Her mind was awhirl throughout the rest of the party, but though she scanned the room feverishly to see Lumi the servant again, she didn’t catch sight of her at all before the party ended. She forced herself to think rationally. She had already waited this long to find her family, and it was possible that this woman was no relation to her at all. She could afford to be patient, to wait for a better opportunity to speak to the woman again. And anyway, she reasoned, she already knew where Lumi worked. If she really wanted to seek her out, it wouldn’t be hard to find her—especially now that she could use her rank of Commander to glean information.
She contented herself with this logic and left the palace in reasonably high spirits in the early hours of the morning. Monty’s carriage delivered her to the inn, and she fell into her bed, exhausted. But she tossed and turned all night, plagued by nightmares and anxiety: what if Lumi wasn’t her mother’s sister, and it turned out Ayalah really was an orphan with no living family to speak of? Or what if Lumi was her mother’s sister but had purposely left Ayalah to die with her parents all those years ago?
She staggered out of bed an hour or two after dawn. Her head ached and her whole body felt stiff and sore. She found that she’d been so tired the night before, she hadn’t even changed out of her dress clothes. She rubbed her eyes and went downstairs.
The room was empty save for Greyson sitting by the fire, whittling something out of a block of wood. “Morning,” he said, looking up. He raised his eyebrows at her rumpled outfit.
“Nevermind,” she said. “You got to sneak out early; I was forced to endure the entire party. Shouldn’t you be at the forges?”
“I wanted to make sure you made it back last night. Did Monty escort you?” He said the name Monty with a certain edge to his voice.
She chose not to dignify his implications with a response, and instead asked the innkeeper for a drink and a light breakfast. She turned back to him. “I wanted to talk to you about something.”
He nodded. “I thought you might. Now that we’re citizens, we can buy homes. We don’t need to keep staying here.”
She blinked. “Oh. Well. That’s not what—”
“I thought it might make sense for me to stay in this neighborhood, to live near the forges. I like it here. You’ll probably move into the barracks with the rest of the warriors, won’t you?”
She stared at him.
He continued: “I assume they’re up near the palace. And even if you don’t move into the barracks, you’d need to be in that area. So we probably won’t see too much of each other. You being a commander and me being a smithy and all.”
She didn’t know what to say. Her head was pounding; she didn’t want to discuss this right now.
“Your leg is pretty much healed now, and you can take care of yourself. Seems like Mathais hasn’t come after you yet, and he might not decide to at all. So I guess what I’m trying to say is, I might stay here, or I might go back to Miltinoth.”
“Let’s just think it over. Maybe your friend Monty will have some suggestions.” He slid his chair back and stood up. “Well, I’d best be off. Oh, I almost forgot. Monty stopped by. Seems you left your new warrior uniform in his carriage last night. Bit distracted, were you?” He walked to the door. “I left them with the maid. She’ll bring them up when you’re ready. I hope they fit.” He pushed the door open and stepped out.
Ayalah continued staring at the door long after he’d disappeared on the other side of it.