He found her huddled in the far corner of one of the many spare rooms.
That in itself wasn't entirely out of place. Since returning to Caelin for the second time, the canton's noble lady had taken a liking to being alone, and, unfortunately, solitude was hard to come by, so she had resorted to taking horseback rides, walks, and even strolls in the garden alone.
But on this day, no different, really, than the day before it, nobody seemed to be able to find her. Florina, the one who had always been most likely to know her whereabouts, had been married a month previous and lived as the wife of Ostia's marquess. Posing the question to Sain had yielded no fruitful results, and Kent had seemed a little troubled to learn of his liege's disappearance, but like his friend had mentioned Lady Lyndis needing time to herself.
That was fine, of course. Everyone needed time to think, to be alone, to daydream.
What was not fine was the fact that on the way to her personal chambers, in the hopes of seeing her wandering the corridors, he had heard a small, strange sound from one of the guest rooms. Small, as if it were muffled by bedcovers. Strange, as if it belonged to someone he knew that had never sounded quite that way.
His curiosity piqued, Wil found himself opening the door. The creaking could be ignored as the heavy oak pulled against the hinges that held it in place, but the woman sitting quite improperly in the corner, between the bed and the bureau, could not be.
"Lyn?" he asked, startled, confused, and altogether horrified. Never—never—had he seen her looking quite so lost, so out of place. He regretted speaking before his liege's name had completely left his lips, escaping into the open air.
Her head snapped up, and her eyes, wide and oh-so green, locked onto his for a moment, just one moment, but he thought he could see fear in them. His heart thudded against his chest as she lowered her gaze and wiped at her tears with a corner of the quilt she held in her hands.
His first instinct was to run, out of the room, back down the stairs, down the corridor. Sain could cheer her up with his ridiculous compliments. Kent would know what to say because he always seemed to know what to say to her.
But his feet were frozen in place.
"Wil," she finally murmured, having disposed of her tears.
"Lyn," he said in reply, but his face reddened as an embarrassed grin crept across his face. He hurried to correct himself, "Are… Are you okay?"
Lyn of the Lorca never lied, never told a falsehood, but he knew it wasn't Lyn speaking. It was Lady Lyndis. He wasn't sure what he ought to do. If he called her bluff, she would smile and put on a mask, so he shifted his weight and tried to pretend that he believed her.
"Good. Because last time I checked," he continued before he could stop himself, "the shedding of tears usually signified the opposite."
She seemed to look right through him, her eyes cold and hard, her lips pressed together in a no-nonsense manner. He nearly shuddered, his thoughts running rampant.
Maybe he oughtn't have kept speaking. But it was Lyn! Trusting, happy, free, beautiful Lyn, who never lied, who never burdened others. She wouldn't be crying if there wasn't a reason. That much he did know.
"Why are you still here?" she said a few moments later, averting her eyes to the small chandelier dangling overhead.
The candles weren't lit, but the crystal glass still looked beautiful, and he watched her watch it as he answered her question, knowing she meant Caelin, but not understanding the purpose behind her question.
"I live here." Sarcastic? Perhaps, but it was also the truth.
She didn't seem to know what to say, and she tilted her head back until it rested against the wall; her eyes looked toward the ceiling, but he knew she wasn't seeing any of it. "The letters," she said once, and then again, and again, her voice rising from a whisper to a shout, a crescendo that finally ended with a strangled, "What about the letters, Wil? Why are you still here?"
He didn't understand at first, but she wasn't seeing anything in front of her, not the chandelier, not the dancing angels in the clouds painted across the ceiling, and not the crack that ran straight through the scene, separating a harp into two jagged pieces.
It bothered him to see her so out of sorts, so unlike her usual self. Where was the playful banter? He'd even take her usual, "Wil, do something constructive with yourself."
"The letters?" he repeated, breaking the silence with his unspoken question. Before he could ask what letters, it hit him. "The letters," he said again, his voice full of understanding and confidence as he walked over to her and kneeled on the dull red rug she was seated upon.
The letters to his family, of course.
More than a year had passed since the sealing of the Dragon's Gate, and he hadn't gone home even once to see his family, a family he'd left behind many, many years ago.
It would be strange to see them again after so long.
"Oh, Lyn," he murmured, patting her knee gently. She must have been very homesick to have shouted like she had. Her parents had both died in an attack. Bandits, Kent had told him, but the older man wouldn't divulge the details, and Wil wasn't so sure he wanted to hear them, anyway, so he hadn't pried further.
She didn't seem to react to her name, so he moved his hand to her face, touching the corner of her jaw with the tips of her fingers.
"Lyn, I love my family, and they know that. I told them in the letters I sent during the war, and in the letters I continue to send to them, now."
She blinked, color returning to her eyes as she focused on him, her head tilting back down to see him better.
"But," he continued, a genuine smile on his face, "I like this life."
"It doesn't bother you?" she asked quietly. "The rules, the policies, the…the…"
"The games?" He took his hand back and let it rest on the floor beside him. "Your life here in Caelin is very different from mine. When I lived in Pherae, I quickly tired of the small village life. Sow this, reap that, milk the cow, feed the chickens, shear the sheep. I left home looking for something…better, looking for adventure."
"Oh," she said. He knew she couldn't see how being a knight was any better.
He got to his feet and put out a hand to help her up, but she refused to take it, remaining on the floor against the wall.
"I live here because I like it here." He didn't expect her to understand. They were two very different people from two very different cultures. He shrugged, still troubled by the expression on her face, and turned to leave the room, but when he got the doorway, he looked back at her and smiled. "Lyn."
She glanced up from the quilt twisted in her grip and gave a soft, quiet little sigh of resignation. Dinner was in less than an hour, and she'd have to pull herself together before then to avoid worrying her already-ill grandfather. What could he possibly say that would help her situation? He wasn't sure, but he did know one thing.
"Lyn, I love my family and they love me." He paused, but his smile was genuine and stayed in place. "I don't have to be with them to believe that."
I'm not really sure where this came from. I guess you could call it practice writing. I'm of the opinion that the thought of being away from your family would be completely foreign to Lyn, especially considering Wil actually has a choice in the matter. He could be with his family, but he's not. I could imagine that would baffle her beyond belief.