
Alanna nodded. "It was mother's birthday. You know how he got then. We were six. You were reading in your room and I was playing chess with one of the servants. Father stormed into the room and knocked the board over. He picked me up and shook me hard. I had bruises on my arms from where he was holding me for weeks. I started to cry. I kept saying 'I didn't do anything, Papa' over and over but he just yelled at me: 'You little worthless thing. She died! And for what? A girl. A pathetic girl! If you'd been a boy it wouldn't have been as bad. But no!' He kept shaking me, and I cried harder. I begged him to put me down. The servant just sat there, stunned. 'I wish you had died. I wish you had died instead of your mother! She is gone because of you! You killed her! She was fine after Thom but you killed her! I wish it had been you!' Finally, the footman heard him and rushed in, urging him to put me down. Sometime when he had been yelling, I can't remember when, he scared me so that I stopped screaming. I just stared at him while he raved. When he finally put me down, I ran away, up the stairs and into my room. I hid in the closet all night. That is where Coram found me in the morning. I told him I'd had a bad dream."
"Bastard." Alanna was shocked out of her memories. Liam's eyes were pure emerald and his fists were clenched. He was furious. George was as well. Coram simply looked shocked. He had known that Lord Alan hadn't loved his children but this!
"He was drunk. And he loved her," Alanna replied.
"That is no excuse!" That was Buri. Thayet sat next to her, stunned. Alanna and she had more in common than she had thought. Her father, too, was not deserving of a daughter.
Alanna shrugged. "It was a long time ago. I have a new family now." She smiled, looking around her. When she met Thom's eyes, her smile faded. They were filled with such sorrow.
"Why didn't you tell me?" he asked softly.
"I didn't want to upset you."
"You don't always have to take care of me, you know. You can let me take care of you every once in a while. That is what I'm here for."
"I know. And I'm glad you're here. I missed you a lot these past years. It is nice to have my other half back with me. I've been missing parts of me for a long time," she smiled at him and then turned back up to the stars. "Can you find Mithros?" She asked, continuing their game.