“Shades, I need to sit. I’m not going to be able to walk tomorrow.” Bacna sat down hard.
“Is Lillan dancing you too much?” Ann asked.
Bacna nodded. “But she’s going up to check on the kids.”
“So you get a break,” Ann surmised.
Tylan frowned. “You need to tell her no more often. You can’t let her push you so much.”
“It’s only one night and she loves dancing. It’s not like we dance all that often.” Bacna shrugged and waved over a servant with glasses of wine.
“You spoil her,” Tylan insisted.
Bacna nodded as he took one of the wine glasses. “I do. But she spoils me too. I couldn’t ask for a better wife.”
“How did you two meet?” Jaidu asked. Many of the guests were leaving. The family was congregating around a table, enjoying a rare moment of peace together towards the end of the celebration after the wedding.
“Ann introduced us at the pledge party for her and Kith.”
“I didn’t exactly introduce you,” Ann corrected. “She was too shy. She was asking about him and if he danced. I offered to introduce her to him, but when she found out who he was, she was afraid to meet him. I told Bacna who she was and that she wanted to dance with him.”
Janta laughed. “You missed her sister’s reaction.”
“I did,” Bacna agreed. “She was not happy I chose Lillan over her. She still hates me.”
Ann grinned. “Not as much as she hates me.”
Remtani laughed. “Half the nobles hate you.”
Ann frowned and raised an eyebrow. “Only half? I must be losing my touch.”
“The other half haven’t met you yet,” Janta claimed.
“Aren’t they all under five?” Piena asked.
Pt’this laughed. “You guys are mean.”
Ann nodded, laughing too. “You knew that already.” She took a sip of her drink. She had decided she had enough alcohol for the night and had switched to juice.
“You shouldn’t talk, Pt’this, not after what you called Mirimar,” Nim chided.
Mishtali growled. “What did you call my daughter?”
“Relax, dear. You know, he treated her well.” Shay patted his hand.
“It was just after we’d met you. You were with Thailyn and the healers. She laughed at me for not being able to cast a spell shield. I called her a triznot.”
“What’s a triznot?” Andy asked.
“There is no translation. It’s not something most people would say,” Nim explained.
“My dad would have buried me if he’d heard me use that kind of language. Nim and Kar had just been working with me to learn magic and lecturing me about my difficulty with a spell shield so when she laughed it hit me hard,” Pt’this added.
“The first thing she said to me once she learned Menthan was that she was sorry she’d hurt my feelings.”
“She didn’t understand what you said, but she felt terrible about hurting your feelings,” Thailyn said.
Pt’this nodded. “We both regretted that conversation.”
“Janta, you never told us how you met your wife.”
“She was one of the maids here at the palace. She cleaned the gallery, the family gallery, and the main entry. No one could figure out why I was always in the gallery. I helped her clean so she could sit and talk with me.”
“Talk?” Irkali laughed. “You two were not talking.”
“We were at first. I did kiss her a few times, but she was on duty. If we wanted to get close, I went to her house. We didn’t do much. We eloped because all the fighting Piena and mom were doing scared her, and she wanted to end it. I convinced her to elope so I wouldn’t lose her, not because we broke the law.”
“How about you, Irkali?” Jaidu turned to the oldest princess.
“Piena and I both met her husband while we were out riding one day. They were friends, but mine took longer to propose.”
“He waited to see how things worked out for us first,” Piena added.
“Emeton, Tylan, how about you two? Jaidu asked.
“Why do you keep asking?” Tylan asked.
Jaidu grinned. “It’s a Yarb tradition.”
“It is,” Shay agreed. “Though the bride usually doesn’t ask so many people.”
“That’s because she’s usually heard them before,” Jaidu pointed out.
“Oh, good luck hearing Mom and Dad’s story. They won’t even tell us,” Ann said laughing.
“That’s because they slept together the night they met and then Dad proposed the next day,” Bacna said.
All eyes turned to him.
“I told you that Mirimar and I shared a healer’s room for a week one time.”
“I cannot believe she repeated a story like that.” Emeton shook his head.
“We’ve been stuck in there for a week with hardly any visitors,” Bacna explained. “I’d just had my last surgery and there was an outbreak of pneumonia so we had hardly any visitors. She needed to talk, to gossip. That’s not the worst of the stories she told me either, but I won’t repeat those.”
“It’s sweet, you meet, fall in love, and get married,” Jaidu sighed.
“Except, they didn’t meet. She had no idea who he was,” Pt’this explained. “She and Kith had only been there an hour and Emeton had been in court, the whole time.”
