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The Ties of Family
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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8
Spring Leads to Summer

Spring Leads to Summer

The one Fosco and Forsythia thought of as Iorhael didn’t come in the spring, though they continued to wait patiently. Word was that, yes, he was back in the Shire and served well as deputy Mayor, but that Frodo Baggins was not particularly well. His exceptional thinness was often remarked on; the shadowed eyes were repeatedly mentioned. He didn’t come, and he didn’t come. Nor did any letters come.

Then it was summer, and all were making plans to go to the Free Fair in Michel Delving. There was talk of Frodo Baggins being put forward to run for Mayor, and all spoke excitedly of having a new Mayor at last who was so much different from Old Flour Dumpling. There was a great deal of talk about how he had taken the shambles Will’s office had become while Will was imprisoned and had cleared it away. There was talk of how he’d questioned all the Shiriffs and the justice given many of those who’d aided Lotho and his Big Men. There was talk about the investigation he’d begun on how Lotho had become as powerful as he did so quickly. There was talk about how he’d set Sam Gamgee to checking out what needed to be done to rebuild and replant and reforest. All were eager to confirm him as Mayor.

Fosco and Forsythia certainly weren’t planning to stay home, no matter what Mum and Da might wish. At last they were on their way, the day before Midsummers, their parents reluctant, themselves intent on seeing for themselves why Iorhael had not come to them in the spring.

They heard his voice as they went through the Fairgrounds, giving an election speech--giving an election speech for Will Whitfoot? Their mum and da, who’d been certain he would be elected and who’d been predicting all kinds of dire things if he were, seemed as stunned as everyone else around them. He didn’t want to be Mayor any more? Forsythia had realized Lilac and Emro were worried that now he was back and once he was officially Mayor, Frodo Baggins might turn his mind to his two cousins who lived in Westhall and they might lose their children at last. But as they listened it became obvious that Frodo didn’t wish to remain Mayor, that he wanted to restore things to the way they were before he left. Will stood there beside Frodo, his face as surprised as that of anyone else--surprised and disturbed. He’d spent a good deal of time in the past two months talking to the movers and shakers among the Hobbits of the Shire, convincing them that Frodo Baggins was the right Hobbit for the job; and here Frodo was making certain all knew he didn’t wish to continue in the position after all. Forsythia could see how embarrassed Will was, and quickly described it all to her brother.

The speech over, Frodo stepped down, leaving Will up there alone, forcing himself to make a speech accepting the nomination Frodo had just made. But Fosco pulled on his sister. “Which way did he go?” he whispered. The two of them slipped out of the crowd, began to search for their cousin.

They found him in the Council Hole, sitting on the floor of the banquet chamber on the other side of the great carved sideboard, his head pillowed in his arms. Forsythia wasn’t certain at first whether he was weeping or not, but Fosco urged her onward. At last they stood over him, and he looked up warily. No, he wasn’t weeping, but he was indeed haunted looking. The twins found themselves kneeling by him, putting their arms around him, and he was holding them close to him. Forsythia could feel how thin he was, how prominent his bones were; and both could feel the rasping of his breath and the trembling as he held them to him.

“You, too, must feel I’ve betrayed you,” he was whispering. “But I can’t do another term--at times I almost didn’t make it just the eight months I’ve served. I can’t do it more--I can’t! I couldn’t come to you, either--I’m so sorry! I’m so sorry!”

“It’s all right, Iorhael,” Fosco found himself repeating, over and over the way his mum used to soothe his nightmares when he was younger. “It’s all right. You will see.”

Forsythia said nothing, just held him close, realizing how weak he was underneath. Finally the intensity of their meeting was over, and the twins at last sat back a bit, looked at him.

“Why are you hiding here, Iorhael?” Forsythia asked him.

He gave a small laugh that was half a sob. “I found myself wanting my dad, I think. He carved this, you know,” and he gave the sideboard a pat, looking at it sideways with a longing expression. And Forsythia noted that one of his fingers was missing, and she paused with shock to look at it, saw him pale as he realized what she saw and turned his face away.

“What is it?” demanded her brother, as he realized something had disturbed both his sister and their friend.

Forsythia wouldn’t answer him, kept looking at Iorhael, and at last Frodo turned back to look at her again, a level of defiance in his gaze.

“What is it?” asked Fosco again, a note of desperation in his voice, uncertain what this tension was.

