There was something different about the day, though I wasn't the one to notice. It was Nava Jarek of the Writer's Guild who came to visit my grandfather that morning, removed his cloak, stretched his arms and yawned in a show of nonchalance that took me by surprise and even made my ailing grandfather chuckle.

    "Jarek, you would put Nava Nirel on edge if he were to see how informal you are around your superiors." Nava Jarek stiffened a bit as he took his seat, and for a moment his expressive glance betrayed slight hesitance, but my grandfather laughed again, waving a careless hand in his direction. "Sit! Sit, " he encouraged, smiling.

    Nava Jarek's momentary tenseness relaxed and a contented smile crossed his face as he picked at a thread on his sleeve before turning a querying gaze to me. His blue-grey eyes twinkled. "And you, Dahree? Do you think our dedicated GrandMaster would find my manners rather lax?" He leaned forward and tousled my head as he had done ever since I was a mere child, though I was a child no more. I laughed softly in reply, and as the Writer's Guildmaster sat back he pointed at me in mock importance and said "Now, don't answer that!"

    It was good to hear Grandfather's resulting laughter again--a warm rumbling chuckle that had always found its way to comforting me when things seemed insurmountable. Looking at the thinning skin and deepening lines in my grandfather's face, I realized that there was an assurance about age that I trusted. Something as solid and stable as the stone that surrounded us.

    Grandfather was a Guildmaster, and Nava Jarek, a Senior Guildsman; they acted more like brothers than Guild acquaintances even though they were separated by over two-hundred hahrtee. And ever since my grandmother had died and grandfather's health had waned, Nava Jarek had made it a point to visit Grandfather every day.

    "There is something different about the day." Nava Jarek made the observation as he rose from his seat and gazed out the window that overlooked the J'taeri District. He squinted his eyes and scratched his head before sitting down once again, then seemed to dismiss the thought with a brightened expression to me.

    "Now you're beginning to sound like Nava Remehris, Jarek." My grandfather chided, but the resulting rebuttal from Nava Jarek was only slightly amused.

    "Please, Nava!" There was a grim shadow behind his laughter as he said it. "Do not utter my name in the same breath with Remehris. I've heard enough of his criticisms of Nava Aitrus and Ti'ana to last me a lifetime. Perhaps two." Jarek's gaze darted to me as his mouth pulled into an invariable frown, and he cleared his throat while sitting forward. "I'm sure that Dahree tires of our politically-contrived banter," he began, but once again Grandfather's laughter calmed him, and my own expression had formed into unmistakable amusement.

    "We were speaking of such "politically contrived banter" just before you arrived," I offered, pulling at my long sleeves and sitting back before meeting Nava Jarek's gaze cheerfully. "In fact, we were just discussing the matter of Aitrus."

    Jarek's eyes narrowed as he shook his head and smiled at my Grandfather. "And here I thought you two would be speaking of the Musician's Guild, or Dahree's cantica lessons. I gave mock reproach in the glare that followed, and sighed. "Please, can we do anything but discuss the cantica?"

    "Your mother is the best canticist in all of D'ni, Dahree," Jarek said with a raised eyebrow.

    "And I suppose, as my father's only daughter, it falls upon me to play as well as my mother--"

    "Which reminds me," Jarek interjected jauntily. "I knew there was a reason I was here so early today." He turned his gaze to me once again; this time the twinkling of his eyes held certain mischief. "Your mother asked if I would be so kind as to make certain that you met her at the Musician's Guild for your music lesson today."

    I hadn't meant to groan in reply, but the following sigh betrayed me, and I turned to my Grandfather in appeal. "Could we pretend that Nava Jarek wasn't here at all, and that I had forgotten all about my lesson?"

    The smile that flooded the aged features of my Grandfather's face made it worth the futile plea, but I well knew what answer would follow.

    "I suppose we could pretend, Dahree," he began thoughtfully, "but you would know the truth of it in your heart, now, wouldn't you?" I met his gaze smiling and offered the slightest nod in reply.

    "Besides, your lesson isn't for awhile, yet, and I'm sure that Nava Jarek is more than eager to get back to our political banter," Grandfather continued.
   To be continued...