Would you do another thing with Daja? Or maybe Lark or Rosethorn. Because I'm currently questioning and I envy the easy acceptance of their gayness/bisexuality. There's no way in hell my family would be okay with me not being straight so yeah, I'd kinda like to live vicariously through them for a bit sorry for asking.
don’t ever be sorry for asking kindly for things, nonny. this one’s all yours.
when they come home from namorn, a lot of things happen—
little bear comes running and cleans all their faces while briar complains about his manly pride and nice clothes (he gives the old pup a belly rub later, when no one but daja can see him go soft and tired, because he knows she will not taunt or comfort, just stand).
glaki comes pounding out of discipline cottage, wraps around tris like the vegetable garden is twining around briar, the way evvy is pretending she doesn’t want to, and tris pets glaki’s hair and tries not to remember how much she has grown without her.
sandry will step back into her uncle’s court the next day, and she will be sure, suddenly more sure than she’d been the whole ride back, that she had made the right decision. the citadel will smell like sealing wax and old stone and dried ink. when she steps into her uncle’s study, there will be a mantle of responsibility returned to her shoulders that is just the right weight, that is just what she wants. her uncle will look up from his letters and the light of pride in his eyes will be better than all the riches and legacy of the inheritance that she signed away to a good man.
for now, though: “i thought the snow might give your roots frostbite,” evvy sniffs at briar.
“doubting my training,” rosethorn warns. “i taught my boy better than that."
it’s when rosethorn hugs briar that evvy breaks down and squeezes him tight around the ribs. briar presses one cheek into evvy’s kerchief, tangles a hand in rosethorn’s habit and doesn’t let go until he knows he can grin like he can’t smell woodsmoke on even this peaceful air.
while glaki chases chime around the yard, tris watching like the fond sister she pretends she’s not, while briar teases evvy and sandry buries her face in the sensible cotton smell of lark, daja slips out the garden gate.
daja climbs over the flat walks of winding circle until she finds frostpine’s forge, its little bedroom tucked above it, the sharp scents of the metals and the rounded undertone of coal and wood. she wishes everything else were so easy to distinguish by smell as copper and tin, gold and iron.
his hug is bone-crushing, acrid, and his eyes are clever and dark when he pulls back and looks at her. frostpine gives her a spare apron of his that she’s almost big enough to wear now and a hammer that’s swimming with his magics and they strike metal, shape and sweat in silence until the day is over. daja makes hinges and crafts sigils for some heavy lock boxes that she’s sure even briar would have trouble breaking into. she makes a bucketful of nails, for old times’ sake.
they forsake the warmth of the baths, after, and go plunge into the sea instead, like they’re hot steel they want to quench. daja’s not sure she’s the right temperature for this, the right hue of glowing red. what if it makes her brittle, not strong? what if her ore was poor quality in the first place? a trader turned lugsha, who weaseled her way back in; a woman who loves beautiful women and then leaves them.
frostpine gets the story out of her, because he is safe the way she has known few men to ever be, because there are few people more patient in silence than she is but he is one. daja has never had a broken heart before, and she has never been one for many words, but she tries to explain.
sandry will try to help—she will take daja out riding, keep her moving, because that is how sandry outruns her griefs, always has. she pours her heart into other things, other work.
tris will give her books to read, because they give you a way out to better things, because they give you something to put between your face and a world that’s not interested in looking at you right.
briar will take her out to meet pretty young women, like delicate flowers, and daja will feel sooty no matter how well she scrubs her smiths’ hands clean.
but frostpine listens quietly. he asks her if she can smell the little bits of metal in the waves, the buried treasure far offshore. “your nose has gotten better,” he says. “i’m sorry about rizu.” they dry off, then soak in the communal baths after all, and then he walks her back to discipline. he kisses her on the forehead, warm hands on her cheeks, bristling beard ticking her nose, and says, “you might want to talk to your foster mothers.”
"you know, rosie broke my heart once,” lark says companionably, when daja does ask, shyly, over tea and honey and milk. rosethorn blushes furiously and daja stares. lark starts to tell a story and rosethorn stomps off to find a stronger tea.
they tell daja stories of lark the young acrobat, who fell in love with every pretty girl who came to her shows and didn’t kiss one. it’s late and they are all sleepy, guards down, when rosethorn talks about the first boy she loved, haystacks and very young promises, angry fathers. lark was the fourth woman rosethorn decided to love, and the other three names roll off rosethorn’s tongue, easy. daja listens hard for something like sorrow, like regret, and doesn’t hear it.
“we are a lot more than the places we have decided to lay down bits of our heart,” says lark, “or the people we have offered to give our hearts to. but that’s one part of you all the same: who and what and how you love. i know it hurts right now, chickadee, but you loved her and she loved you. that matters, no matter if it lasts. living, you get bruises. you get strong muscles and bones that don’t heal right. you get so many homes and broken hearts. you live in all those places and you don’t always get to choose which ones to keep.”
“you’re a hardy one,” says rosethorn. “you’ll outlive it.”
“what rosie means is: we love you, and we’re here if you need it.”
after, daja climbs up to the thatched roof where they watched clouds get born as children. the sun is rising. she has her heavy brass-tipped staff and her own smallest chisel. she wants to carve something into the metal here, into the life’s story written out in the circling design. it might be rizu’s name. it might be her own.