Chapter One: "Shatter"
Perhaps the first time had been nothing but an accident. Chancellor Reissmann had long ago warned her that her illiteracy would someday get her into trouble, and though no trouble had come of that particular incident, a hangover had.
The war had come as something of a reprieve to her, a chance to get away from lessons on matters that she felt were far above her, and of manners she sometimes felt incapable of learning. That freedom was short-lived, and upon the sealing of the Dragon's Gate, she had returned to Caelin again—to the side of her ill grandfather, and to the learning of things she had never cared about.
But she held her head up and tried, for the sake of those she cared about. Maybe, she thought to herself night after night, she could lead Caelin successfully. Though she hadn't fully convinced herself, she learned to read and write, and to listen to the affairs of those who came to ask for her ruling. She made sense of the silverware, and of the knights posted outside her door every evening.
When Lord Hausen died, the entire canton mourned, but none so much as Lady Lyndis. She had hoped, however foolishly, that he would get better and take his rightful place again.
Her workload doubled, and if she had even a moment to spare, she had to use it to catch her breath instead of spending it as she chose. No longer did she have time to visit with Florina, or shove parchments at Wil, or tease Kent and Sain. No, she had documents to sign with her shaky, uneven signature, and the disputes of villagefolk to settle.
Months passed in this way, and she thought to herself that if she was given even five minutes alone with any one of her friends, that she might burst into tears, just as she had when she'd found Mark, all those years ago. Loneliness, she had thought, then, so naïvely, was something one only felt when physically alone, but she had come to realize that it could be something else entirely, that, even when surrounded by people, she could miss something as simple as a kind word or a touch upon her arm.
The second time had not been an accident. Though her ability to read was not as it should have been, she knew what was in the bottle when she took it. Her shawl concealed it so thoroughly that, even when she passed Sain in the corridor, he did not suspect anything. She had smiled at him, and he had smiled back; it was all that they had time for, and nothing hurt her more than to know that.
The hangover the next day had been worth one evening's respite, and, for the year that followed, she found herself visiting the castle cellar with more and more frequency. In her bedroom, she would find herself standing by the window as she held the bottle to her lips and watched the quiet even outside. It was under control, she told herself again and again. She needed to get away, just for a little while, just for a night. She would be better in the morning. Softly, she would sing songs to herself that nobody else knew, that people like Chancellor Reissmann and Eliwood and Hector would not understand.
But they brought her comfort, and she sang them to herself, the words slurring together as she swayed to music that refused to play, until she sank to the floor an exhausted, tearful mess.
The fact that something was wrong had not escaped Kent's notice. Lady though she was, Lyn's face had paled and she had grown thinner in the weeks and months following her grandfather's death. It had not come as a surprise to anyone—it was no secret within the castle walls that Lyndis had loved Lord Hausen dearly—but he felt a sort of pain in his chest every time he saw her.
She was stubborn and willful, and Wil had said, once, that if Lady Lyndis did not want to be there, she would have left long ago.
But he knew deep down that she had never wanted to take over Caelin. She'd said, many years ago, that she had no interest in claiming any title, and he doubted she had changed her mind completely on the matter.
All too well he understood what it felt like to feel responsible for something, and there was no doubt in his mind that his lady liege felt responsible for Caelin, just as he felt responsible for her. Her grandfather had wanted her to have it, after all, and he was the only family she had left. Could she drop all of her responsibilities with a clean conscience? She had always wanted nothing more than to please him.