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Keish- March 19, 2005

March 19, 2005
Dear Arri,
Malia and I spent the morning outside, planning my new garden.
My garden, of course, is still at the base of the old tower, and while that is very close, it’s also very small and somewhat inconvenient.  Besides, a new councilor and his wife are moving into the old tower next week.
And the poor garden never recovered from the incident with the fairy queen last summer.
So we’ve turned our attention to the spot of ground on the west of the new tower.
A couple of palace groundskeepers listened attentively as Malia laid out where Aron’s new pond would be and explained the raised beds she wanted for some of the plants, the notes she took in Castlegard last year finally bearing fruit (no pun intended).
They seemed impressed and got right to work.
Malia and I spent the rest of the time sketching out beds and paths and deciding which plants would do best where.
Well, mostly Malia decided.  She has been doing a lot of research about such things.  And I’m still recovering from that party of Caden’s Thursday night.  It’s a wonder I was any help at all.
More likely I wasn’t and Malia was just humoring me.

Caden showed up as we were finishing lunch.
“Now, you know you’re always welcome here,” I said, “but shouldn’t you be overseeing the final details of your ball?  Terrorizing servants?  Something?”
He sighed.  “Mother sent me away.  Apparently I was interfering with her ability to terrorize the servants.”
Jace laughed.  “Well you’d hate to spoil her fun.”
Caden rolled his eyes at that.  “Something like that.  Actually, I thought I’d come see how Keaton was faring without his partner in crime.”
I sighed.  “He’s moping a bit.  And being very studious.  I don’t think Master Zart quite knows what to make of it.  I think he’s in his study.”
“I’ll find him.  Maybe I can help him finish that proposal about chickens.  That should cheer him up, right?”
“I suppose, though I’m not sure what the thought of chickens does for my mood,” I muttered as Caden left.
Jace just laughed.

I’m writing in my dressing room, very carefully.  Malia and I have an agreement-- I can continue to write so long as my head does not move.
She’s having her way with my unruly hair (made more unruly by a brisk gallop on Argentum this afternoon) and pinning it into some sort of ridiculously intricate knot.
“Your dress calls for something extravagant, Mistress,” she says, reading over my shoulder.  “Lord Caden will be entirely put out if you don’t make a very grand impression.”
I did the only thing I could to in response to such a statement-- I stuck my tongue out at her.
“I don’t think Lord Jace will object either,” she added with a mischievous grin.
I suppose I have to concede that point.
Now that she’s pinning my hat into place, though, I shall have to set this aside.  It will likely be far too late to return to it tonight, but I promise you a full account of the ball tomorrow.

March 20th
I exited my dressing room just as Jace was coming out of his.  As always, seeing him in his full court attire made my breath catch.
He stopped in his tracks.  Apparently Malia was right about my hair.
I turned slowly for his inspection.  “Will it do, do you think?” I asked lightly.
In just two steps, Jace took both my hands in his, kissing the palm of each before holding them against his chest.  “You’re beautiful,” he whispered.
I leaned against him for a moment, content.
After a few minutes, Jace leaned towards my vanity, reaching for my mirror necklace while keeping both of my hands in one of his.
“It needs just one more thing, my lady,” he whispered, moving behind me to fasten the necklace.  He kissed my neck after settling the necklace.  “Perfect.”
And then it was time to go.

Caden was certainly setting the tone for the whole season with his formal extravaganza.  Which was, of course, his intention.
His ball was held in the palace grand ballroom, with the chief palace butler formally announcing each guest as they arrived.
Jace and I stood at the top of the stairs and waited.  As the butler began announcing us, heads turned below us and we were greeted with a torrent of whispering that ran the full length and breadth of the grand room.
Jace took my hand with a grin and we plunged in.

