rosiphelee: (Default)
[personal profile] rosiphelee
Title: Calculations
Words: 3144
Challenge: The revisionist challenge!
Notes: Done! Total length 15673 words! Haven't managed anything that long for a while :)

Part One Part Two Part Three

The next day Zaniel again asked his father to send him south. Again the king refused.

“Just saddle up and ride out,” Jennet suggested sleepily as he raged up and down the maproom. “He can't disinherit you – he'd be stuck with me instead.”

Angeline glared at her. “That's not helpful.”

Zaniel hurled himself backwards into the old chair opposite Jennet. “If I do, I'll seem a petulant child to every powerful man in the country. My reputation is the only thing which gives me any influence at all. He has age, prestige, position, the law, everything.”

“But his barons think he's an indecisive old fool,” Jennet snapped.

“Then all the more reason for them not to think me a young fool,” Zaniel snarled back. “Right now they think I'm decisive, committed to change and ready to listen to their concerns. They only support me because my father's such a terrible king! The moment I falter-”

“Zan!” Jennet said, eyes wide. “Watch your mouth.”

He continued over her, “-they'll run! They know as well as I do what they're flirting with by backing me! The moment I stop being worth the risk, is the moment we lose everything! And that sort of loss of influence will long outlive my father!”

Zaniel!” Angeline roared. “Shut up!”

When he looked at her, startled, she said softly, “There are words coming out of your mouth that sound like treason.”

He dropped his heads into his hands. “I know. I can't stop thinking it, Lina. When did being loyal to my country start to mean being disloyal to my king? I swore I'd never bring this country to civil war, but on the field of reputation I'm already at war-”

“Enough!” Jennet said, and there was enough of a snap in her voice that Angeline flinched. “Get up. You spend too much time thinking. Stables, ten minutes.”

Zaniel gaped at her. “You can't just-”

“I'm your cousin and your swordarm and I damn well can. Move!”

He blinked at her, but went.

“Where are you taking him?” Angeline asked, worried that Jennet really was about to drag him off to war.

Her cousin waited until Zaniel's footsteps had faded. “I'm fairly friendly with the gatekeeper on the rivergate down in the city. Where they still have the heads on posts from when my grandfather crushed the Gialets, aye? I think a close encounter with a few rotting traitors might teach our prince to watch his tongue.”

“Do you want me to come with you?” Angeline asked, swallowing.

“No. You're more use here. I wouldn't mind knowing what the rest of the court think about our whole family sat snug in the capital while their sons ride off to war.”


He returned that afternoon, quiet and thoughtful.

“I'll ask once more,” he told Angeline, sprawled inelegantly across her favourite chair. “Then I'll give some serious consideration to Jennet's idea.”

“Which one?” Angeline asked, alarmed.

“Riding south regardless,” he said. “If I arrive publicly enough, he can't call me home without making a fool out of both of us.”

“It's a gamble,” Angeline said, playing with possibilities in her head.

“Sometimes a gamble is the only move left,” Zaniel said grimly.

She grinned at him. “Mixed metaphors, my boy. Bad form.”

He threw a cushion at her and she ducked, laughing.


The week passed in a slow dream, watching the court shrink slowly as more and more companies rode south. They were being cheered through the streets of the city now, and as soon as Zaniel knew about it, he insisted on walking down there to salute every company as it left. Each day one of the Thraci and either Sian, Zina or Angeline went with him.

She had thought she was good at masking her thoughts with a smile until she stood on that little wooden stage, watching men march to war. The stage had been hastily constructed outside a butcher's shop down in the marketplace and it shook constantly under her feet. The planks were still stained from years in the back of the butcher's yard and she could never escape the faint smell of blood.

She wasn't sure which faces she dreaded more – the young court blades she knew, seeming older in their war array, or the companies marching in from the villages, wearily resigned.

Someone had put up banners on the second day she went, the city standard, Zaniel's arms (“Heads on a stick, Zan,” Jennet had muttered darkly) and, above both, the national flag. Now they had to duck under the flags to climb onto the stage, and when the wind blew the ends of the banners flicked out to smack their backs and shoulders.

