"I'm not sure I trust that woman," Krys said from under Niamh's blankets.

"Why not?" Niamh asked, not looking up from her sketch book. She carefully shaded the leg of a prancing horse, holding her hand at an awkward angle to avoid smudging.

"Singer, who names their heart friend 'Singer'?" Krys asked.

"Not everyone has the same taste in names." Niamh said, setting her pencil down and scrutinizing her work.

"But 'Singer' is a pet name! I can't see a magic animal of any sort letting themselves be called such a name!" Krys retorted, sitting up. The blanket caught on her ears, giving her the appearance of an old lady wearing a hood.

"Maybe the bird likes the name, who knows?" Niamh said, turning towards the cat. "How often do you meet other animals who have had heart friends?"

Krys grumbled but settled back onto her stomach, hiding her head completely under the blankets again.

"Aren't you hot? Today's been pretty warm." Niamh asked.

"No. I am contemplating what all the world means in here. Don't interrupt me." Krys grumbled again.

Niamh smiled and shook her head. A knock came at her door, and she rose to answer it. Aislinn stood in the doorway, smiling brightly.

"Aunt Aislinn," Niamh curtsied lightly, then stood back, letting the older woman in.

Aislinn walked in past Niamh. "My dear niece, I just wanted to see how your preparations are going. I also suspected you may wish to try on the dress I brought along," she indicated the box she carried, "to be sure it fits properly. And we may as well experiment with your hair, we need to be sure that we have come up with the best possible look for your wedding."

"Oh, yes! Of course!" Niamh said, reaching politely for the box. Aislinn drew it back, however, when she noticed the dark smudges on Niamh's hands from her drawing. Niamh glanced down at her hands as well. "Yes, I should wash up first."

Niamh went to the small bathroom connected to her room and rinsed her hands in the wash basin. All the while, the lynx's eyes peered out from under the blankets at Aislinn; two, green, glowing orbs.

Niamh reentered the room, her hands clean and her sleeves slightly wet. "All right!" She said, excitedly. Aislinn smiled, then cast a slightly raised brow at Krys under the blanket. "She'll be fine. She'll probably just stay under there and mope."

"I'm not moping." Krys retorted, followed by a huff the raised the blankets slightly.

The two women busied themselves with the dress. Once Niamh was finally wearing it, she eagerly looked in the mirror.

The dress had been well cared for in its years of no use, barely a crease marred the smooth satin, and no moth holes or age stains could be found. The lace at the waist would need some replacing, and the chest needed to be adjusted, but aside from those, it was perfect.

Perfect because it had been her mother's.

Niamh wiped away a tear before she realized she was crying. Aislinn put an arm around her shoulders and hugged her.

"Oh, my dear," she said, stroking Niamh's hair comfortingly, "I know, the pain is still sharp. It makes to seem as though it will dull with time, until something brings it back. But look," she turned Niamh to face the mirror again. "When I see you standing in this dress, I see a woman who is honouring the one who offered her motherly love."

Niamh hiccupped, then turned to her aunt again. "thank you," she said, hugging her. Over Aislinn's shoulder, she could see Krys, seemingly non-chalantly licking her paws, though her eyes betrayed her intent. The cat still didn't trust Aislinn. Niamh couldn't blame her, given the circumstances, but she, herself, felt that Aislinn was much better than Krys thought.

The two women packed away the old wedding dress, then took Niamh's measurements and wrote down orders for the family tailor to follow. Afterwards, Aislin left the room, and Niamh sat on her bed next to Krys.

Krys thrust her head out from under the blankets and let a loud huff. "I don't like her." she growled.

"I noticed," Niamh replied, fighting the urge to roll her eyes.

Krys grimaced, then began grooming her paw, her rough tongue rasping over her fur. "Well, whatever." she said between licks. "You did look kinda nice in that dress, though."

"Thank you." Niamh said, happy to receive the some-what compliment.

Krys stood up and shook the blanket off, then hopped onto the floor. She stretched, then trotted to the door. "Well, I'm off. I want to see what's being cooked."

"You do that." Niamh said. Krys' green magic enveloped the door and opened it. Niamh stood to close the door, when Doneen peered in.

¨I hope you don't mind?¨ she asked, placing a hand delicately on the door.

¨No, not at all.¨ Niamh stood to the side and let the other woman in. Doneen strode in elegantly, her pale blue dress whispering softly.

¨It just, it still amazes me how truly blessed you are!¨ She said, wheeling about.

Niamh felt her cheeks turn red. Her situation wasn't any different than other noble ladies… aside from the fact she was marrying the High Lords son, it was all the same.

¨Especially for one with your history!¨ Doneen continued.

Niamh then felt she understood. ¨I know it sounds silly, but I can still feel my mother with me.¨ she shrugged.

¨I can't believe the Lady Ailish took you in! Then again, I suppose I can.¨

Niamh halted. SHe ran over Doneen's words in her mind several times, trying to make sense of it. ¨Im… sorry… 'took me in'?¨

¨Yes! You...¨ Doneen frowned. ¨You do know, don't you? Didn't Aislinn...¨ Suddenly, she slapped both hands over her mouth. ¨No, she was going to…. Oh, now I've made a mess. Pardon me.¨ she then began making her way to the door, but Niamh stepped in front, closing it behind her.

¨Doneen.¨ SHe said as calmly as she could. ¨I don't know you, and you don't know me, but you will tell me what it is that Aislinn told you.¨

¨I really shouldn't, I've said too much too soon all ready.¨ Doneen said, cowering before Niamh's relentless gaze.

¨Doneen, what you just let slip… I need you to explain it. Please. I wont tell anyone that you told me. It will be between the two of us.¨ As she said this, Niamh made a note in the back of her mind to talk to Krys, at least for relief.

Doneen glanced at the closed door, then back at Niamh. Finally, she sighed in resignation.

¨I suppose its too late to pretend I didn't do any harm...¨ she sat down on the bed, her hands folded loosely on her lap. ¨This… This is going to take a while.¨

Niamh nodded and sat down next to her, and hung on to every word.