We danced and chatted-- most people are still fairly cool to us, but they’re polite at least and several were even friendly.  We caught glimpses of Caden here and there, mingling, dancing and generally being a splendid and cheerful host.
At one point  he caught my eye and sent me a pained look over Stacia’s head.  Caden is smaller than Jace-- he’s shorter and where Jace is lean and wiry, Caden is mostly just thin-- but Stacia looked like a tiny doll as they danced.
Her dress was painfully overdone.  I think it possibly weighed as much as she does.  I sent Malia to Annette this morning for a sketch of it, which I’m including, but the sketch was only the starting point.  Stacia’s train was longer and there were far more flowers.
We spun and Jace caught sight of Caden and Stacia.  He made a face.  “That girl has no concept of understated elegance.”
I couldn’t disagree, though I’m sure my bold dress was also drawing plenty of comments.
The song ended and Jace and I drifted over to one of the many refreshment tables.  Jace moved closer to get me a glass of punch while I watched couples line up for the next dance, which was a country dance.
“Well I hope you’re happy,” Lady Aoweir said abruptly.
“I beg your pardon?” I replied, startled to find her standing before me.
“Bad enough that my only daughter allied herself with an Elcaran but now to have my first grandchild born in Rousha?  And I suppose that… family of yours will probably have a heavy share in raising it!”  She shook her head in disgust.  “Fairies and mad scientists… it’s terrible just thinking about it.”
“You know, Lady Aoweir, I do find something terrible about the situation,” I interrupted after a few more moments of such disparaging comments.  “I think it’s terrible that Gretel’s child will never know a grandmother’s love.”
With that I walked away, leaving her sputtering angrily.
“Wow,” Jace said softly when we were out of earshot.
I sighed.  “I know.  I’ll have to write a note of apology.  To Gretel, I mean.”
I was distracted by the butler announcing Tish.
Clearly I was not the only one that was going to cause a stir.
Tish’s bodice was similar to mine, which made sense-- I heard her telling Taty and Nysa that it’s a more common style in Iconei-- and the ruffled collar was stunning against her short hair.  Her skirt was slightly short by Arellan standards and doubtless would be the source of much commentary throughout the night.
I thought she looked amazing in the simple Arellan gown she wore Thursday (which I learned later Gretel had given her).  This was above and beyond.
Caden appeared almost immediately and led her out for the next waltz.
A little while later, I saw Caden approach us out of the corner of my eye.  “Have I made enough of a stir?” I asked as we turned toward him.
He laughed.  “You’ve got all of the younger women clamoring jealously for a similar dress and most of the older women shocked.  Though I suspect several of them are also jealous.  Between that and giving Lady Aoweir an incredible set down, I’d say you’ve nearly been labeled a menace to society.”
Jace chuckled at that.
I pouted.  “Only nearly?  And I was trying so hard.”
“Well,” Caden responded, holding out his hand, “I rather imagine that if you grant me the boon of a dance my mother would be willing to upgrade your status.”
Jace grinned and gave me a gentle push.  “You can’t pass up an opportunity like that,” he said with a grin.  “I’ll be right here.”
I let Caden lead me onto the dance floor as a stately waltz began.
“Lady Aoweir deserved it,” I explained.
“Oh I’m certain she did.”
We danced in silence for several beats before I asked Caden, “Shall I act hostile, or is this the beginning of a reconciliation?”
He grinned.  “Oh I think we can manage civility at the very least.  Besides, I think we’ve reached the end of the usefulness of this charade.  There’s certainly plenty of gossip about you tonight, but it’s not the sort that I wouldn’t hear as your friend.”
“I imagine there will be plenty of gossip about Tish also,” I said.
He quirked an eyebrow.  “There would have been anyway.  This is the first major social event she’s attended.”
“You must be flattered.”
Caden just smiled.
We executed an artful turn and I couldn’t believe what I saw.
Stacia Pastile was dancing with Jace.
Caden followed my gaze and gave a low whistle.  Stacia turned just then and glared daggers in our direction.
“Was that murderous look for you or for me, do you think?”
Caden shrugged a little.  “She’s dancing with your husband.”
“Yes, and as far as she’s concerned I may as well be dancing with hers.”
He winced at that, looking back toward Jace and Stacia.  I thought she’d looked tiny dancing with Caden.  Jace dwarfed her.  He didn’t quite dwarf that monstrous dress though.
“Whoever does end up marrying her is going to have his hands full,” Caden said finally.  “I can’t imagine it was Jace’s idea that they dance.”
I snorted.
“Jealous?” he asked teasingly.
“Sympathetic,” I corrected.  “Though from the way Euan is looking at me I may soon be empathetic,” I muttered, spotting Euan across the dance floor.
“Want me to head him off?”
“You’re always welcome to try.  Where’s Vanessa?”
“Didn’t come.  She wasn’t feeling quite the thing today, apparently.  Euan‘s here alone.”
I grimaced.  “That’s like letting an obnoxious animal off it’s leash and setting it on an unsuspecting public.”
Caden’s laugh was loud enough to turn heads.
I gave a wry smile.  “Well, any hope of acting hostile is certainly past.”
