:They are positively tip-toeing around you,: Aelius said, amused. Kir sent back a purely mental scoff but didn't disagree, Anur managing to keep a passably bland expression on his face despite his mind radiating amusement. They were working in the courtyard on some of the paperwork that had piled up in their absence while also being available for questions from anyone who had them, but mostly the acolytes and Rodri.

This was the first time in moons every Firestarter in residence dropped by the courtyard while they were there, drawing him into some brief conversation before making excuses and disappearing. Jaina had been the most frequent one, coming up to speak to them no less than three times this morning, none on matters that were anything more than idle curiosity.

Colbern had approached and managed to ask something vaguely approaching a delicate question about how Kir was feeling. It had looked painful and Anur had barely managed to stifle his laughs when the man walked away.

:I know we say Seras and Markov meeting wouldn't be the best idea, but I think Colbern and Markov might be more of a problem,: Kir said in lieu of responding to Aelius comment.

:They'd either get along really well or murder each other,: Anur agreed, :Let's not risk it. I'm just impressed Solaris managed to find people left in the priesthood Markov doesn't threaten with evisceration as a matter of course.:

:Point. Well – I can't do paperwork any longer. What do you say we put this away and hunt down Rodri? I'd like to see if I can teach him that grounding trick to trigger the hum, it would hopefully allow him to detect flammability,: Kir offered, Anur immediately starting to stack and sort his own papers and pulling Kir's in with them as needed. It was just as well he'd established that Anur spoke for him in all things on their first stay in Sunhame, it made dealing with these things much faster even if he still did have to provide the necessary seals and signatures.

:Should I call Kari in?:

:...Probably not the worst idea.:

Two marks later, Kir was trying not to laugh while Rodri stared at what had been a nicely blooming rose-bush, aghast. Anur admired his brother's restraint, he wasn't even bothering to try and stop laughing.

"And here I thought the rose gardens were safe," Solaris said dryly.

If Rodri went any paler, he'd worry about the teen passing out. Anur managed to sit up straight, offering a half-bow of greeting before snickering again. Kir finally laughed, Solaris and he exchanging bows before he rested a hand on Rodri's shoulder, the teen bowing hastily. Solaris stopped him before he could genuflect.

"No, no, I interrupted your studies, Initiate Rodri, though I think the gardeners will thank me," she finished, exchanging blessing gestures with him.

"They're planning to redo this garden come winter, I asked for an area where they wouldn't mind bushes randomly catching on fire," Kir assured her, Rodri immediately looking relieved.

"You didn't tell me that!" he said, looking up at Kir with a faint frown.

"Because your face was hilarious!" Anur crowed and just laughed harder at Rodri's flabbergasted expression. Kir's lips twitched into a smile but somehow he managed to regain a bland expression by the time Rodri looked to him again.

That left him to deal with Rodri's disgruntled glare, and it was probably a good thing Rodri was well aware of his lack of precision with flames, or he'd be worried for his hair. Kir hadn't made good on that threat in a while, but he definitely still made it. It gave him something of an excuse for keeping his hair longer than the usual Karsite fashion, though among priests it wasn't quite so uncommon.

"Working on anything in particular?" Solaris asked, directing the question to Rodri who let up on glaring at Anur to look at her and reply.

"Flammability detection, Eminence," he said, "Father Kir is making random things more flammable and I'm supposed to guess which one – well. Detect which one but… it's basically been guessing. I thought I had it but… I accidentally lit it on fire instead of just detecting it?"

"That happens," Kir assured him, "If you want to practice this on your own, use materials you aren't familiar with and ask Jaina or Kari to accompany you. Listening for it without affecting it is difficult."

"Listening?" Solaris prompted, clearly curious and by Hansa's intent expression he was equally interested. Kari padded up beside Kir and gave a rolling shrug, fielding this reply.

