Rowan woke up with a sharp pain above her left eye and a splitting headache. Panic gripped her. “Where am I?” She was confused. Bragi had targeted her like he had so many times before, only this time he had gotten violent. She had passed out and woken up in a dark room that, in her dazed state, felt unfamiliar. Then she realised, “Oh! I’m home…” That made her feel a little bit more comfortable. How long had she been out for? It was difficult to say for sure. Her curtains were closed and she was notably lacking for any time keeping devices; clockwork was still a new and incredibly expensive technology. With that in mind, Rowan struggled out of bed and stumbled towards her window. As she drew back the curtain, Rowan was greeted by the soft blush of dawn painting the clouds.
The sight was a shock to be sure. It had been hours. Rowan’s head reeled from the thought of it. She suddenly felt very dizzy. The reality of what had happened was assaulting her mind violently. Every word that Bragi said struck her like the rock he had thrown while the memory of Kyr and Kiriin lifted her up. It was too much for her as the feeling of nausea filled her and an unmistakably wet feeling trickled down her leg. All things considered, it was a miracle that she didn’t collapse then and there. Instead, she managed to make it almost all of the way back to her bed. However, before she was able to get all the way, the world span around her and she tripped over her feet. She came down with a crash, half landing on the mattress.
Barely a moment had passed when Hæra came running into the room, garbed in a silk robe and a face creased in worry. ”Rowan! What…” The question trailed off when Hæra saw Rowan half draped over the bed looking pale.
Rowan was seeing double as she looked up to her mother. “I’m okay,” she said none too convincingly.
“You most certainly are not!” she responded, her singsong voice marred by notes of blatant concern. “Trust your gods’ given metabolism to burn through that sedative. I thought it would be safe to check on Tehri while you were sleeping; you weren’t supposed to wake up for another few hours yet. Seriously, dear, it’s far too soon for you to be moving about.” Hæra walked over with impossibly long, gliding strides. It was then that she noticed Rowan’s little accident. “Oh dear…”
Rowan turned crimson from embarrassment. “I’m sorry,” she mumbled into her blankets, trying to hide the shame on her face.
“It’s okay, Rowan,” Hæra responded softly, “let’s get you cleaned up.” She lifted Rowan up softly and carried her out. It was an odd sight to see; whilst Rowan had clearly outgrown being carried by someone of Hæra’s petite stature, she was deceptively strong and managed it with only a little difficulty. She didn’t care that her robe was getting slightly damp from carrying Rowan; getting to the bath was more important. She passed by her bedroom on the way to ask a half-asleep Gyren to clean up the spill in Rowan’s room.
They soon arrived in the large and lavish bathroom. It was split into two halves, a dry entrance room room for undressing and a wet room that held the actual bath. It didn’t take long to draw the bath. Næmyris was a rich town with a complex plumbing system and most of the buildings could access it. Rowan’s also had the necessary Resonance Crystals to keep the water nice and hot. Hæra started undressing herself and Rowan in the dry room and placed their clothes into a laundry basket while they waited for the bath to fill up. She also quickly checked the cut on Rowan’s brow to make sure it hadn’t gotten any worse. “I can’t believe that bastard did this to my baby girl!” she muttered to herself angrily.
“What was that, Ma?” Rowan asked quietly.
“It’s nothing, dear,” she covered up quickly. “Now let’s get you all cleaned up.”
They headed into the bathroom and Hæra sat Rowan down on a stool. Rowan yelped as a bucket full of water from the tub was dropped on her head. The soap came next as Rowan found herself lathered in silken bubbled; it was a pleasant, comforting experience. Then it was time for the water again. Another yelp. It was too hot for her. Or was it? It shouldn’t have been any different from how it usually was.
“Why’s it so hot!” Rowan complained with a slight note of confusion.
“I’m sorry, Rowan, I’ll try to be gentler,” Hæra assuaged softly. “Is this any better?” she asked after having adjusted the temperature.
“Much!” In reality, it wasn’t that big of a change, but it made the world of difference to Rowan and she was soon sparkling clean. That could only mean one thing! It was time for arguably the best part of bathing; soaking in the actual bath! Whilst Rowan sat in the bath, Hæra finished washing herself and then she hopped in beside Rowan. Rowan quickly settled against Hæra, her head resting on her mother’s chest. Hæra stroked her hair absently. It was a soothing gesture, one that Hæra knew would calm herself and Rowan right down and she wanted them both to be relaxed for what she was about to ask. “If you’re okay with it, dear, can you tell me what happened?” she asked as gently as she could manage.