“I couldn’t help it,” Caden said, breathless from laughing.
The dance ended and Caden delivered me back to Jace, who’d managed to extricate himself from Stacia.
The clock struck 10 and Caden’s face lit up.   “Time for fireworks!” he declared, moving away from us.
Uncle W.’s fireworks worked their usual magic, of course, both literally and figuratively.  The rest of the court will be hard-pressed to match the display Caden had arranged, though I’m sure several people will try.  Uncle W. will be swamped.
When everyone finally made their way back inside and the music started again, Jace and I drifted from group to group, keeping an eye out for Caden, especially as it got closer and closer to midnight.
He finally found us as the clock was striking half past 11.
“Well, what do you think?”
Jace smiled.  “You’ve set a high standard.  It should make for an interesting season.”
Caden’s mother came up to him while we were talking.  “Caden, dear, what are you doing?” she asked brightly.  Neither her tone nor her smile could hide the distress in her eyes-- due, I’m sure, to finding Caden talking to such undesirables as us.
Caden is a much better actor.  He was all innocence as he replied, “It’s a ball, Mother.  I’m being polite to my guests.”
Her gaze flicked to us before settling back on her youngest son.  “Yes, well.  It’s nearing midnight, are you ready to make you announcement?”
Caden barely stifled a sigh.  “There’s not going to be an announcement tonight.”
Lady Viteri’s eyes widened slightly.  “Oh?  Well if you aren’t prepared to make your own announcement I can certainly do it for you.”
Caden’s smile was tight.  “You aren’t listening, Mother.  There is not going to be an announcement made at all.  Not by me, not by you.”
His mother touched his arm.  “Now, Caden, our agreement was…”
He cut her off.  “We didn’t have an agreement, Mother.  You gave me an ultimatum, but I am not going play along.”
Her eyes narrowed dangerously.  “Caden Viteri if you cross me…” she let the threat hang in the air.
“You’ll cut off my allowance?” Caden asked with a wry grin that didn‘t reach his eyes.  “This morning my new solicitor took care of the paperwork required for the money settled on me and this evening my new valet packed my belongings and had them moved to my new residence.  So by all means, Mother, do whatever you feel is necessary.”
And with that, Caden strode purposefully out of his own ball.
It was all I could do not to applaud.
Lady Viteri glared at Jace and me, trying to find a way to blame us, I‘m sure, then turned on her heel and stalked away.
“Should we follow him?” Jace asked quietly.
I shook my head.  “Too suspicious.  Besides, I want to see what Lady Viteri does.  Everyone is expecting an announcement.”
Jace nodded.
Unfortunately that was when Euan found me.  Having left, Caden couldn’t head him off.
“Keish,” he said, holding out a hand as if it were a command rather than an invitation.
I looked at Jace, who seemed to be trying not to laugh as Euan ignored him.
I scowled slightly at him and let Euan lead me onto the floor.
I’d forgotten what an entirely unimaginative dancer Euan is.  I caught sight of Jace dancing with Tish-- they were certainly enjoying themselves more than I was.
Thankfully it was a short waltz.  I gave Euan the barest of all curtseys and found Jace and Tish on my own rather than letting him escort me.  Petulant, maybe, but one short dance was quite enough of his company for one evening.  I won’t bore you with a description of his inane conversation.
As midnight came and went, whispering swept through the ballroom.
Finally, nearing one o’clock, Caden’s oldest brother thanked everyone for coming-- very graciously ending the affair without addressing the subject everyone was talking about.  Caden’s parents were no where in evidence.  Neither were Stacia Pastile and her brother.
Jace and I started back for the tower quickly, ducking outside through the back courtyard to avoid the crowds.
“How long do you think it took people to realize Caden had actually left?” I asked.
Jace laughed a little.  “I don’t know.  Do you suppose his mother realized why he insisted on the fireworks being early?”
I snorted.  “I don’t have much faith in Lady Viteri’s powers of observation.”
As we reached the rear entrance, someone stepped out of the shadows.
“Lurking in the shadows is a bit dramatic, even for you, don‘t you think?” Jace asked Caden good-naturedly as he followed us up the steps.
“I didn’t know what to tell Brooksby.  What I told my mother was a bit of a bluff, I’m afraid.  Alexander brought all of my things here to one of your box rooms.  I don’t suppose that offer of my always being welcome extends to the use of one of your extra rooms for a few nights?” Caden asked.
Brooksby greeted us before either of us could answer.  “My Lord, My Lady.  I do hope your evening was enjoyable.”
“Interesting may be the more appropriate appellation,” Jace told him.
“Very good sir,” Brooksby replied.  “Lord Caden, your room is ready-- I believe you will find Alexander waiting there for you.”
Caden gaped at Brooksby’s back as the man walked away.
Jace laughed.  “You didn’t think this outcome had occurred to us?”
We started up the stairs.  When we reached the landing I pointed.  “Jace’s old room, right next to his study.  We left orders for it to be readied and for Alexander to put your things there rather than the box room.  You can also have Imato’s half of the study.  You’re welcome here as long as you please.”

