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Winter faded quickly in Ankhais - it arrived and departed before it inflicted much suffering on the city's residents. Her father's illness was not so kind; and she wondered, sadly, which would pass first: the Per-aa, or the season's chill. And when he passed (sooner, she feared, rather than later), what changes would come to Ankhais? Would blood be shed while she aimed to extend a hand of friendship in Eldur?
Worry balanced heavily against her excitement at traveling and her pride at being chosen as ambassador, but her thoughts were interrupted for the moment by her sister's voice, and her lips turned upwards. "Sabra," Nikare responded warmly as she turned to greet her fierce sister, rising from her seat with well-practiced grace and confidence.
She embraced Sabra without hesitation, counting herself lucky to be among those who could receive such a thing from a woman whose reputation would cast her as little more than an extension of her blade. When their embrace concluded, Nikare motioned to the stone bench she had recently vacated, inviting Sabra to sit with her as they spoke.
"You have heard the truth," she confirmed, knowing that little went on, particularly concerning the royal family, that Sabra did not hear about, and since the matter had been decided weeks ago, there was little chance Sabra had not thoroughly investigated the facts of the trip already. "I go as the voice of the Per-aa himself," Nikare spoke with pride about this aspect of her mission, "to the Concords in Eldur... a celebration of peace and a chance for cooperation between all kingdoms and countries."
It was a lofty goal, and with Sabra, she did not need to bother to hide the doubt she felt about its chances of long-term success. Peace was a fickle thing, and cooperation liked best to walk between manipulation and coercion. "Perhaps it will not be that - but I believe I can find new and stronger alliances there."
"Father was wise to pick you among the delegation."
Nikare felt pride at these words, but pride was quickly replaced by something else: the gnawing fear of the unknown future that lay before them, before the Khesenf dynasty, before the whole of Thibia. Sabra walked with her hands clasped behind her, but Nikare walked with her hands clasped in front of her, comforted by her sister's presence but perhaps not by the conversation they needed to have.
Her father was dying. Whatever had been eating away at him for what seemed a very long time was now prepared to finish its work. And it was not a secret anymore, so Nikare could not pretend to ignore it. It had grown now into a certain truth, and so that was how they needed to speak of it. That she might return to Thibia from her journeys abroad to find her father deceased had not crossed her mind - and to have Sabra speak of it so frankly now might have brought her to tears if she were not so well-versed in composure. Instead, she took a deep and steady breath, nodding, because Sabra presented only a glimpse of a probable future.
Nikare trusted in her sister's brilliance and counsel, and so she did not hurry to interrupt Sabra as she spoke; while she was wise in the ways of religion and diplomacy, Sabra outmatched nearly any other in the ways of war - and Nikare felt in her bones that war would come to Thibia after their father's death.
Who would wage war - and who would not wage war for the throne? Achoris stood, treacherous and demanding, at their father's side - while the remaining Hemet-ai stood ready to manipulate the throne away from her and Siamun. And then there was Sabra. If Sabra had been born a son, she would be the doubtless choice to take over for their father. And yet...
Would Sabra seek the throne anyway? Her desire to rule was likely unquestionable, and her words seemed to indicate intent. Could it be done? With the right support, with the right maneuvering... perhaps.
Yet Nikare may well be far from the palace when it all transpired - and on her father's orders. Did he, too, hope to protect her from the danger poised to grip the palace?
Danger could cross borders and oceans, and with the... trouble Eldur recently suffered, it did not surprise Nikare that Sabra wished to ensure her safety during her travels.
They were still paused by the desert rose, and Nikare extended a hand - to the petals, not the thorns as Sabra had done. Her sister would ever be the bolder one. Her sister had given her much to think about, but there was much to be said now.
"To have even a few Tennerai by my side would certainly dissuade any fool who thought to cause me harm," Nikare responded, accepting the offer if there had been any concern that she may refuse. "I have never felt unsafe in Ankhais, in the palace, in the temples... to think that I may return to a country in upheaval brings a great weight to my heart."
She shifted her gaze from the bloom to her sister, her expression and tone carrying equal earnest. "I admit that I am not ready for what may come when father passes -" When, not if, and she said it without her voice breaking. "- but a snake's venom can be drawn from the bite, and the snake itself can be cleaved in two. And a falcon," she added firmly, "will eat the snake every time."
Nikare nodded then, thoughtfully, and turned to continue their walk; but she was not yet done sharing her own advice on what lay before them. "Whatever transpires while I am away, I urge you to think of my mother as an extension of myself. What you might have entrusted to me, what you might have asked of me - know that my mother is, as I am, your ally."