Rowan paled slightly at the question. “It was nothing, Ma,” she mumbled quietly, half mirroring the comment she had made earlier in her room.
“It’s okay, Rowan, you’re safe here,” Hæra smiled softly only to then mutter a little too loudly, “No bastard spawn of An’Teag will hurt my little girl while I’m around!” For a brief moment, Hæra was akin to one of the great cats of the Ru’eni Empire or the mother bears of Northern Særis before she composed herself again. This is why she wanted to be as relaxed as possible; just thinking about the An’Teag family made her blood boil. “Ah. Sorry, Rowan, you didn’t need to hear that. I just want to know what happened and make sure that you’re okay. You were out cold when the twins’ father carried you home. The doctor said you had lost a substantial amount of blood and that you were on the verge of hypothermia. You don’t have to tell me everything, just what you’re comfortable with.”
“It was Bragi, but you already know that.” Rowan sounded a little hurt. It felt like her mother was asking for things she already knew.
“I heard as much from Kyr, but he ran off before I could ask for details and watching over you was more important.”
Hearing that made Rowan feel a little better. She started to recall what had happened as best she could, starting from how she and the twins had been swimming in the lake. It took so long to finish her account that they had to get out the bath before Rowan’s fingers shrivelled up like prunes. Hæra had just finished brushing her hair as she neared its end. “What if he’s right, Ma?” she finally asked, somewhat meekly. It was one of her greatest fears. That she wasn’t good enough and deserved to be hated. That the scar Bragi had given her would mark her as the disgrace she was. She held back the tears that were starting to well in her eyes.
“Of course he isn’t, Rowan! That’s a ridiculous notion.” There was a snap to Hæra’s words, not at Rowan but at the idea and in her haste to rebuke it, she missed the fear in Rowan’s eyes.
“Why else would Bragi and the others be targeting me? It’s because I’m worthless isn’t it?”
“You most certainly are not!” Hæra was shocked that Rowan was saying such things and it pained her to hear it.
“I feel wrong,” Rowan responded solemnly. She really did.
“Oh, Rowan…” Hæra was at a loss for words. “Dear, there is absolutely nothing wrong with you, I promise.”
“How can you know that?”
“It’s not even a question!” The response came so naturally to Hæra, yet Rowan was still filled with doubt.
“But I’m so short, Ma,” she cried.
“Why does that matter? So what if you’re shorter than everyone else. It just means that everything you are is concentrated into a smaller package, not that you’re any lesser.”
“What about my eyes?” The complaint in Rowan’s voice had significantly less bite that time. She actually liked her eyes, but it was still one of the things that Bragi had focused on.
“They’re beautiful, Rowan, capable of seeing things that Bragi and his bigoted goons can only dream of.”
Rowan brightened up a little at that, but she wasn’t about to stop with her self-loathing. “Well my legs aren’t as strong as they would be if I was a full Ferran.” It was another point that Bragi had brought up. One of the so-called flaws of being a half-breed.
“They aren’t? I’ve seen you outrun grown men, Ferran included, and you’re only ten years old!” Hæra beamed; she didn’t even bother trying to hide the pride in her voice.
“B-b-but…” Rowan’s willingness to hate herself was starting to fall apart.
“There’s nothing wrong with having mixed heritage, Rowan. Bragi says that we have the worst of both halves; that our strengths have been dilutes? Who made him or his father the expert?” When Hæra said it like that, it actually made a little bit of sense. She carried on dismantling all of Bragi’s biting words. By the end of it, Rowan’s self-loathing was gone and she was finally able to let her tears flow, pain be damned. She was starting to feel better, Hæra pulled her into a warm, comforting embrace. “It’s okay my adorable little Rowan, I’m here. Just remember that you are my beautiful daughter and any spawn of An’Teag can’t hold a candle to you.” She smiled warmly at Rowan and started tucking her back into bed before mixing a light bluish powder into a glass of water. “Here, drink this. It will help you sleep,” she said, offering Rowan the glass.
Rowan gave the drink a dubious sip, not fully trusting the strange powder that had been mixed into it. “It’s bitter!” she exclaimed, almost spitting it out.
