“Lirael! You’re alive!” Kirrith exclaimed and in an unusually affectionate gesture, she grabbed her niece into a fierce hug. Lirael let her aunt hug her for a moment before squirming from Kirrith’s grip.
“Your hand!” Kirrith gasped a moment later. “What – what happened?” Lirael’s eyes flickered from side to side, looking for an escape route from her aunt.
“I lost it when the Destroyer was broken,” she replied finally, wincing as Kirrith’s fingers ran over the still-painful wound. Kirrith’s eyes filled with concern and immediately led Lirael off to the Infirmary.
Why is Aunt acting like this? She never used to care…
“Now that you’ve found family, where are you going to stay? Are you going to stay here in the Glacier?” Kirrith asked hopefully. Lirael was about to say that she was going back to Belisaere when she saw the hope in Kirrith’s eyes.
“Um… I’m not too sure… I need to talk to Sabriel before I decide…” Lirael said uncertainly. In the two months that Lirael had spent with her sister, rounding up the Dead, she had grown close to the legendary Abhorsen. Sabriel was older and wiser than Lirael. Maybe she could shed some light on Aunt Kirrith’s strange behaviour.
I used to be a nuisance, a misfit that was always in the way… why does she want me to stay?
Lirael trudged through the Glacier, lost in thought. She suddenly realised she had come to the end of the corridor that had the interesting crack in the wall, the one she had gone down with the Dog and ended up becoming a Remembrancer when she reached the end. Suddenly struck by a wave of grief, Lirael sunk down onto the floor and began to sob.
Almost instantaneously, Lirael found herself being encircled by arms in a hug.
“What’s the matter, Lirael?” Kirrith asked her, in the gentle tone that Lirael couldn’t seem to reconcile with the image in her head of stern, frowning Aunt Kirrith.
“Nothing, I’m fine,” Lirael said uncomfortably, pushing herself up from the ground.
It’s like having a puppy dog… Aunt is always around to try and talk to me and cheer me up… but I don’t want a dog. I just want the Dog back! She was my only friend and now it feels like Aunt is trying to replace her by being like a dog, but she isn’t.
When Sabriel arrived at the Glacier a week later, Lirael was on the verge of making an owl Charter-skin and hiding on a roof somewhere.
“How are you, Lirael?” Sabriel asked. Lirael let out a frustrated sigh.
“Smothered to death! Aunt Kirrith never seemed to like me that much and now she’s always following me around, and I don’t understand why!” Lirael said.
“Maybe she realised that pushing you away wasn’t a good thing, and wants to make up for the time when she did?” Sabriel suggested. Lirael thought about it, then nodded.
“Maybe, but it’s just too much,” she admitted. “The only person here who used to pay much attention to me was the Dog, and now she’s gone…” Lirael trailed off.
“Now she’s gone it feels like your aunt is trying to replace her,” Sabriel supplied. Lirael nodded gratefully.
“It’s just too much, I can’t handle it right now,” she said softly.
“Maybe you should tell her so,” Sabriel suggested gently. “But don’t reject her. She’s trying to reach out to you, don’t ask her to stop. Just to give you some space.”
“Alright, I’ll do that,” Lirael agreed.
Although in the end Lirael did end up closer to her Aunt, she moved to Belisaere and later Abhorsen’s House, not wishing to stay in the place that reminded her of her childhood misery. Kirrith’s sudden auntly devotion had been too much, too late for Lirael to reconcile herself to the Glacier and her memories.