Frodo sighed, and at last answered him. “I lost a finger on my journey, and she’s looking at it, just looking at where it’s missing.” His voice was low and dead sounding.

Forsythia reached out slowly and took the reluctant hand, held it between hers, and Frodo and Fosco suddenly both were aware she was crying, crying for what he’d lost. She drew his hand to her cheek, was holding it to comfort him and herself both. And suddenly he was reaching out once more, drawing her kneeling form to him, holding her close to his breast, seeking to comfort her back. Now Frodo was the one crooning, “It will be all right, Forsythia,--or I hope it will be.”

“We thought we’d lost you, Iorhael,” she whispered at last. “We were so glad to hear you were back, so glad to know you were deputy Mayor and making things all right, and so upset you didn’t come to us.”

“I couldn’t,” he answered. “It’s been all I can do to make it once to Buckland to see Aunt Esme and Uncle Sara, or at times just to make it here to Michel Delving. I’m not well, children. I must be honest with you--I’m not well.”

“Why do you have to be honest with us?” asked Fosco.

“I suppose because I find it so hard to be honest with everyone else, even myself at times.” He was trembling again. The three of them held onto one another once more, and at last his trembling stopped again. He sort of pushed them back a bit, took the water bottle he wore and drank from it, finally corked it, and looked at them. “You both look so good.”

“You are related to the Master, then?” Forsythia asked.

He nodded. “We are really cousins, you know. His father Rorimac was oldest of my mum Primula’s brothers and sisters. I’m also cousin to his wife Esmeralda and Thain Paladin, who is Esmeralda’s brother. All of us are the great grandchildren of the Old Took--you two, Merry, Pippin, Folco Boffin, Narcissa Boffin--except they are really great-great grandchildren, Narcissa and Folco; and me. Only your sister Daisy isn’t, but then she’s a half sister.”

They looked at him with shock. “We have a sister?” asked Fosco.

Frodo looked at his younger cousin with even greater shock. “You mean you didn’t know?” he asked. When Fosco and Forsythia both shook their heads, his expression changed. “This is insupportable,” he said, “that you two should be ignorant of your own blood. Insupportable!” He was showing signs of anger, and the two young Hobbits realized it was aimed at their foster parents. Finally he sighed. “Your real dad was married to Camellia Boffin, of the Boffins from Hobbiton. She was a fourth cousin, once removed, on the side of our grandmother Primrose, who was married to our grandfather Fosco, for whom you were named. They had a daughter Daisy in 1350. She married Griffo Boffin the year after I came of age and Bilbo left. When our Aunt Dora, who was the eldest of the three, herself, my dad Drogo, and your dad Dudo, died the following fall, she left her smial to Daisy and Griffo.

“Your own mum was Emerald Boffin, daughter of Donnamira Took, second daughter to the Old Took, and Hugo Boffin from Frogmorton, who’s a third cousin, twice removed, from me. They had only the one child, for Emerald came very late in their lives, only a few years before the two of them died, much as you two did. Hugo moved into the Great Smial when he married your grandmum, so after they died Emerald stayed there because that was where she was born. But growing up with older parents and then orphaned at a relatively young age as she was, she didn’t get much supervision and was seen as too willful for her own good."

He stopped and took a deep breath, then began again. "She finally had one fight too many with Thain Ferumbras and his mother and left in a fury, and since she was born a Boffin the Thain announced she was no longer to be numbered among the Tooks." His expression saddened. "The Boffins of Hobbiton, Bywater and Overhill, however, never really knew her, for she’d grown up in Tookland and was closer to the Frogmorton Boffins. She met your dad, who was a widower, and married him four years after he moved to Westhall, which was a couple years after I was born. Daisy’s mum died that year in childbirth, and the baby, who was a son, died shortly after. I think it broke Uncle Dudo’s heart, and he wanted something totally different afterwards.

“Anyway, your mum and dad were married a long time before you two came. When he left, Uncle Bilbo left me, as new family head, a list of all the Bagginses in the Shire and where we all live." He gave Fosco a searching look. "There aren’t many of us left, you know. The last few generations have been almost entirely lasses. The headman of your village is a cousin of ours, too, third cousin twice removed on our fathers’ side. Because he is kin, Bilbo and I have both kept watch over your family through him. Do you understand? He let me know as soon as you were born, and again when your dad died a few weeks later. I sent you gifts through your mother every year thereafter till she died, and then the Gravellies took you to foster. They haven’t let me send you anything, and finally, after the second time you came here to the Free Fair, where I saw and recognized you, I went to see you myself." Again he stopped to sip from the water bottle.

