Voices came from the inside of her sister’s house as Robin opened the door and stepped inside. She sat her staff by the door, noting a wonderful smell wafting through the house. It smelled like fresh baked cranberry muffins. She hadn’t eaten in over a day. The shock of the rune and the training with Oxplow and Calithos had taken away all thoughts of eating. But a muffin…that would hit the sp—

 

Robin whirled around. Star didn’t bake muffins. She only baked pie.

 

Three gnomes sat around the dining table with a plate piled with muffins at the center. She was in her own personal hell. Three mages sat around the food, Ciera, and archmage Relina Rocketlaunch…Ciera’s real mother and her stepmother, then…Ceera had taken a place opposite Star. They all turned to look at Robin as she entered.

 

“Lovely niece! How nice of you to join us!” Ceera pats the space diagonal from her, but opposite Relina for Robin to come sit. “You look like hell.”

 

Robin paused, taking in the three. One of them belonged. One was tolerable…and even nice sometimes, but the muffin mage was too much. “None of your business. Family…reunion?” She remained by the door, ready to bolt.

 

Star shook her head. “No. I’d asked Ceera to do something for me. Considering she owes us a –couple- lives, at least. She didn’t find it. Mom was looking for it with her.”

 

“Oh…”

 

“Come sit, dear. Have a muffin. I watched her bake them. They’re fine.” Relina gestured to the seat as well with a warm smile. She resembled Star very closely, but her hair was more of a reddish pink than a pure color.

 

Ceera shook her head, sighing. “When will you learn? I would NEVER taint a muffin with something so vile as poison. Magic or otherwise.”

 

“Because you’re a crazy bitch, Ceera. And one day I’m going to make you pay for what you did.” Robin moved towards the table and sat down. She didn’t touch a muffin. They were staring at her. She didn’t care, the anger at the woman in red for the half-sketched rune she carried was still very, very fresh.

 

Star frowned, but continued talking. “Well, thanks for trying, I guess. Ceera, you’re free to go. Mom, you can stay if you want.”

 

“No, no, sweety. I want to address Robin’s concerns. They were directed at me, weren’t they?” Ceera’s hat changed from purple to a deep black as she spoke. “Robin, I think you forget that I’ve repented my ways. I did for all of you. I saw the error of my ways.” She takes a breath. “But you’re mad at something else. Something that reminds you of me. Of my magic. Why don’t you let me take a look at it?”

 

Robin looked up sharply, staring into Ceera’s eyes. “How…how do you know any of that? How do you know I have anything?!” She scooted back in her chair, putting as much distance between the two of them as she could manage from her position. She noted Star had drawn a knife and was halfway over the table in the blink of an eye and Relina was staring at Ceera with murder in her eyes and a spell on her lips.

 

“Seriously? Put down your weapons." She shook her head in disgust. "It’s because you’re predictable, Robin. You get that look when you’re dealing with anything like me. That sheer, delightful amount of hatred builds up in you and you grow a backbone.” Ceera sat there calmly, not making a move against any of them. “If you want to know if you’ve found something similar to my research, then let me see it. I’ll tell you.”

 

Robin nodded to Star and Relina to back off. What Ceera said made a lot of sense, she was very predictable in these situations. Dammit. “I’m not handing anything over to you. I don’t care what you could tell me about it.”

 

Her “aunt” nodded. “Figured so. When you actually want a chance at surviving that woman…you and your little friend…Kage, is it? Come ask me for help.”

 

Robin wasn’t the only one staring at Ceera again. They all were.

 

“Oh, come on. I was contemplating joining the Templars. I had to research their members. They have considerable magical talent. But nothing quite like me. Think of how invaluable I could be to them? Not that you aren’t, dear. You’re lovely.” She was smiling, leaning back in her chair without a care in the world. It made Robin feel sick.

 

“They wouldn’t let you in. You’re….”

 

“I’m what? A little misguided? I’m a free woman, Robin. I can seek employment and friends anywhere I desire. Lady Dawnfield was there, Robin. She agreed to spare my life. They all did. Would they have done that if they didn’t’ think I was sincere in my quest for redemption? Now, you have a debt to her and so do I. Maybe I want to pay it in my services.”

 

The room went dead silent. Robin looked between the other two gnomes. The looks of shock on their faces mirrored her own. Ceera…wanted to join the Templars? She wanted to repay her debt? Relina managed to speak first.

 

“I don’t think that’s a good idea, Ceera. It would make Robin very uncomfortable.”

 

Star followed up with a nod. “I don’t know what you think you’ll gain by trying that, but they would squash you once you betrayed them.”

 

Robin couldn’t speak, she just kept staring blankly at Ceera. She couldn’t process what she was hearing. Would Arialynn let that happen? Everything Ceera had just said was true. The Justicar had allowed Ceera to live. They all had.

 

“I never said I was going to betray anyone. I may not even do it. But it’s an option. I’m a free woman. Maybe with some mommy issues. She never loved me, you see. She preferred her good stepdaughter. But other than that…I’m as normal as they come.”

 

Relina paled. “Ceera…that…that is not true. Your mother loved you. She just…hated what you became.”

 

The mage stood, brushing her hands on her robes. “Oh, don’t give me that. The three of you want to be mad at the world for what I did. But I’m alone here. Everyone is out to get me. Waiting for me to make some catastrophic mistake.  Even my own family.” Ceera walked straight past them, stalking out of the house. The door rattled after it slammed behind her.

 

“She’s a liar. You both know that. She’s just doing this to get something.” Robin stared at the plate of cooled muffins.

 

Relina nodded, but followed Ceera out the door anyway. Star and Robin sat together in silence for a long moment. “I’m sorry, Robin. I shouldn’t have asked her to come here. I mean…well…her, her.”

 

Robin nodded, looking at her younger sister. “I don’t think either of you can help it. To an extent. I can see the difference, but I don’t think either of you can see it as clearly as I can. She’s pure evil, Ciera.”

 

Star shook her head, returning Robin’s gaze. “And I’m not?”

 

“Of course not! You’ve chosen a different path. You’re fighting things. You were willing to sacrifice yourself for us. You’re still willing to make sacrifices. You’re a great person!”

 

Star laughed, shaking her head again. “No, Robin. I’m afraid…without Min I don’t do so well. The dam isn’t as strong, or something. I don’t know.”

 

Robin frowned. “What do you mean? Is it bad?”

 

“Yeah, you could say that.” Star stood, gesturing to the area where she kept her weapons. They were missing. “I took a job.”

 

“I don’t understand.”

 

“Robin, while you were out there last night trying to stop injustice…I…” Star paused. “I killed someone last night. And I’m not sure they deserved it.”

 

Robin felt her world crumble. 

Author Robin
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