Thursday, November 19, 2015
Yalera the Brave - Chapter 3
“Ronin, my friend!” The King greeted with a huge grin. He was genuinely happy to see the Lord, having been good friends with him since they were babes in arms. It was he who had insisted to his father, the previous King – that Ronin marry his cousin Yalena in the hopes that Ronin would stay with her at court. He had hoped to be able to name Ronin as his official confidant, but Ronin's heart had always been in the country with his estate.
“Eric,” Ronin returned the greeting, hugging the King. He was one of the very few people with permission to do so or to call him by name.
King Eric gestured for him to get comfortable, which also signaled the twins to be seated too. “Where's Lady Yalena?” He asked curiously, having expected the whole family to attend this private meeting.
“I'm afraid that Rolanna is feeling queasy, and my Lady decided to stay with her,” Ronin explained.
“I see,” King Eric murmured, not really knowing what else to say. He shrugged and brought up a few pleasant topics that the two men enjoyed talking about. He even asked about Rune and Yuna, which had all of them talking excitedly. Finally, he decided to get to the point.
“Yalera, my dear,” he began with a warm smile. “I hope you haven't been too worried about your future husband. I am told that the anticipation can cause a young Lady to feel positively sick!”
Yalera smiled politely. “Well, I guess it's lucky that I had other things to think about.”
The King returned her polite smile for a moment, and then grinned at her for real. He turned his attention back to her father. “I must admit that I have had quite a few offers for her hand – as I am sure you well know!” This was a reference to how any offer for Yalera's hand generally had to be submitted to both men. “Thus, the decision has been a hard one. I often wished that you were here to help me think it through!”
Ronin nodded in agreement. He had known that the King would want his input, but the final decision would of course be left up to the King. A smile touched his lips as he reminded himself that they were friends with similar interests. They'd probably come to an agreement on the right groom in no time at all.
The King shook just a tiny bit with excitement. “I'm happy to inform you that I've just recently received the best offer of all! The King of our neighbors to the north has finally chosen his Heir, and he's decided to make peace with our Kingdom via marriage treaty! In just six short months, Yalera could be the future Queen of Nandia!”
There was a long silence as everyone was too stunned by this news to reply. It was Yalera who regained her voice first. “But... Nandia and Rubidium have been enemies for hundreds of years! Why would their people take me seriously as their Queen? They would have no respect for me...”
“Nonsense!” King Eric waved away her concern, and then sighed heavily as he mentally conceded that she could be right. “You'll just have to make them respect you. This is an epic opportunity, and I have no one else in this whole Kingdom with sufficient Royal blood to offer up as a bride to the new Crown Prince of Nandia. By all accounts, Prince Crispin is an intelligent man who truly desires a peaceful reign. I think this marriage will be good for both our Kingdoms.”
“But...” Yalera protested softly, feeling just a bit numb inside. “But Rolanna was the one raised to be a Queen. I know nothing about what it takes!”
“At least you'll have her to guide you,” King Eric stated with a firm smile.
Yalera sighed in defeat. “Yes uncle.”
“I have some concerns about this myself,” Ronin admitted with a frown. “How do I know they will treat her well? How do I know I will ever see her again? What if she grows unhappy and wants to come home?”
King Eric shrugged helplessly. “She will be a wife like any other, expected to give birth to heirs. The only difference is that she will be a Queen someday. Her destiny is to bring peace to both our Kingdoms. I daresay that she will be even more important to and beloved by our people than her sister Rolanna!”
Ronin sighed, accepting that the King had made up his mind on this and that nothing would sway him. “I honestly hadn't expected you to make a decision on this so quickly. I thought I might still have a year or two before a groom was agreed on, but... if Yalera's marriage can guarantee peace... May I see the proposal?”
King Eric nodded with a relieved smile as he picked a thick packet of papers off the table and handed them to Ronin. The proposed contract was generous, guaranteeing the bride endless new clothes, jewelry, and servants to attend to her every whim. She would be given an estate to retire to when she felt like she needed some time alone. There was even a stipulation granting her a generous amount of money each year should the Crown Prince die before she produced any heirs.
