“What is a Mage? What is a Royal Mage suppose to do? Did you talk him into this?” Alan is pacing around Mynar’s library asking questions which are mostly being ignored while I tell Mynar and Jes what has happened. Father hadn’t shared with them either.
“You should make sure mother knows.” Mynar decides, as always, that I am the best person to tell mother anything that might upset her. I do understand it is the possibility she wasn’t told which he expects to be upsetting, and not Alan getting a Court Title, even if it is a strange one.
While Mynar is assigning tasks to me, Jes persuades Alan to sit down, and is applying logic. “Your scrying helped identify the traitor, why shouldn’t you be rewarded with a position at court, especially since you are going to marry Adava.”
Well, that shuts Alan up; I was going to tell him father knew, I just didn’t have time. “Mother thought it was best for just me to tell father.” Yes, it’s cowardly for me to hide behind mother, even though it is the truth. “And you know exactly what a Mage is, I gave you a copy of Lej’s documents; a Mage is a sorcerer with morals.”
“Your whole family is strange.” Alan sounds more resigned than angry, now.
“Yes,” Mynar agrees.
“It is a good family,” Jes adds. I’m not sure if he is saying we aren’t strange, or if he is saying we are strange but good. I decide not to ask for clarification, because it is probably the latter.
“You are one to talk, with your plans for exploding pottery,” I point out. “And Mynar is right, I need to talk to mother. Coming with me?”
Alan proves he is fitting right into this family by deciding to stay with Mynar and Jes. They have grimoire pages to discuss, and if they didn’t have that excuse, they would have talked about the weather.
“Wimps,” I mutter as I climb the steps to mother’s chambers.
“Royal Mage.” Mother speaks the words as if testing them for…something, then she smiles. “I like that.”
So father hadn’t told her. “Do you think father hoped Alan would refuse?”
“Why would he refuse what he has effectively been doing ever since the first time he saw you.” She pauses for a moment, and changes the subject. “Your father is angry at things he cannot change. He does not want me to travel to Kaskl, but it disturbed and frightened him when I decided he was right, and the trip too long. I have waited too late to visit my first babies graves.”
She sounds so sad, I have to fight tears.
“Will it hurt you and Mynar if I ask for my ashes to be interred at Kaskl, with your brother and sister?”
Now I really can’t talk, or hide the tears running down my face. Mother pulls me close to her, hugging me and saying nothing herself for a long moment. I am finally able to talk, “The Wielder will see your wishes are honored.” Not an answer, not consent, but a formal oath. Father and Mynar will just have to live with it.
Mother smiles her thanks, and we sit looking at the fire in silence, until I realize she is asleep. I leave quietly, so I don’t wake her, carefully not looking at her ladies, not wanting to see their concern, their tears.
Lady Ckel follows me out. “Fear for her family has laid great stress on the Queen. I think she will improve if there are no more assassins, no more treason.”
I just nod, and let her decide if it is acknowledgement or agreement, because I don’t know if she is right, or if she is just hiding from the truth.
Alan, Mynar and Jes are focused on stacks of loose pages scattered across three tables, one table for each distinct handwriting.
“I have never, “ Alan explains as I enter, “Heard of a sorcerer having a healing spell, but I have also never had access to any other sorcerer’s grimoire, so we are searching.”
“Has Sister Mays been to visit mother?” And if not, I will throw such a legendary fit. Mynar’s ‘of course’ stops my fledgling tantrum before any words make it out my mouth.
“She could only suggest less stress and fewer assassins.”
Pity that I really can’t see how we can promise either. I sit and brood while Alan and Mynar search pages with Jes adding comments here and there. Orsin isn’t around to pay for more assassins, but we are likely to stir up the swamp-wizard. Looking at it from every angle, I don’t see how we can just let it go and ignore him sending three assassins after me, even if he did it for money. There might be others, are certainly others, who would like to see Abalem without the Sword. I don’t want to tell Mynar what mother asked, but I know that I need to. Instead, I leave the three of them and go to talk to Thunder.
