I think this takes place the same morning Isobelle was talking with James.
After leaving Mr. Lloyd’s shop, Niamh returned to Draconian headquarters to update Captain Waggoner on the new developments she had learned. Once her report was complete, she still desperately wanted to talk to Isobelle, but by this time the Captain would be at Grey Haven and Niamh felt her energy quickly fading. Returning to Derry Dale, Niamh found it hard to fall asleep, and when she did sleep, she dreamed of Thomas. She was surprised how vivid memories from ten years ago could be.
Her shift that night was thankfully quite, although she had a hard time focusing due to the lack of sleep. As soon as she was off duty, she headed for Hawthorne Manor, hoping she would be able to speak with Isobelle this time. Arriving at Hawthorne Manor, she knocked on the door. An older woman opened the door, “Is Lady Hawthorne available, please?” Niamh asked. The woman sighed and led her into a small room to wait. Niamh found herself pacing the room while waiting to hear word from her friend.
Lady Hawthorne was about to step out for the day when Laurel stopped her, “M’Lady, Lieutenant O’Derry is here to see you.”
Isobelle smiled, “Thank you,” And went to meet her friend, the smile fell a little when she found Niamh pacing the room, “Niamh, a pleasant surprise, Is everything alright?”
Niamh relaxed a little when Isobelle walked in. “I,” she paused, trying to find the right words, “just need someone to talk to.” She sat down on the edge of a chair to stop herself from pacing more. “I learned yesterday that an old…” acquaintance? friend? “lover, was murdered in Tallhill last month. Part of me wants to go there to find out what happened, the other part is wondering why I even care. I just don’t know what I’m feeling right now.”
Isobelle frowned at the news, “I am sorry for your loss.” She brought a chair over and sat next to Niamh, “If you wish closure you should go, it is not good to let these feelings linger.” She spoke with a more subdued authority than normal, “You care because old friends, and lovers, still hold a place in our hearts.” She smiled, “I suggest you go,” She stood up, “Duty calls, but, if you decide to go and wish company I will make myself available.” She put a hand on Niamh’s shoulder to assure her friend.
A strange expression came across Isobelle’s face in an instant, before Niamh could respond, “No, this will not due. I treat everything as a duty to fulfill, it is bad for the stomach,” She undid the belts holding her swords on, “Come, we will spend a morning on more frivolous activity, you can tell me about your lover. That will help sort your feelings.” She draped the swords over the back of a chair and offered an arm with a smile.
Niamh smiled back and took Isobelle’s arm, a little bit of her energy returning. As they walked outside, Niamh found herself opening up, “Arwyn and I were in Tallhill when I turned sixteen. I knew mother was preparing to move again, so in an act of defiance, I enlisted with the Draconians. She was disappointed, but wished me well. The Draconians, on the other hand, didn’t know what to do with me. A witch had never joined the force before. I obviously didn’t belong in the Theologic Corp, witches are not technically priests. Since I could do some magic, they put me in the Thaumaturgic Corp. I had a hard time there though. The way they taught magic was just not the way my spells worked. Then another trainee, Thomas Brown, offered to tutor me. He was a few years older than I was. He had curly black hair, sky blue eyes that you lost yourself in, a sly smile and surprisingly strong hands for a wizard. He had a way of working out the knots in my shoulders whenever I got frustrated. I had never had that kind of attention shown to me before. I had always been teased, or ignored. He taught me a great deal, not all about magic.” Niamh found herself smiling, and blushing a little at the memories. “Several weeks after we had become lovers I caught him in bed with another trainee. During the argument that followed, it came out that the only reason he had offered to tutor me was to try to get me into bed.” Niamh sighed. “My first lover and first heartbreak.” She stopped and looked at Isobelle. “It’s the fact that he was murdered that I don’t understand, and right now it’s impossible for me to try to go to Tallhill. It’s a least a month’s journey, that’s riding long hard days. With Captain Waggoner resigning, I can’t be absent for the few months it would take. Besides, I haven’t seen him or talked to him in ten years, so I wouldn’t be much help to the investigation. I’ve sent a request asking for any updates, but it can be a few months before I hear anything new.” When she finally stopped talking, Niamh felt the exhaustion wash over her again, “I just don’t know what to think or do.”