“I know dear, but you have to drink it all. You’ll have sweet dreams. I promise.”
Rowan felt like that may have been a bit of a white lie at the end, but she still braced herself for the bitterness and drank the water as quickly as she could. It didn’t take long for the medicine to kick in. Her eyes started to feel heavy as her mother hummed a relaxing tune. This time, Rowan drifted off not into oblivion, but into the realm of dreams, a multi-layered melody fighting away any nightmares that might have preyed upon her that night.
Rowan remained bound to her bed for the better part of the day, That isn’t to say she didn’t have any company after she had woken up in the afternoon. The twins visited as soon as they were able and Hæra popped in regularly to check on her. That made her feel much better and the awkward highlight of her day came when Gyren came in to see her after he had finished work early. “Hello, my little princess! How are you doing?” he asked as he stepped into her room, his left arm concealed behind his back.
“Better, I think?” Rowan said contemplatively before looking affirmatively at her father with a smile. “Aye! Definitely better.” She was beaming as her father walked over to her bed, not bothering to comment on his concealed hand.
Gyren sat down and smiled at Rowan. “I’ve got something for you; a special little treat I found on my way home.”
Rowan practically glowed with excitement as Gyren pulled out a small box from behind his back. He removed the lid to reveal six bite-sized balls of sugary goodness. “These are all for me? Rowan asked as she looked down at the sweet rainbow coloured Alyren Raindrops in the box.
“Of course,” he confirmed, his eyes twinkling mischievously, “just don’t tell your mother.”
Rowan returned the mischievous look as she started reaching for one of the raindrops. “Don’t worry…” She was interrupted mid breath by the sound of a throat being cleared from the other side of the room. They both looked guiltily to the doorway, where Hæra stood staring down at them with her arms crossed disapprovingly.
“Go on, you can keep talking. Just ignore me and I promise I won’t listen to your little secret,” Hæra told them with a completely straight face and a level tone.
“Well you see, dear, I was just thinking,” Gyren stammered, “that Rowan could…”
Gyren trailed off and Rowan pouted at her mother. “It’s just a wee treat, Ma!” she complained, glancing down hungrily at her prize.
“You can have it when you’re better. If you have any now you’ll be running up the walls before nightfall; they make you far too hyper.”
“They do not,” Rowan mumbled sullenly.
Hæra walked over to the bed, still cowing her husband, and grabbed the box from atop the blankets, spiriting it away from Rowan’s grasp. Then, smiling mischievously, she popped a raindrop into her mouth and sighed euphorically as it started working its magic.
The sigh that followed from Gyren on the other hand, was filled with mock despair. “I should have expected that. You know, dear, you’re just as excitable on those as Rowan is.”
“Am I now?” Hæra responded in a flighty voice. In her bed, Rowan was rendered speechless by the exchange. Hæra turned briefly to Rowan. “Don’t worry dear, you’re not to blame here, “ she smiled at Rowan before giving Gyren a predatory look. “You on the other hand, are in need of a scolding.” Rowan knew what that look meant just as much as her father did. It was an adult look, and adult sounds would follow from her parents bedroom soon enough. She was rather proud of the fact that she had been considered mature enough to be given the all important talk on relationships and growing up at a relatively young age; younger than the twins at least.
True to form, Hæra led Gyren out of the room, raindrops in hand. At the door, she looked at Rowan and apologised. “Sorry, dear. Dinner might be a little late tonight.”
Rowan had no real response to that, other than, “Okay.” Hæra closed the door and Rowan was alone again. Sulking slightly, her head hit the pillow and she tried to go back to sleep.
For the most part, the week that followed Rowan’s injury was quiet. She was strong enough to walk about the house, but the medicine took away most of her energy. Hæra had cancelled the dancing component of their lessons that week and even Master Idyr had been taking it easy on her. It was frustrating; she was only a wee bit fatigued, not an invalid. What made everything all the worse was the simple fact that Tehri had recovered from her own bout of sickness.
Typically, Rowan would not begrudge her little sister’s improved health, however she found her patience wearing thin due to a sudden explosion of energy from Tehri. The rational part of Rowan would have told her that it was only natural. Tehri had been bedridden for the better part of the month and had likely been feeling what Rowan was now, only more keenly. Rowan, however, was not in the mood to be rational. Tehri’s energy bordered on what lay beyond mania and it only served to rub salt into the wound.
