We reached Cznorh the following evening finding food and lodging, the latter being of more personal interest. Weary and dust-covered from the ride, my preoccupation was seeking audience with Roarke. The wait was maddening. Days passed with each request either ignored or denied. We tried to contact Nalev and even D'Hir, but still did not receive the sought after response.
Finally, it was Nalev's son Rad'en' who agreed to meet with us in the acting Queen's quarters. I had heard much about him from Misha. While Zbinka was always boastful of her husband's principles and character, Rad'en' was anything but. Because he was an officer in the King's Army his father and his page were a constant cause for ridicule. He often railed against his mother that she had nothing to do all day but have tea, make idle conversation and throw lavish parties. More often than not, his anger was stored up for those rare occasions where he and Misha were together. At their last encounter, Rad'en' informed him that if he crossed back into Eltesnia he would be killed on sight.
It was fortuitous that I felt ill and lost my supper all over Rad'en' before he and Misha could resort to anything stronger than insults. Begrudgingly, he said he would speak with his father on our behalf.
Two long days later, I was granted my audience with the king.
I was scarcely more than a child when I last was present in the court at Cznorh. As I had no desire to encounter either D'Hir or Zyta, I considered myself fortunate that there were no familiar faces to welcome me. Eyre Nalev received us then directed me to follow a guard to the royal gardens.
I had to look for quite a while to find Roarke who was pacing quietly throughout one of the many secluded pathways near the center of the gardens near the pond. The chill was from more than the morning air when he spoke to me.
"King Roarke," I replied with a faint curtsy. "So good of you to receive me."
He looked at me with a blank expression that was a poor mask for his annoyance with my persistence.
"You have put me in a very awkward position by coming to my court. Do you know how many times I have heard from King Neopar since you and Misha wandered off?"
"It was not my intent to inconvenience anyone by my actions. I did what I believe to be best for all concerned. "
"Is it true?"
I knew that he was referring to my being pregnant and only hoped that his sense of propriety might hamper any further questions. He studied me from head to toe and although I didn't much care for his condescending air.
"Do you have any idea what I've been through here?"
"I felt your pain as I read your letters and wished with all of my being for a way to ease your languish."
"This was not it."
"No, I don't suppose it was."
"You may stay."
"You are most generous, your highness." I nodded politely while trying to maintain my composure from the giddiness I felt bubbling up.
It turned out to be my breakfast bubbling up. But I was content, none the less.