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My Ladies have gone mad; they want to pack ball gowns and jewels. They might not know where I am going, but they know I’m going with an army battalion and that should give them a clue.
I chase them out and pack myself. All I need is fighting clothes and weapons. Taver will take care of supplies. My Ladies tap at the door; I ignore them, and they give up. Or so I believe until Mynar forces his way in.
“Why are there ball gowns scattered all over your outer rooms?” I just look at him as I fasten the final buckles on my saddlebags.
“Never mind,” he agrees. “Can you come talk to Alan before he kills your Ladies. They won’t let him into your rooms.
Of course not, the Princess must be protected against violating conventions. For a moment I consider…no, I can’t let him kill my Ladies.
“Come on,” I leave, dragging my saddlebags with me for fear of what my Ladies might add—and what they might remove to make room.
“Idiots.” Ladies, guards and staff all freeze and stare at me. Maybe my tone is a bit savage, but I don’t retract it. One of my guards tries to take my saddlebags and I slap his hands away. I start to slam the door behind me, but then decide to let Mynar follow me into the hall. My guards wisely don’t try to stop Alan from following, so the three of us stomp down to one of the smaller public rooms. Or maybe only I stomp but I do a good enough job for three.
“They tried to pack ball gowns,” my brother asks again having successfully added one and one to get crazy.
I sit down on one of the benches in front of the small fire and scooch over to give Alan room. Mynar sprawls over the other bench giving him no choice. Occasionally it’s useful having a smart brother.
Alan blinks once, decides against smiling (I can see his face muscles twitch) and sits down beside me. “I am going to come with you.”
Someday I am going to have to deal with his tendency to make flat statements instead of asking permission. But not today.
“What about your forge? Another week and you will be able to get to it and start repairing it.”
“The forge isn’t as urgent as making sure you have someone who understands magic when you face…” He stops and doesn’t mention a name.
I look away so he can’t see my eyes. Alan is willing to wait to try out his plan for stuffing magic into metal to go with me. So I am truly important to him. Maybe he won’t leave. But he will still probably blow himself up, or get eaten, or die in some other sorcerous disaster. But he won’t leave; he definitely won’t leave.
“You can come if you want,” I agree. I try not to smile but I think I fail.
Alan goes to pack, or goes to pretend to pack because he was ready to go before he asked, and Mynar helps me carry my saddlebags down to the vault, which is the only place I am sure no deranged helpful person can meddle with them.
I go to the main hall and Mynar goes back to the books my Ladies had dragged him away from. I am just in time to see Jes return wet and muddy. Staff comes running with towels and dry shoes and mulled wine, which he shares with me as he settles on the bench closest to the fire.
“Has Mynar told you his latest theory?”
Jes nods; he doesn’t look very interested.
“I’m sorry we had to ask you to stay here, but I will feel much better if you and my training master are watching over mother and father. I know it must be hard staying in one place when you are used to moving.”
“Not as bad as you suppose.” His tone is strange.
“Do you miss the steppes?”
“I should” he answers, but his tone says ‘I don’t’. Uncharacteristically he continues, saying more words than absolutely necessary. “I like it here.”
“Good.” I smile at him, glad he is happy. Glad enough to quit being angry with the various people who want me to play the lore Princess except when there is a demon to kill. “And please try to keep Mynar and Lej from fixing magic while I’m gone.”
“Princess,” one of the priests who have joined my guard interrupts before Jes can answer. “Your guard Captain has decided none of us are to go with you because we can’t keep up.”
“Bloody damn overprotective idiots think everyone who isn’t a guard is weak.” I’m muttering low enough he can’t hear me, but Jes does, or guesses, and grins at me.
“I’ll tell him otherwise,” I promise, knowing this to be an excuse, not a reason. Given the state of the roads—mud, mud, and more mud—we will be traveling very slowly for all that the supplies will be on pack horses, not carts.
“Their job is to protect,” Jes reminds me as the priest goes away happy, having received the answer he wants.
“I know,” I grudgingly admit.
“Why don’t the priests have names?” Jes changes the subject once I have agreed. “Other than to irritate the rest of us?”
“I don’t think that’s the reason. Something about giving up all possessions.”
“It’s still irritating.”
I agree, but I don’t think I should say so out loud, so I tell him about the ball gowns and ask his help watching my saddlebags during our leaving ceremony, because, of course, there will be a ceremony. People are bored by the winter, and will look to us for entertainment. Maybe I will invite the journeyman bard to sing; his voice is good, even if his history is not.