It was hard not to let her gaze drop away from the passing troops; to lose focus and gaze instead at the blazing sky. Whenever she did, though, she felt a sick jolt of guilt as soon as she realised that someone in that great crowd might have noticed. Then she decided that none of them would care for a smile from the prince's cousin when they lay dying in the desert. After that, she tried to throw off such morbid thoughts by merely staring at the play of light and shadow as they passed and listening to the strange rhythm of a slow crowd.

She was there when, a week after Jennet came back, the king's messenger found them. Angeline stepped forward to wave to the passing rivermen, letting her cousins spare some attention to snapping the seals on their letters.

“Ah,” Jennet said softly. “To Abholn, to be seen.”

Zaniel didn't say a word, but stepped up to lean beside Angeline and call encouragement to the crowd. His face showed nothing but calm interest in the scene before him, but the letter in his hand was crumpling slowly under the strength of his grip.

They watched until the last soldiers passed by on the way to the city gates. Then Zaniel swung himself off the stage and started towards the palace. Jennet went after him, and Angeline, hampered by her skirts, raced for the steps.

By the time she caught up, Jennet had her hand locked around his wrist, slowing him. She cast a glance at Angeline, mouthing something in frustration.

“Zaniel,” Angeline said, locking her arm through his. “Slow down. I can't keep up.”

He nodded sharply and slowed his pace slightly. She still had to run to stay with him, three stumbling steps for each one of his.

“Where are we going?” she asked, as lightly as she could.

It was a few moments before Zaniel replied. Then he said, voice slow and precise, “The king.”

“Isn't there a public court this afternoon?” Jennet asked, sounding alarmed.

“If so,” Zaniel said, “I will come before him as a petitioner. He cannot ignore me then.”

“That sounds like a frightfully bad idea,” Jennet yelped.

He ignored her. Angeline glared at her and gestured at the sword she carried, hoping she would take the hint. She saw Jennet frown faintly, but then she wrapped her free hand around the hilt, eyes suddenly vague. Angeline hoped that she had enough sense to tell Thosa and Lovet to gather up all of Zaniel's council. It might need them all to slow him down.

There was a crowd at the palace gate when they arrived. Open courts only happened every six weeks and in a time of war this was likely to be a busy one.

“Zaniel,” she said, to buy time. “Show empathy. Wait.

He shot her an impatient glance, but joined the back of the crowd. Jennet, still gripping her sword, muttered something rudely. A moment later a tingle of magic flittered across Angeline's skin, making her jump.

“What?” Jennet said at her questioning look. “We're his bodyguards too.”

From the gate above them, a voice called out, “Swordsister!”

Angeline looked up to see a flash of blue cloak and red hair flying on the wind, before Lovet leant forward to shout again. Then she realised that she could see two blue cloaks.

Robert was standing beside his sister, scanning the crowd anxiously.

Jennet threw her arm up and waved. Angeline would have stopped her, but all her words had been pushed aside by a great gust of relief and joy.

The crowd around them had noticed their presence now and began to part to let them through. Angeline kept looking up long enough to see Robert lift his hand to her before he turned, pushing back into the gatehouse.

Robert and Lovet met them under the arch. Lovet exchanged a quick look with Jennet, and took Angeline's place, twisting her arm through Zaniel's firmly. Between them they seemed to be exerting some pressure, for Zaniel slowed a little.

Angeline found Robert at her side, his shoulder brushing hers as they fought through the crowd behind the prince.

“I thought to get him out of the crowd before he snaps,” he said into her ear.

“I was trying to slow him down,” Angeline said with a grimace. “No, don't worry. It wasn't helping.”

The crowd was closing behind Zaniel, and by the time she and Robert broke free the prince was well ahead. He grabbed her hand and pulled her into a run, chasing across the lower lawns of the palace towards the Great Hall.

“I was going to write,” he said, “but they needed someone to bring dispatches north so I brought myself instead.”

“That's good,” Angeline said breathlessly, trying to gather her skirts in her free hand without falling out of her shoes. “Good to see you, I mean. I'm glad.”

