“We are facing far more than simple humiliation at losing the box.” Lifra’s aunt wrung her hands, trembling with suppressed worry. “The Escutane family entrusted it to us as a sign of their good faith. Dellan is arriving by ship tomorrow to retrieve it. What will we tell him when he gets here?”

Lifra watched, keeping a mask of innocent concern in her expression. Her mother, Ullia, swept into the room in a manner far more dignified than her sister’s demeanor.

“Kenira, calm yourself. You are sure you have looked everywhere?”

“Yes! All of the usual places. I cannot imagine that I misplaced something so important. It’s as if someone stole it.”

“Well, we know that could not be.” Ullia purposefully did not look toward her daughter, but the words stung with doubt. “You must have missed it.”

“Of course. I will be sure to check the…” She glanced at her niece suspiciously. “I will look again.” Kenica amended her original response, rushing out of the room.

Such an upset over so small a thing! Lifra sighed.

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