Thursday, January 12, 2012


A trio of Senators were the first to depart the meeting, two males that Alex didn’t recognize blowing right past him and the Sergeant. They both looked unhappy, though the second appeared to be just short of enraged. Senator Kshana trailed them, stopping to talk and happy as she had been last time Alex had spoken to her.

She looked to sergeant Zenshen and spoke quietly. “Thank you for your service, it is very much appreciated. If you would let the young prince know that I am glad to see him well and that I would enjoy speaking with him again, I would be deeply grateful.”

“Of course, Senator.” She switched from Tsla to English, relaying the message to him verbatim.

Alex thought carefully about his reply, both of them watching as he made up something that sounded sufficiently formal, if not short. “I thank you, Senator. I would very much like that as well, I hope that our paths will cross again soon.”

The Sergeant translated his words and Kshana lit up, touching him on the arm before she bowed and took her leave. Zenshen waited until she was at the door before speaking again. “Looks like she fancies you.”

“Really?” It would explain why she was one of the few Tslao who actually seemed to enjoy his presence. "I thought she was just interested in humans."

“I’d say she is interested in a human, at least."

“Last time I talked to her, she had lots of questions about human culture and that kind of stuff." He had been in a state of shock when he had last spoken to her, as well... He could have missed something, but was sure he hadn't.

The sergeant hummed quietly, eyes watching the slowly thinning crowd. "It may be so. Were you Tslao, that touch would have been a breach of conduct for a senator... Except in a more private setting. Royals may get away with many things in private."

"I'm not really getting that feeling from her. She wouldn't have done that in a room full of witnesses if she meant it that way, anyway. Right?"

"Given how often anyone looks our way, this is almost a private setting."

That was true. After the initial rounds of greetings, they had been left alone and studiously ignored. That had suited him well enough, though now it left him feeling unprotected.

Colonel Lehnan cleared his throat behind them. "It is bad enough that you corrupt your own mind with those romance books. You do not need to do the same to his with their unreasonable fantasies."

She had straightened up as soon as she heard his voice, wine glass disappearing behind her back as she turned to face him. "Yes sir."

"Romance novels." Alex laughed quietly. So he had been correct about the senator not having some sort of intentions toward him. The relief he felt was unexpectedly intense until he noticed the Sergeant and Colonel Lehnan looking at him like he shouldn’t have been able to understand what the Colonel had said. Alex noticed Carbon standing behind the Colonel in the middle of a cringe. The amount of suspicion now in the conversation sent his comfort level crashing back to the ground. “I- I, uh... Have been learning Tsla. Slowly. It’s a process. I know more now than I used to.”

They didn’t seem to be buying that. Alex scrambled for something that would be more convincing to them and came up empty. That would be his story, he would stick to it. It did not stop him from looking to Carbon, silently pleading for her to do something.

“Neya also has an affinity for such stories... I have heard her speaking to Alex about them as she helps in his studies.” She stepped around Lehnan and took hold of his arm, eyes turning towards her old friend. “They have yet to interfere with her duties.”

The Colonel seemed skeptical but held his tongue, switching into English. “I will keep your experience in mind, Princess. May we take our leave?”

“Of course, Kaen. You do not need to ask me.”

Kaen glanced at Alex and then back to Carbon. “I know. I am not asking you.”

It took Alex a second to understand that the Colonel was talking about him. “Oh. Oh yeah, it’s totally fine. If she said something, I’m probably good with it too.”

“Thank you, sir. Have a good evening.” It almost seemed that just listening to Alex was taxing for the older Tslao. The two soldiers bowed and departed, Zenshen staying a step behind and depositing her glass on the dining table as they passed by it.

The smell of ozone announced Eleya before she said anything, a pair of cloaked guards stepping silently past them. “It is time to for me to depart, as well.”

No one bothered with the pretense of translating for him. Carbon gave Eleya a shallow bow, speaking in Tsla again. “Of course, dear aunt. Sleep well.”

“I do not intend to depart alone.” She gestured for the two of them to follow as she headed for the double doors across the room. Not much in the way of choices, Eleya and Carbon both making several stops to say good bye before they found themselves in the hallway.

“Do you have yet more plans to discuss?” Carbon said in English, clearly not enthused by this prospect.

“No. Nothing that has not been covered already, but I do wish to speak with the young prince. Privately.” She held out a hand and one of her guards deposited his yoke into it, in turn holding it out to him.

That was not what Carbon wanted to hear. “If there is anything that he can discuss, we can discuss it.”

“I’ll be fine.” Alex took the device from Eleya’s hand, smiling as he settled it on his shoulders. He didn’t particularly look forward to a private chat with Eleya, but he knew what she wanted to talk about this time. Probably.

“It is not that I doubt you.”

He laid his hand on her shoulder. “But you don’t trust her?”

She gave Eleya a sidelong glance and nodded. “Yes. That is it.”

Alex shrugged and looked at the vague silhouette of the guard standing over his shoulder. He reached out and gently punched him in what Alex hoped was his shoulder. “I got these guys to look after me. They’re pretty good, right?”

Given that Carbon had overpowered two of them with nothing more than a chair and a well placed foot, then held one of their own weapons at the Empress’ throat just a few hours ago, she was understandably unimpressed with them right now. “They are loyal to her.”

“It is clear that I have stretched my word to you painfully thin, but please understand that I have no ill plans for him. I just wish to talk in private. You know how the court operates.” The Eleya that cared was back. The one that felt like family, that you would actually want to spend time with.

“I do.” Carbon sighed and patted Alex’s arm. “Hurry home.”


  1. And now Alex will have to fess up that the cat is out of the bag. Or Eleya might start pressuring for an heir. That'll be fun.

    1. If they're going to have an heir, they're definitely going to have to adopt...