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Yavanna     115d ago

Mina, you should be in bed.” Vaeril shook his head, frustrated at her stubbornness but not surprised. She could dig her heels in impressively, particularly when it concerned a certain human prince. “You fainted.


After settling on the sofa in the sitting room where Vaeril put her, Sumina sighed. He wasn’t wrong, but she couldn’t go to bed yet. “For a few seconds. I know you’re worried, but I have to see him. He’s hurt, I can tell.


You know you shouldn’t after Vamir had to carry you off the dance floor, right? We’re all worried, you push yourself too far. Healing him too might be too much. And is that really the only reason you want to see him?” The moment of silence answered his question. Sumina shifted on the cushions, her head turned away. Before she could come up with a retort Vaeril waved his hand,”Don’t pout, I’ll go get him. It might take a moment to get Princess Chatille’s claws out of him. She did me a favor though, your beloved looked ready to murder your guard. Do try to keep Vamir alive in Volaire, his family is actually influential. Influential enough to get him as your guard.


So that was how it was. Vamir’s family was angling to get him into the Gilded Palace through her. Sumina touched the pendant at her neck and closed her eyes. She didn’t intend to become a Nightingale. She still hadn’t gotten that dance with Royland. She’d meant to, but all the little interruptions added up. Despite Iolas’s certainty there were still hopeful suitors trying to catch her eye, not to mention people eager to hear what had happened this afternoon. Word had spread like wildfire about Royland’s trip on the roof of the temple and the subsequent fall. She’d done her best to dodge speculation on his motives and mentioned only that he’d needed some healing. A half truth at best, but it was all she was willing to say. And then after she’d been forced to dance with several people to be polite Vamir had taken her around the dance floor again, this time until she essentially collapsed. Between all that she never made it to where Royland was. She had plenty of time to think over things, Vaeril was taking a while to get back.


The door finally opened and Sumina looked over, anticipation twisting in her stomach. Royland only stopped in the doorway for a breath before brushing past Vaeril at a brisk walk. Sumina stood and swayed, suddenly feeling lightheaded. Royland rushed the last few steps to take her into his arms. Vaeril walked closer slowly as the two embraced,”You should know that I do, in fact, want that chess match after Sumina is in bed. It wasn’t merely an excuse.”


“Right.” Royland leaned back a little to properly look at Sumina. She had leaned against him more than usual, as though she was having trouble staying on her feet. The gnawing worry filled the room despite Vaeril’s attempt to ease it by breaking the ice. They were both worried about the other, tinged with jealousy.


“Royland, I didn’t get to ask you… what in the world are you wearing?” And just like that, Sumina managed to break the tension with that teasing tone she took. Royland’s ears went red as she gave him a smile full of pity and amusement. Vaeril restrained a laugh.


“It isn’t as though I picked it. Uh… S-Sumina?” With that little smile she reached up and lightly tugged the lace at his collar. She had him speechless for the moment, very aware of her fingers lightly brushing against his skin.


The beads dangling from her hairpiece clinked together as she tilted her head,”I guess neither of us picked what to wear tonight.” She hadn’t let go of his collar, in fact she’d tugged harder and hooked her thumb just under the edge of the collar. He could scarcely breathe with her fingers teasing at the idea of removing his shirt or the lace collar. “Sionia picked this dress for me.”


Wanting to say something Royland shifted his arms, pulling her in closer. The words wouldn’t come out. She was utterly alluring, but he couldn’t quite say it. Sumina blushed and looked away briefly. The things he wanted to say, to do, were burning in the intensity of Royland’s gaze, laid bare enough that Vaeril cleared his throat. “Royland, I can hear what you’re thinking from here. Don’t. Mina, don’t forget why you said you wanted to see him, or I’ll take you straight to your room.”


“Vaeril.” Sumina mumbled, half pleading and half protesting. She looked back at Royland and let go of the collar of his shirt. Her cheeks were still pink. “You’re hurt again. Was it about the roof? I couldn’t ask before but.. why did you?”


Now that he had to explain it the reasoning didn’t seem quite as compelling as it had in the moment. His eyes slid briefly to where Vaeril was standing and watching. Damn it, he was smirking ever so slightly. Vaeril was secretly enjoying this. Sumina shifted and Royland finally answered quietly,”I wanted to explain to you. Lenoir just surprised me, I wasn’t — I thought you might get the wrong idea.”


“So what idea should I have?” Sumina leaned in closer, her lips feather light against his cheek. “How do you feel about me?”