All in all, it was a contract fit for a future Queen. Ronin could find no fault in it. He did something that men very rarely do when discussing marriages, he handed the contract to Yalera to look over. She and her twin read it thoroughly.
“Wow...” both exhaled in awe. It was finally sinking in that she would be a future Queen, entitled to wealth and power... to a point. Most girls would probably kill for an opportunity like this, but Yalera felt like she was dreaming. Whether it was a good dream or a bad dream remained to be seen. With nothing to object to, she handed the contract back to King Eric.
He smiled triumphantly. “It's settled!”
Yalera smiled faintly as she watched Rune and Yuna romp around the private area reserved for large cats. Her brother held her hand silently to offer support. He wished he had the courage to tell the King to find someone else to marry the Nandian Prince, but he knew that it would do no good.
“How are you feeling?” Rohan asked his twin.
Yalera shrugged. “I don't know... numb maybe? I always knew that I would be getting married soon, but I never thought about being a Queen. That's a whole lot more responsibility than I'm prepared for!”
“I'll go with you if you want me to,” Rohan offered gallantly.
Yalera smiled with genuine pleasure. “I know you will. Thank you... but no. I can't take you away from father. He's going to need you more than ever with me gone.”
Rohan couldn't think of anything to say to that, so he simply nodded in understanding. Yalera pulled her hand free from his. With a smile, she brushed a stray hair out of his face.
“Listen, I think I need to take a walk and think things through. Will you stay here with the girls and make sure they don't try to follow me?” She asked.
“Sure,” Rohan agreed with a tight smile. He didn't like the fact that she wanted to be alone, but at the same time, he was grateful for the opportunity to think by himself too.
Yalera gave him a tiny wave goodbye, then strode determinedly towards the garden. With the sun setting, most people were inside the palace for the night. This almost guaranteed her complete solitude.
“A Prince, hmm?” She murmured softly. “It could be nice being married to a Prince...”
Her cousin was everything a Prince should be; intelligent, compassionate, kind, regal. He treated her older sister with respect and love. Their marriage was almost a fairy tale.
“If my marriage is anything like theirs, I could certainly do worse!” Yalera muttered, suddenly feeling better about her fate. “And the King is right! I'll simply be a wife and mother like any other. With any luck, I'll have a baby to love within a year of getting married!”
She held out her arms like she was cradling a baby, and hummed a lullaby as she danced in circles.
Suddenly, somebody in another part of the garden roared in surprise and pain. “Ah! Ow...”
Yalera rushed to find the source of the groaning. It took her at least two minutes, but finally, she found a man hanging upside down from a tree. This was such an unexpected sight that she gasped in surprise.
“Who's there?” The man demanded, craning his neck to look at her. “Oh... It's you. Hi bumpkin... please promise me you won't tell your sister about this.”
“Baethan?!” Yalera asked incredulously. “What are you doing hanging from a tree like that?” The question reinforced the absurdity of the situation, making her snort softly as she tried to stifle a giggle.
“Yeah, go ahead and laugh,” Baethan grumbled. “It's not like I'm in excruciating pain or anything!” He pointed to his foot, which was caught between two branches that formed a pretty sharp vee. If not for the tree apparently capturing his foot in a claw, he would have fallen to the ground and gotten even more hurt. Maybe even died. This thought sobered Yalera up and stopped her giggling.
“Sorry...” she apologized honestly.
“Well, don't just stand there!” Baethan ordered impatiently. “Go fetch help!”
Yalera couldn't help herself; she just had to tease him. “No problem. I'll go get my sister. She can order a bunch of servants to come to your rescue.”
“No no no no no no, wait! I changed my mind, don't go get help. Just stay here and keep me company while I figure out how to get down,” Baethan suggested, staring at his foot as he pondered how to free it.