This wasn’t Rowan’s first time seeing one of these episodes from Tehri. In actuality, Tehri had been having them, along with the complete inverse, for as long as Rowan could remember. Past experience, however, didn’t make it any easier for Rowan, or anyone for that matter, to deal with. There were times when the manic episodes were less extreme. This was not one of them. When Tehri was like this, it was like she was operating at more than maximum energy and everything seemed all the more extreme. For someone as young as Rowan, it was almost impossible to deal with. Usually, when it got to be too much for Rowan, she would go out and play with the twins. This time, she had nowhere to run.
To make matters so much worse, ever since her recovery and newfound abundance of energy, Tehri had seemingly forgotten the existence of personal space or the fact that Rowan was very much still recovering. She had taken it upon herself to spend almost every waking moment by Rowan’s side wanting to play, talk, run around, jump on her bed or some weird combination of all four. It got to the point where Rowan’s only respite was when their mother was around or by some miracle, something else had caught Tehri’s attention for a brief moment. Not even sleep could save Rowan, for in those days, Tehri was a stranger to anything resembling rest.
With Tehri zooming about life at a hundred leagues an hour, Rowan felt that her recovery would last an eternity. With her birthday just round the corner, it felt like hell. Thankfully reality was a different matter. In the last few days before Rowan’s birthday, her mother had somehow found a suitable distraction and she was left to recover in peace. She still kept to her room right up until the day before her birthday where she was taken, half asleep, to the doctor’s office to have her stitches removed.
Rowan yawned as the doctor walked in with a kindly smile after his assistant had removed the stitches to give her a check up. He was an old man wearing dark red clothes and a brilliant white coat with equally white balding hair. “It seems that you are nearing the end of a full recovery, young Miss Rowan,” he said towards the end of his examination. “It is very apparent that your mother has made sure you’ve been taking your medication. Yes, very good!” He looked rather pleased with himself as he reflected on his handiwork.
“Is she good to go, Doctor?” Hæra asked with a look of trepidation.
“Yes. Yes, of course. As long as she doesn’t push herself too hard she’ll be near enough back to her young self again by tomorrow morning at the very latest.”
“Excellent! Thank you, Doctor.” Hæra smiled appreciatively at the old man.
“Thank you,” Rowan yawned a moment later, adding her own thanks to her mother’s.
Hæra stood up and helped Rowan out of her chair. At the door she looked down at Rowan. “Could you be a dear and wait for me in the waiting room?” she asked. “I have something I need to discuss with the doctor.” Rowan nodded slowly in acknowledgement and started walking to one of the chairs. “You can have an Alyren Raindrop when we get back home,” Hæra called after Rowan, who immediately perked up a little bit, and then closed the door.
“Your fee, Doctor?” she asked, turning to face him.
“It’s free of charge,” he said happily, seeming to enjoy the surprise on Hæra’s face.
“But, what about the medication? I know you,,,”
The doctor raised his hand, cutting Hæra off. “Consider it a birthday present. No child should miss their special day because of sickness or injury.”
“Of course. Now take young Rowan home and treat her. She has a big day tomorrow”
Hæra had insisted on Rowan having an early night on the eve of her eleventh birthday. She would wake up to the new world of adolescence and new found freedoms. That was what she had expected at least, and her dreams that night were filled with wonder at how things would be different. What she did not expect, however, was how much the house could change in a single night. She woke to an enticing aroma that invigorated her very bones. Rowan was about to run straight out of her room when she noticed the sign that had been left on the door.
Happiest Birthday to our Dear Little Rowan,
We know you’re excited so we have a couple of presents ready for you before you come downstairs. The first of which is a bath which will have you sparkling and full of joy. The second is a set of brand new clothes which we both know you will absolutely adore.
Love from Ma and Da.
Rowan wasn’t sure how she felt about the idea of having a bath as a present. She continued to wonder as she dipped her toes into the water, not even realising that the alluring scent had guided her there. The warm water invigorated her in a way that was almost magical. The fatigue that had plagued her during her recovery was gone and she felt stronger for it. Once clean, Rowan stepped into her brand new clothes; a white tunic dress accented with a gold trim around the hem and red silken sash around the waist.
