"Now, little sister," said Brother Levitt, laying an affectionate hand on her shoulder. "You know our love goes with you wherever the King of Life bid you go." The corners of his eyes crinkled along with his smile, and she looked up at her eldest brother and realised for the first time that his illness was taking its toll. He was fifteen years her senior, which put him at one and thirty years this past summer, but there were silver threads in the mahogany tangle of his hair, and the creases in his skin were etched there by weariness as much as by weather. He looked older than she ever remembered their father looking.
"And grant that if he don't bring me home safe and sound to my family, that I'm in a place where I may do my best?" She straightened her shoulders inside the crisp new quilting of her greatcoat, squaring her chin with the strength and confidence of a young Dog ready to sally forth in the name of the King of Life. Her brother only chuckled and fixed her collar, flattening the curling edge of the lapel with a pat.
"I don't doubt you'll do your best, Amberleigh," he said, and drew back to arm's length to give his baby sister a final inspection. She still looked barely more than a child, all round-cheeked with puppy fat, and hopelessly ill-prepared for the weight of the responsibility which awaited her.
Her coat was a maze of patchwork blues and greens to evoke the memory of home when the small town by the lake was far behind her, and woven through with jagged shards of other fabric, random greys and reds and browns, in leather and satin and sackcloth. Nine in all, these scraps of cloth: one each for her mother and her father, one each for the seven siblings who'd preceded her as Dogs, each having torn a scrap from their own coats to wish the youngest child safely on her way. A tenth, and this the most precious, a torn scrap of handkerchief stitched to the inside of her sleeve. That was for Brother Lyle, her yellow-haired twin, who had as yet no Dog's coat of his own to pilfer for scraps.
She'd given him the ribbon from her hair in return, fastened it to the cuff of his sleeve with small, neat stitches.
"Just cos you're going south 'stead of west, don't give you any excuse to forget me, twin," she'd said in parting, as Brother Cullen helped him into the saddle.
That had been a good seven days past, and the longest week of Amberleigh's life.
I'm still working on my character concept for a game of Dogs In The Vineyard. I'm not sure whether Sister Amberleigh or Brother Lyle might be more fun to play - do I go with the troublemaker or the staunch kid sister?