“No really,” Yalera stated. “I can go get Yem –”
“No no! That's okay. I'm in enough trouble with the King without word of this getting out,” Baethan insisted.
Yalera crossed her arms suspiciously. “I thought killing that boar was supposed to get you back in his good graces.”
“Well, it did... but just barely. I'm still in trouble for dying his favorite horse black!”
“You did what?” Yalera blurted out incredulously, a snicker bubbling in her throat.
“I couldn't help myself! I was dared to dye him black... and pink... Fine! If you must know, it was more pink than black, but still, I'm sure you understand my point. I'm in trouble enough, and not even that boar has truly appeased his Majesty. If he finds out that I was climbing the trees in his garden trying to gather the choicest blossoms for a bouquet, I just know that it'll be the straw that breaks the camel's back!” Baethan wailed dramatically.
Trying to hide an amused grin, Yalera asked the obvious question. “And who were you gathering the flowers for?”
“One of the Princess' Ladies,” Baethan confessed rather more honestly than he planned to. With a sigh, he tried to explain. “I was hoping that she would sneak them into the Princess' bedchamber so that she would see them, even if she didn't know they're from me.”
“Aww... that's actually rather sweet! In a strange way...” Yalera stated, not quite sure how she'd feel if someone did that for her. She examined the tree closely, realizing that it was actually easy to climb. Or rather it would be if she wasn't wearing voluminous skirts.
Biting her lip, she mentally debated the merits of her various options. With a sigh of defeat, she decided that it would be quicker, easier, and kinder to simply help him herself. Fumbling behind her back, she located the buttons that kept her skirt closed. Each one fought her just slightly, but eventually, she had them all open.
“What are you doing?” Baethan asked with interest when he noticed her strange behavior.
“Helping you,” Yalera stated matter of factly. She gently pushed her elaborately decorated skirt and cage-like hoop skirt to the ground, thankful that she had pantilettes and a lacy embroidered white skirt under them to preserve her modesty.
“How? By distracting me from my pain?” Baethan wondered with an amused smirk.
Yalera laughed at the subtle innuendo. “Whatever works!” She promised flirtily though she didn't mean it. Gathering her light and airy underskirt in her hands, she tucked the bottom sides into the waistband. Once finished, she squinted at the tree for a moment before climbing it as easily as if she did so every day. To tell the truth, climbing trees was a favorite pastime of the twins when they were younger.
Finding a stable perch, Yalera contemplated the best way to free Baethan's foot. “I think it might be easiest to just give you a hand up,” she pronounced a minute later. Anchoring herself firmly, she leaned over and held out her hand.
“I am not so sure this will work,” Baethan murmured in concern. He was almost certain that pulling on her hand to right himself would unbalance her and cause her to fall. He certainly didn't want to have to explain to Yemry how she had gotten hurt because of him!
“Just trust me,” Yalera insisted, shaking her hand to prompt him to take it.
“If you get hurt, promise me that you'll tell Yemry I had nothing to do with it!” Baethan muttered as he curled into a crescent moon shape and grabbed her hand. He was surprised to find that Yalera had the proper leverage to help him up with minimal effort. Working together, he was soon supported by a branch so that she could work his foot free. He hissed in pain but knew that she had to do what was necessary to help him.
“Thanks,” he groaned in sincere appreciation as he gently probed his newly freed ankle.
“It's very swollen. Is it broken?” Yalera asked in concern.
“I don't think so, just sprained... but I think I'll go to the Court Doctor just in case,” Baethan informed her. “Once I figure out how to get down without landing on my injured foot.”
Yalera shifted to a lower branch. “Here, let me help you. Place your good foot here, and I'll support you as you lower yourself to the ground.”
Between the two of them, they eventually managed to get Baethan all the way to the ground without injuring him any more than he already was. Baethan rested his head on her shoulder gratefully, breathing purposefully to cope with the pain in his ankle. His breathing was tight, but careful testing proved that he could still mostly stand on his ankle if necessary.
“Thanks bumpkin,” Baethan praised sincerely. “I didn't think you'd be able to help me like that.”
