"What's this?" Martina lifted her head from the table -- the drinking binge she'd gone on after Patrick's death had left her with one hell of a hangover -- and stared at the pile Aeger had just dumped on the table.
"A bunch of Patrick's crap. I was sorting through his stuff and getting rid of the junk."
"This is not junk. This is a book." Martina held up the small, leather-bound book and considered making several choice remarks on the intellectual curiosity of sibeccai or lack thereof, but thought better of it. With Patrick gone, the party was going to have to depend on Aeger more than ever before. Not to mention Aeger had always been a bit of a brat and was likely to become even more of one now that he wasn't a squire with a knight of the Diamond Throne to keep him in line. And if Martina and Aeger came to blows, Martina wasn't sure if there was anyone in the party who could pull him off her (or her off him, though she was hoping they'd agree it was time the boy had a good ass-kicking). Jaysin maybe; the akashic was still something of a mystery and she had no idea how strong he was. Malize was doubtful as well, and the image of tiny Phaeryn trying to pull apart two pissed-off fighters was the first thing to make her smile all day. "I wonder what it was... Never realized Patrick was much of a reader."
Malize came downstairs an hour later to find Martina with her head down on the table, sobbing.
Malize sat down quietly and waited. She'd been through enough of Martina's crying jags and hysterics to know how to handle them. When Martina finally stopped, she passed her a handkerchief.
"Patrick's journal." Martina gestured to the book while blowing her nose. "He had a fiancee. He had a fiancee and he didn't tell us. Didn't he trust us?"
"You know how private Patrick was."
"Yeah, not like anybody else around here." Martina stared at Malize meaningfully. "Look at this page. Certainly answers some questions I had about what you were up to that winter in Martinsburg."
Malize blushed, or maybe she did, Martina thought. The wine-colored skin made it hard to tell.
"It used to drive me batshit when he'd go on about me being pregnant. Now I think I'd give anything to hear him do that one more time."
"He used to say some very odd things like that. Anything unusual we did he ascribed to our strange female systems."
"Remember the time he dumped Phaeryn in the snow?"
"And how he would always pull his visor down when he didn't want to talk about something?"
"And how drunk he got after his knighting ceremony, and we were trying to find an antidote for the poison and he was just like 'where's the ale?'"
"You know he paid Aeger extra to insult you, right?"
"That bastard!" There was no bitterness in Martina's laugh.
"What should we do with his journal?"
"Let's hang on to it. If... when we go back to Martinsburg, his fiancee will want it." Martina paused. "He really was a hell of a man."
"I know. I'll miss him too."