“Your mum and da do care for you well, and I couldn’t really say much about anything unless they mistreated you. This is the first real indication I’ve had that you are not receiving proper education, learning you don’t even know about Daisy being your sister. She and I aren’t particularly close, although we get along all right. But that you should be ignorant of her existence when she lived so long there in Westhall is insupportable. Certainly your mum and da knew her and know where she is now. Maybe they’ve been afraid she would take you. I don’t know. We’ve never really discussed you two, though.”

“Did you know our dad?” asked Fosco.

Frodo nodded. “I saw him a fair amount before my parents died. He’d bring Cousin Daisy to visit us fairly often when we lived in Buckland when I was a child, and later in Whitfurrow, where we lived before my parents died. We were visiting at Brandy Hall when they died, and I ended up just staying until Bilbo finally took me. I remember seeing Uncle Dudo at the funeral there near Brandy Hall. The last time I saw your Dad was at the Party when Bilbo left and I came of age. He brought Daisy, and I danced with her. She fell in love with Griffo that day.”

“Our mum didn’t come?”

“No--Thain Ferumbras was there, and she wouldn’t go to a party he attended. Too bad, really--we’d rather, I think, have seen her than Ferumbras.” The three of them shared a rueful smile. “I wasn’t in Hobbiton the last time your dad came to help Daisy and Griffo move into Aunt Dora’s smial--I was off in Buckland, I think. I did go to his funeral there in Westhall, and then that of your mum.” He took another drink from his water bottle, sat back against the wall, closed his eyes, and took a deep breath. At last he said, “Well, that’s it, really, our family history.”

Forsythia saw how tired he looked. “Do you hurt, Iorhael?” she asked.

He started to shake his head, but stopped. “Yes,” he said quietly. “I have a place on my neck--I--I was wounded. It’s draining today, and Sam had to clean it. It hurts.”

“Who’s Sam?”

“My best friend, my gardener.”

“Did he go with you?”

He nodded. “Sam, Merry, and Pippin. I didn’t want them to come, but they had figured out I was leaving, wouldn’t let me go alone.” He stood up. “They’ll find me soon if I stay here. Let’s leave.”

They slipped out of the fairgrounds and went out into what had been the woodlands for the village. There were still trees, but so many had been lost. The new trees were growing quickly, but it was so different from what they remembered seeing from the last time. Frodo sat down and leaned back against one of the larger trees, drank again. Even Fosco could see how thin he’d become.

Fosco finally asked, “Where did you go?”

Frodo just sat and shook his head for a time.

Forsythia tried next: “Did you get rid of the dangerous thing?”

His expression grew grim. “It’s gone now,” he finally said, “little thanks to me.” He leaned his head back against the tree and closed his eyes.

“You were gone so long,” she said. He nodded. “Did you know there’s a king again?” she continued.

Here he laughed and his expression eased. “Yes, for I saw Aragorn crowned, carried the crown to him, even.” He smiled, opened his eyes, and leaned forward. “He’s a wonderful person, children. I miss him, miss him and the Lady Arwen.” He touched his throat where he wore a gem on a chain.

He sighed, and his expression became more solemn. “We left the Shire through the Old Forest, and finally got out of it, went to Bree. Aragorn saw us reach the Road, followed us into Bree, introduced himself there. None of us trusted him at first, and he didn’t trust us either, until he realized we were being followed, and by whom. He took us to Rivendell. I--I was badly hurt on the way there. We made it barely in time.

“We Hobbits hoped we could leave It, the thing, there, but we couldn’t, not with the Black Riders following us all the way there. It had to go elsewhere. We went on with companions to try to destroy it. Part of the journey was wonderful; much of it was--bad. It got worse--kept getting worse. I tried to go on alone, but Sam wouldn’t let me. We made it, Sam and I, but we almost died doing it. But then--at the end--I betrayed everyone. Some--someone else did it, destroyed it. Not that he meant to--it was an accident he fell with it. Sam got me away, and we were rescued. Not that I deserved it. Aragorn was able to call us back--he’s a healer as well as the King. We stayed with him for a couple months and gained strength, saw him crowned King, saw his marriage to the Lady Arwen. Then--then we came home.” He was clutching at the jewel he wore.