Walking out into the hall and down the stairs, Rowan was able to truly appreciate the transformation that had taken place throughout the house. Taking full advantage of Spring, her parents had gifted her with the visage of first bloom. Rowan couldn’t help being anything but charmed by all of the tactfully placed flowers. They brought a wonderful sense of colour and fragrance to the house that was further enhanced by the brilliantly woven flags and banners that hung from the walls. Brightening the house even further were some gloriously scented candles and the glinting of silvery chains set with gems of crimson and azure placed amongst the myriad decorations.
It was perfect for all but one factor. Something was missing. Tyris. Rowan’s brother was nowhere to be seen. News had arrived early that morning that his Division had been sent on an emergency deployment to assist against a group of raiders based around the volcanic island of Færich Lan. As such his request for leave from the navy had been denied. Even so, he didn’t intend to leave Rowan with nothing on her birthday, so he sent her a letter and a small package for her along with the news. Unfortunately, she was unable to open it immediately because of the, in her mind, stupid laws of tradition dictating that presents should be opened no earlier than the hour of the person’s birth. So she waited and shortly after breakfast, the twins and their parents arrived bringing gifts and enough games to entertain an army of children, let alone four. That brought a smile to Rowan’s face.
With the bountiful energy of morning, Rowan, Tehri and the twins started with the notably more physical games under the watchful eye of Hæra. In one such game, a game of contortion and balance, Rowan became the undefeated champion until the others started cheating to gain the upper hand. It was nearing lunchtime as they started to get bored of such games. As such, they started to shift towards more mind focused games, though due to Tehri’s complaints they made sure that there was still at least some physical component. During the first of these games, just past noon, Master Idyr appeared at the front door as if summoned by the inkling of an intellectual pursuit. In his hands he carried a heavy looking box wrapped in cloth. Rowan didn’t even need to look at it to guess that an extremely dense, knowledge filled tome lay inside. Hæra invited him in for some tea, but he declined as his own family were waiting for him.
Following lunch, the afternoon, much like the morning, was laden with fun activities as the children played game after game while the adults talked about life and the kids. Unfortunately, this led them to reminisce about all of the embarrassing things their children had done in the past, much to the chagrin of the young ones. One tale in particular had Rowan’s face turn almost as red as her hair as Hæra described in excruciating detail how Rowan and the Twins were playing the part of legendary heroes fighting giant beasts, with a victorious Rowan claiming a kiss from both Kyr and Kiriin as a reward for the successful completion of her quest.
The embarrassing tales finally came to an end as it finally struck the fifth hour since noon. Which meant that it was finally time for Rowan to open up her presents. Strangely enough, Hæra almost looked as excited as Rowan when she handed over the first present. Equally strange was how Gyren was the voice of caution, warning Rowan to be careful as she unwrapped it. Begrudgingly she paced herself as she slowly unveiled a lute. It was beautiful, Rowan didn’t know how else to describe it, with its three cursive knotwork holes and a floral filigree inlaid with gold and rose gold. It had rendered her speechless. In her hands was a work of art that she felt unworthy of handling.
“Well that’s a stronger reaction than I expected,” Gyren spoke up, breaking the silence. “Wouldn’t you agree, Hæra?” he asked his wife who was still sitting next to Rowan, practically jumping with joy.
“Oh, aye. Definitely!” she responded, smiling gleefully at Rowan, “Though, perhaps we shouldn’t have started with that. But, I couldn’t resist and just look at her. Don’t worry, Rowan, this memory is the least I could give to my special little girl.” Upon hearing this, Tehri pouted slightly, to which Hæra erased without missing a beat by saying, “and so are you, dear little Tehri.”
Even amidst all the talking, Rowan still sat there speechless, unable to do little more than smile awkwardly with her mouth hanging slightly until someone broke her stupor by placing the next present into her hands. Any other present, and she may not have realised, but the sheer weight of the package was beyond imagining. It was the box shaped present from Master Idyr and as Rowan had predicted, it was an extremely large and intimidating leather bound tome. The attached note said that it was a collection of academic records that Master Idyr had compiled himself from The Azure University. He apparently deemed it suitable reading material for one of her academic calibre. Rowan appreciated the compliment, but she felt that he might be overestimating her abilities just a wee bit.