:Everything is flammable, to some degree. Kir hears it as a hum, a buzz – the louder and higher pitched the buzz, the more flammable the thing is. It's a sense of… potential, I suppose. I've never spoken to another Firestarter which uses the same techniques but I would guess they're the same.:

"I have," Kir said carefully, "And his interpretation agreed."

:Griffon?: Anur murmured to his brother alone, wordless assent all Kir sent back. By Rodri's curious glance up at Kir, met by a shake of his head, he wanted to know who this other Firestarter was too, but subsided at Kir's gesture. They would meet one day, Anur hoped, but best not mention details just yet.

"Interesting," Solaris mused, "Does enchantment affect this?"

"Depends on the spellwork, but most of the time, yes," Kir raised an eyebrow at her, "Any particular reason why?"

"Dealing with those trap-anchors that Brother Markov uncovered made me wonder how many other enchantments I wouldn't approve of were left – none of those anchors remain," she waved a hand dismissively at the thought of her dramatic midnight calling on divine power to cleanse an entire country of anchored curse traps and Anur bit back another snicker. "But the District is thick with spellwork from centuries of labor and determining where anchors are, as well as just what enchantments do, is difficult. I was simply curious if you would be able to detect spell-anchors, if you focused on it."

"Possibly," Kir said thoughtfully, "But it would probably be easier to use mage-sight – ah. No, you can ward against that with some work, correct?"

"It's tedious but if the spell was something truly reprehensible," Solaris sighed, "I've cleared the Son of Sun residence at least, and have those I trust looking for them but… the District is quite large. If you could even just keep an eye out for such things, marking them for later, closer inspection that would be appreciated."

"Easily done," Kir agreed.

The time-keeping bell tolled and Rodri perked up, bowing deeply to Solaris and saying, "Excuse me, but I have class in a mark and must collect my texts."

"Far be it for me to keep an initiate from their studies," Solaris said with a smile, "Sunlord protect and guide, Initiate Rodri."

"Father Kir, the forges tomorrow morning?" Rodri asked after bowing to Solaris again, Kir nodding thoughtfully, "I need a word with Axeli on a sun-forged steel spear anyway. I'll see you this evening, Rodri."

"Watch out for flaming rose-bushes," Anur said solemnly, cracking a smile at the attempt at a withering look Rodri sent him as he walked away. "Having a student is fantastic!" he said, Kir and Solaris both snorting and exchanging wry looks.

"Yes, you would think so. You didn't have to fill out any paperwork about the exploding pistachios incident," Kir said.

"Please, as if you weren't extracting vengeance by not telling him the gardeners allowed random fires in this section of garden," Anur scoffed, rising to his feet, "You definitely enjoyed that horrified expression on his face as much as I did."

"He'll have to explain random fires himself eventually," Kir shrugged, tone mild, "Might as well get practice without urgency."

"I would hope that with proper instruction random fires wouldn't happen," Solaris commented, Kir hesitating before giving a nod and elaborating.

"Fair, and yes, in an ideal world – but practice is necessary and it is impossible to get a full grasp of Firestarting within a day – there will be at least a few days where he will need to be followed around by Kari or one of us trained Firestarters to ensure any flames only get non-animates."

"How did you manage?" Anur asked warily.

"I left town," Kir said grimly, "I made my excuses to Verius and I ran, and even then I made a serious dent in the local wildlife population. I learned later that there was a fever outbreak that quarantined the rest of my cohort and Verius, so I had enough time to get things under control. It took nearly three moons for me to have consistent and constant control over my flames – the thing that saved me was the fact I was traveling with three other Firestarter acolytes – only some of the random fires were blamed on me."

Solaris frowned and said carefully, "Your pardon, Kir, but it sounds rather miraculous your Order has survived so long with as many ways you could kill yourselves in training and trials – and that's without taking infighting into account."

