His voice sounds such a long way away.


No, not distant, exactly. It’s as though he’s speaking from the other side of a barrier. Which, she supposes, is exactly how it is.

She turns her head sharply, and the world spins around her. Too fast. Don’t move so fast.

“I’m here,” she says.

Brand is standing just inside the room, his back against the door. There is a girl in his arms. Red hair, pale skin. A broken toy.

She frowns as that thought settles in her mind. Broken. Toy. An odd choice of words.

Brand is frowning, worried. He’s worn that same expression for days now.

“The couch? Please?” He takes a few steps forward, and she realises he’s been asking her to move, so he can put the girl down.

She nods, rises carefully. She has to keep reminding herself to take care in everything she does now. Move too fast and vertigo spins her away. She worries that the spin might slip her sideways somehow, back to Tir. She knows she’s half there already. Yesterday, she spoke with her sister, and it was not until hours later that she remembered her sister never left the realm of air. She shouldn’t have even been able to sense her, let alone speak with her.

“What happened?” she asks. Brand has put the girl gently on the couch, propping her head up on a cushion. He is brushing his fingers across her forehead, his lips moving with some half-spoken spell.

“What happened?” she asks again, worried that just as she’s having trouble hearing him, so too her voice is fading from this world.

Brand looks back at her. “I found her in Sioned’s rooms. Fiona was snooping around. I think we both felt her,” here he gestures at the girl. “She’s lucky I got there first.”

“Are you all right?”

He looks faintly surprised. “All right? Yes of course I’m all right.” He blinks once, then a second time, more slowly. “Oh, because she stabbed me.” He waves a hand absently. “No, I don’t think she’ll try anything like that for a while. I think she’s right where she wants to be.”

Sarina smiles, relieved. “And the girl? Isolde, isn’t it?”

Brand nods, lines of worry creeping back to his face. “I don’t know. Somebody did this to her…” he rocks back on his heels. “I think I can wake her up, but I need to do it slowly to make sure it doesn’t hurt her.”

“I’ll make some tea,” says Sarina. She half turns, but something in her husband’s face, in the tension in his body, makes her pause. “You’re angry,” she says.

“Fucking furious,” replies Brand, voice coldly calm. He realises he’s clenching his fists, and makes himself uncurl his fingers. There are white crescent moons dug into his palms. “This is what Fiona and Bleys did to me,” he says softly. “This is what Theodric did to me.”

“You’ll be able to tell who did it, won’t you?” she asks carefully. He nods, not looking at her, and a little chill of sadness goes through her. “No revenge, Brand, please.”

He looks up sharply. “Revenge?” He seems honestly surprised. “This is our grand-daughter. If there’s any vengeing to be done, she’s more than capable of doing it herself.”