Most people complained about the sun and heat of the desert, the dry winds and lack of greenery or scenery. Most people did not like it, but the ones who did, reveled in it. Sun kissed skin and bright colors paraded through the streets of Aylarin. The city was still recovering from the purchase of the large stone walls that were nearly finished. It had taken many years but the project would soon be complete, something everyone was grateful for. The stone workers, to get out of the heat, and the desert people to have the full protection of the walls.
With any luck, Virea would be leaving with the workers. She had spent many years in the cursed place and she was ready to leave. Sun and fair skin did not mix well at all. She stared out the window and watched the workers in the far distance atop the wall, placing the last of the stones. Working her way up to become close to the Lord of Aylarin had been taxing and rather unpleasant but she had managed to accomplish her objective and now it was time to leave.
“The Lord will see you now.”
Turning away from the window, Virea nodded at the boy and followed him to the door. “Sellina, thank you for seeing me.”
“Of course, you know that I always have time for you.” The Lord of Aylarin, Sellina smiled pleasantly at her advisor. “What brings you to request a formal audience?”
Virea bowed her head slightly and gave a sigh, “I came to tender my resignation. While these years have been most rewarding, my time in the sun must come to an end.”
Sellina stood up quickly, a bit wild in the eyes. “What? Why? Surely I can change your mind. Was it something I did that has upset you?”
Virea internally steeled herself. Sellina was a paranoid woman but easily swayed and distracted by flowery speech and poetry. It made Virea rather sick to speak in such roundabout ways but she had a meeting to make and it would hopefully be the last time she had to perform.
“Of course not. It is just that my heart yearns for woodlands again. It has been so long since I have been there that I am not sure I even remember what they look like. The smell of the flowers, the sounds of birds chirping and brooks babbling. The feel of a brisk breeze upon my face as I wander through the greenery is all but fleeting memory.” She stared at Sellina, watching for the slight glazing of the eyes as she started to envision the place she was describing.
“My dear friend, I feel as though if I am parted from them any longer that I shall waste away.” A pain filled sigh followed next. She briefly thought of putting a hand to her brow for further effect but decided against it, not sure she could keep a straight face.
It had all been going well until Sellina frowned. “I don’t really see the appeal.”
Cursing the unnatural draw the desert folk felt for the sun, Virea changed tactics, preying upon Sellina’s sense of honor. “I am also promised to a man.” Seeing the puzzled look starting to form, she continued quickly. “It is customary where I am from that we spend five years apart. It.. helps us grow as individuals and makes the heart grow stronger.”
“You never mentioned him before.”
“Customary. Separate lives, reinventing ourselves to find out our true selves. It is really quite a lot to take in, I am sure, much like it was for me to adjust to living here. You remember how hopelessly lost I was at first.”
Sellina smiled a bit at that. “I do. I wasn’t sure you were going to survive it all. I suppose if you have made a vow then there is nothing for it. You are welcome to visit of course, and I do hope you will consider living here and continuing your work. We will be the safest place in the world within these walls. None of my enemies will ever penetrate them.”
Nothing sounded worse than returning here and she tried not to roll her eyes at the prospect of an invasion. While Aylarin had a good economy, very few people had looked in its direction with plans for an invasion. No one wanted to risk so many troops dying from the heat, but she smiled and did her best to sound grateful. “Oh, you are so kind to offer. I will talk it over with my husband. If you will excuse me? I should finish packing. I hope to leave with the workers after the celebration.”
“Very well, I shall see you at the festivities.”
The celebration had been lovely; Virea had even been able to enjoy some of it as it went on into the evening. Nearly a week later, she was crossing through the Cavern of Ildath, soon to be arriving in Highgrove. The traveling had gone smoothly for the most part. They had only lost one man to the poison pools and the workers kept a good pace, ready to be back home.
Once on the other side of the cavern, She had parted ways with them and headed northwesterly to the meeting place. All four of them were waiting for her and had been there for a day or two by the look of things.
“All four? What’s the occasion?” Her eyes drifted over Buxtin, Jerran, Gabrine and finally to Dorian, who looked grumpy as ever.
“We all wanted to know how your first mission went, what else?” Gabrine grinned at her, munching on something or other. The man was never without some form of food on his person.
“Ah, stop stuffing your face. You’ll get fat.” Buxtin grinned, pushing Gabrine’s shoulder good naturedly. Gabrine laughed and offered him some jerky as Jerran’s voice rumbled over them.
“Quiet down and let’s get this over with. We all have things to do.”
Virea glanced to Dorian and waited for him to nod his consent before reporting. “The walls around Aylarin are finished. While I don’t appreciate you sending me on this particular mission due to the location, I was able to deduce that it was merely a defensive action. Their leader has no intention of conquest, merely a severe case of paranoia.”
Dorian studied her while she spoke, nodding when she finished. “You are sure of this?”
“Good, I’d hate to have to send us all in to take care of it. It’s a miserable journey.” Dorian smiled a bit at the irritated stare Virea pinned on him. “Feel free to take some time off. You’ve earned it. We’ll be in touch.”
Thankful for the dismissal, Virea turned and started off for cooler climates, ignoring Gabrine’s chatter as he decided to tag along for a time.