Parker opened the letter quietly, trying not to wake her sister in the bed beside her. Holding the letter close to the candle light, she read the small print, her eyes growing wider with every line. When she reached the bottom, she dropped the paper and fell back against her pillow, waking her sister with a jolt. \"Hm?\" She shifted and opened her eyes long enough to look at Parker. \"Can you not sleep?\" \"Jude...\" She started, then shut her mouth and quietly shook her head. \"What?\" Jude scrambled to sit up in her night dress, her long chocolate brown hair falling over her face. \"What has happened?\" \"I am not sure.\" \"Good or bad?\" \"I am not sure.\" Her eyes wide, Jude reached forward to punch her sister in the arm. \"You sit up and tell me right now.\" Parker sat slowly and face her, her own auburn hair pulled back and tied. \"At lessons earlier. When Dedicate Squire brought me a letter...\" \"Yeah?\" Jude whispered breathlessly, her gaze intense. \"What was it?\" \"A letter.\" Jude's shoulders dropped and she rolled her eyes. \"Well yeah... but what did it say? Who was it from?\" \"The Magistrate.\" Jude jerked back involuntarily, her green eyes wide with shock. \"Why? You have done nothing wrong!\" She hollered and knocked herself off the bed. \"Girls?\" A voice called from the other room, followed soon after by a flickering light. \"Is everything alright?\" \"No, Nana.\" Jude called and pushed herself up. \"The Magistrate mean to take Parker. They wrote her a summons!\" \"No.\" Parker sighed and turned to scoop the roll of paper up off the floor. \"A summons? When I am dead in the grave they will.\" She shuffled into the room, her light grey hair disheveled from sleep. \"Give it er'. I'll take it to Squire now. He'll straighten dis out er' I break my foot off in-\" She imitated getting someone in a headlock and shook her fist at their imaginary face. \"Hearth.\" Parker chastised and carried the paper to her side. \"It is not a summons.\" Nervously, she passed the paper into Hearth's impatient hands. She scanned the page for a moment, before quietly handing the page to Jude. She turned to Parker and pulled her in her arms. \"What is it?\" Jude frowned and moved to read the page by the light of the candle. \"I am so proud of you, Par.\" Hearth sniffled and wiped her eyes before releasing Parker. \"Really?\" Parker looked up at her, uncertain. \"I could not be prouder, even if ye were my own daughter.\" \"I am your daughter, Nana.\" Parker took her hand and squeezed it. \"You are the only mother I have ever known.\" Hearth nodded silently, then turned to Jude. \"Jude?\" Parker watched as she shook her head and dropped the paper to her side. \"So you are leaving?\" \"No. Not immediately.\" Parker hurried to her side and took the paper from her hand. \"It says here, that there are things I must do before they can accept me officially.\" \"So what? You will do them. You will do everything they ask and they will take you away.\" \"It is not far, Jude.\" Parker frowned and tried to take her sisters hand, but she quietly pulled away. \"I thought you would be happy for me?\" \"Happy for you? I am. You have worked harder than anyone-\" \"I have.\" \"You deserve this.\" She nodded vehemently. \"But what about me? What about Hearth? You would just leave us?\" \"No. I-\" She turned to Hearth, who was still wiping away tears. \"I will visit. It is not so far. I can come home-\" \"On the solstice? The equinox? Holidays.\" Jude smirked and snatched her pillow off the bed. \"Do not do us any favors, Parker.\" \"Jude. Jealousy is an ugly trait. Please stop this.\" \"Jealous?\" Jude's face turned red as she snatched the blanket from the bed. \"I am not jealous. I am worried. You are nothing without me.\" Tears streamed down her cheeks now. \"What will you do without me at your side? Huh? Who will keep you from tripping over your own damned feet!\" She slammed past Parker and Hearth. \"I will be sleeping in the Fire Temple!\" \"Jude!\" Parker yelled and started after her, but Hearth calmly stopped her. \"But she is angry. She does not understand-\" \"And she will not. Not tonight.\" Hearth took the paper from her once more and sighed. \"Squire gave this to you this morning?\" \"Yes.\" She nodded knowingly. \"I wish you had mentioned this earlier. I would have had time to prepare.\" She tucked the paper in her night robe and leaned forward to kiss Parker's cheek. \"Get some sleep. I spose' you'll have a big day tomorrow.\" Parker nodded, then with one more look at the door, turned and crawled back in her and Jude's bed. Hearth waited until she blew out her candle, before she turned and shuffled back to her room. With the door shut firmly behind her, she hurried out of their small home and into the night. The sentries near the front gate gave her a cautious glance, before returning to their watch. She continued, head down, until she reached the Earth Temple. It's curved stone doors were closed tight, but after skirting around the hedges to the back, she came upon a side door. Taking a deep breath, she rapped twice and waited. A few moments later, an elderly man opened the door, his night dress flapping around his bare feet in the night air. \"Who is it?\" He screwed up his nose as he peered at her. \"Hearth? It is late, child. What do you want?\" \"I need access to the library, Dedicate Goodwin.\" \"The library? It is all locked up. Come back in the morning.\" He started closing the door, but Hearth quickly shoved her foot in the way. \"Please, sir. My child will face The Oracle tomorrow.\" The old mans eyes widened slightly and after a moment, he opened the door for her to come through. \"Then you have much to do.\" He pulled the door shut behind her and reached in the collar of his dress to pull out a set of keys. He quietly released their tie and pressed them into her hands. \"May the Goddess bless your child.\" Hearth nodded silently, before hurrying down the hall to the library.
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Book / Fantasy
Book / Fantasy
Book / Fantasy
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