He squeezed her hand, but then Zaniel was turning round, beckoning them. Behind them, running feet crunched on the gravel path as Thosa and Melior came running up.

“I've sent word to the others,” Thosa said. “Robert, good to see you.”

Zaniel was waiting for them, foot tapping impatiently. “We're joining the petitioners,” he announced. “Quickly. I don't want to have to come back tomorrow.”

“To ask what?” Angeline demanded, but he was already striding off to join the line trailing out of the doors of the Great Hall.

“This is not going to be good,” Robert muttered and dragged her after Zaniel. “My prince, diplomacy. Do you recall the concept?”

“The time for diplomacy is past,” Zaniel said ominously and kept walking.

“This is too public a place to knock him down and sit on him, isn't it?” Robert muttered.

“I'll help if you try,” Angeline answered.

Zaniel, however, was already in the queue, smiling at the elderly woman in front of him. Jennet pressed in beside him with a forced smile, and the others hurried to catch up.

Robert still had her hand, and Angeline was in no mood to pull away. Instead, as they shuffled into the hall, she glanced at him through her lashes, checking for wounds.

He leant in and murmured, “I'm fine.”

“I was worried,” she said defensively.

He gave her that slight smile. “Thank you, but you don't need to. It was only a little skirmish.”

“It's not something I have much choice over,” she told him tartly. “I'm glad you're back.”

His hand tightened, his knuckles brushing her hip. “It won't be for long.”

She looked up at him, aware of how close they were standing. “I'll worry about you again then.”

He opened his mouth to reply, and Jennet's voice cut over them, sharp with frustration. “You're already attracting attention, Zan.”

“Good,” Zaniel said. He had acquired a small, sleeping child, and was carrying it comfortably, its bonneted head resting on his shoulder as he smiled at its tired-eyed mother.

“Back to work?” Angeline murmured and Robert grinned wryly.

“Zaniel, there are better places for you to interact with the people,” he said.

“I am not here to merely interact with the people,” Zaniel said placidly. “I am one of them with a petition to lay before my king.”

Damn, he was performing for his audience.

“You're going to create a scene,” Jennet hissed.

He smiled at her, eyes hard. “Not at all, dear cousin. I intend to create a legend.”

Robert winced and Angeline said, “Or a cautionary tale. Zaniel, do nothing you'll regret when your temper cools.”

“I never have regrets,” he said, smiling, and shuffled forward. “Make yourselves useful, my friends. There are many here more deeply laden than us. Give them your aid.”

“Does he always talk like this when he's showing off?” Lovet muttered at Angeline.

“Why do you think I write his speeches for him?” Angeline muttered back and went to find an old soldier so that she could offer her arm in support.

By the time they got to the front of the hall, Zaniel had returned the baby to its grateful mother and was standing tall. He gestured the others in behind him and dropped a low bow to his father. Angeline dropped into a curtsey, peering up at the king. His face was still under the crown, but Lord Charles, behind him, looked tired and worried.

“My son,” the king said, and Angeline listened to the hush descend on the hall behind them. A baby cried and was hurriedly shushed. “You surprise me.”

“My king,” Zaniel said, lifting his voice across the hall, “I come before you as a humble petitioner. Will you hear me?”

The king looked down at him for a moment, lips tight. Then he nodded.

“A great evil has preyed on our borders for too long,” Zaniel said. “Now, at last, we are smoking it out. No man rides lightly to war, my king, but I ask you, for the final time, let me go. Let Chamne's blood destroy Chamne's enemy.”

The king looked down on him for a while. Then he gestured Zaniel closer. Angeline shuffled forward so she could hear.

“You have spent two years begging me to restore our navy,” the king said, voice low. “Yet when I give you the coast, you want the desert.”

“The navy is needed,” Zaniel said softly, “but not urgent. If you want to win this war and keep the barons content, one of us needs to ride south.”

“And I refuse your request?”

Zaniel smiled narrowly. “I will be riding south by the end of the week. I would prefer to do so with your sanction.”

Lord Charles, behind the throne, winced slightly.

“You make my choices harder, son,” the king said and rose to his feet. “Well, then, if you are petitioning me, kneel.”

