Tales of loathsome tyrants and prophesied saviors aren't nearly so appealing when you are a royal bastard with a prophecy hanging over your head.


The benefit to having peppermint tea and garlic soup as a meal when I'm ill is that I can't taste enough to fully appreciate the utter clash in flavor. I might get a faint enough sense of the flavors to experience a slight increase in nausea, but little more than that.

Unfortunately, Ygrain also commonly prescribes them for people mildly enough unwell that the tongue merely adds a slight color to foods. If there isn't any nausea to augment into vomiting, the taste conflict makes me wish there were.

Geddis sets the tray with the tea and broth and bread beside me on the bench. I catch a whiff of the foods prepared for me and grimace, nearly damaging the tension on the embroidery I'm working on for Miss Trelanna. I keep working.

Geddis taps her foot for a few seconds. "You need to eat," she sing-songs in her 'I'll-go-tell-Silva-if-you-don't' voice.

I pause long enough to meet her gaze. "I'm busy." I resume working. "I'll eat when I'm done with this motif." Something pilfered from elsewhere, preferably, but that's none of Geddis's business.

She huffs and leaves, sure to complain to Silva on her way back to the kitchens. I finish the motif, then eat a little of the bread after dipping it in the garlic soup. I leave the tray by my embroidery bag and head towards the dog pens.

Aidan sees me almost before I spot him. He nods my way while he plays with his dogs, rolling on the ground and ruining a tunic after a fashion that I don't believe I've ever witnessed another nobleman do while following the very respectable pursuit of dog breeding. I linger well away from the pens so Fael Honovi doesn't upset the dogs.

It doesn't take him long to extrapolate himself from the many dogs, something I've heard praised as a sign that he trains them well. None try to dart out the gate, either. Even the people I've heard scoff at his tactic of playing with the animals will begrudgingly admit that his animals heed him better than most do their trainers.

I'm not exactly comfortable hanging around Prince Aidan like this, but he sympathizes with my plight of not being sick enough to be able to down the ill person's fare. He goes back behind the pens and returns with a tray bearing two bowls of stew. One he gives to me with a bow. "M'ladyship."

I pointedly don't react to his jest as I take the stew and eat it readily. "Thank you." It's difficult, forcing myself to relax enough to accept his teasing as he claims to intend it. I've tried reminding him that I shouldn't be his friend, but that only makes things worse.

He shrugs. "All that play makes me hungry. Not as young as I used to be."

I look at him with incredulity before I snort at his intended irony. "You dally far too much." I fear my grin hinders him from realizing that my accusation is serious.

But "Only with girls I like," he replies, and my amusement vanishes.

I finish my stew quickly and return the bowl to him. "Thank you," I say with a curtsy, and quickly walk away.

Aidan huffs. "Oh, come, now!" He hurries after me. "Evona—"

"Thank you, Highness, but I'd rather not have Attare Hickory proven correct as to my availability for certain pursuits."

He sighs loudly and long enough that I'm sure he's rolled his eyes. "'Like', as in, 'like their company', not 'lust after'… You're not even a woman yet; that would just be wrong. I tease Silva's friends, too; even the married one."

"Lallie," I remind him tersely. "Her name is Lallie. And her husband died of the Shadow, years ago."

Aidan's flinch is the only acknowledgement of his gaffe. "I even tease Geddis—"

"Then maybe you should confine your banter to her, Your Highness," I say formally enough that even he gathers that I'm trying to add the distance that for some reason has always been lacking between us. "I'm sure she provides more lively repartée than I do."

My glance back catches that he stops, expression incredulous at my suggestion. "I…" For some reason, he can't seem to grasp why I'd rather he dally with Geddis than me. "I'm not going to flirt with Geddis…"

Before he can continue I've left him behind. I walk quickly back to my embroidery, barely hopeful that he'll agree with my idea. Geddis is the Prophetess's sister; people wouldn't assume the worst if he paid attention to her. I, on the other hand, am no one, and therefore fully available to gain a reputation as a woman who shares her bed.

I sigh and pick up my now-cool tea. I easily conjure some fire to heat it.

Something's wrong when a baseborn maid understands certain aspects of propriety and court protocol better than the crown prince does.

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