The other presents soon followed. She received a really pretty hair clasp and rosewood comb from Kyr and Kiriin which she was adamant she would use regularly going forwards. From the twin’s parents she was given some hair care products to go along with their children’s gift and a few dancing accessories. Then, out of nowhere, Tehri presented her with a piece of art that was beyond masterful. It was the work of a prodigy, showing a level of skill far beyond her years. The painting itself revealed a beautiful landscape featuring Rowan dancing alone in the shallows of Lake Emyr under the light of both moons, a scene she was sure had never actually happened.
Finally, after what had felt like an age, Rowan settled on the package from Tyris, the opening of which was no easy task. Rowan battled with it for ten minutes, refusing all aid, before she finally managed to breach the inner layers to reveal a rather petite dagger that was rather elegant in its simplicity. The handle fit nicely in her hand and the blade was barely the length of her rather diminutive hand span. The blade was of course sharp, proven almost immediately by the beads of blood forming on her fingertip where she had tested it. That only led to the immediate realisation of the irony of receiving a package that would have been much easier to unwrap if she already had the gift inside. She was pulled out of her musings as a few drops of blood from her finger landed on the envelope still waiting on her lap. Reminded that there was still one last thing to open, Rowan placed the dagger aside and put her wounded finger into her mouth to help stem the bleeding. Then forgetting her previous lesson, she tore open the envelope to get at the letter inside and began to read.
“Dearest Little Sister Rowan,
“I’m sorry I’m unable to make your birthday. I tried to get the leave, only for it to fall through when a couple of merchant vessels went missing off the shores of Færich Lan. I won’t be able to visit now until the summer solstice I’m afraid, but make no mistake, when the holiday comes, I’ll play or train with you and Tehri as much as you want, even if my legs fall off.
Now I had hoped to do this in person. Alas, I’m forced to do it in writing. I, Tyris Amran Naliir, hereby relinquish my right to inherit the Naliir family sword, Elan Fiir. Furthermore, on the day marking her eleven years on this world, with the Goddess as my witness, I hereby name Rowan’efrii Alyris Naliir to be the one who shall inherit Elan Fiir.
Now until the time comes where you inherit that sword, I am giving you this dagger. It’s small, compact, and strong, just like my pocket-sized champion. I’m sure it will protect you well. Extend my love to everyone and remind father to give Tehri the sweets I bought her.
Your loving brother, Tyris.”
“Huh?” Upon finishing the letter, Rowan found herself completely and utterly confused. She was having difficulty trying to understand what her brother was trying to say. It seemed like he was relinquishing his right to inherit the family sword, but with his weird flowery language he could have been saying any number of additional things as well. Also seeing her full name written down just felt wrong. Unable to find an answer herself, she looked to her mother, the current owner of the sword.
Hæra took the letter from Rowan and read over it and then again, Rowan failed to notice the significance of the action. “It seems fairly clear to me,” she said after a moment. “Granted he is speaking to our answers as much as he is to you. That’s why he’s using such colourful language; it’s ritualistic. Elan Fiir is a rather unique sword after all. It is the magnum opus of Tælla Naliir and forged from the crystallised tears of our ancestors after the tragedy of our exodus from Ferran. He was calling upon them to give you their blessing and acknowledging you as the heir to their tears. The timing and language all make for stronger Resonance in the ritual. Why he’s chosen to relinquish his claim to the sword though, I can’t really say.” Whilst still somewhat confused, Rowan nodded her head somewhat blankly and accepted her mother’s explanation, not realising she hadn’t told the full story.
During the explanation, Gyren also gave the letter a read. As he reached the bottom he struck his forehead with his palm. “How could I forget the sweets?” he asked himself, standing up suddenly.
The outburst caught Rowan, Tehri and the Twins completely off guard. Tehri in particular asked about the sweets with probably a bit too much enthusiasm. She darted to Gyren’s side and glanced over the letter. “This has too many big words,” she noted with distaste before reaching the bottom. Then, without pausing to even take a breath, she suddenly exclaimed, “Wooh! They’re for me!” Her excitement from the realisation had her bouncing up and down. “Can I have them? Can I have them?” she asked with boundless enthusiasm.
“After dinner, Tehri,” Hæra responded sternly.
Tehri’s excitement helped to distract Rowan from her earlier confusion and she once again let herself be swept into the joy of the celebration. By the end of the evening she found herself positively exhausted. She said goodbye to the Twins and bid her family goodnight, promising to herself that she would be stronger in her adolescence, strong enough to stand up for herself.