“Did you find Bilbo?” asked Fosco.

He nodded. “He’s in Rivendell, for now.” He sighed. “He’s very old now, as old, almost, as the Old Took was.”

“Is he going to die?”

Frodo bowed his head. “We will all die some day.” His voice was very low and soft. His face was very pale. Finally he looked at them and continued, “He lives in Rivendell now, with the Lord Elrond, who was foster father to the King, who taught the King to use his healing gift. He is the greatest healer in all of Middle Earth. He believes Bilbo will live at least another year, perhaps a year and a half, although not much beyond that. At least he will die of old age, after living a very full life.”

“But it will hurt you to know he is gone.”

It took some time for Frodo to answer, “Yes, it will. He’s the one thing I could count on to be there--to be there for me. Even when he left, he was still--still somewhere, for me. And now--now I can’t----” He stopped and swallowed, uncorked his bottle and drank, corked it again. “Now, I can’t be certain I can be there for anyone else as he’s been there for me.” His eyes were shining with unshed tears. “I’m not really well. I don’t think I ever will be, not now.”

“We are here, if you need us, Iorhael,” Forsythia said.

Frodo raised his head and gave her a long look. “I’m the grown up. I’m the family head. I’m supposed to be the one who is there for others.”

Fosco shook his own head. “We have to take turns helping each other, Cousin Frodo. I guess it’s our turn. You’ve looked after us as you could.”

“Some looking after, when you have to wait until you’re almost a tween to learn you have a sister.”

“That’s not your fault, Iorhael. We’ll deal with that with our mum and da. We know them better than you do. And now that we know who and where she is, we can let her know we know. Maybe our real mum never told her about us. You said you knew of us only because Gander told you; maybe he never told her, too.”

Frodo considered this idea. “It’s possible,” he said slowly. He looked at each of them in turn. “But now--now I can’t take you as I’d intended.” He considered for a time, then suddenly gave a small smile. “I can give you the key to your parents’ smial, though, for it’s yours now. We have your mum’s will, and your da’s will, too. They never appointed any guardian for you, although your mother indicated she favored the Gravellies as guardians; and as the village head approved of Emro and Lilac taking you to foster, particularly as they had no children of their own and aren’t likely to be able to have any of their own, the fostering arrangement is a good one and legal enough. But your parents left the smial to you, it and all within it. Lilac did have some of your mum’s jewelry, and some of the furniture on the inventory is in the house you’ve grown up in, although Gander said it was where you were using it, too; and if you two want to give those things to your foster parents, you can once you turn twenty-five. Your dad knew that your sister was taken care of and provided for, and she brought a good dowry into the marriage with Griffo. He also knew, as old as he was, that he probably wouldn’t live long enough to see you grow up. I think he hoped that since your mum was so much younger than he was that she would live that long, but obviously she didn’t.”

Again he looked consideringly at each of them. “I’ll have the key brought to you, and make arrangements for you to have free access to your parents’ hole and the books and all that is there. And I’ll do what I can to help you be educated, as Bilbo educated me. That is, though,” he said thoughtfully, “if the Big Men didn’t take everything that your parents and your foster parents had as they did so much through the Shire.”

“They never went into the smial,” Forsythia said, “and my parents buried all our jewelry and anything valuable when the rumors came through that there were gatherers and sharers coming. They buried it in a newly plowed field, so no one could tell where anything was--only Da. Most of the folk in Westhall did the same.”

Frodo smiled. “Good.”

Fosco’s stomach growled, and Frodo looked at him, his face concerned. “It’s time for your tea. We’d best get back to the fairgrounds. Sam will be worried if I don’t come back soon, too.”

Forsythia asked, “Do you want to go back now, Iorhael?”

He shrugged, and stood up. “Let’s go back.” He took each by the hand, and together they returned to the fairgrounds.

The voting for Mayor was finished by supper time, and the Thain took the voting box to a special table where he sorted out the ballots after they’d all eaten, and then three Hobbits sat and counted them.

At sunset everyone still at the fairgrounds gathered in the open space near the west end where the hill was, and the Thain rose to announce the results. “Will,” he said, “it looks as if you are Mayor for another seven years. It’s an honor to read your name once more.”

