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Broome

A quiet winter, and a long one. Longer yet, for having seen no face not strange since feast-time. Longer yet, for having none of those strange faces look on us—on me—with any proper dread. I eat the bread of exile; I command it in my brain to be the roasted swans that grace the traitor’s table. The tongue my princely father spoke is spoken here, but with the shape it takes within my mouth, it wins me little love.

Yet as the winter lengthens, so it wanes in strength. A yellow blossom comforted my eye today, and eager by a full six weeks, as reckoned in the climes I know. So parched was I for any spark of home and fealty, that I pluck’d it off and held it as I walked, as palmers did with other boughs, with measured steps along the stream.

***

It must have been that with my golden banner, I was seen, for good or ill, by one to whom my dwelling-place is known. This morning on my doorstep was a humble vase, mere clay, but filled with gleaming yellow flowers.

***

Although the sights of home and friends be yet denied me, I take comfort in the knowledge that such things are near, unseen. Today I walked the market square, all common dressed, in search of early apricots, and saw a cloakèd figure, face all veiled, a strange brooch on its breast: in gold not metal, but of living blooms. And ere I tore my eyes away, it marked my gaze, and bowed: scarce visibly, but slow, with gravity and fear.

A warning, some might say; a threat. It is not so. Though veiled he be, or cloakèd, too, or dress howe’er he will, I know a cousin true.