"It takes a lot for Firestarters to be dragged into District infighting," Kir replied, "Well – it did, at least. It was understood that we were off-limits, as students anyway, simply because it was so easy to turn any harassment back on the perpetrator by accusing them of witchcraft – it's not a difficult thing to fake evidence for, and very hard to disprove."

"I have to know this Phyrrus story," Anur groaned, "Everything I've learned is telling me it should never have happened but it clearly did and just – what did he do?"

"Essentially he tried to force Jaina into a situation where she would be beholden to him and have to repay him in some manner, presumably sexually," Kir summarized flatly, "I took exception to that, and being young and foolish and more than half suicidal, I humiliated him and tore down a fair bit of his status while making it very obvious it was me. It took moons for him to recover enough political capital to apply true pressure on me, and by then Verius had already declared that I would be ordained and petitioned for me to go straight to the First Order Trials. Within a week of him filing those requests, he was dead."

:I thought Kir heavily implied that one of his cohort had poisoned Verius, since that way they were all put up for ordination and he'd been holding them back,: Aelius pointed out, Anur half-remembering that conversation and latching onto Aelius' implied question to distract himself from seething fury at the very idea of this Phyrrus character and from the quiet horror at Kir's utterly factual 'more than half suicidal'.

"I could have sworn you implied that one of your fellow students poisoned Verius," Anur relayed, Kir making a few frustrated gestures and the ashes of the rose-bush starting to smolder before he managed a reply.

"I don't know who poisoned him, besides it not being me, and probably not Jaina, she was honestly grieved at his death," Kir finally said, Solaris sighing heavily and nodding, supplying the rest of the explanation.

"But acolytes wouldn't have been able to poison their mentor without some outside assistance, not unless they were truly exceptional at it, and Phyrrus was known for being persuasive," she said sadly, "He probably convinced one of them to help him – there were four of you?"

"The most likely one to have done it died before Verius, not by much, but he did," Kir coughed awkwardly, "He – ah – botched one of my techniques."

"The one that exploded?"

"One of your techniques can make people explode?"

"Not if you do it right!"


"So what happened to the fourth one?"

Kir twisted in the saddle to look back at Anur, puzzled by the question. They'd made it a habit to take their horses out of the city and just ride for a few marks at least every other day they were in Sunhame – both of them needed the chance to be out of the District, out of the crowds. It was growing more familiar every time, but Kir didn't doubt that even if he survived to be old and grey he'd always view Sunhame with at least some distaste.

Should he be old and grey and, for some reason, Rodri couldn't succeed him before his death, he'd undoubtedly be confined to Sunhame and the surrounding area for his twilight years. If it every got to that point, he might just lock himself in the Trial room and let the flames take him – after clearing it with Anur, of course.

As on edge as he was in the city, he'd probably agree to it.

"The fourth – the fourth member of our cohort?" Kir asked, finally figuring out what Anur was probably referring to. It had taken a few moments of circular conversation to assure Solaris that none of his techniques actually made someone explode, and to this day he couldn't figure out what had actually gone wrong, but after that had been straightened out and they agreed to meet the next day with Markov in tow to figure out their story they'd parted ways, the two of them heading for the stables.

"Yeah," Anur agreed, Aelius doing a few pivots presumably for enjoyment before jumping into a high-stepping trot to catch up, "There's you, and Jaina, and the exploded one, so what happened to the last one? Presumably they were ordained around the same time as you and Jaina?"

"With Jaina, actually," Kir corrected, "She took the post of Incendiary a few moons later – by Midsummer of our ordination year. I don't think Bron died until a year or two later – the idiot drowned."

"Wait – what?"

"He drowned," Kir scoffed, cuing Riva to a rapid back and spin before rocking forward into a trot to walk by Aelius again, "I told him he should learn how to swim, I spent moons pestering him into it, I tried bribes, I tried threats – but Verius told us that if he wanted to die in such an unpleasant and avoidable way it was his right and I was to leave him alone about the matter."