“Well don't thank me yet,” Yalera replied grimly as she guided him to a nearby bench. “I'm going to need you to help me out a bit before I can bring you to the doctor.”
“How so?” Baethan wondered curiously.
“Well, there's no way I can go back into the palace like this!” Yalera exclaimed, pointing out her state of undress as she tugged the sides of her under skirt out of her waistband. She walked over to where her skirt was laying on the ground. “I can get the hoop skirt back on by myself, but the buttons on this are murder!”
To prove her point, she pulled her hoop skirt on and fastened the tie loosely enough that she could shift the tied part to her back. Then, she pulled her voluminous soft blue and white striped skirt on over her hoop skirt, tugging on it several times to straighten and smooth it out before walking back over to Baethan.
“I'm not entirely sure that you're supposed to let me see you get dressed,” Baethan remarked with a wry grin.
“Of course I'm not!” Yalera exclaimed, tempted to roll her eyes. “But I didn't really have a choice! Just as I have no choice but to let you button me back up.” She turned her back to him, holding her skirt shut as much as possible so that he could button it up quickly.
“You know, despite my notorious reputation, I don't actually have any experience doing this,” Baethan informed her.
“What, fastening buttons?” Yalera asked curiously. How could he not? Everyone has buttons!
“Ladies dresses!” Baethan clarified with a laugh. He reached out and carefully closed about half of the dozen tiny buttons before realizing that he had messed up. “Uh,” he grumbled in frustration. “I did something wrong. Hang on while I figure this out.”
Yalera suppressed an impatient sigh as she waited for him to unbutton and rebutton her skirt. A moment passed in uncomfortable silence. Then two.
“Yalera!” Rohan called out in shock. He was utterly agog at the sight of his twin sister allowing a man to unbutton her skirt in the palace gardens! “Rune! Attack!”
“Rohan!” Yalera called out hastily. “It's not what you think!” She looked around for Rune, but to her relief, the smilodon was nowhere to be seen.
“What do you mean it's not what I think?” Rohan asked darkly.
“I'm not... doing... that...” Yalera explained in embarrassment.
“Then what are you doing?” Rohan demanded with a frown.
“He was stuck in a tree and I had to help him down. I couldn't very well do that in my skirts, could I? Baethan's just helping me with my buttons,” she explained, but a blush betrayed the fact that she knew that the explanation didn't sound very reassuring.
“On my honor, I did not lay an improper finger on her,” Baethan vowed, his right hand raised to emphasize his point.
“Here,” Rohan stated, turning his sister around so that he could finish buttoning her up. Considering that they were twins and had shared a room since they were babies, they had seen each other naked before. Rohan had even had to help her change once or twice, so he did have experience with Ladies dresses. He finished the task in mere seconds.
“Now what?” He asked, still not quite trusting that nothing strange had happened.
“Now I need to help him get to the doctor. He's hurt!” Yalera pointed out.
Rohan sighed reluctantly. “I'll do that. Father wants to talk with you.”
“What about Rune and Yuna?” Yalera asked, wondering if they were nearby.
“I brought them inside, which is how I know father wants to talk to you. It's why I came looking for you,” Rohan explained.
“Who are Rune and Yuna?” Baethan asked curiously.
“Our cats,” Yalera informed him with a sweet smile. “I've got to go, but I hope that your ankle heals quickly.”
“See you later, bumpkin,” Baethan murmured with a fond smile.
“Don't call her that!” Rohan growled angrily.
Yalera giggled softly to herself as she walked away. They bickered like brothers! She had often wondered growing up what it would have been like to have more siblings around. Younger ones. It might have been fun to teach a younger sister how to climb trees.
“I'm definitely going to have to teach my children how to climb trees; Princes and Princesses or not!” With that statement, she felt empowered to conquer the world!
“Daddy?” Yalera called out questioningly. Her father didn't reply, but a soft snore alerted her to the fact that he had fallen asleep in the chair in the corner by the fire. She strode up to him and shook him awake. “Daddy!”
