The next day, Tyrric got out of Miri when the troupe was due to return to Yoho’nai so he could send a message, then he rode for home. His brief meeting with her that morning had allowed him a glance into her wagon, and what he saw in it seemed to corroborate her story: the starkness of poverty and the faint, sour smell of a lingering sickness.
When he made it home to Dawnmist, Keelath was so overjoyed to have news that he broke away from the possessive arms of another suitor to hug Tyrric in her place.
“Maybe it’s your loyalty I should be worried about,” grunted Tyrric.
Keelath shook his head, as the woman behind him sighed and called for another tray of refreshments from their single servant. “So? How was she? Where is she?”
“Oh, fo–” Tyrric grabbed Keelath’s shoulder and pulled him into the next room, as the suitor continued to make grumpy sighs behind them. “I did find her,” he told the eagerly listening Keelath, “but then…”
Tyrric hesitantly told his brother Miri’s story, leaving out the part about the awkward kiss: he didn’t think that would help Keelath’s nerves any. Keelath didn’t seem to notice any gaps in the story though, and he grew grim as Tyrric finished with what he glimpsed of Miri’s wagon.
“I know that sickness,” Keelath said. “It’s true the priests of Yohon’nai can cure it, but they usually ask for a pretty copper for it. It’s likely her father will die.”
“Well, at least she isn’t cheating on you,” said Tyrric stiffly, gamely keeping the shame out of his face. “I made sure of that.”
Keelath didn’t notice his discomfort and nodded. He returned to entertain the suitor, but throughout the day, he went on thinking, in that slow but steady way of his. Tyrric saw it in his face as Keelath distractedly bid the lady farewell, then wandered the garden doing his chores with more care than usual. Tyrric left him alone, wanting nothing more than but to wash the whole matter out of memory, but he had a feeling it wouldn’t be so.
Later, after dinner and as Tyrric was just leaving the table, Keelath finally spoke up. “We would have the money for it.”
Their father and mother looked up at him. Tyrric’s blood ran cold, and he paused at the door, since Keelath’s eyes were on him, not his parents. “Barely,” he said uncomfortably. “It would likely put us into debt.”
“What would?” asked their mother, and everyone instinctively stilled and leaned towards her to catch her breathy words.
Keelath gave Tyrric a distrustful look, given what had happened the last time he had spoken about Miri up front of their parents. Tyrric sucked in a breath. He still disapproved of Miri, and still couldn’t stop a rumple of jealousy towards his brother, but, as he sighed the breath out, he found Keelath’s happiness was more important to him than all that in the end.
So he lied. “It’s a charity case,” he said. “One of the elders in the next village over has taken ill. He was a hero in the wars, and his treatment is ever too expensive for his allowance to cover. My brother was thinking we should chip in.”
“I haven’t heard of any war veteran living in Lakeside,” said Keelon. Their father considered for a moment. “Yet it would dishonor me to not step up when a comrade is in need. How much is the treatment?”
Keelath looked at his brother, stars shining in his eyes. Tyrric gave him a stern look, warning him not to get excited yet; the priests’ tribute was still very steep. Tyrric told their parents the sum.
Keelon let out a low whistle, brushing a hand across his brow, furrowed and troubled. Their mother eyed the floor anxiously. “We cannot possibly afford that,” he said. “Half of it, perhaps, but little more. Are there others that can contribute?”
Keelath and Tyrric looked at each other. “I’m afraid their local community has been tapped out,” said Tyrric.
“The Light will find a way,” said their mother suddenly, but the blesing did nothing to ease Keelon.
“I will look into it,” their father said abruptly. “Perhaps there are others here who can help. Dawnmist is a strong community.”
“And a poor one,” muttered Tyrric.
“We will pray for them,” his mother assured, and she waved at their servant to help her stand. Keelon rushed to her side instead, tenderly taking her up in his arms and carrying her to her room.
“She’s not looking well, either,” said Tyrric with a sigh. “Honestly, brother, when you took up with a troubadour woman, I didn’t expect she’d be more expensive than all your city suitors put together!”
Keelath said nothing in reply to the joke, and he didn’t smile. Tyrric hesitantly touched his brother’s shoulder in comradery, than he left the dining room after their parents, shaking his head.