I convince father to go sleep some more (not hard to do), and Mynar takes his body back to wherever his mind already is.
I decide to visit Thunder, and Alan and Jes join my usual parade. We meet Germans in the hall, looking as if he just woke up. Also looking quite surprised, being unused to the show I put on by just walking down the hall.
“I’m going to visit Thunder; would you like to meet him.” OK, so I’m being snarky even though I sound polite. It is amusing to see the emotions crossing the Clairvoyant’s face. He doesn’t want to accept an invitation from a woman, but I am the Wielder and Thunder is the Horse Saved From A Demon. Alan and Jes just wait, saying nothing.
“Thank you, your Highness, I would be delighted.” He surprises me by accepting, but when we get to the barns, I am gratified by his admiration of Thunder, which seems to be real.
“His mobility is excellent, despite the scars.”
“Yes, they are mostly cosmetic,” I agree, climbing up on the lower rail of the paddock and holding out an apple which quickly disappears into Thunder’s mouth. He leans over to get his ears scratched, and then leans toward Jes for more. The whole time Germans’ mouth is hanging open and his eyes wide. “Would you like to be introduced?”
“Ah, Highness, since I am leaving for home in the morning, I really should complete my packing.” I pretend to believe him, as he bows slightly and hurries away.
“He just doesn’t want to get his hand bitten off,” Alan suggests as Germans’ back disappears toward the keep.
I snicker a little, and then take Alan’s hand so Thunder can get his scent and mine together, and formally introduce them, as if Thunder can understand. OK, so I really do know Horses aren’t dogs, but it is an excuse to hold Alan’s hand.
Alan gives Thunder our last apple, and Thunder shows off by running around the paddock in tight circles before coming back for more ear scratching.
“I think I should go look for the cat.” I finally say out loud what has been at the back of my mind. Again I get two ‘nos’ practically in unison, and a third more emphatically from my Sword.
Alan’s reason is practical, “If the hunters couldn’t find it, you aren’t going to weeks later.” But Jes’ is more what I would expect from a Shaman—definite but vague at the same time. “Misthold is the center of all which has happened.”
My Sword, as always, doesn’t explain. I didn’t really want to go cat hunting anyway, I just want to get away from the upcoming insanity of planning a royal wedding.
“Should I warn Alan,” I ask myself. “Nah,” I answer.
Since I was the only one smart enough to sleep late this morning, it isn’t long before I am prowling the halls alone. Well, me and my somewhat lethargic guards. I want to go talk to Webb to get the latest rumors, but take pity on them and go talk to mother instead. No one would have made her wake up before she was ready, even though she left the celebrations early having never ventured outside the keep.
We settle down to talk before the usual small fire, most of mother’s ladies busy at their daily tasks and pretending to ignore us as we speak softly. Mother is working on one of her pieces of elegant embroidery, the first I’ve seen her working since last fall turned cold.
“Merl and her forces have been out since before court.”
I had assumed mother’s maid/spy would have been sent to report on the crowd’s reaction, and I really hoped she had returned with explanations. Mother seems mildly amused; perhaps I’m going to hear good news for a change.
“The people now believe Stormborne blood no longer necessary.” Mother smiles her satisfaction. “Of course, their reasons are all completely wrong, but that doesn’t matter. They aren’t exactly celebrating your betrothal, they are celebrating that there will be a Wielder after you, the betrothal being seen as proof.”
That will certainly make things easier. “Does father know yet?”
“ No. He was napping, and I told them not to wake him. I will tell him later.” Mother laughs softly, “There are dozens of rumors, and the only thing they have in common is a belief in our freedom from Stormborne blood. Some credit Alan, a few think Germans was involved, and many believe Mynar found something in an ancient text, probably aided by Lej. Not a single one mentions the possibility of a talking sword.”
Mother drops her tone to a whisper for her last sentence, and delivers it with a satisfied smile.
“Good.” Whispers in my ear, echoing my own thoughts. It crosses my mind to wonder why my Sword thinks it is good, but I don’t bother to ask. I wouldn’t get an answer.
I decide to go to lunch early, having missed breakfast, so I leave mother happily embroidering, and probably starting to think about planning the wedding—The Wedding—I correct myself, adding the emphasis present when the bride is Princess. I decide to ignore the topic until forced to get involved.
Germans is in the hall when I arrive, food in front of him, but not eating, just staring into space as if he doesn’t like what he sees. I’m not sure if I should speak to him or ignore him. But his demeanor implies some problem, and problems in Abalem are my business, so I sit beside him even though the hall is mostly empty.
“You look unhappy. Can I help?” I offer, not bothering with small talk.
“I received a message. One of our merchants…” he goes back to staring for a moment. “I am to stay for another month.” He stops himself abruptly. “Not that I haven’t enjoyed my time here. Your city has proved to be most interesting.” Maybe he thinks he has hurt my feelings.
“But it isn’t home,” I suggest.
“Exactly.” He seems relieved I understand. “Certain alignments in the heavens influence visions, and I am to stay for the next great amassing.”
I hide my surprise that he has provided information; he must really be upset about staying another month to make a mistake like that. “You are welcome to stay as our guest,” I assure him. I even mean it, easier to watch him if he is living in our castle.
“You are most gracious.”
I can’t help thinking that he accepts my invitation as if he is doing me a favor. Both of us finish our meals in silence, wrapped in unappealing thoughts.