“Lady! Lord! Are you here for the wedding?”
Rin had been caught up in coming home, equally caught up in watching how her prisoner reacted to this, the heart of her country. She hadn’t expected the question, although she supposed she should have. There were so many cousins, so many sisters and aunts, brothers and uncles and far more distant relatives. Someone was always getting married.
“No,” she told the children, smiling at them. Brightly dressed in their silk qitari, these were no urchins. School must have just let out. “I, we,” she caught herself quickly and hoped Girey hadn’t noticed, “are just home from the front. So tell me, who is getting married? What news have I missed?” She leaned forward, half-off her saddle, as eager for the gossip as they were to share it.
“Princess Elenerja,” blurted out a pretty girl almost old enough for weddings herself, earning her a glare and a bony elbow from what had to be her younger brother.
“Elen?” Rin sat back into her saddle, wondering if she’d misheard.
“She’s marrying a spice merchant from the border!” the brother blurted out. “Not even a lord.”
Girey was looking at her oddly; she mustered a smile for him. “So,” she said brightly, “I suppose we’re going to a wedding. You’ll get to see how we do things up north.”
“Elenerja?” he murmured. “I’ve heard that name before.”
“I should imagine so,” she answered quietly. “She’s fourth in line for the throne.”
“Aaah. So getting married is nothing all that surprising, is it? Or is this another one of those situations where you people do everything backwards, too? She’ll want her eighty-one heirs, too, won’t she?” He was, she noted, smiling, almost as if he was trying to coax a smile out of her, too.
She obliged him. “Not really eighty-one,” she demurred. “We’re fertile, but we’re not quite that fertile.”
“I don’t think you’d be able to find the time,” he admitted. “So the fourth in line is getting married,” he persisted, unwilling to be sidetracked. “And this surprises you. Why?”
She got her mount pointed in more or less the right direction again, it having gotten distracted by a tasty hanging plant, and frowned at him. He really wasn’t going to drop it. “She had – Elen, that is – she’d joined a priestly order of Tienebrah that didn’t go in for marriage or child-bearing or siring. She’s been part of the order since she was a young woman; if she’s stepped out of it now and is getting married, it means something in the political situation has changed recently.”
“And that worries you.” The road was wide here, and people got out of their way, so they were riding abreast, knees nearly touching.
“It worries me,” she agreed. She eyed him, wondering at his patience. He’d been asking her for the entire trip who are you when what he meant was what position do you hold?, and she’d avoided answering for just as long. “I want to know what she knows that I don’t.”
“To know what the political climate will be like?” he hazarded.
She shook her head. “More to know if someone is going to try to kill me any time soon.”
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