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More days pass as Taver prioritizes fixing the holes Orsin created in the defenses and I decide what projects we can undertake on the civil side.
The scribe, bless him, kept track of how many people suggested the same thing, and the city aqueduct/fountain system is the winner by a large margin. We will need trained craftsmen, stonemasons and blacksmiths, as well as unskilled labor to just clean. It is a win from all directions, everyone in the city will benefit and the returned taxes will be paid out in wages over a large segment of the city.
Things are going so well, I see no need to be here. I want to go home. I have been trying to figure out how to court with an ever present audience. Unsuccessfully. I pretend it will be easier at home; I am lying to myself. I look around for Alan and can’t find him. Every time I take my eyes off him he scurries back to his studies. After the priests cleansed the it three times, both mundane and spiritual, Alan took over Destroyer’s old room as his workroom, and spends too much time with grimoires and plans, but at least he isn’t experimenting.
“Princess.” One of my guards, loud but calm, so I don’t draw my Sword. He is leading a slight, exhausted-looking man toward me. A courier has finally arrived from father.
I take his message packet and order him to just eat and sleep for the next few days. He has made astonishingly good time.
Taver and I read the reply to our first dispatch with satisfaction. Father has approved our suggestion of Conners as the new governor of Blythe, and has equally approved my proposed use of the mercenaries we captured. Now we have interesting things to plan.
I hear Conners sigh. I understand completely; it’s the first time he has been the center of one of our beloved spectacles.
“You’ll get used to it,” I promise him.
“The question is, why would I want to?”
I can’t answer that, it isn’t as if I ever had a choice. I just make sure his wine glass is full. It has been a long day, one of several long days. The city was overjoyed with the announcement that Conners would be the new governor. Much more overjoyed than Conners had been. It had taken several long discussion with Taver, and a couple of promises, to talk him into taking the job.
First there was the formal announcement, made to cheering crowds, placing the heavy gold necklace with its heavier seals around his neck. I was slightly surprised he didn’t go to his knees under the weight of the symbol of his office. Perhaps the weight is more symbolic than the fact it’s gold. Conners took the center position at the ceremony, Taver on one side an me on the other. Alan was reluctantly behind us, and beside him a beaming Zale, as the crowds cheered.
I am more than a little surprised at the lack of opposition from the Guild Masters, expecting they would want one of their number made governor. Zale finally realizes my confusion and explaines.
“We are too pleased that it is one of our own who will be governor. This is proof solid that the royal family does not blame the city for Orsin’s misdeeds. And elevating Kale to captain of the city guards reinforces this even more. No one is going to cause trouble and risk an outsider being brought in.”
So everyone is happy, couldn’t I please go home now. Of course the answer is ‘no’; I have to participate in the parade and the formal meal. I am tempted to just keep riding out of the gate; my guards would follow me. They could worry about supplies and tents, or lack thereof.
Of course I don’t. The Keep’s staff will be broken-hearted if I don’t attend the feast they have been two days preparing. A spectacular feast that I am having to force myself to eat.
Alan is several people down the table from me, being overly polite, not looking my way, not wearing my rose. And not coming near me, unless I summon him. I am having more and more problems blaming this on his fascination with his new grimoires. And I certainly can’t do anything about it in the middle of a feast. I am absolutely delighted when another courier arrives from father. I wave him forward as he hesitates in the keep’s doorway.
“You have arrived at a good time,” I tell him as I open the dispatch. “Find a seat, and when you have eaten your fill, one of my guards will find you a place to sleep.”
I really want to use the dispatch as a reason to leave the feast, but mother has raised me too well. I skim it quickly to see if there is anything urgent—the exhaustion of the courier is never an indicator of importance, they always ride as if demon-pursued as a matter of pride.
I smile and then hand the dispatch to Conners. “This is yours to announce,” I tell him, also having been well trained by my father.
Conners doesn’t have to call for silence, the hall has been deadly silent from the moment I took the dispatch. “Our gracious King had remitted one fourth of our taxes for the upcoming year.”
So more cheering and more smiles and I don’t really need to be here.
The next morning is quiet. I tell the staff simple meals only and don’t do anything that can be put off. We have all had enough rushing around the last few days.
I can’t decide; talk to Alan now or talk to Alan when we get back to Misthold. There will certainly be no privacy to talk on the trip. I don’t want to know, am afraid to know what the problem is, but days of travel with this unresolved is impossible to contemplate. I can certainly understand if he has decided he can’t live the life I do. Sometimes I can’t stand my life. The problem is not going to get any better by being ignored, so I give up and head toward his workroom. For the first time ever, I shut a door in my guards faces. They can have nervous breakdowns in the hallway all they want, as long as they leave us alone.
Papers are strewn all over Alan’s desk, but he is just starting into space, not working. I look around at all of the books and papers he has acquired while I was re-organizing the city government. I don’t know how to start. Alan is just staring at me, no sense of welcome.
“I’m staying here,” he tells me in the tone of voice usually reserved for announcing deaths.
“You should have told me. You know how I feel, have to know how I feel. Why didn’t you tell me?”
I play his first words over in my mind, admitting to myself I had expected them. Why would he want to join me in my life, when I so often wanted to run away from it myself. After a few seconds of stunned silence the question he asked filters through my pain.
“Tell you what?” I honestly don’t know what he is asking.
“That you have to marry someone with Stormborne blood.” Alan glares at me angry and hurt. “Taver told me.”
Relief hits me with such force I lean on the table, thinking that for the first time in my life I might actually faint. No, I decide not—Alan is too far away to catch me and I need to go hit Taver.
“Not anymore,” I finally remember to tell him. “Things have changed.”
The hesitant tapping on the door which I have been ignoring slowly turns into more insistent pounding. Alan rises from his seat and stares with an unfocused look for a moment.
“They won’t break that,” he says with some satisfaction. He moves closer and looks down at me more serious than I have ever seen him. “Would your father let you marry a Sorcerer.”
The man is dense. “I am going to marry you. We can argue about what you are later.” Well, I could have said that better.
“Could you take that off so I can kiss you?”
Well, yes, I could. The Sword didn’t seem to mind being tossed on top of Alan’s papers.