"You're all white, Aunt Meggi," Garyn said again.
"Mother?" Lycen caught hold of Meghianna's arm, half-turning her as he stepped out from the knot of stunned, staring boys. "Are you all right?"
Her clothes had been partially bleached by her use of power, and all the dye had been burned from her hair and brows. She glowed like a thin shield of alabaster put up against the noontime sun.
"She's more than all right." Megassa took a staggering step toward the bench set under the large window that looked out over the river. Gesturing, she opened her arms and her boys obediently came to her, settling on the bench on either side of her.
She has them well trained. Amazing, considering how she didn't like obeying anybody but Captain Gynefra and your father, Mrillis remarked.
"I can hear you," Megassa said, her tone and mouth sour but amusement in her eyes. "We might as well tell the whole story, since some of the masquerade is torn to shreds."
"True." Meghianna rubbed her face with her hands, letting out a weary sigh. Lycen immediately snatched a chair from the other side of the room and brought it over to her. "Thank you, dear." She sat, and took a few moments to nimbly braid up her hair again, getting it out of her face.
"You're the Queen of Snows, aren't you?" Lok said, when the silence in the room lost the last ringing of magic and moved a little closer to normal. "Mother said you were our Aunt Meggi, and the Queen of Snows was her sister...and Meggi is short for Meghianna?"
"You have a very smart son," Mrillis said. He elected to lean against the wall, rather than disturb the tableaux and get himself a chair. Thrarin and Lycen stood on either side of Meghianna, each resting a hand on her shoulder.
"Yes, I am the Queen of Snows, Meghianna Warhawk, daughter of Efrin Warhawk and Belissa, who was a lady of the Stronghold."
"Why were you running an inn in Quenlaque?" Lok asked. He frowned at Lycen, then at Thrarin. "Are they our cousins, then?"
Meghianna sighed, and reached up to hold the boys' hands that rested on her shoulders. "Here is where it gets complicated."
"I'm not your son, am I?" Lycen asked, his voice little more than a whisper, heavy with the pain that stole all expression from his face.
"Yes, you are. I adopted you when my dear friends were killed. Megassa's sons are indeed your cousins because you are my son." Meghianna turned and grasped both his arms at the elbows, shaking him a little to emphasize what she said.
"But if I'm your..." Thrarin took three steps back, as if he would try to run. He slowly shook his head, his gaze hooded, staring at an unseen spot in mid-air.
"Let the weaving come undone," Mrillis said, resting a hand on Thrarin's shoulder, and the other hand on his forehead. The boy froze.
"Let the tapestry be done," Meghianna said. She stood and let go of Lycen to grasp Thrarin's hand.
"Let the sundered mind be one," the boy whispered, shuddering. His knees folded, and he nearly went to the floor before he caught himself and stood upright again, with Mrillis and Meghianna's help. Ripples of rainbow light obscured his features as the woven spell came undone. The confusion left his gaze, and the stern understanding of a warrior hardened his face.
A little gasp of pain escaped Meghianna, but that was all the acknowledgement Mrillis knew she would ever make, all the mourning she would be allowed, for the innocent innkeeper's boy who had been destroyed by the emergence of Athrar Warhawk into his waking mind.