He came to with a loud snort. “Yalera?”
“You wanted to talk to me?” Yalera reminded him.
“Oh, yes...” He was silent for a moment as he gathered his thoughts. “You're not upset? By your impending marriage, I mean.”
She had thought about the prospect long enough by now to be mostly excited about it. “No, I'm not upset. I look forward to becoming a mother. Just a few minutes ago, I decided to teach my children how to climb trees!” Yalera laughed. “And I don't care if they are royalty, I'm going to bring them out to my estate and teach them how to do useful things too!”
Ronin chuckled, smiling at her. “I'm so relieved that you've come to terms with this. And I must admit, I can't wait to see my grandchildren. I just know they'll be adorable!”
“Yes they will!” Yalera agreed with a confident grin. She leaned over and stroked Yuna on the head. The massive cat responded by licking her hand gently.
Ronin hugged his daughter tightly for a moment, and then sent her off to bed. A maid had time to help her change out of her dress and into her nightgown before Rohan returned. He trudged into their bedroom, looking tired – far more than he should! Yalera frowned at him in concern.
“You may be happy to know that the doctor pronounced his ankle well and truly sprained, but not broken,” Rohan grumbled.
“That's good,” Yalera murmured. “Well, not good that it's sprained, but good that it's not broken.”
Rohan sighed in relief as he flopped into his bed. “I really don't like him! He talks non-stop and is exhausting to be around!”
Yalera laughed. “Well, I have no opinion about him either way. Though, he does make me laugh. You should have seen him hanging upside down from that tree. It was possibly the funniest thing I've seen in a while!”
Rohan tilted his head to the side and nodded. “Yeah, I would have enjoyed seeing that.”
The two of them got comfortable in their respective beds. “Aren't you going to change into your nightshirt?” Yalera wondered.
“Tomorrow!” Rohan assured her with a yawn. “Right now, I'm too tired to care.”
Yalera laughed as she blew out the lamp on her bedside table. “Good night.”
“'ood 'ight,” Rohan mumbled, already mostly asleep. A maid came back to check up on them a moment later, smiled and shook her head at the young man, and then blew out all the other candles in the room.
“Sweet dreams miss,” she whispered as she left the room.
“Thanks,” Yalera whispered in return as she drifted off to sleep.
Yalera stretched languidly, not wanting to get up just yet. She knew without looking that her brother had already gotten out of bed. He was probably eating breakfast with their father at that very moment, if they hadn't eaten already. Lucky for her, the King held the official breakfast at a much more reasonable hour.
Sunlight poured through the window, trying its best to pry open her eyes. With a groan, she shifted to her other side. More light shone on her eyelids, prompting her to pull a pillow over her head. She was comfortable enough to go back to sleep for about one minute... and then she felt hot and stifled by her pillow!
With a loudly bellowing yawn, Yalera threw her pillow to the side and stretched again. Yuna took this as an invitation to step up onto the bed and lick her face. The big cat's tail twitched happily as she tried to bathe her mistress' entire head.
“Ugh! Yuna!” Yalera protested, trying to muscle the smilodon's paws off her bed. Yuna persisted until Yalera was wide awake and laughing as she attempted to defend herself.
“Good, you're awake!” Rohan stated as he poked his head into their room. “Rune is demanding that I take her out, so I figured that I'd wake you and we can all go.”
Yalera used a pillow to shield her face, turning to the side to see her brother. “That must be why Yuna is attacking me!”
Rohan laughed before deciding to come to her rescue. “Yuna... Look! I've got sausages!”
“Rohan! You know those aren't good for her!” Yalera protested.
“But she loves them!” Rohan stated defensively. “Besides, I've only got two, one for each of them. Surely that can't hurt.”
Yalera sighed in relief as Yuna jumped off the bed and sat obediently in front of Rohan. Rune was also at his feet, obviously excited by the sausage in his hand. He made them both do a couple of tricks before rewarding them with the tasty treat.