Forsythia and Fosco sat with Lilac and Emro Gravelly near the front, a bit to the right, and Forsythia could clearly see the Mayor giving Frodo a look of disappointment as he rose to climb the hill to stand by the Thain and shake his hand. Frodo sat on the ground near the Thain’s son Peregrin and several Brandybucks and two other Hobbits, one with honey brown hair and brown eyes, sturdy and solemn, and the other plainly his wife, who sat holding her husband’s hands, both of them watching all but mostly keeping an eye on Frodo. Forsythia whispered a description of the scene to her brother, who nodded.

The speech from Will Whitfoot was interesting, far more interesting than such speeches they’d ever heard before. They had a king now in Arnor, a king who was who was king of Gondor as well. Frodo (their Iorhael) and the other three who’d gone with him had seen him, had truly come to know him, had attended his wedding. And the Hobbits of the Shire had overcome Sharkey and Lotho’s Big Men, knew now that they could stand up to anyone who might try such again. There was much to be grateful for.

But it was the singing which moved the two teens the most, as they heard Frodo Baggins, Sam Gamgee, Meriadoc Brandybuck, and Peregrin Took sing songs from the outer world, the world they’d visited, the world to which the Shire now belonged. As he sang, Frodo closed his eyes, lifted his face toward the sky, his voice sweet and clear, not faltering. When he was done he returned to his place and sat down carefully, and Missus Gamgee handed him a cup from which he sipped.

All were surprised when the two dark-haired Elves suddenly appeared, bowing low to the assembly, giving honor to the Travelers and Frodo in especial, and asking permission to sing themselves. Once they began to sing, Fosco suddenly poked his sister in the ribs, leaned over to whisper, “They’re singing about our Iorhael! It’s about him! Do you hear them singing his name?”

She leaned close to his ear and whispered, “Yes. Shhh!”

The two of them realized that although Frodo had said he felt he’d betrayed everyone, the Elves didn’t agree, nor did the three who’d gone with him or Sam Gamgee’s wife, that those four were looking at him with pride and caring, and that Sam had reached out to place his hand on Frodo’s shoulder. Frodo sat with the tears running down his face, and in the starlight he seemed to shine faintly--certainly his eyes and his tears sparkled. The others were weeping, too, and constantly their eyes returned to Iorhael where he sat, smiling through their tears.

Both Fosco and Forsythia found themselves understanding some of what the Elves were singing, although they couldn’t say precisely how. They realized that all had been in great and terrible danger, and that Frodo had sought to take it upon himself, had agreed to go into even greater danger to protect all of Middle Earth. They sang of the Fellowship: two Men, tall and strong, both of great lineage and honor; a prince among Elves; a sturdy Dwarf whose courage and honor could not be tarnished; a great Istari of unparalleled wisdom (although they had no idea what an Istari was), and four Hobbits, their own Iorhael and three others, and they realized these were the other three Travelers, Peregrin Took, Meriadoc Brandybuck, and Sam Gamgee. They’d left Imladris and gone from danger to danger, had faced wargs and orcs and trolls and worse. They’d braved snow and darkness; had known terror and sanctuary. They’d sailed down the great River Anduin, had been assaulted and the Fellowship broken. Iorhael had sought to go on alone, but Perhail had refused to let that happen, had gone with him; and the two young Hobbits realized Perhail must be Samwise Gamgee.

The song went on and on, and they seemed to see much of it. The image of their Iorhael crawling up a steep slope alongside Perhail reduced both of them to tears, the image of Perhail lifting his friend onto his back and carrying him up the mountainside, finally crawling until he could crawl no more filled them both. Then the betrayal--not by Frodo but by someone else, the untrustworthy guide--shocked them. Then something had happened, Iorhael taken by an evil so great no one could withstand it--until he was attacked and the evil was taken from him by violence. Yet their Iorhael had been delivered by that violence from something far worse than whatever had robbed him of his finger.

Then the song turned joyful. Sam Gamgee, Forsythia noted, had his eyes closed, his face raised to the stars as Frodo’s had been while he was singing. His hand was still on Frodo’s shoulder, and Frodo had his hand over Sam’s, the tears still slipping down his cheeks.

Then there was the last worry, the worry as to whether these two in especial would survive or recover, and the final joy when it was known that they would. And at last they heard the call to praise them with great praise, and the two Elves, the sons of Elrond of Imladris, the two Iorhael had told them were twins as Forsythia and Fosco themselves were, knelt and bowed their heads toward the Travelers.