Zaniel stepped back and dropped onto one knee, bending his head. Angeline could see his fists clenched by his side.

The king lifted his voice. “I am a father as well as a king and my thoughts in these last weeks have lingered upon the fathers of this nation. We have watched our sons march to war yet again, and we have grieved for the losses we may suffered. Today my son has reminded me that we are as much a nation of sons as of fathers-”

“And daughter and mothers,” Lovet muttered behind her.

“-our sons are eager to ride to battle, eager to defend the nation their fathers and father's fathers built; eager to risk their lives for a greater honour. Like too many fathers, I have been reluctant to see my son ride away.”

He drew his sword, and Angeline gulped as he lay it against Zaniel's shoulder.

“Now,” the king said softly, “Ride south, my son. Show this scourge that our nation cannot be ground down by fear.” He lifted the sword and tapped the flat of the blade hard against Zaniel's neck. “I name you Marshal of the South, to defend what we hold dear.”

That, Angeline thought as she breathed again, was almost as cunning as his son. Zaniel might have his wish now, but his father had just confined him to the south until the slavers were vanquished.

Lord Charles was coming forward now, gesturing Zaniel towards a door behind the throne. Jennet rose and followed them, gesturing the rest of them forward. They passed through the door into a narrow passage.

“You play a dangerous game, Prince Zaniel,” Lord Charles said.

Zaniel grinned at him, a little shakily. “I'm not playing for my own gain. That makes the risks worth taking.”

Lord Charles sighed and looked past Zaniel to Robert. “I hope you realise that he'll only get worse as he gets older.”

Robert chuckled. “Ah, but as he gets worse, we'll get better.”

Lord Charles smiled faintly and shook his head. “I never meant to bring you up as an optimist. Prince Zaniel, your father will expect to see you over dinner. Now, if you'll all excuse me, I have work to do.”

Zaniel waited until the door closed behind him again before he whirled Angeline into a wild dance. “We did it! We actually did it!”

“More through luck than skill,” she retorted, squeaking as he swung her off her feet. “Put me down, you madman!”

Zaniel laughed and whispered into her ear, “Stop scolding me, coz, and kiss your sweetheart instead.” With that, he dropped her in front of Robert again and darted off to drag Jennet and Lovet down the hall. “Quickly, my friends! I want maps! Numbers! Troop positions!”

“Let's hope he calms down before he gets to the border,” Robert said, laughing.

“He will,” Angeline said, putting her hands on his shoulders. “He's never met a situation he couldn't master in the end.”

“This one may be too much for him,” Robert said, his eyes widening a little as he dropped his own hands to her waist.

She smiled up at him. “It won't. You'll be with him.”

He blushed. “I'll only be half as effective without you.”

“Maybe I should ride south with the rest of you, then,” she said, grinning.

“Sea's sake, man,” Zaniel shouted from the end of the corridor. “Just kiss the girl and hurry up! We've got work to do!”

“He's already getting worse,” Angeline muttered, smiling despite herself.

Robert grinned. “He has some good ideas, though.” He drew her closer.

She kissed him back with laughter still bubbling through her, letting all her worries slip away.

When their lips finally parted, she said, “Not pretending to court me now?”

“I was never pretending,” he murmured back, cheek warm against hers. “I've been asking Zaniel for an introduction for months.”

Angeline snorted with laughter. “You mean he set this up?”

“I'm afraid so,” Robert confessed, feathering kisses against her forehead. “I think we can forgive him this time, though.”

“I'll consider it,” Angeline murmured, tugging him down. “But for once, can we forget him for a few moments?”

“Excellent idea,” Robert said and kissed her again.

Date: 2007-07-17 06:50 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
“He can't disinherit you – he'd be stuck with me instead.” <- *cackles and snickers* Jennet is lovely.

“Zaniel!” Angeline roared. “Shut up!” <- As is Angeline. *snugs the tantrummy boy* Poor lad. It's not easy being prince, is it?

He nodded sharply and slowed his pace slightly. She still had to run to stay with him, three stumbling steps for each one of his. <- Ooooh. I like that little touch, but then you've always had a good grasp of including the little details and you just get better and better at it. ^-^ Also liked the following little bits.

