“Have you heard from Narina recently?” Ameryn asked, settling back into her chair and tucking her blanket around her legs.
“One of her birds sent a letter last week,” Enilor said, producing a weather-worn scroll out of her voluminous sleeves. “Brought it for your perusing pleasure.”
Ameryn took the scroll and opened t, allowing her eyes to drift over the words, knowing that Enilor would fill her in on the details whether she read it or not.
“Adina turns seventeen in a month, so the preparations for her coming-out party are in full swing, naturally, and Narina’s in a dither about who to put in the invitation list.”
“We’re on it, of course?” Ameryn said, looking up from scanning the lines of their friend’s tiny handwriting.
“Well, yes, of course—but you and Zon have matters of state to attend to, don’t you?”
“Matters of state,” Ameryn repeated, arching an eyebrow. “I’m not missing my goddaughter’s coming-of-age. I was there for the twins’ celebration, and there’s no way on earth that I won’t be there for hers. Besides, we see them so rarely. Not since Winterance four years ago. Adina was only thirteen then—barely out of girlhood.”
“Jacoby and I were debating whether we should go,” Enilor said, worrying a fold of fabric between two pads of her paws. “The trip is so long, and our youngest might not do well on the road.”
“Take Clari with you. She’ll spell the thing to sleep before you’re a mile down the road.”
It was Enilor’s turn to arch an eyebrow. “Clari? Claritas?”
“Look, you need all the help you can get. And when it comes to dealing with impossible children—”
“I beg your par—”
“—there’s no one better for the job, and you know it.” Ameryn finished. “Come now, you know better than anyone else how difficult it is to reign in your little ones.”
“Humph,” the Otterling huffed. She did her best to keep the corners of her mouth twitching upwards. “They get it from their father, you know.”
“Sure, Enilor, sure.”
“Anyway,” Enilor continued, “Narina’s boys will be ready to be knighted a few weeks after Adina’s coming-of-age, so you might as well plan on staying for a month or two.”
“Splendid. Kharador is a lovely city, but there’s so much of Berasia that’s worth seeing. It’ll be good to see what progress has been made in restoring Nanduvar since the last time we were there.”
“She also wrote that she’s a little concerned for Aileen,” Enilor said, shifting her position on the hearth. “She hasn’t gotten a letter from her in almost a year now.”
Ameryn frowned. “The carrier birds might have lost their way.”
“For a whole year?” Enilor countered, looking up at Ameryn and searching the queen’s face. “Have you heard from her? Anything at all?”
Ameryn shook her head and turned to stare into the fire. “Not for a long time.”
Her face was relaxed, and her eyes glowed in the firelight, but it seemed to Enilor that Ameryn’s real age had never shown so clearly. Even after years of sitting confidently on Berasia’s throne, in her heart, Ameryn was still the Guardian, worried for the welfare of the girl in her care. That is, the girl who was once in her care all those many years ago.