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The watering can and wheelbarrow (with tweaked handlebars) are designs of Balbo's.
Annora watched—without being obvious, she hoped—as the Bounty's innkeeper spoke with a pair of foreign elves. They were asking about long-lost brothers and sisters or something of that nature.
Sadness touched her before she realized it. An innkeeper's job was not so different from that of a head servant in the palace. Even as the older woman spoke with the visitors, she kept a close eye on the servants she could see, making sure they weren't slacking in their duties.
For the hundredth time, Annora wondered where she had gone wrong, wondered how her own servants could turn on her, wondered when she had grown too soft.
Even her own son, it seemed, now held her in contempt. As she waited—waited!—for him to call on her, she often passed the time by imagining him crawling to her on hands and knees, begging forgiveness for the way he treated her.
And then she felt foolish. It wasn't like her to give into stupid fantasies. It wasn't like her to just wish Roan would apologize to her.
Again, she'd become too soft. She had to be stronger. She had to assert her will like she'd always done before. She had to show the boy his mother wouldn't be made a fool.
A familiar figure in a soldier's uniform but no helmet was coming up beside the fence. Her hopes soared, then she squashed them. She would not be happy to see him.
Roan stopped at the entrance to the Bounty, about to enter, when he spotted her. He at least had the decency to look slightly uncomfortable.
"Let's talk in your room," he told her.
Still no proper apology? Annora sniffed.
"I don't have a room," she replied coldly.
Roan frowned, gesturing for her to follow him toward one of the beds of flowers. She did so in the most indignant walk she could muster.
"Were you robbed?" he asked. "I'll put in a report—"
"I had to abandon my horse and possessions when the city guards began chasing me."
Too late, she realized her mistake. She was no longer the person he remembered her being. All of her authority had crumbled to dust.
"I'm not the head servant of the palace anymore." The words were out of her mouth before she could take them back.
Roan's eyes widened. "But why? What happened?"
"I . . ." she hesitated. "I'd rather not discuss it."
Rather not? What was she? A child asking permission? She had to be in control here!
"And I won't discuss it until you apologize for your unacceptable behavior back at the beach."
There—that was much better.
He blew out a breath of frustration. "It's always the same with you, Mother. Every crack filled and every weakness covered. Even in front of your own son."
"That's not true!" she snapped. "You have no right to—"
"I sometimes wonder if that was why Father left."
Images stabbed her like a knife. An open door banging against the wind. A slip of paper falling to the floor.
Stifling a sob, she pushed away from Roan.
"Mother!" he shouted after her. "Mother, wait!"
She turned to scream at him through her tears. "How dare you treat me this way after everything I've been through!"
"But you won't tell me what you've been through!" he answered angrily. "So how can you expect me to know?!"
Annora wanted to storm off and recompose herself—regain control. But she was just too tired. And it was too much work.
She sighed and lowered her voice. "I was imprisoned by the Provider. He thought I was conspiring with the Anti-Ethereans against him. Your uncle freed me."
For a moment Roan didn't speak. "So that's why you came."
"But how could he . . . ?"
"The servants," she said. "They tried to assassinate him. I was only in the way. But I didn't even suspect it. I should have suspected it. I practically raised the fools."
Roan looked at her, eyes sad. "Mother . . ." he paused, as if wanting to say more but changing his mind. "I'm sorry."
Just this once, she allowed herself to feel his sympathy.
Annora reached out and touched his face. "It is good to see you again, Roan. But I still think you should shave."
He laughed, embracing her. "Come, I'll find you a room."