Sjur was humming. It was a painfully cheery and grating old holiday song from the Golden Ages, gifted to them on a data file by some well meaning guardians. In any other circumstances, Mara would’ve taken this as a declaration of war, but Sjur did like to collect old songs like most people collected fancy weapons and armor. The song was annoying, but Sjur was not, so she would just have to put up with it.
Sjur came over and gifted her with a kiss on the cheek. Mara squirmed away, pretending to be engrossed in the book she was reading. She’d learned that Sjur was more likely to bother her if she seemed busy or uninterested, and her favorite form of torment was physical affection- which Mara secretly craved. Sure enough, Sjur wrapped a thick arm around her waist and began crooning ridiculous lyrics at her, interspersed with more cheek kisses. Mara felt a grin coming on and decided to let Sjur see it instead of hiding it away.
“There’s my Mara!” Sjur said, touching the corners of Mara’s smile. She picked Mara up easily in one arm. Mara was too dignified to shriek but did clutch at Sjur’s shoulders briefly. Sjur would never drop her, but it was still jarring. She wrapped her arms around Sjur’s neck and buried her face in the crook of her neck, breathing in her scent. She felt very warm and very safe. Sjur’s voice continued on, a soothing rumble while Mara was this close.
“Uldren’s coming over later to help us decorate. I love this Dawning thing! It’s so fun. Just a whole holiday to hang out with your family and party and give each other stuff. Speaking of, we got a letter from your mom the other day, I kept forgetting to tell you. If we send her a present now, it definitely won’t reach her in time for the Dawning, but it’s the thought that counts, right? Oh, and Petra said she was gonna come to the party this weekend. She wasn’t sure if she could get time away from the Techeuns, but they’re letting her come. Isn’t she cute? Like the little sister I never had…”
“Is Eris coming?” Mara asks, without lifting her head.
“Oh, yeah. We’d have to lock her up to keep her away! She’s bringing her cooking, so we need to warn everyone ahead of time not to eat it,” Sjur joked.
Mara breathed a sigh. “I wish you could’ve met her.”
“Babe, what are you saying? Me and Eris are friends.”
“No, you died before you could meet her. But it’s a nice touch. Something I really did wish had happened.”
Sjur’s arms tighten around her, but just as she begins to speak the dream abruptly dissolves and Mara’s laying flat on her back on a step in the Dreaming City, utterly alone. Riven is laying on her chest in the form of a magnificent peacock with the neck and head of a swan and a snake’s forked tongue.
“So close,” Riven said.
“Very good,” Mara said. “It was everything I’d ever wanted.”