The question had a simple answer which he couldn’t manage to get out. Royland choked on the air, acutely aware of Vaeril watching their every move. He couldn’t say that kind of thing with an audience. That was his excuse for the continued reluctance. Vaeril had some mercy for Royland after watching him flounder in silence for several seconds. “Mina, if this is all I’m going to insist you get some rest.”


With a pout aimed at Vaeril, Sumina moved back and Royland got a chance to recover. “Fine.” Sumina sat down on that sofa and patted the spot next to her,”Royland, let me see where you’re hurt.”


Sensing his opportunity to turn the tables on her Royland took the seat by her and leaned over,”Are you that eager to get these clothes off me?” Sumina blushed but before she could object Royland cupped her cheek in his hand and laid his thumb over her lips. The look on her face made him smirk, pleased to see her surprised and thrown off guard. “Not that I’m complaining.”


“Royland.” Vaeril’s voice held a hint of warning. His patience was running thin, or he was more aware of the time constraints. “Don’t you need her to heal you?”


“I do.” He leaned forward until his forehead was pressed against hers and continued low enough that he hoped Vaeril wouldn’t overhear,”I need you, Sumina. I need you with me. I don’t want to be apart that long again.”




“Your Highness, might I have a moment of your time?” Vamir inquired with a bow that was politely deferential to Lenoir.


With a pleasant, practiced smile the Princess slightly inclined her head and motioned with her fan toward a quieter part of the room,”Of course. I did want to ask you if Lady Sumina was well, the poor dear looked so wretched. I’m deeply concerned for her health. Should we delay travel?”


All a show. Lenoir wasn’t the least bit concerned for Sumina’s health, she just had to give the appearance that she was. Vamir shook his head, falling in to walk by Lenoir,”That won’t be necessary, Your Highness. I’m assured My Lady will be well after some rest. It’s very kind of you to offer.”


“I’m so relieved to hear that.” She wasn’t at all. As much of a hassle as it would be she would have found some pleasure in seeing Sumina suffer a little. Lenoir opened her fan and lightly fanned herself,”What was it you wanted to ask me? Does Lady Sumina need anything?”


With a smile Vamir looked over at the dancers. On the surface it was a normal conversation, the feigned concern for Sumina sounding real. Plenty of people were worried after she nearly collapsed while dancing. But Lenoir and Vamir knew what they were really discussing, their own veiled motivations. “I hope this isn’t too bold of me, but I feel her Ladyship might benefit from your attention and guidance while she stays in Volaire. She’s very dear to me already, and I only wish for the best for her. She is on my mind constantly. More than any other woman.”


Lenoir’s eyes flashed with understanding and her smile widened. So that was the game. Make sure people heard him discussing how fond he was of Sumina. “I see. Of course I would be willing to help. It is sweet that you’re so concerned.”




I need you.’ The morning had brought clarity and a certainty that the words he’d spoken last night were true. He needed Sumina, and he needed to keep her away from the two vipers waiting on the pier by the other ship. Lenoir was fanning herself, standing next to Harrenhal with a neutral expression. She tried to look as though she didn’t care, but Royland had seen that slight crease in her brow that told him she was annoyed.


Lenoir wasn’t the only one annoyed with Sumina's tardiness. Vamir wasn’t even trying to hide it and had his arms crossed. He’d taken up a position by Davin, the sour bodyguards looked like they suited each other to Royland. None of the faces over there would be missed, he would have been relieved to leave them all behind. The trouble was the other face he would be leaving, the one that still hadn't arrived.


Movement caught Royland’s attention. He wasn’t the only one to look and watch as Sumina hurried along the pier. Even dressed so casually she was captivating. Royland didn’t miss his chance to step in and intercept her. He walked up and as casually as he could manage he took her hand and led her toward his ship. Sumina’s face started turning red, but she didn’t object at all. She followed along, squeezing his hand when they heard the completely expected response to the brazen move.


“What do you think you’re doing?” Harrenhal hasn’t shouted, but he didn’t need to. He was imposing enough walking up to them with a cold, hard look. He held out a hand for Sumina but she didn’t take it.


“Sumina is coming with me. I need her more than you. Your health is fine, right?” Royland stood firm, his heart pounding. He held Sumina’s hand like a lifeline. In the rush of adrenaline she was the anchor keeping him steady.


“That is not how this works. She is to come with me according to the contract.” When neither of the pair budged from each other's side, Harrenhal sneered,”If you require her aid on your return she’ll be available. There are other healers in the north.”