By the time Malia unpinned my hair and got me out of my dress, it was 2 and I didn’t sleep nearly as long as I’d have liked this morning, so now that I’ve faithfully recorded all relevant details, I think I’ll take a nap.

March 21st
Is the first day of a new term as exhilarating and yet simultaneously exhausting for you as it is for me, Arri?  Things are fresh and new and exciting, and yet there are mountains to climb.  Just thinking about the upcoming work makes me tired.
Not to mention the piles of finals I have to grade.
But at the same time there’s an energy the first week that I can never seem to recapture later in the term.
To top it all off, Keaton finished his proposal about the chickens and presented it to us this evening.
I must say, he was very thorough.
He measured an area to the side of the new garden, determined how many chickens he could keep in such a space (four), and found someone to help him draw up plans for a simple chicken coop.
He even ferreted out a spell to keep the chicks warm in their brooder and another to get rid of any unpleasant smells coming from the coop.
He would like to raise Araucanas, which have odd-looking tufts on the sides of their faces and lay eggs in all different colors.  He finds them entertaining.  Apparently the males grow to be about five pounds while the females are four.  The have what are called “pea combs” and, as I said, lay tinted eggs.  The chicks come in all colors, as do the adults.  They are a unique breed, but easy enough to obtain.
Keaton has also found someone to help him build both brooder and coop and insists upon buying materials out of his allowance.
What could we do but agree?
As a thrilled Keaton ran off to find Caden and tell him the news, Jace sighed.  “At least they don’t fly,” he muttered.
I gave him a questioning look.
He grimaced.  “When I was seven I decided I wanted a closer look as Mother’s birds.  I opened the cage and they rushed out at me, chasing me around the room and pecking at my head when they got me into a corner.  The maid had to rescue me,” he explained.
I bit my lip to keep from laughing.  It certainly explained why he kept his distance from his mother’s birds when we were in Rousha.

March 23rd
Somehow I thought having Caden in residence would make our routines different, but he spent so much time here before, and he’s refusing to let anyone know where he’s staying, so little has changed.
I sat in on his lesson exchange with Tish today.  He’s very good.  I may have to offer him a position.  We could use someone who can teach writing better than I.
His social calendar hasn’t changed, though I’m no longer telling him whom to take to what event.  I think he’s determined to be seen and be seen alone.
And since his uncle is still expecting him to gather information, attending every event is necessary.
Since Caden has always enjoyed society more than Jace or I, this suits him fine.

March 24th
Apparently “running away from home”, as Caden puts it, has had unintended benefits.  Or effects at any rate.
Last night he attended a card party hosted by Sir Tor Epte, a minor knight.  Jace and I know him, but not well.  I imagine Gretel or Imato may know him better.  Jace and I did not receive an invitation, but we’d have turned it down anyway.
As the footman handed Caden his coat at the end of the evening, he surreptitiously slipped Caden a note as well.
“I don’t think…” Caden began, but broke off as he saw the symbol on the folded paper.  He looked at the footman, who nodded sharply and turned away before Caden could say anything else.
Swiftly returning to the tower (through the servants’ corridors as always), Caden came looking for Jace and me.  He found us in our sitting room.
“I hope you’re decent,” he said as he tapped on the door and let himself in.
“You could always wait to be asked in,” Jace replied dryly.
“He’s saving that for a special occasion,” I retorted.
“Actually, I just thought this merited the intrusion,” Caden said, holding the note out to Jace.
Jace took it with a low whistle.  “Where on earth…”
Caden explained how he’d received it.
“But isn’t that…” I began.
“A Sunem name glyph,” Caden finished heavily.
Jace had grabbed a book off a side table and was studying something.  “It’s a rough approximation of your name,” he said quietly after a few moments.
We sat in stunned silence for several minutes.  I didn’t like the implications.
“What does the note say?” I finally asked quietly.
“It gives the details of a meeting.  An invitation, I suppose.  Saturday evening.  Late.”
“This could be what the king has been waiting for,” Jace said.  “Are you going to attend?”
Caden gave us a small smile.  “How can I refuse?”
I enchanted Caden’s note to the king and this morning he received a reply instructing him to attend and report the next morning, but to be cautious.  Not that Caden needed to be told that.

