Buck looked at Myal. Myal looked at Buck. They both looked at the door to the queen’s chambers. Erson was in there explaining his plan and by the sounds of it Merhen wasn’t too impressed. At least, Buck assumed that was what all the shouting was about. He did think he picked out a word every now and then, and there had been something about a war, presumably the queen’s. So perhaps it was ranging somewhat off topic.
“Should we be listening to all this?” Buck said.
Myal shrugged. “You heard him. He said ‘wait here’.”
“I suppose he wanted moral support afterwards,” Buck said. “Probably still will, even moreso after whatever they’re arguing about now.”
“I think I heard the word ‘birthday’,” Myal said.
“Did they have a row on his last birthday?”
“On every birthday.” Myal sighed.
Suddenly the door swung open and Erson powered past them both into the corridor they were standing at the end of. Merhen’s chambers were along from Erson and Myal’s, but not off to the sides. There was a door right at the end that opened into a much wider area. You could see the cylindrical walls of the chambers from the outside, in fact Buck had often wondered what actually took up that space.
Myal jerked her head in Erson’s direction, then ran off after him. Buck hurried to keep up. He had no interest in being the first one Merhen saw when she came out the door.
He caught up with the others just as they nipped into the room they'd had supper in together a few weeks previously. Erson's face was completely still, giving nothing away, but he pointed his head towards the door. Buck closed it behind him, and joined the other two in sitting down at the table. He and Myal sat on the side of the table closest to the door, Erson on the other.
"Well?" Myal swatted at Erson's arms, which were placed carefully on the table in front of him. He sat with poise, the sort of dignity he showed on his throne when they hosted nights in the palace.
A smile started to form, mouth slowly turning upwards on both sides at once. He glanced from one of them to the other. "Well, I'm getting married."
"Yeah!" Myal cried out. She ran around and draped her arms over Erson's shoulders.
Erson's stony expression broke and he laughed, giving her a hug. Buck felt rather a lot like he shouldn't have been there. He glanced at the door, but Erson had after all invited him through it only moments ago.
"Buttane, your thoughts?" Erson said, as Myal sat back down. "And you are still coming with me, yes? I feel your expertise may prove invaluable in navigating the city."
"Of course I'm coming, yes. But, well, I know this is good, but is it jump up and down good? And also was it in any doubt?"
"Well, you know my mother's feelings towards Pires. I think she thought I was deliberately trying to aggravate her at first. But in any case I told you this is good! I'm doing something. Being proactive. Not letting people just walk all over me. Plus, I won't be disinherited."
"And one day you're gonna change the world," Myal said.
Erson grinned and nodded. "That's right. No longer will one be shunned for marrying who they want, or so strapped for cash they have to scam innocent bystanders just to buy a goddam boat!"
Erson's voice got rougher, harsher towards the end, louder too. Myal reached forward and held his hand, but suddenly he was frowning and looking at a point between the two of them. He said, "No longer will a son be locked in pointless, endless arguments with his mother that lead to nothing but ripped throats." He looked up at Buck. "I like the way you say they do it down in Resador, accepting folks of all sorts. Perhaps Resador can be my new capital, and travel south the focus of my kingdom's endeavours."
"I'd be careful," Buck said immediately. "Very little of that land is uninhabited."
"Oh, I had meant for trade," Erson said, "Not land acquisition. That's, er, that's my mother's thing."
"Fair," Buck said, just glad he hadn't accidentally said that Erson could get his father back.
There was silence for a few moments. Buck watched Erson, but he just kept staring at one spot in space then another, saying nothing. Buck tapped Myal's shoulder then motioned with his eyes towards the door. Myal bit her lip, watching Erson, but eventually she nodded.
As they got up she said, "Hey, we're going to give you a moment, but we'll be around if you need to talk, okay?"
Erson looked up, choking a little as he said, "Thank you."
Buck and Myal slipped out into the hall, then immediately gave each other a long, quiet hug.
As they walked away from the door, back towards the public areas of the palace, Buck said, "I actually have to go update my family. My mum said that if this happened then I was to tell her when I was sure and she would consider coming with me. Although I'm surprised she'd leave the farm."
"I wonder if my mother would let me come too. You know how much I'd love to see Resador," Myal said, fidgeting with her dark blue skirt.
Buck chuckled. "That I do. I think you would love it there. You can't imagine the singing and dancing they get up to down there."
"Were you deeply involved in the city?" Myal asked. "I hadn't actually realised. That would explain many of your talents."
Buck was saved from having to lie, to Myal of all people, by Erson calling out to them from the doorway. He emerged fully and jogged down the corridor to catch up to them. From his dark brown robes he pulled a golden envelope, with lovely floral imprinting on the paper.
"Buttane, I have no idea how many preparations will be necessary before I am able to leave, so could you do me a favour?" He offered the envelope to Buck. "This is my letter to Pires accepting her offer - assuming it remains open. Could you visit the horse master and send this with our fastest carrier down ahead of us?"
Buck took the letter and nodded. "Whatever I can do to help."
He had intended to send a letter of his own to Pires, so it was good to know where one could do that in the valley. He held the letter up in a salute, then headed off to ask his mum where in the world he could find the horse master.
As he walked away, he heard Myal say, “That wasn’t much of a moment – shall I leave you a bit longer?”
Erson responded, “Ah, you know I can’t figure out life without you.”
Buck was getting too far away to properly hear Erson’s next sentence, but given Myal’s excited shrieks a moment later he felt it safe to assume she’d just been formally invited to come to Resador, whether with her mother’s permission or without.