“I don’t need other healers, I need her.” They were on the verge of causing a scene. One with a small audience since most were preoccupied with their own departures, but word would spread anyway about the confrontation on the docks. Lenoir sighed from her spot but didn’t move, and no one paid any attention to her which only irritated her more.


Deciding he’d had enough of the argument Harrenhal leaned down, gaze firmly on Sumina. His tone was deceptively soft,”Girl, you will take my hand and get on that ship with me. If you do not, then I will send Davin with you to ensure my son needs your help extensively. Do you understand?”


Sumina froze, a chill washed over her. He meant it. Harrenhal’s hand was extended and she knew she had to take it. She couldn’t let that happen to Royland. She looked at her beloved, then did what she had to. She took the King’s hand. Harrenhal gave Royland a cruel smile,”There. You don’t need her that desperately. I’ll take good care of her.”

Yavanna     72d ago

Lenoir was silently fuming behind her smile. She snapped her fan closed and motioned for Lyra to come closer,”Take Diane and have some tea made. I expect to have a proper setting on the deck to entertain guests.”


With a nod Lyra hurried onto the ship, more obviously unhappy than the Princess. Lenoir waited and watched as Sumina was led to the correct ship by Harrenhal. It was a slow march, and the only satisfaction Lenoir got was that Sumina looked uncomfortable.


The King’s hand was like iron, and though he wasn’t trying to hurt her she didn’t like the way he kept a firm grasp of her hand as though expecting escape. Sumina tried not to, but she did glance back at Royland boarding his own vessel destined for the far northern reaches of Volaire’s territory. When she did she felt Harrenhal tighten his fingers subtly and she looked away. It was too late to go home even if she wanted to, but she wouldn’t leave. Royland would be back before long, and she intended to be waiting for him in Volaire.


Until then, she was in the hands of Harrenhal Vondien and Lenoir Chatille. The old king looked down at her, an amused smile crossing his face when he met her eyes. Sumina wasn’t looking down, and while she was clearly worried there was a fierceness there that almost made him stop walking. Sumina noticed his step falter and raised an eyebrow just a fraction. She didn’t know what he was thinking, but she didn’t like the way he put his other hand on hers, cupping her hand in both of his. “You are intriguing.”


What did he mean by that? Sumina looked away, hoping he’d let her go now that they were on the ship, though now Vamir was lurking nearby ready to swoop in once the king left. She didn’t like most of the company she was stuck with on the ship, but she would have to endure it. Finally she answered when he didn’t say anything else,”Is that so? Is it my ears, perhaps? I recall you mentioning them before.”


It was a biting remark, one he didn’t quite expect from her. The old King smirked, amused at her reaction. “No, but perhaps we can discuss this in more depth at another time. I must speak with the captain. You.” He motioned to Vamir with that casual expectation of obedience,”Do your duty and see that Lady Sumina is comfortable.”




“My Lady, you need to rest.”


Vamir wasn’t wrong. Exhaustion was creeping over her, making her work more difficult. Sumina tried to brush off his concern and walk past him, but he put his hand on her arm and stayed firm, forcing her to stop. Sumina looked away from him,”Let go, Vamir. Just a little more. They need me.”


His grip tightened rather than releasing,”This isn’t what you’re here for. The temple will manage without you.”


“But there are so few healers.” Many of the healers had been moved up north to tend to wounded soldiers. Hardly any were at the temples in the peaceful southern parts of the country to tend to the ill and wounded here. “ And so many in need.”


“And you need not tend to them all in a day.” Vamir’s expression softened and he brushed Sumina’s hair back from her face with his free hand. She started to turn her head away from him but he cupped her cheek in his hand making escape difficult. “My Lady, you must take care of yourself.”


Though he was gentle about it, Sumina felt trapped by Vamir. His face was getting close. Too close. Vamir had this way of ensnaring her as though in a net, one she hadn’t noticed until it was closing in and she was already tangled in it. Sumina moved back suddenly, and just as easily as he’d caught her he let her slip through his fingers. She started down the hall and he followed seamlessly. “One last one.”


“Very well. You’ll be rested enough for His Majesty tonight, should he request you?” Vamir inquired and smirked slightly at the hesitation in her steps.


“Of course. His Majesty’s health isn’t so bad. He barely needs me.” The troubled expression could be smoothed from her face when she saw her final patient of the temple visit, but the worry gnawed in her mind. Harrenhal Vondien was surprisingly healthy for a man his age, he hardly needed her attention and yet more and more often he demanded her presence after dinner. A fact that drew the ire of Lenoir who would accompany the King when Sumina wasn’t summoned. Nothing too noteworthy had happened, but the constant tension of it all was wearing on Sumina’s nerves.


