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(Read by Author Esther Mitchell)

The hole in the pit of Telyn's gut threatened to swallow her, and nausea swam through her. There was only one reason Rylan would beg to go on such a dangerous journey, or consider a trip both duty and personal responsibility. The breath sucked out of Telyn's lungs, and she clutched blindly for something to steady herself as her knees weakened. Only one word escaped her on a harsh breath. "Mother?"


"Are you all right?" Nacaris' worried voice preceded the support of his arms and body as her legs gave out completely. "Telyn? What's going on?"


Telyn leaned into his support, even as her gaze stayed on Rylan. "Ry, please, what's happened?"


Rylan glanced away, muttering, "This isn't easy. Telyn, Mistress Gwneth Cryd-Gild fell ill a fortnight ago. Last I heard, she was growing weaker, and the Healiart Cloister has been unable to halt the spread of the illness."


Telyn grasped Nacaris' forearm tightly, battling the urge to vomit as her heart and stomach twisted together and tears burned her eyes.


Rylan's gaze dropped, and the regret on her face was heart-rending. "She told me to find you, but not to delay your quest with her news. I couldn't do that to you, Lyn. You've given up so much, already. It wasn't fair to keep this from you."


With another sad glance, Rylan bowed her head in a brief nod of respect, then turned back toward the meidhalle, leaving Telyn and Nacaris alone.


Once Rylan was gone, Telyn turned into Nacaris' embrace with a quiet sob. The warm security of his arms was her shelter from the world as she drowned in the flood of grief, pain, and fear. "Nacaris, I--"


"Go home. You have to," he murmured against her temple, his hands stroking through her hair in a comforting caress. "We both know it'll eat you alive, and you'll regret it the rest of your life if you don't."


He was right, of course. In her heart, she knew what she wanted to do. But she gave up the right to make those choices the night in the mountains near Ulambara, when Telyn Gwndal died, and the Phoenix was born.


"What about the Aerai Majin? I have a duty--"


"Telyn." He laid two fingers against her lips, stilling the words. "This is your mother. The world isn't going to end because you have personal business, or a personal life."


She wanted to argue. He didn't know her quest, after all. He didn't understand what it meant to be Chosen. But her heart wasn't in the argument. She hurt too much to drive him away, right now.

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