March 25th
“Lord Viteri requests an audience with you, My Lady,” Brooksby intoned from the doorway.
I looked up from the finals spread across the library table.  “And since when does Caden do anything so formally?” I asked with a laugh.
“I’m sorry, My Lady, I should have been more precise.  It is, in fact, Lord Macario Viteri who wishes to speak with you.”
“I see,” I said slowly.  “Well, show him up then.”
Caden’s oldest brother, with the same sandy hair and gray eyes, gives one an immediate idea of what Caden himself will look like in nine or ten years.  His grin belied his deep, precise bow and proved that they share charm as well as looks.  “Lady Pren, thank you for agreeing to see me.  I’m sure you understand why I’ve come.”
“No, I’m afraid your visit is rather a surprise,” I said, indicating a chair.
He remained standing and grew more serious.  “An interesting thing happened today,” he began after a moment.  “A piece of correspondence, a report, was delivered to the Crown Prince by mistake.  Neither he nor I could make any sense of it and naturally His Highness and I took it to the king straight away.  His Majesty thanked us and read the missive without the slightest difficulty, saying only that it was from a private source and enchanted so that only he himself could read it,”  Macario gave me a piercing look.
I didn’t even blink.  “That certainly seems like a reasonable way to deliver sensitive information.”
He nodded slightly.  “Indeed.  It’s strange, though.  I’ve never known the King’s Couriers to make that kind of mistake.  The crown prince demanded an explanation, insisting that the king could no longer continue protecting this source, that protecting the source’s identity should never have extended to keeping such information from the kingdom’s heir to begin with.  Prince Alec was very forceful and with a small laugh King Menion agreed.  I turned to leave but my uncle insisted that I stay and hear what he had to say.”  He paused, studying me.  “His Majesty then told us a very interesting story about asking a young noblewoman to gather gossip and information-- effectively to spy on the upper classes of Adya.”
He stopped again, waiting for a response.  “What an interesting task,” I replied finally.
He narrowed his eyes slightly.  “She declined, however, telling him that he needed someone who is not only always invited, but always expected; intelligent enough to gather the information but not taken so seriously that he’d ever be suspected.  Someone who’s reputation is entirely unexceptional.  And then she gave King Menion a name.”
I returned his stare calmly.  “And did His Majesty follow her recommendation?”
Macario let out an exasperated sigh.  “Enough games, my lady, you know full well he did.  And when His Majesty said that my brother, of all people, was the closely guarded source… everything made sense.  His Majesty’s reaction to that rather scandalous display in the courtyard, for example.  After watching the entire scene from a window His Majesty seemed amused.  Now I know why.”  He fell silent, eyes down, lost in his own thoughts.
“Why is it you’re here, Lord Viteri?” I asked softly after several moments.
He smiled, looking up at me again.  “I’m sorry, I was just thinking you remind me of someone.”  he shook his head slightly.  “I am here, my lady, because I know that you can give my brother a message.  He is still seen at all of the major social events, I know, but he won’t speak with any of us.  I hoped you would tell him that I’d like to speak with him.”
“Who do I remind you of?” I asked rather than responding to his request.
He pressed his lips together.  Then, taking a deep breath, he replied, “You remind me of my sister Cambria, my lady.”
“How very interesting.”  I looked past him.  “Don’t you think so, Caden?”
Macario spun around to see Jace and Caden standing in the doorway.  They’d been there long enough to hear most of Macario’s story and Caden looked frozen in his tracks.
“Caden!” Macario exclaimed.  He pulled up short before reaching towards his youngest brother.  “I had hoped the Prens would relay a message.  I’d like to speak with you.”
For a moment Caden just stared.  Then he bowed slightly.  “I’m afraid I have an appointment.  If you all will excuse me.”
Macario seemed to deflate as Caden turned and left.  “I’ve upset him,” he said quietly.
Jace put a hand on his shoulder.  “He does have an appointment.”
Macario tried to smile.  “Thank you for your time, my lady,” he said with a bow.
“I’ll see you out,” I told him.
We walked down a flight of stairs in silence.  I paused.  “I’ve just realized I needed to check something,” I said with an apologetic smile.
“I’ll see myself out, Lady Pren.  Please don’t trouble yourself.”
“Nonsense.  It will only take a moment,” I said quickly, putting a hand on his arm.  “You don’t mind waiting only a moment.”
Of course good manners forced him to agree.
I smiled and walked toward Jace’s study, using a nudge of magic to ensure that the drawing room door was slightly open as I passed it.  When I reached the end of the corridor I turned and counted to ten very slowly before silently walking back.
When I rejoined Macario it was obvious he’d seen right through my little subterfuge, but he stood outside the drawing room listening in fascination.  “Caden’s teaching.”
I smiled.  “He’s very good at it.”
Macario’s expression was thoughtful as we turned and finished making out way downstairs.  At the door he turned to me suddenly.  “I want to thank you and your husband, Lady Pren.  For seeing in Caden what the rest of us seem to have missed entirely.”
“Most days it’s our pleasure,” I replied.
He looked startled, then laughed aloud.  “I can see why he likes you, Lady Pren.”
“Please, it’s Keish,” I told him.  “Come to lunch tomorrow.  Jace and I will talk to Caden.”
“Very well, and you’ll have to call me Macario,” he said with a gallant bow.  “Thank you again.”
“Did you show him?” Jace asked casually when I returned to the library.  (Proving once again that he knows me too well.)
I just smiled and we both went back to our work.
Caden, however, did not smile when he learned that Macario would be joining us for lunch.  “Keish, how dare you?  He probably went straight to Mother and Father after he left as it is.”
I rolled my eyes.
“You can’t hide from your family forever, Caden,” Jace pointed out.  “What harm will it do to see what Macario has to say?”
“I don’t think your uncle would have told him anything if he didn’t think you could trust Macario,” I said in exasperation.  “Besides, I remind him of Cambria too.”
Caden sighed.  “Fine.  One lunch.  But then I get to decide if I have anything else to do with him,” he declared, his eyes daring me to contradict him.
I simply rolled my eyes again rather than dignifying that with a response.