"He didn't even drown in a fast river, or rapids, or a decent lake," Kir continued, reins at least forcing his hands to remain steady while he worked on Riva's side-steps, "No, he drowned in an oasis. An oasis! Half of those aren't even deep enough to prevent you from standing! There's no appreciable current, he could have floated to safety but no, Karse was a desert land, blessed by the Sun and he was one of the Sunlord's chosen he would never drown – idiot."

Looking over to see why Anur hadn't responded, he rolled his eyes when he realized his brother was literally biting his sleeve to keep from laughing, shoulders shaking while Aelius crow-hopped a few times.

"You feel very strongly about that," Anur managed a few moments later, voice strangled and a few snickers escaping at the end. Kir scoffed again, eyeing the footing on the far side of a fallen log before going to set Riva up for a jump.

"Drowning happens," he finally said, Riva surging forward, "Even if you know how to swim!" he called over his shoulder as they landed, Riva wheeling around to canter around the obstacle and back to Anur and Aelius' sides. "Blows to the head, tiredness, cold, being drunk, a strong current, the wrong clothes – anyone can drown. But to not even try to learn how to prevent it? Especially when his duties were going to send him traveling across Karse in all seasons? Sheer stupidity. When I heard how he died, I may have spent a few moments feeling furious and smug before repenting and praying for his soul – but should I ever have the chance to speak with him again, my first words are going to be I told you so!"

"Aside from that bit of arrogance, was he a decent enough person?" Anur asked curiously and Kir shrugged. His acolyte years had, before Anur, been some of the most contented of his life simply because he'd had company, had companionship that understood what they were facing, what they were going to become. Maybe they didn't have the same opinions on what that meant, maybe they didn't agree on methods or motives or anything at all, really, but they'd understood. They'd known, and been in the same situation or near enough to it.

"He was fine," Kir finally said vaguely, "Mostly memorable because of the drowning bit and refusing to learn how to swim, honestly. We – we would watch stars together though. Neither of us slept much – probably nightmares on both our parts, but who would admit to that? But we would watch stars, tell constellation stories. He'd been taken older, eleven or so, I think – he'd heard more of them from his family, so there were… quirks, pieces of lore I hadn't heard from books or what stories I remembered."

He fell silent, thinking back to the large, quiet boy that he'd never really thought of as older than him, despite size difference and at least six years. Half his fury at his death had been the fact that it had been so easily preventable and he'd seen it coming when Bron had flinched away from anything deeper than a bathtub. It raised the question of just why he'd gone into an oasis in the first place, but he'd asked around and there had been no signs of foul play. He'd just gone in to clean up, slipped and never managed to right himself.

"He would have liked to see Solaris' changes, I think," Kir admitted quietly, Aelius stepping closer so Anur could bump their shoulders together.

"He's watching in Sunheart," Anur said sympathetically, "Probably intensely regretting rejecting your offers to teach him to swim."

"Verius probably gave him the what-for, if they ever found each other," Kir said wryly, "He mostly made me stop pestering him because we were driving everyone else mad with it."

"Calling drowning an unpleasant and avoidable way to die?" Anur snorted, "He was probably hoping to scorn him into trying. Shame it didn't work. Now – race you to the end of that field?"

"No witch-horse cheats?"

"No more than your weird-horse che – hey!" Anur squawked, Aelius' mental laughs ringing in their minds as he launched after Riva, Anur continuing, :Witch-horse cheats ha! More like your cheats! Cheater!:

:What was that? I can't hear you over the sound of my victory!:

:That was my line!:

:Funny how much more infuriating it is on the receiving end, isn't it?:

:Infuriating? I'll show you infuriating!:

The sun was well into its descent by the time they were heading back to Sunhame on one of the lesser used roads, but the day away from the city had been desperately needed. Anur was humming what could arguably be called a hymnal tune but was actually a drinking song and Kir was well on his way to finishing another knotwork project – again one of his suns but it was of a nicer cording than his usual, silk of mottled reds with scattered brass beads threaded on. He'd taken shameless advantage of being nearer to textile country and had ventured out to purchase strings and cords while in Sunhame early on in their treks here. It at least made the trip somewhat worthwhile in an utterly uncomplicated way.

