The first day of travel had elapsed much as Talis had expected it to with a small and silent storm brewing around her Maja.  The girl sat in her saddle with creased brow and angry motions ignoring all around her throwing what, Digitalis begrudgingly admitted to herself, was the best fit she had ever seen.  None of their armed company found it necessary to try to relieve the tension with light heartedness and as such they quickly shifted to the rear of the little procession so as to entertain themselves without fear of the girl shifting her sullen anger their way.  In the quite Talis found plenty of time to batter herself with useless questions about what she should have done.  While she had been acting on Mother’s orders, which had come from her cousin’s last request, she still felt guilt for keeping the secret.  It hurt to not be on speaking terms with the girl whom she had been through so much with.  Majalis did not know it but before when she had been touched with the sight on her cutting she had seen that this girl-child had been destined for a life above, one not of the Umbel.  However, knowing that her charge would not remain beyond the required eight years of training had become a lot less bearable after those nights of terror when Mother had confided in her all that Dahlia had left in her care.  It was decided, that first night, that should the girl child, now named Majalis, return whole, that Talis as the girl’s only remaining blood relative would keep the child.  However, under the rules of the Umbel the girl would know her as faster mother, nothing more.  No matter how hard Talis had tried that bond of foster mother was very quickly surpassed by one of sister like camaraderie.  After all she and Dahlia had been like sisters and at that moment in some small way she had had that back.  The allure of making the relationship more than that of fosterlings proved impossible to resist.  Adding insult to injury Maja had been her first foster, and at the age of 24 Talis had found herself more adept at keeping a friend than controlling a foster daughter.

After spending the whole day even meals suffering both her internal dialogue and the malice of Maja’s glares; Talis left the company of the young woman and instead hung back with the two women of the Canna and the men of the Larkspur guard that were accompanying them to the borders of Vesper.  In the midst of such colorful people Talis could not keep to her worries over much, but at the next midday meal the winds of the silent storm shifted; Maja’s mood had turned from anger and rage into denial and despair, which seemed to hang upon her like the weight of the world.  Now when the girl looked in her direction she sensed fear radiating out of the mournful eyes that darted so quickly side to side that even horses seemed effected and easily startled.  Again she had to remind herself that when Maja was ready she would come to her, and that forcing the girl to deal with her emotions before then would create even more issues.

It had taken nearly three days, but just as Talis had been sure it would, the silence and the first sightings of castle Vesper had shaken Maja.  Immediately Majalis turned in her saddle to look over her shoulder and say, “Digitalis,” quietly, sure that the woman would not respond and that they would never talk again.  However, it seemed as if Talis had been waiting for just this sign to leave the slightly more subdued group of Canna and Vesper guards, for as Talis started forward the rest of the company retreated to lend privacy to the conversation.  It seemed to Maja that the small gap between them took her foster mother forever to cross, but soon she was asking, “Yes Maja?”

She had tried to restrain herself but everything broke free in a flood of emotion.  “How could you not tell me, what right did you have, did any of you have?  Mother, my mother, or you the only person I’ve ever known as friend and family of my choosing.  Eight years, and you never found the time or the way in eight years!  Do I truly mean so little to all of you that you can put me away and decide for me without my consent or fore knowledge?  Even a maid with little more than hearth and home before her is consulted as to what she would like best in a pairing,” Maja could tell that her voice had risen but seemed unable to control her hysteria, “I got demands and unfair requests.”  She paused for breath and some composure, but before the girl could continue Talis replied, “No.”  “What do you mean ‘No’?  What is that supposed to mean?  No to what, to me, to my questions?”

“Child you will please refrain from starting outright gossip in my presence. You forget yourself. Am I not still your elder, do I no longer deserve respect and a chance to plead my case before I am brought to punishment?”  At this point Talis turned her young Vicuna mare around and approached the guards and arranged for the final midday meal to be taken.  As tents were erected for the cleaning and eating of all on the trip Talis sat her mare silently with the young woman a step behind looking warily at her back every few moments, but when the dried meats and cheeses were brought out Maja followed Talis readily into their tent.

“No, I could not tell you, even after eight years, and at first I did not even know myself.  I was still in the first eight years of my training when you were born, I did not even know my cousin was with child and was not even allowed a pass for the funeral.  I was not told how she died Maja.  Mother kept me in dark as well.  Even when I read for you she never told me why she was not surprised, or why you had such an affect on me.  I named you and still knew you not as blood of my blood.  It wasn’t till you were taken that she told me.”

“But why would that matter?  Why would Mother wait till that time to tell you, she was the only one who knew I existed at all no one would ever have known who I was or where I came from?  How could a missing child be so important?  She should have just let me go it would have been better.  At least it wouldn’t have been as if I had lost anything or anyone.  Before the Umbel I would have been safe.”  Maja whispered this last thought caught in her own emotions over what was being done and how helpless she was to change any of it.

