Sandry, head bent over the newfangled spinning wheel her uncle had purchased for her while she was in Namorn, hummed in query.
A moment passed. Then two. That was so unlike Briar that Sandry frowned and started to turn when he said in a low rush, "When you went mad, what was it like?"
One of the funny little wooden pieces (Sandry hadn't had the chance to learn the proper terms yet) snapped off in her hand. Sandry and Briar both looked at it, surprised, and Briar remarked, "I think you need a better spinning wheel."
"I think I need to stick with drop spindles," Sandry replied absently, letting the wooden bit fall from her hand. She stood and compulsively shook out her skirt, not facing Briar.
"Sandry…" Briar began, as the uncomfortable silence grew.
"Why do you ask?" Sandry said to the spinning wheel. It came out more rushed than she intended.
She could hear the rustle as Briar shifted uncomfortably in the doorway. "…Never mind," he said, oddly gently. "It's not that important."
Sandry spun and stabbed a finger in his direction. "Oh no you don't, Briar Moss." She tossed her head, startled to feel tears on her face. "You brought up the single worst moment of my entire life, and I know you - you wouldn't ask that if it wasn't important." Furiously, she scrubbed at her face and stalked over to her brother. "You tell me why you want to know. Why would you ask that?" Her voice cracked on the question.
Briar stared down at her, wide-eyed. After a moment, he reached out and tugged Sandry into a hug, tucking her head under his chin. Grudgingly, she allowed it.
"I don't really remember Gyongxe," he finally whispered into her hair.
Sandry frowned blearily at his shirt and tried to tug away. Briar's arms tightened, and he curled around her a bit more; Sandry abruptly realized the hug was as much for him as it was for her and wrapped her arms around his torso. "I thought you remembered," she said. "You told us some of what happened."
Briar exhaled shakily. "I have … strange dreams. Ones I can't even describe when awake, ones that feel far more real than my memories. Those memories… They're shaky, Sandry. I keep thinking I know what happened, that I know what I saw and experienced and did --" He cut himself off abruptly, shivering, and Sandry tightened her hold until he squeaked. Briar huffed a shaky laugh and tugged one of her pigtails, letting her go.
Sandry stepped back and looked at him. "But?"
Briar shook his head, tiredly rubbing his eyes. "But those things … they're either foggy when I actually try to think about them, or they don't match with the things Rosethorn and Evvy mention. Or what little I've heard from other travelers. It's like…" He trailed off, eyes distant, searching for words. Sandry waited. "It's like I can only remember them clearly when I'm not trying to remember at all. It's driving me crazy, Sandry!"
Sandry tried on a smile. It was tremulous, but held. "Well, I'm afraid I'm no help, Briar." He looked at her, slightly wild-eyed, and she pulled him over for another hug.
"I have the opposite problem," she said into his chest. "I remember everything that happened so clearly that when I think about it, it's like I'm back there, stuck in that stinking, dark closet, listening to that mob murdering Pirisi, or finding my p-parents…" Briar rocked her, gently, while she regained her composure.
"It happens less, as time goes on," she rasped. "When I was in the closet, I didn't think about it much - I had to focus, on that string of light, you know."
"I know," Briar murmured.
"But afterwards…" Sandry paused. "It wasn't just being flash-blinded when they brought the lantern in. I mean, that was part of why I was ill for so long, but it was like once my body had been freed, my mind had been trapped instead, and I had to find my way back out of the dark all over again. Nowadays, it happens less. A lot less. Having family, all of you, and my magic - that helps."
Sandry pulled back, out of the embrace, and found her smile was much firmer now. Briar was still watching her. She grabbed his hands. "Briar Moss, whatever's going on with you - frankly, from my perspective, it doesn't sound all that bad." She laughed, somewhat unsteadily. "It sounds like, for some reason - maybe your mind, maybe magic, maybe even a gift from the gods - you can't remember exactly what happened in Gyongxe, and so your paranoid little thief brain" - she let go of one hand briefly to knuckle his forehead; they both smiled - "is filling in the worst details that could possibly fit." Briar opened his mouth, but Sandry raised one imperious hand and he subsided, grinning ruefully.
"My point, Briar," Sandry continued, "is that it doesn't really matter. Bad things happened to you in Gyongxe. You can't really remember what happened. Maybe that's a good thing; maybe it's not - either way, it's not the end of the world. You've not shown any other signs of madness. Maybe you should just stop worrying it like a loose tooth and just accept it. Talk to us. Tumble pretty girls. Grow more shakkans. Spar with Daja, go annoy Tris until she tosses you out on your ear. Go steal another book from Uncle's library. Or do something completely different you've never done before."
"In other words, look forward and go live my life?" Briar asked wryly. "Why do I come to ask you questions when I already know what answer you're going to give me?"
Sandry socked him gently in the stomach. "Because you need me to tell you anyway."
They stood there for a moment, putting themselves back together, eyeing each other sidelong to make sure the other was all right (and laughing ruefully when they caught each other at it). Then, when they were properly composed to face the rest of the world, Briar slung an arm around Sandry's shoulders and steered her out into Vedris' citadel.
"So… You think I should take up dancing, maybe?"
Sandry laughed. "I've got connections. I could introduce you, if you'd like..."