March 26th
Lunch was… interesting.
Macario was prompt and charming; Caden was sullen and moody.
“Where did you tell Miranda you were going?” Caden asked his brother.
“I told her the truth-- that I was meeting you for lunch.”
“And she was just thrilled,” Caden replied flippantly.
“She was happy and relieved.  She and Racquel are still close and while our charming cousin may not break any confidences, her praise can be lavish.”
Caden’s only reply was a grunt.
I rolled my eyes.  “Brooksby,” I called into the hallway (we were in the salon), “would you find Keaton and tell him Caden wants him to meet his older brother please?”
Caden glared at me, but Keaton appeared almost immediately and he dutifully made the introductions.
“Keaton, keep Lord Macario company a moment, won’t you?  Tell him about your chicken coop.”
I all but dragged Caden out of the room, Jace prodding him along from behind.  I’m a terrible hostess, I know, leaving a child to entertain a guest while I had words with our recalcitrant friend, but Macario is a father.  I was certain he would know how to listen to a child.
“You could at least be civil,” Jace said sternly as soon as we were in the neighboring morning room.  “He seems genuinely concerned about you.”
“And you know as well as we do that King Menion contrived that whole situation.  He’d already received your note and responded to it, so how could it be inadvertently delivered to the crown prince?  The king wanted Macario to know,” I added.
Caden all but growled.
“You agreed to this lunch,” I reminded him, “so I’m only going to say this once: be nice.”
He looked like he had all manner of unpleasant things he wanted to say, but Jace was standing close and giving him a very stern look, so he wisely refrained.
We returned to the salon, where Macario seemed enchanted by Keaton’s chatter.  Listening to Keaton helped Caden relax and by the time we went in to lunch he was almost cheerful.  Well, no longer sullen, at least.
Talk drifted and swirled.  Papa had joined us, but Keaton was off with Master Zart to have lunch with Tish.  I think Caden wished he had gone with them, but at least he wasn’t growling.
Finally, the conversation turned to Caden’s ball, and his confrontation with his mother.
Macario sighed.  “You’re too young to recognize the pattern,” he said gently.  “It wasn’t just about Stacia Pastile.  Mother’s been this way with all of us.  Alec married, so I needed to marry also.  Drytan married, so Gage was next.  Dalton managed to get around it-- he married Xandra a few months before Gowlan married Romella.  Mother thinks it makes us not only more suitable companions but better able to serve as confidential secretaries.  She doesn’t bother Terence-- since she’d already decided on you for Euan she ran out of prince regents.”
Caden looked incredulous.  “This is about Euan becoming prince regent?  Mother’s as delusional as he is.”
Macario shrugged.  “She likes to be prepared.”
“Uncle is not going to make Euan prince regent.”
“Well, I know that.  And you know that.  And Aunt Jocasta is torn between being upset at the slight to Euan and thrilled that he won’t leave Adya.”
I grimaced.
Macario saw and chuckled.  “Yes, I know.  But he’s always been her favorite.”
“Something I’ve never fully understood,” I replied under my breath.
Not quietly enough, though.  “She almost lost him,” was Papa’s quiet response.
I gave him a blank look.
“He was born exactly when your mother said he would be, but there were complications she hadn’t seen.”
Macario nodded.  “I was old enough I remember.  It was three days before the doctors were certain the queen would live and then another ten before they were sure about Euan.”
“I don’t think the queen ever quite forgave Ellean.”
I bristled.  The two most important rules of divination, Brynn always says, are that you can’t choose what you see and that sometimes you can’t see everything.  “She didn’t know,” I said defensively.
“The king understood that,” Macario said gently, “but I don’t think the queen found not knowing any more forgivable.”
“That probably goes a long way toward explaining why she’s never cared for me,” I muttered.
Macario laughed.  “Actually I think it’s mostly that you terrify her.”
Caden grinned.  “Keish terrifies a lot of people.  They should form a society.”
“Or a therapy group,” I shot back.
Jace just laughed and squeezed my hand.
Macario grew serious as the meal wound down.  “Where are you staying, Caden?  I spent most of Monday trying to find out.  Miranda’s been worried; she wants you to come stay with us.”
Caden shook his head.  “No, I won’t put you in that position with Mother,” he replied.  “I’m staying here.”
Macario nodded.  “I wondered, after yesterday.”
“How…” Caden began tentatively, “how is Mother taking it?”
Marcario chuckled.  “She’s furious.  Father’s amused, for what it’s worth.  Stacia left in a huff, though it was difficult to tell who was more irritated, her or Eli.  Dalton is entirely put out with you, also.  Or at least he will be by the time they get to Streatfeld.  He’d thought that leaving so soon after the ball would spare them from traveling with Eli and Annaleis.  Not to mention Stacia.”
Clearly Caden wasn’t the only one who didn’t love his brother-in-law.
By the time Macario took his leave, Caden was relaxed and pleasant.
Macario stopped at the door, turning back.  “Be careful tonight,” he said simply, the only reference he’d made to the meeting Caden was to attend or any work Caden was doing for the king.
Caden nodded sharply and Macario left.

