The messenger stepped out into the dusty, bustling street, leaving behind the middle-aged woman in her ramshackle two-room house. He wanted to get away as soon as possible. He'd seen grief before, but none like that. He's never seen a face so stoic, yet with tears still streaming freely, hands shaking, legs dropping the shocked woman into a chair. He'd seen the violent heartbreak in her eyes, and the way she'd controlled it had put him ill at ease. She'd reacted very strangle for someone who'd just been told that she was now a widow.

He found her children playing at the end of the street, and he could see remnants of their father in their handsome features. Yes, Cinras had spoken often of his children. Twins, he's said, though you wouldn't know it to look at them. One beautiful, blonde little girl, and one strong, dark-haired little boy. The boy was already getting to be a mite taller than the girl. Seven years old…

"Children," he said.

They looked up at him, their innocent faces lighting up when they recognized him as a soldier.

They think I bring news from their father…

"You are Morion?" he asked of the boy, and got a respectful nod in reply. He turned to his saddle and untied the sword of Cinras, handing it to Morion. "Your father said to give this to you. Kalina?"

She dropped a small curtsy. "Yes, sir?"

He reached into his saddlebags and pulled out a small package, wrapped in oilcloth and tied with strong. With slightly unsteady hands, he unwrapped the package and folded a silver ring into the girl's small hands.

He stole a glance at the boy, who was staring woodenly at the sword, which he could barely lift.

He knows his father is dead…

"Please, sir," Kalina said, her brilliantly blue eyes wide and entreating and innocent. "When's Papa coming home?"

The messenger knelt down before her, taking both of her hands in his, prepared to deliver the unhappy news. "Child…"

He faltered under her direct, unwavering gaze. Finally, after several moments, he patted her head and got to his feet, wordlessly swinging into the saddle.

He left Alavis. He had broken one woman's heart today; he could not bring himself to break a little girl's, also.