The bright side was seeing the number of common people that were glad to see her. It couldn’t be called relaxing to be in the public and taking on work to heal as many as she could, but the genuine happiness to see her was something she desperately needed and so here she was at the temple yet again until her limbs felt heavy. It was only reluctantly that she dragged herself back to the castle to sit at a quiet supper.


Lyra might have been good company, but Lenoir kept her close as a personal attendant. Supposedly Lyra was here to help Lenoir with homesickness and loneliness with her betrothed being away up north, but Sumina got the feeling there was more to it than that. She just wasn’t sure what it was. Near the end of the meal came the request that was more of a command. “Lady Sumina, you will join me in my study.”


Refusing wasn’t a real option. Not if she wanted to stay, and despite how miserable this place was she did want to stay. Royland would be back sooner or later, it had been two months already. She just had to bear it a little longer. Sumina lowered her head respectfully,”Of course, Your Majesty.”




Harrenhal Vondien held the door open for her himself. Sumina walked in past him as unbothered as she could seem. As much as she disliked Harrenhal this was becoming routine. Routine enough that Vamir and Davin knew to take up their places just outside the door.


“Sit. Wine?” The King moved to a table and poured himself a glass. This was less about his health and more of a display of power. He could command her presence and wanted her to know that.


She had guessed that from the beginning, so she tried not to let it bother her. This was the price she agreed to pay to spend what time she could with Royland once he returned. That didn’t mean she’d agree to drinking with Harrenhal if given a choice. Sumina took a seat in one of the chairs in the study set by a table for guests to sit at. On the table were notes and reports stacked in some order she couldn’t understand without reading them. This wasn’t an entertaining space, it was a work area and it was left ready to pick that work up again in the morning. She restrained the impulse to try and read the reports, to find some scrap of news about Royland. She had tried that once, early on. Her wrist had bruised after the encounter, and the apology rang insincere. “No, thank you.”


He did not take a seat. Instead Harrenhal came to stand by Sumina’s chair. He towered over her when she was standing, but when she was sitting it was so much worse. There was no good way to look at him without craning her neck uncomfortably to look up. Harrenhal took a leisurely sip of wine, apparently in no particular hurry to get to any business. “Your piety is beginning to make me look bad. I’ll need to make an appearance at the temple myself. You will accompany me. It will give a better impression to the impressionable imbeciles that flock there.”


He was trying to irritate her, wasn’t he? She didn’t like how he insulted commoners. Still, she wouldn’t give him the satisfaction. Sumina turned her head away,”If you like. Let me know when and I’ll be sure to go with you. You might even learn something by going to the temple with me.”


“I doubt I will find anything especially edifying there. If I desire any instruction from you, then I have you here, don’t I?” Harrenhal leaned over her and touched the delicate golden flowers dangling from her ear,”With ears like this I suppose they do beg for decoration. Tell me which kind you want, I have no patience to shop for trifles.”


Sumina frowned up at him, but he only smirked at her and did not move his hand away. Finally Sumina answered cooly,”I don’t know that a gift of earrings would be appropriate. Perhaps a hair ornament. But you really don’t need to get me anything.”


“Hm.” The King did move his hand, but back into her hair. Sumina had enough and pushed his hand away. Harrenhal looked like he was considering striking her. Instead he grabbed her wrist and pulled her to her feet. “You will accept what I give you. Do remember why you’re here. Now go.”


After he released her he added, as though an afterthought, just as she opened the door,”I nearly forgot yet again. I received word several days ago that my son is on his way back. He should arrive any time.”


Royland was coming back now? Sumina froze in place, her heart racing. She was elated at the news, but at the same time wondered about Harrenhal’s intentions in telling her this now. What sort of reaction was he trying to get from her? She tried to stay calm,”I see. You must be thrilled. How… how is the fighting going in the north?”


“Steady progress. The details are something a woman shouldn’t concern herself with.”




“I told her Royland is returning.” Harrenhal took the seat behind his desk and watched the young woman twist a section of her hair, letting the golden curl fall perfectly out of place over her face.


It was a deliberate, inviting gesture. Lenoir moved to stand near the King, placing herself almost between him and his desk and gave him a little pout. “Why? If you didn’t she’d probably be off at the temple when he returned, now she’ll be paying attention. I don’t understand why you spend so much time with her. Don’t you enjoy my company?”