Robert was standing beside his sister, scanning the crowd anxiously. <- The Robert is back! *glomps*

“I was going to write,” he said, “but they needed someone to bring dispatches north so I brought myself instead.” <- Bless 'im.

“This is too public a place to knock him down and sit on him, isn't it?” Robert muttered.
“I'll help if you try,” Angeline answered. <- Bless 'em both, rather. Those two are priceless. I really, really like the banter you've managed to put in this, despite the heavy political tones. It's amazing how light-hearted bits like this are, even when put against the darker backdrop of war and possible treason. It's a gorgeous touch.

Damn, he was performing for his audience. <- But we love him when he's performing. I love the image of Zan with an wee baby, by the bye. It's so, so cute.

“Stop scolding me, coz, and kiss your sweetheart instead.” <- Oooh, bless. ^-^ I love that scene. I love Zaniel's reaction, hyper princeling that he is. He's just like a little kid given a twenty pound note let loose in a toy store.

And that ending is lovely. Just the thing the romantic soul needs to end a piece on. It just... fits. ^-^ I adore it to pieces.

And... that's all the good I seem to be today...

Date: 2007-07-17 07:07 pm (UTC)
ext_109654: (Miffed horse)
From: [identity profile]
*grins* Jennet always was too frank for her own good. I'm sure she was meant to be a self-insert!Sue originally, but she insisted on being her own person from the start.

*snickers* Zan needs to meet some obstacles. They're good for him.

I really wanted to show how the things she wears effect Angeline. Court clothes really aren't suitable for mad dashes over cobbled streets.

Maybe I should have kept this pure politics and left Robert in the south for the rest of the story. Nah...

Zan's such a show-off, excitable brat that he is. Put him in a crowd and he'll find something to spin to his advantage.

*smiles* I'm glad you enjoyed it. It was a nice change to write something so light-hearted.

Thanks for reading, m'dear :) I wouldn't have finished it without you cheering me on.

Date: 2007-07-26 10:20 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I am so very, very fond of Zaniel, you know. I really like him. And I love that he has his own inner-court to protect him, and how they go about doing that.

"Head on a stick" has to be my favourite line. Excellent use of history to try and reinforce their point, even if he did find a way around it.

Also nice to see that his father does have a brain. All through this we were simply told of his incompetence, so that was a very nice, pointed exchange between the pair of them.

I do enjoy a good dose of royal politics, and a touch of romance to round it all off beuatifully.

Robert is adorable ^_^

Wonderful glimpse of an old world brought marvellously up to date. Thank you so much for sharing, me dear.

Date: 2007-07-28 04:45 pm (UTC)
ext_109654: (Miffed horse)
From: [identity profile]
I'd completely forgotten how much fun he was to write until I started this. Gathering a council of his own was the first move he made, with Angeline's help.

*grins* She's almost as bad as Zaniel, in her own way. She was always one of those characters who said things without consulting her author.

I couldn't let the king be a total idiot. Out of his depth, yes, but not an idiot. I think that's why writing royal politics is fun, because you can have people who are completely unsuitable for the job trying to do their best at it.

Robert's a sweetie. He always was, bless him.

Thanks for reading :) I didn't expect it to swell to such lengths when I started.

Date: 2007-07-31 01:44 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Ah, that was wonderful, me dear. The brain's gone walkies during the reading somewhere, and I think Becca and Shanra have said it all anyway. But yes, I very much enjoyed all of this -- all the characters, the politics, the banter, the little added intricacies and depth. *smiles* Well done, me dear - a thoroughly readable and enjoyable update. ^_^

(And I must say, I adore Robert. :P)

Date: 2007-07-31 02:43 pm (UTC)
ext_109654: (Default)
From: [identity profile]
Thank you :) I did enjoy dipping back into this world, and it let me tie up some loose ends I'd been regretting for a while.

I've always loved Robert. *snugs him* Poor boy suffered a lot when those girls were angst-ridden teenagers.

Thanks for commeting, m'dear ^_^ I'm glad this entertained you.


rosiphelee: (Default)

February 2012


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