Isobelle had steered them towards town as Niamh talked, “We always carry the good memories of the ones we love. Especially when they hurt us.” Isobelle smiled, “He was careless with your heart, and by accounts perhaps with the hearts of others. Well, if you cannot go, not without leaving your post here. Perhaps we can enlist the help of those who can.” She had a bit a sly smile, “We are on good terms with a group who can be trusted, I believe. But first, perhaps some tea, relax your nerves.” Isobelle suggested.
Niamh raised an eyebrow, “The Deadly Seven?” she shook her head. “I don’t think it’s worth the fee they would ask for such an errand. There’s just no possible way to get any new information any quicker. I’m just going to have to be patient and wait for the report from Tallhill.” They had entered a café and had sat down to drink their tea. “How you doing? Is Sir Hawthorne helping with dealing with what happened with Nathaniel?” She bit her lip and looked down at her tea. “I’m sorry. Don’t answer that. I shouldn’t pry.”
Isobelle smiled, “The monster hunters are belligerent, uncivilized brutes. But they’re also honest, and good at what they do.” She shrugged.
“As for Nathaniel,” She sighed and paused, “I am as well as I can be, I’ve been in mourning for a year now already in some ways. Or longer. The Nathaniel I married was not the man I met in the hills that day.” She looked sad for a moment, “James is also coping with the loss. We are becoming a little more comfortable with each other.” She sipped her tea, “He is being kind considering the situation. He is a good man, but I may be a little more, forward that he’d wish.”
Niamh nodded knowingly, “It takes time for two people to adjust to each other. I also know how long it can take for the heart to heal. If the two of you can support each other, the healing will be a little easier.” She looked out the window, her gaze focused elsewhere. “That was the mistake I made when Arwyn died. I shut everyone out, even the person I was closest to.” She looked back at Isobelle and smiled. “Thank you for taking the time to listen. I’ve never had many friends, so I very much appreciate your friendship.”
“Any time you want to talk, I’ll be here.” Isobelle smiled back, “I’m glad we’re friends, I don’t have many here. It feels good to be open and relaxed with someone.” She relaxed slightly in her seat, “James and I will be fine together, as these things go. I could do worse than him or this family.” She put her cup down, “But, back to the Deadly Seven. If you wish I will inquire to a price to find out information. I feel they will be far more reliable, and truthful in what they find, than most.” She said in a casual, if slightly persistent, manner.
Niamh considered the offer for a moment. Would the Deadly Seven be able to find any new information that the Draconians would not send to her? For that matter, would the officers in Tallhill send her any information at all? Was it really important for her to know the details of how Thomas died or why he was murdered? Finally she sighed and nodded. “As long as the fee isn’t too outrageous, I suppose there is no harm in asking. Part of me thinks it’s silly to even pursue this, but there’s also the feeling that something is just not right. Or perhaps I’m just too tired to think clearly.”
“As long as it’s going to be on your mind, you might as well put some of the thoughts at ease.” Isobelle nodded, “There’s nothing more aggravating than a question you can’t get the answer to. Trust me. Well, if you’re as tired as you look I should let you get some rest.” Isobelle said, “Unless you had more on your mind?” She paused, “Otherwise I can talk to the Deadly Seven and arranged for them to send back some information.”
Niamh shook her head. “Thank you, I appreciate your help.” She smiled as she stood up and stretched, “We should do this more often, and invite Wythri next time.”
“Absolutely." Isobelle agreed, standing up “Next time we’ll plan ahead as well.” There was some mirth in her tone, “Anytime you wish my help or to talk I am available.”