“Of course, my dear. As for her, I want her to remember her place. That she is here to serve me under the terms of the contract.”


Lenoir sat perched on the arm of the chair,”That is a good reason, though she really doesn’t deserve so much of your attention.” The princess smoothed her dress out and added,”She isn’t going to be Queen. Or bear a Vondien heir. Shouldn’t your attention be on your legacy and not some elvish girl barely fit to be a servant?”


Her words had the desired effect and Harrenhal brushed back the deliberately displaced strand of hair,”Indeed. And how do you intend to achieve that? My current heir is proving stubborn against your ample charms.”




This room was Sumina’s sanctuary here. The furniture here was unfamiliar, but she had cluttered the surfaces with things of hers that made the space more comfortable and familiar to her. It was usually easier to relax among things that reminded her of home, but not with Vamir still here. He stood in the doorway, and she knew he was watching her while she tried to busy herself choosing something to wear for tomorrow. “You can leave now, I’m getting ready for bed.


I know. I had wondered how your passion flowers were growing, and if I might have some tea.” Vamir knew how she would respond before he’d even asked. She was soft at heart and homesick. She rarely refused anyone’s request for tea, and he’d endeared himself to her by helping keep her garden alive. These requests of his were getting more frequent.


For several seconds Sumina considered it, and then she motioned for Vamir to come in,”I have a pot of tea brewing. The passion flowers are doing… well, come see.


With the invitation Vamir closed the door and went to the balcony with her. It really was starting to look like a little garden one might find on a balcony in Zeravell. She’d acquired flower pots of various sizes and stands for some smaller plants and set them around. Each pot was home to some young plant or other. Above their heads was the roof of a trellis structure that would hold the vines already climbing the sides. One of those vines was the passion flower he’d inquired about, and she led him to that one and pointed out the new growth. “It’s growing fast. Better, right?


Much. Let me help water them. You have too heavy a hand with the watering can.” While he went about watering the plants Sumina looked a little embarrassed and watched him.


I suppose so. Thank you for helping, I feel better with the plants here. I’ll get the tea. We can drink it out here.” Sumina still wasn’t entirely sure what to make of Vamir. Despite the many irritating qualities he had, he was still one of the only friendly faces here. She much preferred when he was helping with her garden or telling her about his family over tea than she was when he was pestering her about what she was doing. Maybe it was simply that she didn't like having a guard and Vamir himself was fine.




Sumina hadn’t expected Royland to arrive so soon. Harrenhal must have seriously delayed the news of his return. She had fully expected Vaeril, who had informed them of his visit weeks ago, to arrive first. But now the castle bustled with activity because the prince was on his way down the main road and nearly at the gate.


Normally Sumina might be at the temple, but she’d felt too anxious to leave after the news Harrenhal had given and instead had spent the day tending to any of the castle servants and guards who needed help. Her stomach was in knots waiting for Royland to step through the door to the throne room. She was off to the side while Harrenhal waited at the center, commanding the room. At his side was Lenoir, her head held high. Sumina couldn’t bear to look at her. She had glanced at Lenoir before, but the princess had given her a smile that communicated the smugness of rubbing in that Lenoir was Royland’s betrothed, and Sumina was relegated to the sides with the servants.


The sound of the heavy doors swinging open drew Sumina’s attention. The dark wood moved, revealing several men walking in. It didn’t take Sumina’s trained eye to see what was wrong. There was a gasp through the crowd seeing the prince in such a state. Royland looked battered and bruised. His steps were slow, each once causing him pain. Despite that Royland set a fierce glare on Harrenhal who was looking mightily displeased himself. Royland didn’t back down and just said through gritted teeth,”I told you I needed her.”


The comment caused a hushed reaction among the crowd, all too terrified to really react but shocked by the statement. And shocked by what happened next. Lenoir locked a cold glare at Sumina, who had her mouth covered with both hands. It was clear what and who Royland was referring to. Harrenhal took a step forward, clearly furious at the display. But then Royland dared to look over to where Sumina was standing. She saw that hardness in his gaze soften ever so slightly and the dam broke. She rushed forward and touched his face where a bruise marred the skin. “Royland. How…”


He put an arm around her and looked over her shoulder. Both Lenoir and Harrenhal looked furious, but Royland didn’t care. He wanted them to be angry because he was angry. “Sumina, come on. Unless you need her right now, I’ll be needing her.” Royland watched Harrenhal’s lip curl, but he was aware of the crowd. Royland took advantage of that and led Sumina out of the room before the King thought of anything to say or do.


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