He hadn't worked with silk in a long time, it had taken some doing to get the knots to settle right, but by the time he was done anchoring it to one of the bangles he had a stash of for just this purpose, it would be an elegant enough piece. He'd spotted Jaina wearing one of his earlier efforts at a knotwork bracelet a few moons ago and figured he could start on Midwinter gifts early.

"That's definitely a priest," Anur commented, standing in his stirrups and shading his eyes, "And possibly Laskaris – he rides that buckskin mare, right?"

"Last I heard nothing had happened to her," Kir said, looking up from his knots briefly but not doing more than glancing at the figure in question. They were keeping a slower pace, whoever they were, so the two of them would catch up soon enough – red robes alone indicated some member of the priesthood though. No lay person would dare wear that much red cloth outside of a wedding.

"He spends most of his time out with Lumira, riding up to Peak's Town on his way into Sunhame and conducting patrols of the fatlands when he can," Kir recalled, "Seems more than content to stay well away from Sunhame though – I wonder what is bringing him back."

"If that's even him - "

"Eldest?" a surprised voice called, interrupting Anur and invalidating their hesitation all at once, "I thought you would already be in Sunhame!"

"We've been in Sunhame a few days, but make a habit of going for a ride every so often," Kir called back, Riva and Aelius picking up the pace a bit so they could get within easy talking distance. "What brings you back to Sunhame? As I understood it you were focusing on Lumira's congregation for the time being."

"I have to consult with some colleagues on them," Laskaris said, tone grim before he lightened considerably, "But none of that now, Eldest, I hear our Initiate has had his first run in with the fourth fundamental truth?"

:The what?: Aelius asked, Anur managing to keep himself from being visibly puzzled. With a name like a fundamental truth, they probably assumed it was something the average Karsite would know – but not in this case.

"Everything burns," Kir explained, smiling wryly, "There's a collection of five things considered fundamental truths passed on rather – apocryphally, with stories, within the priesthood. I'm sure some lay people know them but they're not common knowledge. I don't think Rodri had heard them before Jaina laughed at him and quoted it."

"The old I didn't know it was flammable excuse," Laskaris said fondly, "What was he going after? Lumira and I only heard that there had been an incident and no one was hurt."

"Pistachios in a sealed container," Kir said, the older man wincing and shaking his head.

"Thank the Sunlord for Kari then, there's no way he would have escaped without injuries otherwise," the priest said, Kir nodding agreement. "Now, I left Lumira's congregation a week ago and haven't really spoken to anyone on the road – there was some sort of mass lightning strike right about then do you know anything?"

"Oh yes," Anur snorted, "We know quite a bit. First though, have you ever heard of or met a former black-robe healer named Markov?"

"He's alive?"

"Alive and well, apparently there were anchored curse traps scattered across the country triggered by certain people reentering Karse, and he was one of them," Kir said, Laskaris shaking his head.

"I'm not surprised, some of the stories I heard – well. I suppose his targets lined up with those Solaris' reforms would have ruined anyway," the priest attempted a shrug but any nonchalance was undermined by the concerned frown on his face.

"He admits his judgment is flawed and apparently only came back to verify Solaris' changes for others who are interested in returning, so he won't be targeting any others. To be frank it doesn't sound like he's interested in remaining in Karse," Anur said, expression not giving away the fierce focus Kir could feel burning against his mind, "He'd rather return to Valdemar."

Laskaris' nostrils flared and his knuckles went white, breath hissing out between his teeth, "Well then," he said coolly, "That should be expected, I suppose, that people would flee there."

