The Root of All SufferingDahlia stood under the solitary tree in the Saffron Garden, waiting. Night-blooming flowers were all around her, not yet given way to the changing of the season, but she had no eyes for them.
Eventually, she found that she was no longer standing alone. When Dahlia saw who was next to her, she felt a sharp pang inside. But it was not one of surprise.
Graice faced her, eyes deep with moonlight. “You wanted to talk, dear heart?” she asked softly.
Dahlia shook her head curtly. “I merely wished to satisfy a curiosity.” She turned and started to walk away toward the alley.
Graice’s voice stopped her. “You didn’t believe Orban when he told you that you were still me, did you? Or did you just not want to?”
Dahlia gritted her teeth. “Why, precisely, would I want to believe him?”
A sigh. “Do you truly hate me that much?”
Dahlia bit back her initial sharp reply and kept her tone even as she answered. “He burned
Hand to HandThey had dragged the stone benches to the edges of Little Zebalbi’s back garden, leaving a wide space clear of obstructions. Dahlia was attired in a borrowed tunic and a pair of loose-fitting trousers. Adah had insisted, saying she wouldn’t wish to ruin one of Dahlia’s expensive dresses.
Now, sprawled on the dirt with Adah kneeling on the small of her back, Dahlia was glad she had changed.
“What did you do wrong this time?” Adah asked patiently, holding Dahlia’s arm twisted behind her back just at the limit of tolerance.
Dahlia had to spit out a small quantity of dirt before she could reply. “I didn’t run away screaming from the very start?”
She heard the other woman chuckle. “Actually, yes. In your situation, that would have been wiser. But for the sake of argument, let’s pretend we were in a locked room and you had to deal with me. What did you do wrong?”
Dahlia replayed the (extremely) brief exchange over in her
Your Name in LightsDahlia set aside the morning’s copy of the Rotary and reached for the last newspaper in the stack, scanning the front page of the Inquisitor. Sixteen exclamation points. Not quite the record, but notable nonetheless. The previous day must have been fairly uneventful. She wouldn’t say so to Anjesa (it was probably still too raw an issue), but the quality of writing at the paper truly had dropped off since she left. At least, none of the remaining staff seemed to have her talent for spinning an interesting story out of scraps without resorting to overenthusiastic punctuation.
Dahlia turned the page, and came face-to-face with herself. The cheap paper crinkled under her fingers, until she very carefully unclenched her hands and smoothed it out on the breakfast table.
The picture itself was nothing more than the stock photograph that accompanied nearly every article about her that she had read in the past year. The headline, however…
STAR-CROSSED LOVERS?! PASSION THAT
'Til DeathDahlia stood at the edge of the empty grave. Across from her, Nefin was smiling, his hands firmly grasping her own. She tried to pull away, but found that she could not make her legs move even the slightest bit.
Susan, standing behind the headstone, raised her hands. “May the gods bless and keep this union forevermore.” She drew a length of silver cord from her sleeve, holding it out towards Nefin. “Do you take this woman to be yours, from now until the end of time?”
His smile never so much as wavered as he answered. “Always and forever.”
“Then be so bound.” Susan held the cord to his wrist, and it wrapped itself around him like a live creature. Then she turned to Dahlia, holding the other end. “Do you take this man to be yours, from now until the end of time?”
Dahlia shook her head vehemently for the second or two before she managed to speak. “No. Never again.”
Susan smiled. “Then be so bound.”
First LightThe sun was just starting to peek over the tops of the trees as Dahlia walked up the short gravel path to the front door of Lilywaite. She paused for a moment on the doorstep, spare key in hand. Turncandle Row was quiet, a hush still settled over the neighborhood. It was the first moment she’d had to truly be alone since she woke up in the graveyard. And the sight of Turncandle’s idyllic beauty on a summer morning was nearly enough to dispel the feeling of dull horror that had clung to her since the previous evening.
Turning back to the door, Dahlia fit the key into the lock and stepped into the foyer. It was just as quiet inside, and to her relief, much the same as the last time she was here. If perhaps somewhat sparer, less lived-in. And the bare spot on the wall where the family lemnis used to hang was all too conspicuous. Dahlia stood looking at the silhouette of unfaded wallpaper, rubbing her thumb across the raw
Postmortem part 6: The Last Inch“He bound me.”
As the words left her, a great weight fell from Dahlia all at once. Tears began to slip down her face, and she found that she did not even care what Phaedros might think of her. The relief she felt now was so overwhelming that it was difficult to fathom why she had ever fought to keep the secret. Her mouth twisted into a trembling smile at her own stubbornness, and then Dahlia could only cover her face with her hands as she began to weep in earnest.
Phaedros did not interrupt until the worst of it had passed. When he finally spoke, his voice was as gentle and careful as she could ever remember, absent of any traces of his previous anger. “Would you please explain what you mean by ‘bound’?”
Dahlia nodded, wiping at her cheeks. At first she was afraid that she would not have the composure to get through the tale. But as she began to relate what she had learned of Gwylin’s magics, she found