January – 1027 YD
January began to wane, and the heat of summer continued unrelenting. While no fires had caught since those in Archoak forest three months previous, the threat crouched in the air, prowling each time the wind flew from the north.
Régan sat on the southern balcony pulling apart a slice of bread as she watched the opening of day below. With Brennan’s departure some days before and the noble pair visiting Dara, she was perfectly bored. The heat forbade activity; her rank precluded touring; her disposition opposed ‘mingling’. She had received a letter from the Baron of Bescon near the northern border, begging she dissuade her father of further trade with Miggest. He was certain the Archoak fires bore an ill omen, and that care must be taken to prepare for the years ahead—a sentiment she shared. Perhaps she should return to the capital, and make yet another attempt at diplomacy and filial piety.
__Her deliberations were set aside by a change in movement on the ground.
__A messenger had arrived and words were spreading outwards. Régan returned to the Great Hall.
Through the northern windows, the steward of Lirna Palace pointed—so very superfluously—at the shafts of smoke slicing the horizon.
__‘The fields have caught, Your Highness.’
__ She inhaled. ‘You have a keen eye.’
__ ‘I am instructed to secure your safety, and insist on your making for Offenure at once.’ There was resistance in her silence, and he added: ‘The wind will press the flames toward us.’
__ Régan hardened her jaw. The threat is not the fire, but the contents of its smoke: the harvest is lost. Not two weeks before Lughnasadh.
__ ‘Your Highness?’
__Régan turned to see Lord Carrick, wet from the waist down, enter the Solar. ‘I have come to escort you to Offenure. I have a rigged boat to transport you in, if you are daring enough to face the waves.’
__ Wild water was not her friend; the base of her stomach retracted.
__‘I will follow your lead,’ Régan replied, bowing her farewell to the steward before taking the Duke’s offered elbow.
__ As they descended the main staircase, he muttered: ‘Now the fires have begun, I fear only the river and sea will stop them.’