"I'd say better there than Hardorn," Kir grimaced, "At least they're not fueling blood magic."

"Instead they're consorting with - !" Laskaris visibly struggled to bite back the rest of his statement, closing his eyes and exhaling slowly, "My apologies, Eldest. We have – mentioned it, at least. That those who fled may want to return but as it hasn't actually come up yet I've let it lie without thinking on it too much."

"Think on it now, then, and don't take too long," Kir said sternly, "Because her Eminence has already decided to welcome them home."

:Oh this is going to go so well,: Anur grumbled, :Suppose I'll have to work on getting to know him.:

:Friendship wouldn't help with him,: Kir sent back bleakly, :But he doesn't have the ambition or drive to pursue things against my wishes, much less Solaris' - he may hate, he may seethe, but he won't act.:

:Until something pushes him too far,: Anur pointed out, :It's best we at least try to bring him into the fold more. Even just on the matter of Talents, forget Heralds entirely for the moment.:

:Fair, he did have difficulty with that too,: Kir glanced over at Laskaris, who looked deep in thought, and didn't hesitate to interrupt him.

"So, a consultation on the Hardornens? Is something wrong?"

"No – nothing is wrong, just some spellwork they asked after – they heard about the mercenaries and are willing to enter a similar contract, but only if we can guarantee witach can't bind them again."

"A fair condition but one that might be tricky to pull off," Kir frowned, "Especially with the true anchors of those spells far behind Ancar's borders."

"Precisely. I studied coercion webs, I have some ideas, but decided I might as well extend my next run to consult with colleagues in Sunhame," Laskaris grimaced, "If any of them are left alive after that lightning storm – at least one of them made a study of death-traps, so he might very well be gone."

"You'll forgive me if I don't mourn someone who set Fury swarms down on our heads," Anur said dryly and Laskaris barked a laugh.

"Lieutenant-Enforcer, being honest, I wouldn't mourn him either."


"I've had at least three people try to curse me as a demon-infested monster since I arrived."

Markov sounded utterly delighted by the fact, Kir noted wryly, exchanging a glance with Anur while Solaris stared at the priest in question with no little incredulity.

"That is not what I would call good news, Brother Markov, not if you were intending to tell people it was safe to return from Valdemar, if they wished to," she said carefully, Markov bowing his head to her before replying.

"And I agree, but it is good to know that they will face opposition – and that the opposition is restricted to words. We have words thrown in our faces in Valdemar too, Your Eminence, it's the threats of death and fire that scared them off. I can't speak for all of them, I can't even speak for most, but I know at least some would prefer to return to Karse and endure prejudice and hatred in a land they can call home rather than endure much the same in a land they call exile."

"A fair point," she admitted quietly, Anur taking the chance to speak up.

"It's also good to know that most of their focus is on the Valdemar aspect rather than the Talent aspect, though that may also just be because it's Markov, and he's a priest, not a fled innocent," he said, rocking back on his heels where he was standing by the window, "I know some of the Firestarters still struggle with the idea that Talents aren't wicked, much less the possibility that Valdemar isn't home to hellbeasts and monsters, but it gives us areas to focus on – and the more Talented we have among the lay-people, the better for that acclimatization."

"So long as no one does something stupid," Kir says sternly, "It's a lot of adjustment at once, and many people were dissatisfied, were doubtful, that is true – but it's not just the priesthood that hates Talented, Anur. Brothers would turn in brothers, parents turn on their children – it's been lifetimes, generations, of knowing Talents were evil, were doom. Having more Talented and those sympathetic to Talented would help people get used to the idea, but it would also add a burden to the priest in the towns they were returning to, because they would need to stand as their shield, no matter their own opinions on the matter."

"An idea then might be to get names of those who plan to return and where they plan to go," Solaris suggested, "Then we could deliberately sound out those priests, explain to them what will be expected of them."

"I can also brief those who are returning," Markov said, "Explain what will be done to help them and what they will have to be responsible for and watchful for themselves."

