The last thing she needed was a Witness. But if anyone passed, she hoped they would see a mother clutching her daughter in the night.
And miss the blood streaking the hem of her cloak.
When no sounds came, she continued, until the Abbey door opened and she and her heavy cargo were inside. Away from the cloying night smoke and mist.
‘Is it done?’ The pale robed woman waiting inside asked as she pushed up from her chair.
‘Yes, he is taken care of, ma’am.’
The shadows fell into the deep lines of the other woman’s face, as she approached to inspect the girl in the dim light.
As if her protégé would kill the wrong man, take the wrong daughter.
Her belly soured and she moved away before Mistress could reach them, moving with care through the narrow Abbey halls until she reached a room.
Her room, until just an hour ago.
As if mocking her, the little tin clock on the mantel chimed. One… Two…
‘Mm?’ The girl awoke as she set her on the mattress, whether by the motion or the loss of warm arms let in the cold night she would not know. The latter had her reaching for the wool knit blanket at the end of the bed, as she tried to coax the girl to lay down and be tucked in.
‘Papa?’ She murmured, letting herself be swaddled against the fluffy feathers and thick sheets. A nicer bed than her father would let her sleep in.
She should have felt some guilt, at the cry of a child for her parent in the night, when that parent’s blood still stained her clothes, her blade. But whether it was because of the contempt she held for the man she slew, or the training that made her forget her heart… She felt nothing.
‘Not here, dear heart,’ she said of instinct, the way it had been said to her ten years before.
‘Oh.’ In the dim firelight, the logs still burning from before she left, the little girl stared at her for a long moment. She would only see a pair of pale eyes, a scarf drawn around the rest under the hood.
‘Sleep,’ she said, tugging the blanket to the girl’s chin. Another woman might have smoothed her matted curls from her face, or wished her a good night.
But Iona only rose and added a log to the fire, before drifting down the hall to wash her cloak.
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