Restoring Order, from Fen's Memoirs

Roarke and I awoke alone. I had almost forgotten that luxury. We dressed and sent for breakfast. It was already waiting outside the door, but still no briefings or overbearing doting. We ate in peace. I wanted to check on the Eyre before the morning swim at the pond.

We arrived at the door and knocked, several times before Nalev answered.

"Good morning, Eyre," Roarke said. "Is everything alright?"

"Please forgive me, your highness. I slept through morning briefings."

Misha came to the door.

"Good morning, your highness. Fen," Misha started, "we go back to Gelassi in two days. Do you think you can stay out of trouble for that long?"

"Of course, Misha." I responded. "

Once at the pond, we found Zbinka and Burgi, who was still sporting a black eye from what I presumed to be his failed encounter with Nalev several days back.

"You know him best, what do you think he'll do?" Zbink asked.

"He'll have his marriage annulled. It's what he's wanted all along." Eburgistraten replied.

"And he'll have no reason to honor his treaty with us with Ksennia as his successor!" Zbinka said angrily. "I don't see where you have a choice, Eburgistraten."

"No more war, Zbinka," Burgi sighed.

"He's afraid that you'll regain your throne. What if he joins forces with Dophe and we have a war on two fronts?" Zbinka continued.

"Sounds like we missed the briefing but made it for the debate, Fen." Roarke said.

"Well, Fenaway," Burgi looked at me. "What is Gelassi's part in all of this?"

"I should think diplomacy, by all means. We can withhold our tribute to Kanabulan and press for a peaceful restoration of proper authority." I said.

"But would you fight with us, Fen?" Zbinka asked pointedly.

"I do not think that Gelassi should be used as a weapon against a man who has done nothing but foster our growth and development. I can have no part in the provocation of war," I said firmly.

"And should he strike first? Or ally himself with Dophe?" Zbinka questioned.

"Any intrusion of Kanabulan forces on Gelassi soil or an alliance with our known enemy would be considered an act of open aggression." I stated calmly.

"I believe I have greatly underestimated the number of liberated Houseborne males that will be joining you on your return to Gelassi." Zbinka probed with her statement.

After a brief pause, I replied. "I trust that after closer investigation we can remedy that error."

"Please excuse me," Zbinka said as she dismissed herself.

Later Roarke presided over the court and listened to a number of complaints from the people. We were anxious to receive news of our neighbors. Ksennia added, inadvertently, to the drama by gathering some children to teach them sword fighting. Since she was such a petite waif there were not many other suitable opponents. She was seething over father's recent decisions and, much like her mother, would like nothing more than to have the opportunity to run him through with a sword.

Though I thought it bad precedent, I sat on the Queen's throne since Zbinka was busy working her magic and because I needed to be close to Roarke, more for my own sense of well-being than his.

It was much later that evening that we received word that Queen Dophe, decrying the invasion of mercenaries on Belauriian soil, was able to rally a substantial number of southern landowners back to her side. Enlistment, voluntary or otherwise, soared with the nationalist fervor.

Zbinka assured us that the error in record keeping would be investigated day and night and she anticipated that in a month or so, there could easily be as many as three times the original reckoning of former Houseborne recruits. Roarke clearly felt some trepidation when he said farewell to D'Hir, but he did a tremendous job concealing in until we were alone.

Too soon I would be back in Gelassi and burdened with preparation for my report to father.

Zbinka, as promised, continued to find recruits for Gelassi. That was both good and bad news for us because my father was very skeptical of Gelassi's swelling forces. I endeavored to impress upon him that it was merely for our defense against Dophe. Once again he questioned the wisdom of our involvement in Belauriian politics. I reminded him that as the arrangement was purely economic, we would back out if necessary.

"You have no loyalties, Fen," he said in dismay.

"I've been raised in three courts, father. There is little else I can do but aspire to a sense of fairness and do what is best for Gelassi."

"Things were much simpler before when you knew who your enemy was."

"Roarke means you no ill will."

"Do you say that as my emissary or as his mistress?"

"I say it because it is the truth," I responded respectifully.

He looked at me and paused. "Does she hate me so much, Fen?"

"You seem to elicit that response from many women in your life, save maybe Hetta, myself and, most astonishing, Vay."

"I would make your mother Queen today if she would forgive me."

"Please forgive my bluntness, father, but no one has ever or will ever desire the throne enough for such a tall request."

"I did not want to do it," he protested.

"Yet you did."

"Even a king needs to uphold the law. There was nothing to do to alter the outcome."

"Not even a word in her defense?"

"I dared not show division with the country still at war."

"I'm truly sorry for you that your conscience only works in peace time."

I stayed on in my father's court for a couple of days, then returned to Gelassi.

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