"No children returning alone," Kir said abruptly, brow furrowing as he remembered the girl and her cousins, running north and so terrified, "Not unless – not unless we can confirm that the household they left is still there, and will still welcome them. If it's a group of children – still not ideal, but better than one alone."

"At this point we might as well have an escort service of some sort," Anur pointed out, "Children are the ones that fled, and if any of them want to return they may not have an adult willing to accompany them – besides that, brigands and road hazards and whatnot, might as well have something set up to make their return and welcome as smooth as possible."

"I have a fair number of young priests eager to do something," Solaris mused, "At least until I can finish sorting out which priests need replacements or simply assistants, it will give them something to do. I can place Karchanek on that task, he is being driven mad by some magecraft problem that got presented a few days ago, some time away may do him good."

"Well he can't ride with us," Anur said blandly, "Riva hates blondes."

:I really am sorry about that whole mess...:


The letter addressed to Kiara Dinesh, Captain of the Sundancer sat in the Temple District for a full day before it was placed in the proper dispatch slot. Stored in a leather pouch with a selection of other missives, it was handed over to the messenger branch of the Sunsguard rather than the chartered and sponsored merchants who handled deliveries deemed less urgent by their senders.

Nothing about the letter to Kiara Dinesh indicated it was urgent, but the name Dinesh was not unknown in Sunhame and the priest set to sorting mail used his own discretion.

Once a week, the day of departure depending on district, messengers rode out of Sunhame with sealed bags, stopping at predetermined towns and handing over the relevant pouch to the local priest. From there, the priest sorted the letters to the smaller townships in his area, sometimes guessing based on names and titles when letters didn't have a more convenient marker.

For those that lived outside the towns that were on the messenger's route – often without a Sunsguard post in a day's ride, since the main purpose of the messengers was relaying orders – their letters took a little longer, the priest either taking the initiative and encouraging someone to travel that direction or waiting for travelers to pass through in order to pass those letters on. Most of the time, there would be somebody willing to walk over to the next village and visit with their aunt or cousin or old friend's brother with a few letters in tow. Often they got some coin out of the recipient, or at least offers of a meal and drink, so it wasn't a bad way to spend a day the fields couldn't be worked or the forge couldn't be stoked.

In the same way, replies could make it back, messengers running through the route once a week. Each district had a rota of five messengers, so that no matter how far afield they ended up going (usually hunting down wayward Sunsguard captains off on whatever they called a patrol) the once a week schedule would not be disrupted.

Most of the time, especially in the furthest reaches of the country, in the north, in the Badlands, messengers would ride most of the month without a single message outside Sunsguard orders and reports in their bags. Solaris' rise saw a marked increase in letters, both by messenger and by caravan, but once a week was still more than enough.

Captain Kiara Dinesh of the Sundancer was a recognizable name to the priest who received the letter, and he was able to pass it and others to a group heading to the fish-market two days after he opened the message pouch. The next day, the letter was in the hands of her priest, the priest who, nominally, had her in his congregation.

Storms and squalls made regular attendance somewhat difficult, of course, but he had noticed – the whole nation had noticed – that after Solaris' rise, excuses to skip service and dodge priests were drying up, were being neglected, and temples were fuller than they'd been in a long time. But practically speaking, all that meant was he didn't have to wait for a Solsday service to get the letter delivered – Captain Dinesh was at the Sun Ascending service the very next day.

A week and a half after the letter left Sunhame, it was placed into Kiara Dinesh's hand.

She looked at it, took a deep breath, and put it in her vest for later. There was work to do before daylight was lost. The story of her brother's death could wait until nightfall.

That night, she broke one dish, a chair, scraped her knuckles raw and cried until her eyes ached. What in Sunlord's name was she supposed to do with a living brother?

A/N: shAnonigans that last section was for you :) Hope everyone enjoyed!