For @daHob’s offline prompt.
“Cotswald told me I’d find you here.”
Caleb glanced up from his book, refusing to jump, refusing to look nervous. Marianne was not the enemy. Next to him, Cye was having less of an easy time of it. “We weren’t hiding.”
“Clearly not well enough.” She sat down near them. “You weren’t at dinner. The Lady Mother noticed.”
“I wasn’t hungry.”
“That works for you, does it?” She pulled a couple rolls out of her pocket. “I know Cye’s mom will make sure you don’t starve, but you have to leave the library for that.”
“I like the library.” He took the offered rolls anyway, and passed one to Cye. “Thanks, Mare.”
“Hey, I like to look out for you, when I can.” She pulled three cookies out of her pocket and shared them around. “She’s on a rampage, you know.”
What was new? “Cotswald was looking for Simeon.”
“He wasn’t at dinner either. Probably why she noticed you weren’t there.”
Caleb winced. It was one thing to be invisible, another thing to have your nose rubbed in it. “Does this have something to do with Baroness Jacoba’s younger daughter?”
“That squinty half-wit? For everyone’s sake, I hope not.” She filled her mouth with cookie for a few minutes, and they all sat in passably companionable silence.
“Me, too,” Cye offered shyly after a moment. “Your ladyship.”
“You, too, wha… oh, Jacoba’s daughter? Why’s that?”
“She beats her slaves. Not all of them, I mean, but her companion.” Unspoken, because they all knew it: if she beat her slaves, would she beat her husband’s slaves? Would she beat her husband?
Marianne looked grim for a moment. “Thank you for that information, Cye,” she said gently. “I’ll lean on our Lady Mother, if she is talking to Baroness Jacoba about something other than land rights.”
“Thanks, Mare,” Caleb murmured quietly. It would probably be Simeon and not him, if it was anyone, but still…
She smiled crookedly at him. “I owe you two, for what you did with Michel ó Gwydion at that dance last month. And besides,” she added, when both of them flinched at the memory, “you’re my kid brother, Caleb. And you’re his, Cye. I have to look out for you two.”
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