sister, sister

POSTED: Fri Jan 25, 2019 7:46 pm

The old port city rose quietly on the horizon, drenched in snow and dusky winter light. She pressed Achim forward, snow cracking beneath his hooves. It had been a week there at least, and it would be a week back plus however many days she could stand being around her family.

The streets were as she remembered them, merchants calling out with their goods strewn over their arms or carefully perched on shelves or thrown into their wagons. Exotic furs that Tamara could not help but be entranced by sometimes caught her eye, but they were far and few between and she did not have nearly enough to trade for them. Maybe someday.

Zibiah's shack was on the outskirts of the city, a haphazardly placed fence surrounding it. Lystra stood by a pile of hay, and Tamara took a moment to slide from Achim's back and move quietly towards the fence so as not to startle her. Snow dusted her liver hide, the white feathering around her hooves blending into the snow. "You've gotten fat," Tamara joked, hopping smoothly over the fence so she could give the old mare a pat on her neck. "What have you been up to since I've been gone?" Of course, Lystra could not speak, but Tamara still smiled at her and ran a hand along her neck.

A door creaked, and Tamara whipped her head quickly to see the slender face of her mother peaking out from behind the crooked entryway. Tamara rushed through the snow, giddy as a child, and wrapped her arms around her neck.

"Come inside."

***

Tamara held her hands up to the fire, sat on a fur spread across the dirt floor. Zibiah set a small wooden cup with tea that smelled of mint beside her. "Your brother has been helping some old man build a little house nearby," she said, easing herself onto the floor. Tamara let her eyes wander to the thick scarring on her mother's back, markings of a story she had not yet had the privilege to hear. Maybe someday, Zibiah always said with a small glimmer of pain in her eyes, but that someday never came around.

"What about Shira?" Tamara asked, picking up the cup in her hands and taking a sip. It burned her tongue a little, and she winced. Tamara kept it in her hands, still cold from days spent riding through the winter snow, hoping it would bring some feeling back to them.

Zibiah leaned back and chuckled to herself. "Don't get me started on your sister." Tamara raised a brow at her mother. Shira had not shown her face since Tamara had returned.

"What does that mean?" she asked, raising her cup to sniff it before lowering it again. Still too hot.

A sigh slipped past the old coyote's lips, and she closed her eyes for a moment and took a drink out of the cup she had in her own pale hands. "She's been getting into trouble, running around with the wrong crowd, spending her nights at the bars. Some nights she doesn't even come home until the sun is up..." she trailed off and looked up, as if the old roof and its patched holes would have some sort of answer for her. "I try to get Bram to go watch her, but she always manages to loose him one way or another. And he has his own life, too."

Tamara blew lightly at the steam rising from her tea and tried to take another sip. [i]Still too hot.


"Maybe she ought to go back with you, make use of herself in Inferni." Tamara froze as the words slipped from her mother's mouth, looking down into her cup.

"Inferni's gone." Neither of them had much of an attachment to the coyote clan. From what her mother had told her, she had not spent much time there. Tamara hadn't, either, only knew of it from her mother's stories and some of the Cartel members who still bothered to reminiscence about it. "I went to find it and was met with nothing, just a few loners who had yet to abandon the borders."

Zibiah sipped from her cup, smoke curling round her wolfish maw. "Then what have you been doing? Hanging around alone?"

"No." Tamara was not sure how to describe the Cartel to her mother. They had become her family to the east, but they hadn't replaced her mother and siblings at home. "I met a few old members of Inferni, the Cartel. They're like family to me." Tamara looked to her mother, searching her face for any key into what she might have to say next.

"How long are you staying here?" was all she said.

"A few more days."

"Take Shira with you."

"What?" Tamara had moved to take a sip of her tea, still hot but finally cool enough that it would not blister her tongue. She nearly spilled it when her mother spoke. The Cartel was different than Inferni, she was not sure if it was the right place for Shira to be, especially if what Zibiah said about her was true. "I..." But she couldn't say no to her mother, especially if her little sister was getting into trouble.

Zibiah sighed. "Take Lystra with you, too, Shira has taken to her. And Dagrun. He is bored of the city, needs something to do."

"Okay."

***

Tamara returned to the busiest parts of the city where her mother said that her sister normally was. Achim had joined Lystra in the field, much to his dismay, but the busy Portland streets were no place for a warhorse.

The stench of alcohol filled her nose as she drew closer to one of the more run-down bars, the door crooked and set ajar. She could hear the rumble of men's voices inside. Drawing her cloak tight around her, she went inside, a dagger fixed to a belt slung around her waist. One could never be too careful.

Perhaps it wasn't the best omen that the first thing she saw was her sister's rusty hair, the slender coyote sat at a table arm wrestling with a man nearly twice her size, muscles flexed. Shira was lean, but her arm eventually gave way.

"You owe me a drink, little lady," the man said gruffly, his hand tightening into a fist on the table.

"Er, I forgot my wares at home, sir," she said, the corners of her lips pulling up into a smirk. Tamara crept forwards, still unnoticed as she drifted through the small crowd that had begun to form around them, people waiting for a real fight to start.

"I've got it," Tamara said, putting a few furs on the bar. The wolf behind the counter poured her a drink into a cracked wooden cup. She took it and handed it to the man before grabbing Shira harshly by the arm, dragging her out the door before anyone could get another word out.

"Hey, sis! What're you doing? Hey, hey, you can let go of me, okay?" she protested. Once they had gotten around a corner, Tamara finally let go, drawing her arms back into her cloak.

"Ma says you have been getting yourself into trouble."

"So what if I have? What are either of you going to do about it?" Shira crossed both of her arms over her chest, a sarcastic little pout spread over her slender maw. "She already tried to get Bram to tail me around the city," she said, her tail swishing behind her.

"You're coming back with me."

"What? No I'm not!"

"Yes you are. Pack your things, quickly."
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