The grounds of the Colagar estate seemed busy with the increased guard patrolling them. Arameril walked close to the windows as she traveled the various halls of the manor arm-in-arm with Pengail. At each window she would stare longingly outside as they passed. The clouds. The sky. Since Atanamir’s wards had been applied, she dared not touch even the sills to lean out to feel the open breeze on her face.
Pengail slowed at one of the larger windows on the second floor of the sprawling manor. His long stride halted as Arameril gazed on the distant skyline of the city.
“You know, Pen,” she said without turning to look at him, “sometimes, I do miss the Ivory Tower. I left on an errand and never went back. I knew I could not return to that place knowing the Orchid was being held captive there somewhere.
“I had hidden a set of spare leathers near our picnic spot. I left everything else I had behind.”
Pengail placed a warm hand on her in the crook of his elbow. I’m s-sorry, Merry. Mayb-be you will be able t-to… retrieve it wh-when this is… all over.”
Arameril smiled warmly and covered his hand with her own. “Perhaps. I did not have much, but it means something to me. I… I didn’t realize just how much until I realized I missed it.”
Pengail returned the smile and led her to a bench in a recessed alcove where they could sit and watch the city from afar.
Arameril leaned against his good arm. Her head barely met the middle of his bicep.
“Well, clothes. I only owned the simplest gowns and training gear, but they were mine.” She tugged at the fabric of the new dress she wore. As long as Sir Carmanadh or anyone else had purchased it for her, it would never be truly hers. “Is that silly?”
Shaking his head, he said, “N-no!” His gentle eyes looked down at her with sincerity and urged her to continue.
She nodded, her confidence in returning to the memories of her life in the tower growing.
“And I had a little box. A jewelry box I was given the Yule after I earned my ink. The only jewelry I ever owned was this silver necklace.” She touched the chain around Pengail’s neck. “So the only things in it were a coin I had since I was little, some seashells I collected over the years. A few pieces of sea glass. And a wooden coin with a carving of the Kipper on it. Scuppers gave it to me when I had sailed fifty times. Those trinkets represent… they represent my life…”
Her brow creased as she added, “Now, the only things I own are my black leathers and the gifts from my father. I am… what others have built.”
“Merry.” Pengail’s long fingers tipped back her chin as he gazed down at her. “…you are, are… you. Not w-what… they d-did to you. And now… now you c-can be f-fr-free.”
Arameril smiled as she rested her head against him. Her little fingers intertwined with his.
“Meeting you on the Kipper, Pen. That is what set me free.”
Pengail shook his head. He tried to find the words to match his thoughts and she watched his eyes as he worked through it.
“I only… c-caught you. When you st-stumbled. You took the first, first steps yours-self.”
Arameril reached up to lead his face down to hers. She kissed him tenderly. “I love you,” she whispered against his lips.
“I love you.” He smiled and stood holding his hand out to her to help her to her feet.
As they continued down the hall, he asked, “Why a c-coin?”
Shrugging, Arameril said lightly, “I got it when I was very young. From a fountain in the gardens. I don’t remember much about it except that my arms were too short and a nice man… got it out… for me…” Her steps slowed as she spoke each phrase. “Oh, by Elmeleth. Pengail. I think… but it was so long ago. I’ve always had that coin.”
She turned to face the direction from which they came. Down, down the hall and around a left turn and then a right or two. Hathlafel’s room.
“I could never remember his face. He was so kind and I don’t think I even said a word. He… he gave it to me even though they weren’t for taking… He… he…”
Pengail squeezed her hand reassuringly.
“You, you think it was your father?”
“Why… how could it be?”
Smiling, Pengail took both of her hands in his and stood before her. They paused in front of a wide window overlooking the coastline.
“He w-was watching ov-ver you. H-he loves you, M-merry.”
Arameril held his hands as an anchor as her brow worked through her thoughts.
“He was always there, Pen. Always watching over me. I always remember Sir Hathlafel visiting the Ivory Tower every Tuesday to meet with Lady Gwenithel. We had spoken only a few times before… before that day he asked me about… about you.”
Pengail’s brow arched. “He, he asked a-about me?”
Arameril nodded. “Yes. Whether or not I had ‘romantic affection’ for you. If you were important to me. I tried to keep it secret, but he already knew. He just wanted to hear it from me, I guess. To protect you? If he was lessening the dosage to keep you alive… we owe him your life. And mine.”
Pengail nodded. “We do. H-he has always watched over u-us. He… he is g-good, Merry. You c-can help him… re-remember. To-together. We can… h-help him.”
Arameril stood on tiptoe and still had to wait for Pengail to stoop to bring his lips to hers.
“We will, Pen.”