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Chapter 1.

part 21 of Threshold

Balthier relies on his spectacles overmuch these days, silver frame hidden by matching hair. At his heels Fran finds room on the bunk; she sits, graceless. He rolls an uneaten apple against his palm, eyes lost to the horizon. Fran touches Balthier's anklebone. His trousers always prove too short.

The apple rises, falls, his catch as unconscious as his pitch.

'I must to port for the next few weeks, Balthier, for the birth.'

The angle turns lens to mirror: twin circles worth of sky look at her. Balthier's recent silence has not been as light as his tone now. 'Is this how you'll tell me you're pregnant, then?'

'Yet your sight is not so flawed—'

'Seems a man can't rely on anything these days.'

Fran is near gone, at the threshold when Balthier fumbles his catch. The Strahl rarely holds level; the apple rolls towards Fran before he can field it. She crouches, awkward, and holds bruised flesh tight.

Balthier looks less like his father with his glasses off. 'I'm too old for this.'

Two steps closer, and Fran could fold her hands over his. 'Age is no sin.'

'Nor excuse, love.'

Juice snakes sudden around Fran's fingers.

Continue to Chapter 2

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