Talis, however, apeared as if the words placed before her had caused actual pain.  “Safe, really Maja.  Perhaps you would prefer to be dead or bound to one or more as a slave, but there are others, myself included, who would rather see you only unhappy but able to live on.  Your mother gave her life to see you come into your gifts, and who are you, I ask to throw the gift of life away.  Do you claim that the Essence knows not Her own mind and what would be best for this world of Hers?”  Seeing the fear that leapt into the girls eyes at the mention of knowing more than the Essence Talis softened her tone saying, “Truly are you so unhappy to have known me, have I wronged you so?”

“Oh Talis never, I only wish I did not hurt so much at the idea of leaving you and all I know.”  Maja smiled shyly looking out from under her lashes slightly unsure how the truth of the statement would be taken.

Talis sighed loudly before continuing, “I was given you as my fosterling not because of the love we might share for each other but for our shared blood.”  The woman saw Maja start to speak but hushed her with a gesture, she knew this had to be said but still it hurt to speak these hidden truths.  “Mother said that as you were, gifted, there were some who could sense that gift and upon finding you could use the gift through you how they saw fit.  I am of the blood of your mother and through her you with me the blood of your father would be hidden beneath the roots of your Umbel mother.  Dahlia must have guessed this was true too because you were sent in to a home with roots not to your father while you were still young.  One…once you leave the shelter of my home and live with your father things will become much more complicated.  In the Umbel all are equal with no power over another, but this is not so where you go, Maja.  Your father, Dronocum, is nobility and with noble birth comes a second name, responsibility for others, and powers.”

No sooner had the word left her mouth had Maja had a feeling of the world slipping out form beneath her.  “Powers…but the Phlox is a seer not a magician.”

Talis calmly shook her head, “She is the High Seeress to the Umbel but to the nobility she is a teacher of power.”

“But I, I have no powers Talis,” these words seemed to be a life line to Maja, “if I have no powers then there is no need to even see my father.  He will surly put me away, and then I can work in your house and be with you even if I cannot be within the Umbel.”  Satisfied with the new outcome of events Majalis started to eat with new vigor.

“Even I can see the holes in that theory child.  You told Mother that you have lately seen more to the dreams than you used to including a woman of the Canna who brought you home,” at the mention of this unknown woman Talis’ eyes glistened in the filtered light.  “If you remember her words you will also remember what you are choosing to over look.  Either way child we can keep the guards waiting no longer.”

Talis raised herself to wash away most of the trail dust from her face and arms when she noticed that Majalis had not stirred, “She’s dead isn’t she?  You said that part of noble birth was responsibility for others but you meant for the lives of others.”  She turned quickly a slight tremble was noticeable in her hands as she lunged forward and grabbed the Talis by the shoulders, “I’ve killed, no do not lie to me I see it in your eyes.  There’s more, but . . . why won’t you let me see?”

“Because you are not ready yet,” the woman said removing herself from the girl’s grasp, “no I will hear no more on this.”  Maja followed Talis out of the tent once again in her green riding frock but as the things were packed away the girl noticed that her travel trunk and bags were being placed on a small pica that the guards had brought.  She sought Talis out with her eyes and slowly approached her, “Are you not accompanying me, does it all end here, will I never see you again?”

“Such drama my dear one, you will go to the castle.  I will ride as far as the gates, but no farther.”  Finally it seemed that small amounts of the girl’s despair had started to stick to Talis weighting her down as well.  “Maja, my gifts to you in this new life of yours are in a small pouch in your trunk, it includes enough for your dower if you should need it.  Let us away now dear child.”

The small party entered the city surrounded by watchful eyes as it was near dark, but Maja caught the look of pride in Talis’ eyes and tried to be worthy of it.  She followed the banner bearer through the streets holding herself as well as she could until they reached the gate, where silent sobs rattled her resolve.  She felt Talis’ touch on the back of her neck and felt the leather throng loosened from her throat, it was the symbol of Digitalis and her fostering.  Maja turned to ask why but Talis held her firm and placed another throng around her neck, this one was made of soft metal and fell to her heart where she could feel the residual warmth of Talis’ body.  This time Maja felt her self turned to look in to Talis’ eyes.  “It was your mother’s, it was given to me after she had died, and now I am giving it to you so when you need to you can feel us both watching over you.  Go with your fate and may the Essence guide you, Maja, my darling.”

As if the darkness had swallowed them hole the two Canna and Talis were gone into the night.  Maja lifted her head defiantly as tears the size of rain drops slid down her cheeks.  “Guards, if you will, I require an escort to the castle I must seek my father’s,” the word dripped with scorn, “advice in lodgings.”