by Mina Lightstar

Tazendra remarked, but did not *notice*, the first instance the morning she and her friends were awakened to fetch Seodra. In truth, it might have been insignificant, but of late Tazendra had taken up wondering as a hobby. It wasn't as fun as the games she played (and often lost) when she was off-duty, but neither did it cost her coin.

Khaavren had informed her once that wondering was a sign of intelligence, and she had been delighted to know that. Tazendra had always suspected she had some intelligence about her, but a confirmation from Khaavren -- the cleverest person she had ever met, that one was -- pleased her.

Of course, once she began wondering, it became difficult to stop. One inquiry would lead to another, and then to another, and before she knew it she had spent an entire hour pondering.

And now, following her train of thought from that morning of their official return to duty to the present, some two weeks later, Tazendra *noticed*.

"Aerich," she announced to the room's other occupant, "I have been wondering."

"So you have," Aerich replied simply, acknowledging the fact. "In fact, it seems as though you've been doing little else during your free time." For his part, Aerich was sitting across from her, in one of his comfortable chairs, akin to the one Tazendra herself occupied, and his hands were busy with one of his crochet projects.

"Oh, as to that, you are right. I *have* been doing little else." In fact, a great deal of this wondering had taken place in Aerich's room. The chairs were comfortable, after all, and Aerich's own hobbies -- crocheting, reading -- brought about a calming atmosphere. "But at this very moment, I believe I must find a means by which I can cease wondering."

"How, cease?" Aerich's eyebrows did not betray him, but as she knew him, Tazendra could tell that he genuinely wondered at this decision. "I had thought you would be content to have something to ponder for a while."

"Why, because it is threatening to encompass my entire mind, should I keep at it."

"Is it really?"

"Oh, it is."

"Then, do you mention this so that I may, perhaps, be of some assistance?"

"Ah! It is kind of you to offer, my friend. Yes, I do believe your advice would assist me in finding these means I seek."

"Well then, if you desire my assistance and advice, how can I refuse you?"

"You will listen, then?"

"I am listening."

"Good, and so I will tell you what I have been wondering about."

"As you wish. I await you."

"It is simply this," Tazendra began, leaning over as though the last of her coin was at stake. "We are *simple*."

Aerich set his crochet needlework aside. "How, simple?"

"An example!" Tazendra proceeded to offer a demonstration of sorts, gesturing to herself and Aerich and the room in which they sat. "What are we doing right now?"

"At this very moment? I would say we are attempting to find you a means by which you can cease wondering."

Tazendra paused. "Yes, there most certainly is that. But before that, what were we doing?"

"Why, I would say we were engrossing ourselves in our respective hobbies. For myself, that is crocheting; for you, of late, it is wondering."

"Well then, surely you see how nothing has changed!"

At this *Aerich* paused, considered, and finally said, "Tazendra, I do believe I am following you, indirect though you may be at this time."

The Lyorn's words compelled Tazendra to brighten noticeably. "So then, you know what I mean?"

"I believe I do. I shall take the liberty to guess."

"Oh, no liberty needs to be taken. Guess, guess."

"Very well, then, I shall." And Aerich did. "My guess would be that you are wondering why things are how they were before our journey, given all that's happened."

"Yes!" Tazendra emphasized her content by slamming a fist into her palm. "Yes, indeed! Aerich, you are as insightful as Khaavren is clever -- and my, if he is not the cleverest person I've ever met."

"Bah," Aerich waved a hand, "it is nothing, my friend. I am simply glad to have identified the problem at hand. All that remains is to find a means by which you can stop wondering about this."

"Indeed. And, Aerich, have you one?"

"Oh, as to that--"


"I think, Tazendra, that you needn't wonder."

"How, needn't?"

"Because it is simply... well, simplicity."

Tazendra shook her head. "*How*, simplicity? Aerich, you are making me wonder more."

"A sign of intelligence," Aerich reminded her. "And, if I may explain this reasoning--"

"Oh, I almost insist upon it."

"Very well, then I shall."

"Yes, do."

"Well, what we did was rather complicated, was it not?" He spoke, of course, of their journey to find the Baroness Kaluma, now a friend whom they called Kathana.

"I suppose you might consider it so."

"Well then, after all that complication, is it not only normal that we fall back into old routines? Perhaps, after all the excitement we had, we unconsciously seek some simplicity for a time?"

Now that Aerich had revealed this reasoning, Tazendra had what she might have called an epiphany. "*Aerich*," she said. "You are *right*."

Aerich bowed his head to her. "I am glad you think so."

"But does this mean," Tazendra went on, "that we will be in this state of... of simplicity for terribly long?"

"Oh, as to that, I think not."

"Oh? You think not?"

"I think not," Aerich repeated, returning to his crocheting. "My friend, surely something else will happen. Come, now, don't you think?"

Tazendra considered it. "Well," she said at last, "I should think so. And yet--"

"And yet?"

"Now I will wonder about that."

"Ah. Then shall I--?"

"Actually, no. I think I am happy to wonder about this for a while." And she would, but maybe at a later date.

"Well then, I am pleased to have helped you."

"I thank you, Aerich."

And with that, Aerich engrossed himself in his crocheting, and Tazendra began to wonder what he was making.