Previously: Prince Rodegard Visits the Imperial Capital
Prince Rodegard was staring open-mouthed at Edora. She watched him implacably, pretending that she did not care about his reactions.
Said reactions, as she cataloged them, appeared to be, in order: confusion, worried understanding, denial, more confusion, angry understanding, angrier denial, and then a further state of confusion.
He might be a spoiled childish specimen of a Prince, but he was still, after all, a prince. After a few minutes, he cleared his throat. “I’m sorry, Dame Edora. I must have misheard you.”
She contemplated her answer for a moment. “It’s Princess, actually.”
“…what?” This time, even his manners failed him.
“Technically, Kneginja Esedora. But I have been Edora for quite a while.”
“Kneg…” He struggled with the unfamiliar word. “Wait. I thought you were my bodyguard.”
“I am your bodyguard, your minder, your instructor, and your guide. I am also, to some ways of thinking, your jail-keeper. But most importantly right now, Prince Rodegard, I am the person in charge of getting you ready for the Imperial Capital.”
“That’s not what you said last time. Uh. Your Highness? You said you were supposed to prepare me for her… for the Imperial Empressina. Didn’t you? Your Highness?”
“I did.” Edora found herself smiling. He wasn’t stupid, this boy, he was just – well, he was provincial, and sheltered, and naive. She’d known more than her share of ones like that. “It is my job, among all my other jobs, to get you ready for her before she returns from her tour of the Empire.”
“Get me ready for… what, exactly?” From the way his face was going ashen, Edora thought he might already know. Still, she couldn’t fault him for asking.
And she couldn’t fault herself for wanting to tease him a little. He’d jumped into this position feet-first and without checking the water first; in a pond, that could get your neck broken. In life… “Didn’t you ask what you were volunteering for?”
“Somebody had to go!” He leaned forward, his hands clenched into fists in his lap. To either side of him, the guards stirred but didn’t try to stop him. “Look, it’s not like the Emperor would have taken ‘Caredorn is in love with the dancers’ daughter and Takaranne is a better businessman than any of the rest of us; Petraken is too frail to travel and Lidotarre would get us into a war.’“ He was glaring at Edora, which she found interesting. “It got me out of blessing the fields and all of the maidens, sure. It got me out of plowing the fields and helping with the harvest in bad years, and it was the only chance I was likely to have to visit the Imperial Capital.”
Edora leaned back. Perhaps he had jumped in feet first to escape a burning building, or perhaps he was making up justifications to cover a lack of forethought. “It would have been interesting if you had said all of those things. Instead, however, you said ‘the Imperial Capital sounds fun. I’ll go.’“
“Well… it does sound fun. But – the Empressina? Her Imperial Highness?” He leaned back and folded his hands carefully, left over right. “What am I being prepared for?”
Written to @dahob’s commissioned continuation.
If you want more – and I’m pretty sure this wants to be a full-length romance novel – drop a tip in the tip… handcuffs 😉
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