006 No Rest for the Wicked

By: MTKnight

Lucia fixed her sister with the most inoffensive stare she could muster, unfortunately at a loss for words. For her part, Nubia was staring into the depths of her teacup with the fixation of a fortune teller gazing into her crystal ball, unmoving, watching the soft sloshing of the murky liquid as if for answers to her most desperate questions.

Lucia had gone to fetch them all tea as Nubia began to recover her senses, leaving Annabelle to watch their latest patient. One of the first things Lucia had learned of the Duchy of Caperow upon her return was the peculiarity of the local winters, where the cold weather and snowfall could have an almost intoxicating effect on the unaccustomed. Many theories had, over the decades and centuries, been proposed to explain this phenomenon, ranging from a strange, freak concentration of etheric energy to half-baked theories of malicious pixies, the long-ago misguided mucking about of dunce sorcerers, or even a mean-spirited trick by one of the Fates themselves.

All these theories, however baseless in many cases, were quite often accepted as truth in the absence of concrete proof or a means of experimentation to discover the actual workings of the strange meteorological quirk, but Lucia refused to swallow any of them whole, even though divine tinkering did seem the only even remotely likely cause to her. She believed in keeping an open mind on all subjects, and had discovered some time ago that mint tea mixed with a spoonful of fresh snow seemed to clear the mind of the season's odder characteristics.

Now, Lucia wished desperately that she could have been gifted with a silver tongue, always able to say the right thing at the right time. Instead, she sat across from Nubia in the common room, her back uncomfortably close to the fire as her mouth worked to form words that refused to pass her lips. She had heard Annabelle answer a few questions when she had been preparing the tea, but Nubia had only grunted when Lucia had handed her the tea, reflexively cautioning her about its temperature. She wasn't sobbing any longer, but Lucia still felt uncomfortable about broaching the subject of their parents, and she felt that resorting to small talk to ease into the issue would only frustrate the both of them and would, in more ways than one, be most unfair.

Finally, it was Nubia who broke the silence with a statement that echoed Lucia's thoughts to perfection: "This isn't what I expected," she admitted, exhaustion and defeat betraying the playful, mischievous voice Lucia remembered from her youth.

"No, I guess not," she agreed softly after sipping from her cup.

They continued in silence for many minutes, Annabelle eventually retreating discreetly to her study. The heat of the fire beginning to be more than she could bare, Lucia picked up her trench coat which she had stripped off earlier and moved to a seat off to the side which provided her with as striking a view as one could find of Check blanketed in snow. Nubia set her cup down and exhaled heavily, sniffling.

"I can't even really remember what they looked like," she said evenly. "I want to; I really do, but I just can't remember." Holding her head, she groaned in frustration as tears welled anew below her eyes.

Lucia leaned forward and opened her arms to hug her sister, who although initially reluctant, slowly accepted the embrace and resumed crying in earnest. "I can help you remember," she assured her. "You're not alone anymore, Nu."

"Tell me everything?" Nubia pleaded desperately, as a small child would of a mother.

"Everything," Lucia promised with a firm nod.

They talked well into the evening, Lucia hunting down pictures, which she tried her best to colour with her words. She recounted the day of her homecoming, their daily routine when they were all together, situations that, although terribly unfortunate at the time, were a source of hilarity in retrospect as well as some hardships along the way. To her relief, Nubia did manage to laugh at a handful, although the laughter rung somewhat hollow, and carried with it too much sadness to put her at ease.

Eventually, the conversation did inevitably turn to the day of the fire. Lucia explained how she had been in Carlston at the time, and recounted what she had heard from other residents upon her return two days later. She didn't bother to mention how long and altogether painful suffocation was, or how the bodies would have been completely unrecognisable after being burned so severely, nor did she tell Nubia that, had she been there, she could have stopped the fire very easily. She suspected that Nubia was probably thinking exactly that, anyway.

Nubia, however, remained impassive during the retelling, and an awkward silence passed between them as Lucia finished. By this time, they had both had more than their fill of tea, and neither felt very hungry given the events of the day. Lucia was about to suggest that they turn in for the night when Nubia commented on her liberal use of black.

"You look like something out of a Mayan gangster movie," she croaked, trying vainly to keep from laughing.

Lucia leaned towards her and held a lock of Nubia's blindingly bright hair in her open palm. "And how did this happen?" Lucia asked in a tone of mock sternness as she withdrew her hand.

"It was ghastly," she assured her, mortal terror in her voice. "Leon was actually happy one day. My hair fell out in shock, and he felt so sorry that he grew me new hair that would be more suita--suit--" Nubia burst into a fit of giggles before she could finish, Lucia joining in with a grin plastered on her face. She knew how surly Leon could be on the best of days. It had been a running joke among the students that Leon had gotten the definitions of a smile and a scowl confused as a child, as he could easily use one or the other to convey disapproval.

"Seriously, though," Nubia resumed after calming down a little, "I just felt like doing it one day. Shock my friends, you know?" She grinned sheepishly, almost guiltily. "It just kept on shocking them for a long time, too." She shifted uneasily in her seat, avoiding her sister's gaze. "I can tell you all about it tomorrow, but I'm really tired, actually."

"All right," Lucia agreed as she rose. "You can stay in the guest room tonight. We'll fix you up some more permanent arrangements tomorrow--if you want to stay, that is."

Nubia's eyes lit up brightly as she rose as well. "I'd like nothing better!"

Lucia clapped her hands together. "Then it's settled."

She led the way up to the guest room, and opened the door. Nubia lingered in the threshold. "Lucia?" she said hesitantly, turning her head. "It's good to be home."

Smiling, Lucia bade her sister a good night and retreated to her own bedroom, leaving Nubia only the task of collapsing into bed, which she performed with expediency.

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