The garden was in full bloom. Erisos stepped past the blooming lilacs-the smell was overwhelming, and made her dizzy-and gazed up at the stone walls of Castle Heydin. She was going home soon, and she had to say goodbye to someone. She swallowed hard. It was difficult to swallow. She forced herself to breathe inwardly; she needed some time to think, to contemplate her next move. Rein Lynn said she would always have a place at her house, but Rein was a commander, and had a clan to contend with. They looked down upon clans and Rein had been thrown out of his home about half a dozen times, maybe more or less, depending on one’s perspective. Erisos was disappointed she would not get to see the flowers opening next year, but she would have a whole new house to live in, a whole new garden to grow. The tears threatened to spill over her cheeks, and she wiped them away with the back of her hand, and moved forward, one step at a time, timidly, without reason. She glanced behind her. The crows circled in the sky overhead, watching her, protecting her. She knew they were shifters. Shifters all over the kingdom. A war between the ravens and the crows had become full-blown, and her brother, Shilo, was forced to fight them in the west. She wanted to fight, but she was the daughter of a queen. Princesses were not allowed to fight.
She had trouble reaching the front door of the castle. Yes, castles did have front doors. She had trouble going through them. She wanted to see Antt In, the woman who raised her from age five, after her mother died. She could not thank the woman enough. She did not know how to thank her.
“Antt,” she said. Tears spilled down her cheeks, and she leaned down to reach her. Perhaps she would be her last link on this planet. There were other planets; her schools taught them to her. “Antt, are you awake?”
Her eyes were open. The nurse said she rarely spoke, that she didn’t have anything to talk about. She had no one to blame but herself. Antt always reached out for her more than anyone else. Always talked to her, always helped her through everything. She was not gone yet. She was seventy-nine, going on eighty, and would have a birthday in September. At last, she would get to say what she wanted to say. She would say goodbye.