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The nurse was startled but not at all dismayed by the prospect of a surprise (paid) day off.  “But don’t you have to work today, m’lady?” she asked skeptically.  And although the response of “I’m working at home today,” might have seemed a little odd if the nurse had really thought about it, she didn’t.  Better to not question such things, especially when your employer has been in a volatile mood.

So this morning as the sun streamed through the sitting-room windows Laurelia Darksworne lay contentedly atop a pile of mageweave by her mother’s feet.  She grabbed pieces of cloth and shook them very intently, giggling at the way the shimmer of the fabric changed depending on how it was held in the sunbeams.  Such power in her tiny hands!  Sometimes she put it in her mouth, to make her mother sigh and pull it back away from her.  And when she grew bored of these games, Laurelia returned to her other favorite pastime: rolling over.  It was a relatively new trick and she was very proud of it, and it was endlessly entertaining besides.  Just yesterday she learned how to prop herself up a bit on her tummy and rock back and forth, and this was also incredibly amusing.

Astoreth smiled over the needlework on her lap, watching her daughter explore the world within her short grasp.  She couldn’t remember her sister being this small, having been too small herself at the time, and aside from that she had never spent much time at all around babies and children before, so everything Laurelia did was fascinating to Astoreth in its own way.  It never ceased to amaze Astoreth how much personality Laurelia showed even at five months – how much she could communicate even without talking (beyond nonsensical babbling, of course), and how persuasive she could be.  Right now, for example, Laurelia was saying “Whoa, Mom, do you see this sunlight!? Isn’t it awesome?!” and Astoreth, who rarely paid sunlight nor moonlight much heed (and never with such enthusiasm), found herself compelled to agree.

The warlock sighed as she finished off a corner, expertly hiding the ends of the silvery thread in the folded silk.  Not that she expected anyone to ever examine these seams so closely, but she refused to give this particular garment anything less than her best.  When Astoreth had begun this project – at two in the morning on yet another sleepless night – she’d been incredibly dismayed to learn that although Bareris owned a half dozen of the damned things, he’d been wearing one, and all the other tabards in his closet were in varying states of torn and stained and scorched – in other words, absolutely useless. Once again she found herself puzzling over paladins’ ridiculous lack of common sense – for true, white tabards look quite dashing on the first wearing, but by the end of the day you’re going to have a yellow or grey tabard and where’s the sense in that?  Astoreth had briefly pondered just buying a new one for this project… but, no.  If you want a job done right, as they say.

A thought occurred to Astoreth as stood up and shook out the finished garment, and she couldn’t help laughing at herself, causing Laurelia to look up with wide eyes and a grin of her own.  First there was the inherent irony of a warlock – one who often described herself as being ‘not on speaking terms’ with the Light – crafting a tabard of the Argent Crusade for one of its champions.  Then on top of that, for all that Astoreth disdained the Argents’ folly in choosing a white tabard, she’d managed to make this one even less practical than usual with her choices of fine silks and velvets for the construction.  The embellishments were not merely grey and yellow but actual silver and gold thread that flashed in Laurelia’s sunlight, and the drape was far too long to be practical for any warrior, lest he trip over his own fashion.  But it looked splendid.  It was dramatic… and Bareris was a man who loved his drama. 

And anyway, it wasn’t like this one was going anywhere.

Astoreth crossed the room to where the armor already stood half-set-up on its frame; the ensemble Bareris had worn to their wedding, polished to shine like the stars.  Carefully she draped the tabard over it, pulling it down and adjusting it to fit.  Once in place she bent, picked up the pauldrons and with some effort placed them on the shoulders, and refastened the cloak.  Having finished, she stepped back to admire her work. 

Laurelia watched her mother intently.  “Ba ba baaaaa ba ba,” she said sagely.

“It does look good, doesn’t it?” Astoreth replied, surprised by the way her own voice seemed to echo in the room.

“Da da,” Laurelia replied.

Astoreth had been calm throughout the entire task to this point; the very objective of this endeavor, in fact, was to be calming.  But suddenly something inside her chest hurt, and she blinked to keep back tears. It’s just babbling, she told herself.  It doesn’t mean anything.  Just baby babble.  Hadn’t she told Bareris that, the first time Laurelia had done it?

He hadn’t believed her, either. 

“Yes, Laurelia,” she said softly.  “I miss him too.”

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