March 27th
We waited in the library for Caden for hours upon hours last night.  At least that was how it felt.
He went first to a dinner party-- the meeting was to start at 10.
By midnight, Jace was looking worried.  I was trying to distract myself with the latest sensational novel that everyone is pretending they haven’t read, but when Jace started pacing I lost all concentration.
The clock struck one and Jace stopped pacing.  He stared at the fire.  “Should we do something?”
I stared out the window.  “I don’t know.  Maybe he’s just being careful-- he wouldn’t want to be followed here.”
“If he’s not here by two I’m going to King Menion,” Jace said finally in a determined voice.
I just nodded.
It was quarter to two when Caden came in and dropped heavily into a chair.
“How bad is it?” Jace asked quietly.
Caden’s laugh was a short mirthless bark.  “I don’t know.  They’re careful.  I only met with three people tonight and they didn’t tell me much.”
He stared at nothing for several moments before Jace prompted him to tell us the rest.
“Sir Epte’s footman was there.  And a minor palace butler.  They’re both Grestean apparently.  But it was Sir Jer DeLion whom I was really there to talk to.”
I gasped a little.  “But he’s Arellan.”  I only know him slightly-- he’s another minor knight.  He just transferred out of Sir Aoweir’s division so is still in Adya.  I’m sure Gretel knows him.
Caden nodded somberly.  “I think that was their point.  I wouldn’t be the only Arellan involved.”
Jace’s face was grim.  “What did they say?”
“That something needed to be done to shake up the government.  That we are too reliant on our good relations with Elcaro.  That maybe the king shouldn’t be the king.”
“Treason,” Jace said simply.
Caden nodded.  “Simple, unvarnished treason.  And what a coup for them-- to have the queen’s nephew on their side.”
I grimaced.
“What’s next?” Jace asked, ever pragmatic.
“I’ll be contacted.  At my club.  I’m supposed to be thinking it over.  I walked aimlessly for a while to see if I was being followed.  I was.  So I went to my club and told the butler I’d be in the library and didn’t want to be disturbed.  That will always buy you an hour or two.  I slipped out a back entrance and went to report to the king.”
“I thought you were to see him in the morning,” Jace said.
“I received a discreet note at dinner.  No matter the time I would find him in his study.”
“And how did he react?”
“He’s angry, of course, but my being pulled in like this is the best thing we could have hoped for.  I’m to play along until I know more.  He doesn’t want to step in prematurely and catch only a few while sending the rest deeper into hiding.”
Jace furrowed his brow.  “That puts you in a rather precarious position.”
Caden gave him a wry grin.  “I’ll take those further sparring lessons you offered now.”
Jace didn’t smile in return, just nodded.  “We’ll use the mats in the drawing room.  Daily.”  His tone indicated there would be no argument.
Caden sighed and nodded.  He looked ready to collapse.  Between the strain and the hour I think we all did.
It doesn’t seem any less bleak in the light of day, Arri.

