Scent of Home

by llamajoy

Dahlia Hawthorne did not lose consciousness. Being what she was, she would not and could not; for the sapphire she held-- for her freedom-- she could not lose herself. But when the Eagle River had its way with her, tossing her high and taking her deep, taunting and tempting like a woman tortures a lover, Dahlia thought for the first time that it might be merciful, to sleep. To drown. To rest at last.

She clutched her sapphire until her fingers ached, and never once closed her eyes. It was the Eagle River, spent, that surrendered, discarding her on the riverbank and rushing on alone.

Too small to be broken, she was cold to the bone, and the sky above her head was impossibly blue. Like a stolen sapphire, like a borrowed birthright. She wondered, for a moment, if she had died after all.

But then, the sound of weeping, and a voice she knew. And, more unexpected, the scent of home. Not home in a jeweler's apothecary house, too tidy, too empty, measuring the carat-weight of souls and gems alike. Not home in the city with its self-important smog.

Home in a tiny mountain village. A mother's indomitable will, a pat of smoldering incense, struggle and peace intertwined. A past no less hated, but half a heartbeat closer, indistinguishable from her own pulse.

Because she knew she had no choice, Dahlia called her sister's name.

And Iris was there at her side (Iris always, Iris inescapable), and the burning-incense choke of home was in her hair and on her skin and in the air she breathed. "Dahlia, Dahlia, what's happened to you?"

Even her tears bore the scent: herbal tea and broken hearts, ambition unattained, grief and hope and shame. Kurain.

Resting her head against Iris' neck, Dahlia allowed herself to close her eyes.


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