Yalera slipped out of her bed, used the privy chamber, and then pulled on a simple morning dress. “I don't suppose that you brought any food for me.”
Rohan laughed almost evilly. “Well, yes... but then I fed it to our cats!”
Yalera gasped as if offended, pushing on his shoulder. “You could have told me that! I wouldn't have let you!”
Yuna pushed her massive head into Yalera's abdomen, rubbing her scent all over. Yalera grinned at her, stroking her head. “Alright, so maybe I would have.”
The twins led their cats out to the area set aside for the King's lion. It was a large and completely enclosed meadow-like area full of tall grasses and hollowed out logs for the cats to play with. They also had a small pond to drink from if they wished. The idea was to encourage small prey animals to take up residence in the area so that the cats had something to hunt while staying out of sight from most of the palace residents. Not many people were comfortable around such large animals!
At first, the twins chased their cats around playfully, and then ran as fast as they could while the smilodons chased them! It was almost like they were playing the child's game of tag. They did this often back at home – especially during the winter when they were so often cooped up inside.
Eventually, Yalera had to stop. She held a hand over her stomach as it growled almost angrily. “I have to eat soon!”
Rohan smiled and waved her away, as if giving her permission to leave. “Go on, I'll stay here with them a while longer.”
Yalera gave her twin a quick kiss on the cheek before running off. She stopped abruptly and turned back to him. “Should I meet up with you after I eat?”
“Probably not,” Rohan stated with a shrug. “I plan to go to the sparring yard after this. If I'm lucky, there'll be someone worth fighting!”
“Good luck!” Yalera wished him, resuming her hasty journey to the palace breakfast room. Just outside the room, a Lady in Waiting stopped her.
“Oh my!” She gasped in disapproval. “The younger sister of the Crown Princess cannot be seen in such a state of disarray!” Tugging on Yalera's hand, she dragged her to a nearby room. “What were you doing? Running?!” The Lady asked as she dipped a handkerchief in a basin of water and washed the sweat off Yalera's face.
Yalera patiently let the Lady fix her appearance, not just washing her face, but also brushing her hair and arranging it in a pretty up do. A very light hint of color on the lips helped to balance her flushed cheeks. Finally, a very dry towel absorbed all excess moisture. The Lady appraised her with pursed lips.
“Well... I suppose you'll do,” she finally decided.
Yalera laughed. “I'm only going to eat breakfast! It's not like I need to wear the latest fashions!”
The Lady gasped in utter horror. “Well! I never! Far be it for me to bad mouth anyone, but are you stupid?!?! Of course you need to wear the latest fashions! You are the sister of the future Queen! You should never look any less than your best!”
Yalera sighed impatiently. “But!”
“No buts!” The Lady insisted. “You're that age now, you need to attract eligible husbands. Your status is enough that you could attract the very best men if you simply make an effort to look nice.”
“I do look nice!” Yalera argued, getting upset now. “And I'll have you know, I have a future husband already!”
“You do?” The Lady asked incredulously.
“Yes,” Yalera confirmed with a huff, stalking out of the room so that she could finally get some breakfast. She entered the breakfast room determined to growl at anyone who stood between her and the buffet table. The first person she noticed was Yemry standing in line at the buffet next to Baethan, obviously helping his friend walk.
“Yalera!” King Eric called out happily when he saw her. Her mother, sister, and brother-in-law were all seated near the King and watched her with knowing smiles. “There you are! You're looking beautiful this morning.”
Yalera smiled at him – wishing that she could actually growl at him for interrupting her quest – and then curtseyed respectfully. “Uncle... Good morning. I trust you slept well.”
“I did, thank you,” King Eric stated, standing to sweep his arms wide. “Ladies and Gentleman, I have wonderful news!”
Yalera groaned as she plastered a bright smile on her face. She was rather hoping to eat before being bombarded by members of the court. She decided to curtsey again so that she could avoid looking at anyone.
