Long-Awaited Audience, from Zbinka's Musings

Because Rad'en' was an officer in the King's Army his father and his page were a constant cause for ridicule. At their last encounter, Rad'en' informed him that if he ever crossed back into Eltesnia he would be killed on sight. Now we would be together again in one room, absent Lev who had other obligations.

A mere maternal figure-head about the court with absolutely no underlying power or authority, it took enormous effort on my part to arrange for a meeting between Rad'en', Misha, Lady Fenwick and myself. At long last I was sent word to the inn where the two were staying and they came at once to my quarters in court.

I was greatly relieved to see Misha and embraced him for a long time.

"Come now, Zbinka. I'm fine." Misha said in a cheery, reassuring tone.

Misha kissed the top of my head and I looked up at the infectious warm smile that I always loved about him.

"I am truly relieved that our meeting could at last be facilitated," I said as I separated from the comfort of his embrace.

"How is the old man?" Misha asked.

"Fortunate to have survived. His strength is returning, too slowly for his liking." I replied. "Lady Fenwick, I haven't seen you since you were a child."

Fen bowed her head politely and replied, "Thank you for receiving us, Lady T'Nahl. You have saved your country with your bravery and finesse."

Rad'en' kissed Fen's hand. "How is your mother, Lady Fenwick?"

"She is well, thank you, Eyre Rad'en'."

"She is an exceptional woman of both beauty and courage. I pray that you will relay to her my warmest regards."

"Indeed, I will." Lady Fenwick replied.

"Let us be seated," I motioned for them to join me at the table.

A servant brought us food and wine. Rad'en' and Misha still hadn't spoken. "I'll not have the two of you spoiling our happy reunion." I demanded as politely as possible.

"I am humbled," Misha began, "that in stead of fighting to recover Eltesnia I was sent to be baby-sitter to a grown woman."

"On the contrary, Misha. I doubt that I could have accepted the truth, plain as it was, from any other than yourself," Rad'en' contradicted respectfully.

Before much more could be said, the warm moment was disrupted by Lady Fenwick becoming ill all over Rad'en' when the food was set before her. I sent her to my bedroom to rest while Rad'en' went to put on fresh clothing.

"Just you and I, Misha," I said.

"How is Lord Halvren?"

"Quite well. I saw him briefly when he and Rad'en' liberated the court." I smiled at him. "And good doctor Tironik. I swear if it wasn't for enemies, traitors and rebels we'd still be under Paynor's spell."

"Gone back to Gelassi?"

"Tironik? No, his mistress hasn't as yet given him orders to leave. I suppose once Nalev is back on his feet and Roarke installs a new council... " I noticed that he wasn't eating. "I had the cook prepare your favorites."

"Thank you, Zbinka. I'm afraid I didn't bring my appetite. Can I see Lev?"

"He's told me 'no' repeatedly," I protested.

"Let Fen have her audience with the King. I will not go until I've seen Nalev."

"You know I'll take you to him. Please eat." I insisted. "So what does the child want from my cousin? Doesn't she know he's gone mad? Or am I the only one that is aware of how precarious our situation is?"

"She's in love with him."

"And she's carrying his child. How wonderful."

"It's Neopar's."

"Can you be sure?" I asked accusingly.

"Yes. Part of my duty to know these things," Misha snapped.

"The old buffoon is still trying to fulfill some damn prophecy. How many young girls is he going to have his wife decapitate?"

"We're determined that Fen will not be one of them. And equally determined that Roarke not know about this. She doesn't want him to think any less of her."

"My word, Misha," I scoffed, "I'm not sure that's possible. Is she is mad as he is?"

"She's in love with him and should be able to provide some needed distraction."

"That's all we need, an illegitimate bastard complicating the already complicated situation." I huffed.

"Really, Lady T'Nahl? I didn't think you were such a snob," Misha snapped in reply.

"I was merely addressing facts, and in no way intended for any insult to you."

"How is that possible?" He paused and gazed at me with those intense brown eyes. "Perhaps you would do well to remember who is the perpetrator and who is the victim with bastards such as Fen and myself."

"You have my apology, Misha."

"I would not be here but for your fine diplomacy and Lady Taisia's inadvertent intervention," Misha replied.

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