Fosco gave his sister a nudge, and without words she knew what he wanted. The two of them rose, and she led him around the crowd to the back of the hill where the two Elves must come as they left. At last they came, stopped with mild surprise when they found themselves confronted by two young Periannath. Forsythia said, “Pardon me, but may we please speak with you?”

The two Elves looked at one another, then led them further away from the crowd to near the wooded area where they’d gone earlier with Frodo. Finally one of them asked for both, “What would you know of us, small Master and Mistress?”

“You were singing of our Iorhael,” Fosco began.

“You know him by that name?” the Elf asked.

“He didn’t wish us to realize he was our cousin when we first met him, for he knew our folks would be upset to know he was seeing us, so he said his name in Elvish was Iorhael and we could call him that.” The Elves nodded. “He says he isn’t really well.”

“That is true.”

“Is he dying?”

“He will weaken as long as he remains in Middle Earth. His burden was very heavy, and robbed him of his health.”

“Is there anything we can do to help him?”

The two Elves looked at one another, seeming to communicate without words much as Fosco and Forsythia seemed able to know what the other was thinking so often. The other Elf answered this time. “All you can do is to love him and let him know that you do this. Can you love him enough to allow him to go when the time comes?”

This time it was the Hobbit twins who looked at one another, realizing both were paler than could be accounted for by the starlight. At last Fosco said, “If that is what he needs.”

“He almost didn’t live to come back, didn’t he?” asked Forsythia.

“That is true several times over, tithen nin. He has known great pain and privation. It is only by the grace of the Creator he remains with us now, that and Estel’s love and healing gift.”

“Who is Estel?”

The first one answered, “He whom we think of as our brother, both for that our father fostered him when his own father died, and for his marriage to our sister.”

“You mean, the King Aragorn?”

“Yes.”

The four of them remained quiet for a time. Finally Fosco asked, “Why does he think he betrayed everyone? The evil thing took him over at the end, didn’t it?”

“Yes, He fought It long and hard, very long and very hard. There in the depths of Orodruin, however, It was at the height of Its power, and It would have overwhelmed any Child of Iluvatar that bore it. Not even the wise among the Istari would willingly touch It lest they become corrupted.”

His brother added, “Not even Isildur could withstand It when he stood there with It in his hand. It took him then, and later betrayed him to his death.”

“Oh,” said Fosco, although he didn’t really understand what the Elf was speaking of.

Iorhael na i·lebid--is that his title now?” Forsythia asked.

“It means Frodo of the Nine Fingers. It is one of his titles, as Beren became known as Beren One-hand. He is also Cormacolindor or Cyllgor, the Ringbearer, and Bronwe athan Harthad, Endurance Beyond Hope.”

“What does Iorhael mean?”

“The same as Frodo--the Wise One.”

“He doesn’t feel very wise right now.”

“No, he doesn’t. He has much healing to face.”

“But if he will weaken as long as he stays in Middle Earth, then how can he heal?” Fosco asked.

Neither of the Elves would answer, choosing instead to look at them with sorrow and compassion in their eyes. Finally Forsythia asked, “Is that why we must be ready to--to let him go?”

Instead of answering, the Elf who had spoken first asked them, “Will you tell us your names?”

Fosco said, “We are Fosco and Forsythia Baggins. Iorhael’s father and our father were brothers, and our mothers were cousins, I understand.”

The two Elves exchanged looks, and then smiled down at them. “We see. And we see that the promise of his blood will not die completely from this land when he must leave it by either Ship or grave.”

The other one said, “We must leave you now. But we will keep the secret of your identity for a time, small ones. And we rejoice that he has such as you to love him now, and to keep alive his memory after.” The two Elves gave them a deep bow, and disappeared into the shadows of the wood.

Lilac Gravelly was very worried when for the second time that day the twins disappeared, and in her relief at their return she fell on them with a deep hug as at the same time she berated them for leaving her sick with fear for them. “What if any of those Big Men had been nearby? They might have killed you both!”

Fosco and Forsythia just bore it silently. They intended to confront their foster mother about why she’d not told them about their sister or that their cousin had sent them gifts before, but they would not do it tonight. Tonight it was enough to know that Iorhael was back, but wouldn’t be back for long.

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