“My dear Yalera is officially engaged to be married! She will be the bringer of peace! Crown Prince Crispin of Nandia has chosen her to be his bride to finally seal the treaty between our two Kingdoms once and for all!” King Eric announced as loudly as possible so that everyone in the palace could hear him – or so it seemed to her.
A gasp behind her let her know that the Lady in Waiting that had just fixed her appearance was shocked by this news. Yalera cast a smirk in her direction, silently telling her: I told you so! She decided to make the best of the situation.
“Uncle!” She chided cheekily, standing up straight to look at him directly. “You announce that during breakfast?! I thought I was supposed to have a fabulous party!”
The King laughed heartily. “And so you shall, but forgive me, my dear, I was far too excited to keep the news to myself any longer.” He beckoned to her insistently. “Come! I want you to sit next to me.”
Yalera pointed to the buffet table before sighing in disappointment. “Yes uncle...”
Members of the court started to softly applaud her as she walked. Each person she passed called out: “Congratulations!” A slight glance around the room assured her that all eyes were definitely on her.
“I guess I should have come to breakfast wearing the latest fashion!” Yalera muttered under her breath. She stood next to the King hesitantly, wondering just exactly where he wanted her to sit.
Her mother pulled her onto the ornate bench she was sitting on, nearly smothering her in an exuberant hug. “I'm so proud of you!”
“This is so exciting!” Rolanna gushed from across the table. “I'm going to be your maid of honor, of course.”
“Of course,” Yalera stated, trying her best to smile happily. Her stomach ruined the effect by growling loudly.
The King laughed and waved commandingly. “Yemry, my boy! Bring your poor sister some food to eat!”
Yalera cast her gaze to her older brother, praying that he'd remember how much she loved sausages. Her gaze caught on Baethan for a moment, who was frowning at her. He looked almost worried. Puzzled, she mentally shrugged and pushed all thoughts of him aside. Soon enough, Yemry helped his friend to a seat, and then delivered a plate of food to Yalera. He kissed her on the cheek and whispered congratulations in her ear.
She smiled at him gratefully, then focused on daintily cutting up her sausages into tiny bites before eating them. She really wanted to simply shove them into her mouth whole, but – as the Lady in Waiting had so rudely reminded her – she was an important Lady now and need to act like it. Still, the temptation was nearly overwhelming!
Thankfully, she got through breakfast without making any social blunders. Even better, the Lords and Ladies got so busy talking about how good her marriage would be for the Kingdom that they all forgot to talk to her. This meant that she got to eat in relative peace. A thought occurred to her just as she was wiping her mouth clean after finishing her meal.
King Eric gave her his full attention. “Yes, my dear?”
“If I am to be the Queen of Nandia, does that mean that I will have to eat all my breakfasts in front of the Nandian Courtiers?” This odd question served to prove that she hadn't quite figured out what it meant to be... well, like her sister. Married to a Crown Prince and an example to her people.
The King laughed, genuinely amused. “That will be entirely up to you, I'm sure!”
“Oh you precious girl!” Her mother exclaimed, hugging her tight again.
Across the room, Yemry sat next to his friend. He gently nudged Baethan to gain his attention. “Something wrong? You've looked positively sour since you sat down!”
Baethan shook his head and held his tongue, which was unusual behavior for him. This made Yemry worry all the more.
“No seriously, what's wrong?” Yemry demanded in a whisper.
With a sigh, Baethan leaned closer to whisper in Yemry's ear. “I don't want to jinx it... but I've heard of Prince Crispin, and I don't think your sister will be happy married to him.”
“Why not?” Yemry wondered.
“He's..... he's not known for his kindness towards women...” Baethan finally admitted.
Yemry bit his lip in concern. “Well, he is a Nandian, and Nandian's aren't known for their kindness to anyone. I'm sure that he'll have to be good to her if he truly wants peace with our Kingdom.”
“Maybe...” Baethan murmured. “But... when have Nandians ever wanted peace?”
With a shrug, Yemry found that he had no good answer to that.