Two town guards, halbreds in hand, greeted Yusef and Theresa as they stepped through the Skara Brae Moongate. “Welcome home. Thank Spirituality that you are both alright,” said one of them. The other, younger than the first, said nothing, and merely kept an admirable, if rather creepy, vigil over their surroundings. “Yes, we are,” said Theresa. Yusef knew what a lie that was, especially for Theresa, whose ordeal had been extreme, but he said nothing. They were both alright physically, more or less. That would have to do. The guards escorted the couple to their room at the Inn. The room, the guards explained, had been cleaned and repaired, just for them. The guards had all contributed something to the effort. The books put back, even, though some of the books had been destroyed in the fight. A guard would always be stationed nearby, and would be able to, if nothing else, sound the alarm more quickly than before if someone came back for them. “We Skarans must look out for each other,” said the guard. Theresa was grateful, gracious, and courteous. Yusef saw the unspoken terror that lay behind her beautiful eyes. This was not an easy homecoming. On their walk home, Yusef and Theresa could tell that much had changed in the town during their captivity. The streets were dirtier, the people were angrier, the town itself just felt more isolated. This had been brewing for awhile, but now the hour was at hand. Not all of the people even seemed to look at Theresa and Yusef as the neighbors they were, and had been for years. The local dialect and accent even seemed stronger than it had before, like people were exaggerating it, like they were exaggerating something that made them distinct among and separate from other Britannians. “How can we stay here,” Yusef blurted out once they were alone. “How can we not, love. We must live somewhere.” “We need a house of our own. With the usual locks and wards.” “I have said that for years, love.” Yusef sighed. “I know. I am sorry. We will have one. And I will not wait for the wedding to find us one,” Yusef said. He meant it too. Theresa could tell, and she smiled. In silence the couple took care of the last details of cleaning the room. Guards are not maids, and, when cleaning up, they will always miss something. There was a little dirt, a little dried blood, a few pieces of torn paper. But the guards had done well overall, and before long the room was more or less back to how it was before the attack. It seemed much smaller to them both now, not cozy small, but oppressive small. They were suddenly aware of how little space there actually was in their room, how much space the books actually took up. “A library,” Yusef stated. “We will have a library in our house.” “Of course we will, love. You are a Professor and I am your Assistant.” “'Skarans,' they called themselves,” Yusef commented. “Not Britannians. Skarans.” “I noticed that too.....And the garbage, and the starving people.” “There have always been poor Britannians, but there was always enough around, enough surplus, so that even those with nothing still had something, and even the hungry were not starving.” “We've always taken care of our own and there's always been an 'us.' Not Skarans or Vesperians, well, that, but Britannians too, and sometimes even first. The whole country was the 'us.'” “That, that identity, had been strained of late. No King, no Queen. But, while we were away, while we were...held prisoner....something broke.” “And everyone seems so....Nervous. Separated. Not even the Virtues seems to hold us together. Not 'thank the Virtues,' they said.” “'Thank Spirituality.' Like there were no others.” “Yes.” Silence again. Yusef sat in a chair, Theresa sat on the bed. Though she was fully clothed and it was not particularly cold, she drew the sheets about herself. “I love you, Theresa.” “I love you, Yusef.” “When will we be married?” “We'll need a new dress.” Yusef sighed, and smiled at her. Silence again, for a long while. “You will need to write her soon,” Theresa eventually said, meaning Lady Amandine, the Commander of the Knights of Crux Anasta. “I know,” replied Yusef. “Start now.” “Why now?” Theresa spoke quickly, like she had to get all out before she changed her mind. “Because, my husband-to-be, sooner or later, I will come to a point where I must talk about what happened and I'll need to say it sooner or later but I'll only have the one chance and I don't know when it'll come, and you will need to write her sooner rather than later, you delayed too long before, and best to write it now, while there is still silence. Before my words flow like a torrent.” She was near to tears but, for now, she held them back. There was no reasonable way to argue with her, and Yusef knew it. She was right. He reached for the paper and pen and began to write.