March 28th
I have your letter.  I’m sorry your classes aren’t what you’d hoped.  It will get better, though.  Right?
If Imato is calling Gretel in his sleep then either his calling spells are stronger than I thought or it is because they are so close.  Which makes sense.  After all, I can call Jace, which magical theory says is highly improbable.  If I hadn’t interrupted Imato’s call to Jace, Jace never would have heard it.
I am also surprised that the talisman survived.  I’m glad Imato was able to retrieve it.  He should keep it-- it would be fitting for him to wear it.
Gordo is right to be proud of the drawings he and Mendel made of the Pren house-- they are certainly impressive.  Jace says Mendel clearly has a real talent for it.  Malia has already made pages of notes and is writing to Taty.
Caden says no one owes him anything for keeping Liop entertained.  His motives were entirely selfish-- he had at least as much fun as the boys.
We should make it an annual event.  Perhaps next year your break will be longer so that you can come too.
I’m glad you are back to work with Master Grant.  Tish and Caden are planning to spend Saturday trying to take reflections of cells and searching for other ideas for you.
Jace wonders, since freezing water conventionally will also freeze the bacteria, if you can prevent that from happening.  Can you keep the bacteria from freezing while Master Grant freezes the water around it with ice?
Sagiteri Curtiz sounds interesting.  I’m sorry it caught you so off guard, but I doubt it was as dreadful as you thought.  I’m sure she thinks you were wonderful, if only a little shy.
I am very glad you do not have Dr. Kondamuri.
Jace is amused but unsurprised that Mendel is talking about the honor roll as though it were a joust.
Caden says you’re already breaking ground just by being there and to be getting such high marks without having been to an academy should put you on your own honor roll every single term.  I agree.
I hadn’t thought about asking the Chronicle either.  What a perfect idea.
I think you must be correct about Sen’a being your father.
Caden is hoping to perhaps learn what Mic’o is as he continues his clandestine meetings.
The spell that you saw for Ta’y raises very interesting questions.  Gretel’s right-- the Gresteans could be searching for something completely worthless.
Then again, it could mean that that spell is what should be used if and when the object is found.
I think you were right to tell Captain Stoddart no.  You have enough to do without a trip to Marobury.  There are others who can lead an inquiry.  Brynn would be willing, I’m sure, if he wants someone with a Brio connection.
I still can’t divine anything about you healing your father, but I can tell you that there’s nothing in Marobury that will explicitly help you do it.

This letter has gotten far longer than I intended, so I’ll have to close.  Good luck with your new term.  Tish says she will write you after she and Caden experiment Saturday.

Love Always,


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