Mother wakes from her nap energized, and determined to attend the weekly court. She summons Alan and me, just the two of us before her fire, if you don’t count her ladies fluttering about, both hopeful and concerned.
“It is time to formally announce your betrothal,” see announces. “The next weekly court will have to do; the ball will follow, in two months, I think. But it needs to be announced and Heralds send out.”
I look at Alan to see how he is taking this; we have both made assumptions about the future, and declarations, but technically we haven’t agreed we are engaged. He is looking back at me with pretty much the same look on his face that I probably have on mine.
Mother shakes her head at both of us, “I will assume you are agreed, and you, Adava, will wear a dress, and not the Sword. You can add another chair for it when you have one added for Alan. Go and check, we may have to have the dais expanded, now there will be six of us on formal occasions.”
“Does father know what you are planning?” I am assuming ‘no’ since I haven’t heard any yelling, but I ask anyway.
“I will talk with Nayan next, while you two tell Mynar and Jes.” Mother sounds pleased, complacent.
Clearly we are dismissed, so I hug mother and start to the door. After a moment hesitation, Alan leans over and kisses mother on the cheek. I can feel approval washing over him as mother’s ladies watch us leave.
Daver is in his element, supervising the chaos mother’s demand has caused in the great hall. While workmen are busily extending the dais, Jes and my training master are working with a group tasked with creating a sword stand behind my chair, and Mynar and Alan are arguing with the group tasked with producing Alan’s chair.
“No, no,” Jes is adamant, “Adava needs to be able to draw the Sword if necessary, you can’t have it so high it is out of reach.”
“But the people want to see the Sword.” The Master woodworker is practically whining.
I ignore this argument, since my training master is there to reinforce Jes. I also ignore the argument about Alan’s chair, and whether, as Alan demands, it should be crafted like Jes’ or as the Master woodworker wants like Mynar’s. As near as I can tell the Master woodworker’s real concern is that a chair like Mynar’s will be more fun to craft.
No one needs my opinion, and I am thinking about slipping out when I see one of my Ladies enter on the other side of the room. That decides me, and I leave, not running, but moving fast; I will not look at any more fabric samples, talk about colors, or decide which jewels I will wear. I have dozens of unworn dresses in my rooms, I don’t see why my Ladies believe I need to have yet another one made. I head for the main gate instead of the stables—they will look for me in the stables. I have a half-hearted hope that the crowd of workers in the Great Hall will mask the movement of my guards hurrying after me.
I go down one of the main streets full of merchants and their wares, much of it on tables outside their establishments in hopes of luring customers. I find apples at one green-grocer, clearly left over from the last harvest, but I buy them anyway; the horses won’t mind, and I don’t want to go to Webb’s empty handed.
“Any good rumors,” I ask, after indulging the horses in their appreciation of last season’s apples.
“Many,” Webb answers. “But the one I like best is that Alan is a new Stormborne, just arrived across the great sea.”
I can only stare at him, probably with my mouth open. Even my guards, who always pretend to be deaf to my conversations, react to this, practically holding their breath waiting to see what I am going to answer.
“No.” I try to sound amused instead of irritated, needing to convince Webb, so hopefully he can convince others; this is not a rumor we want to be floating about the gossip river of Misthold. I try to decide if I should say more, or if saying more would just reinforce the rumor.
Webb saves me by chucking. “Someone found a wrecked boat on the beach, or the pieces of one, about the time Alan left with you, wearing your heraldry. And put two and two together to get eleven.”
“Unlike most, this rumor could cause problems. Problems with our neighbors.” I don’t have to remind Webb the neighboring realms had not been happy when the Stormborne were granted asylum.
Webb suddenly looks thoughtful, no longer amused, so apparently I did have to remind him. “I will work on getting this one stopped,” he promises.
I hope he can, because anything the royal family does will only draw more attention to the rumor. I go home in a foul mood.