“We met in the gallery and had dinner out in the garden,” Tylan continued. “I got cold so we went in to warm up. One thing led to another.”
“Except he never bothered to introduce himself,” Pt’this pointed out.
Tylan shrugged. “We’re having a good time. Back then, I didn’t care about names.”
Thailyn laughed. “I thought Darina and I were bad.”
“You never told us how you two met either,” Tylan pointed out.
“Sure I did. She picked my pocket. I believe you were the one teaching her how to do it.”
Sapphire laughed. “That doesn’t get one pregnant. Trust me.”
Thailyn sighed. “I wasn’t wearing my gloves, so when I grabbed her to stop her, I realized she was an unreadable and kissed her.”
Shay frowned. “You didn’t know her name either?”
“I did before we mated. She tried to slap me when I kissed her. I explained that she was an unreadable. She’d never heard of that. So I bought her a drink and explained. We talked for a while. I was a bit depressed that night and a little drunk. I was complaining about not being able to touch people. She suggested we get a room and enjoy each other’s touch. I thought she was a hooker. I didn’t care so I agreed.”
Mishtali growled. “Thailyn.”
“I wasn’t going to mate with her. We did spend the night together, but only because we fell asleep.”
“So why didn’t you marry her?” Ann asked.
Thailyn stared into his ail a moment. “I wanted to, but she wouldn’t marry me. I was a fugitive. I wasn’t supposed to be in Menthanla. She thought that the council would find me through the records. I’ve proposed several times.” He turned to Tylan. “She was going to ask for your help with the council once that job was finished. She wanted to get me a chance to visit Mirimar.”
“You’re not Baj-tisk, and neither was Mirimar,” Emeton pointed out. “I would’ve told the council the same thing I told them when they wanted you arrested five years ago. In my kingdom, we don’t arrest on hearsay. We want evidence. This is my kingdom, and my palace, I will allow who I choose to visit.”
Thailyn shook his head. “You’d only been king for a short time. I didn’t want to cause trouble, and I thought Pt’this hated me. But this isn’t the time.”
“Are you satisfied, Jaidu?” Shay asked. “I think you’ve heard everyone.”
Jaidu looked around the table at those sitting there and nodded. “I think I’ve heard them all.”
“Good. Because it’s past time you and Remmy got off on your honeymoon.”
“We still don’t know where we’re going,” Remtani pointed out.
“That’s so no one pesters the crown prince while he’s spending time with his new wife,” Ann told him.
Remtani smiled. He liked the sound of that, his wife.
“Are you sure it’s not so Mishtali doesn’t interrupt us?” Jaidu grinned.
“Trust me, Mishtali’s going to be busy tonight,” Shay assured her and patted his leg. He let out a rare purr that surprised them all.
Ann stood. “Are you two ready?”
“What about our stuff?” Jaidu asked.
“It’s already there.”
“I guess we’re ready.” Remtani stood and took Jaidu’s hand. “We’ll see you all in a few days.”
Ann took his other hand and transported them away.
Remtani’s eyes cleared. They were in a small cabin. “Where are we?” He asked.
“Just outside of Illia. Thailyn owns the place, though he hadn’t used it in a century. He said to use whatever you want. There’s food in the cabinets and firewood out back.”
“Hundred-year-old food?” Remtani raised an eyebrow. Healers could preserve food for a time, but not a hundred years.
“No, we brought that and the firewood. There’s no pump. The well’s out front.”
“None close enough you’ll wake them.” Ann grinned. “They’ve seen us around, cleaning, but no one knows who’s going to be staying here.”
Remtani nodded. “Good.” He didn’t want people looking for the crown prince pestering them.
“There’s a mirror in the drawer if you need to scry us. There are no other reflections. Thailyn also left a tooth in there for an emergency. Only use a drop of blood. And he wants it back. Okay, we’ll see you in a few days.”
Jaidu nodded. “We’ll see you then.” With that, Ann transported off.
“We have a problem,” Jaidu said.
“I can’t cook.”
“I can. I’ve been a soldier for twenty years. I’ve done plenty of traveling, and usually, we have to cook for ourselves. It won’t be as fancy as what we get at the palace, but we won’t starve,” Remtani assured her.
Jaidu shrugged. “I don’t need fancy.”
“Good, because nothing here is fancy.”
Jaidu frowned. “Nothing?” She glanced down at her dress.
“Just you. You look out of place.” He grinned, knowing where she was heading.
“Maybe you should fix that. Maybe this dress needs to be put away. Maybe…”
He cut her off, kissing her. She kissed him back more passionately than any of the stolen kisses over the years. Then she let out a purr.