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he soft, rapid footsteps echoed down HA Corridor. It sounded like Sina or Drest, but I knew they had moved to Nivalar months before. I looked out the open door of my office to see who walked by. Instead of walking by, Drest peered in and knocked on the door frame.

"Drest," I said, "what a pleasure. Please, come in and sit down. Why are you in Tala today?" We had been friends since we were children so I knew him well enough to know he had no interest in ceremony (such as my standing when he came into the room) and preferred to be called by his name (not Prince or Your Highness). Besides, I was his cousin, through his father's side, and I felt that granted me a few privileges.

Drest's smile was a bit self-conscious and he avoided looking at me. He walked toward my desk, fidgeting, clapping his hands as he swung his arms in front of his body. I narrowed my eyes; something was up. "Tira," he said, lowering himself into the chair, "I am here to offer you a promotion."

"A promotion? Of what kind?"

"How would you like to be the official Taigian historian?"

I cocked an eyebrow. "An historian. Why do you think we need an historian?"

"Well," he said, leaning on my desk, finally looking me in the eyes. Somewhat intensely; I leaned back. "Sina suggested I read the historic documents left by the Kana Tai. When I admitted the documents were interesting and that it was a pity the Faer had not continued the practice once the Kana Tai left, she insisted it would be my job to rectify that oversight. And you know Sina when she insists."

I nodded. I had been flattened by Sina's insists too.

Drest continued, assuming my nod meant I was considering his proposal. "Well, I don't have time to do it, but then I thought of you. You have always loved to do research. And write. And read. This job would be perfect for you."

"So tell me what the job would entail, precisely."

"Oh it wouldn't be difficult. You'll be reading (you'll like that) all the Kana Tai records, interviewing people (mostly within the family, you like the family, right? close enough), and writing up (won't that be fun?) what you learn in a cogent manner. There is no one in the family more cogent than you!"

"And?"

"One of the people you'll have to interview is Sina."

Drest waited. "Are you done laughing?" he asked when I had snorted and coughed into silence.

"I think so," I said, biting my lip.

"Do you have a problem with interviewing Sina?"

"No, no problem," I snorted, regaining control. "She's my favorite cousin, except for you, of course, but I doubt she will submit to my questions with any grace. You know how she hates to talk about herself."

"Oh, don't worry about that," he flapped his hand at me. "Jesse and I will help you. And I'm sure Pyn will be a valuable ally. Between the four of us we'll be able to extract the information from her."

After being assured by Great Aunt Eritha that she thought the idea was a good one and she knew someone who might be able to replace me, I agreed to the job. I thought Drest was overconfident with the ability of a mere four people to make Sina reveal her private thoughts.

It was even more difficult than I had expected. Granted, Sina was often busy, but she did have a few hours each week she could devote to the project. A few hours she was reluctant to give. I was patient. I read all the Kana Tai records and interviewed everyone I could think of besides Sina. (Domnall was the easiest. He loved to talk about himself. And I liked to listen. Domnall is a sweet and interesting man.) Eventually, when I had finished with those tasks, I had no choice but to pursue my most reluctant subject.

She became an expert at avoidance. When she would see me walking down the hall she would spin and hurry off in the opposite direction. The more rapidly I followed, the more rapidly she walked. If I trotted to catch up, she ran. Now, I'm short, only 5 feet 4 inches. Sina is 6 feet 3 inches. Her legs are really long. And she's fast. If she doesn't want to be caught, I don't think anyone on Taigia can catch her.

I realized this would require some thought and cunning.

Drest and Jesse hid in various places within the palace. I would herd Sina toward their location. When she fled from me, they would step out and catch her. Against two men she stood no chance unless she used Energy. She wouldn't do that against her brothers so she could only struggle while they dragged her into her office.

Once they had forced her into a chair, they would stand guard so she couldn't escape. I would settle myself into the other chair and start "grilling" her. At least, that's what Jesse called the interview.

When Sina became adept at avoiding places where Drest and Jesse could hide, we enlisted Fillia and Becor. For a time they were able to control her movements, but when she took to avoiding them, we asked Pyn to help. We should have done that from the first.

Pyn would set up a fictitious appointment, cleverly comouflaged among all the legitimate appointments Sina had during the week, so she would be waiting unaware in her office. When Drest, Jesse, Fillia, Becor, and I walked in, she had no escape. Sighing in resignation, she would lead me over to the chairs by the window. Everyone else stood far enough back that Sina did not feel as though her confidences would be overheard. At least not until the historic documents were written.

It eventually became easier for her to express the thoughts and emotions she experienced during the war. After months of interviews, I finally had all the information I needed to write the history surrounding what Sina called The Great Debacle.

It took me years of research and three years to write the book. When I was done I called it Warrior, after the title Sina had earned during the war. In fact, I had gathered so much information that I couldn't include in Warrior, because the resulting book would have been too heavy to heft, that I decided to write these short reports as a way to expand on the historic document. This is what Jesse calls, "the background story," and he tells me it will help the reader to understand the history of the people in a narrative.

As much as anyone can be, I am Sina's confidante. Although she knows I won't share what she tells me with others, she also realizes it eventually will be revealed in the historic documents. She has come to accept that. I live in the palace and maintain a discrete presence during all activities. Discrete is easy because I am short (a rarity for a Laoch), somewhat plain, and quiet. It's as easy to overlook someone like me as it is to overlook a shadow.

I have learned to decipher Sina's moods and guess at her thoughts. I rarely have to question her anymore. Now that I understand her, it will not be as difficult to ensure that the history of Taigia is preserved for all to read.