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She pleaded the evening to herself on account of exhaustion; it seemed easier, somehow than explaining her plan.  She suspected that at least a couple of people would have understood — but she would have called the idea silly and sentimental herself, had someone else described it to her, and so she kept it to herself.

She wore her black velvet gown with the silver trim and ruby belt that shimmered and gleamed in the candlelight, flattering her complexion and accentuating her fel-green eyes.  She took dinner at the inn in Fairbreeze, close to her home; choice steak and crab, with a salad of spring greens and several glasses of Suntouched Special Reserve, and if any wondered at the glass she ordered for the empty chair at her table they were discreet enough to say nothing.

After dinner she rode to the coast, to sit on the sand and gaze at the stars.  There she ultimately stayed for several hours, talking, letting her words float away on the ocean breeze as her steed nibbled grass at the edge of the forest.  It was nearly midnight when she departed for home, singing as she rode, tones echoing from the trees.

The manor was quiet and dark when she arrived, and she was careful as she moved through it to make as little sound as possible, lest she wake her child or any of the sleeping staff.  She drew herself a hot bath, scented it with lavender and roses and lit candles all around, and luxuriated in the water until the steam died away and her skin began to cool.

She rose and dried and patted herself with fine scented powder before  brushing her hair and sliding into a diaphanous silk gown.  Quietly she padded into her room, slipped into her great four-poster bed and nestled against her pillows.  She turned her head to gaze at the empty space beside her, and let her fingers wrap around the coin on its slender chain resting between her breasts, and sighed softly.  The connection it usually provided had been muted these last several weeks by distance and arcane interference, but it was still warm — and that, she reminded herself, was what really mattered, tonight and every night.  Smiling softly, she closed her eyes. 

“Happy Anniversary, Bareris,” she whispered to the darkness.

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