A/N: I feel like maybe the lesson Buck is learning is way, way too heavy-handed. Maybe he should spend less time in his thoughts and more time interacting with other characters?
Also I decided to slow down the pacing and not have them reach Resador at the end of this chapter as I had originally planned :)
Buck reckoned this trip was going to be much more comfortable than the last one. For a start, he didn't have to try and remember how to ride a horse, as he was now tucked safely up in a wide wooden carriage belonging to Erson and Myal. As it had turned out, it was surprisingly easy to get the queen's permission for Myal to accompany them. It seemed she had had enough of the antics of both her children, and wished for some peace and quiet. Holyon and Loilyn had promised to keep the court going, but Myal told them that if they started to get in trouble then they should move back to campfires - just a really bloody big campfire.
He was sat beside Myal now, as she waved at the subjects who'd lined up to see her go. But they didn't really seem like subjects - most of them were calling her by name and telling her to send home plenty of letters. Erson twisted around from the front seat to ask if she was ready to go, and to give a quick wave of his own to the crowd.
"Uh huh," Myal said, not looking around. She kept watching the people in front of her, kept shaking the hands of some who came forward and gave her little trinkets as keepsakes. Ikilyn gave her particularly beautiful necklace, the with a little jewel the deep green of the grass of the valley.
Buck put his hand lightly on her shoulder. "Hey, it's okay. You'll have a great time, then see everyone when you get back home. And you'll have so many more ideas for your own court."
Myal smiled, slowly turning to face him. "Okay. Okay, yeah, you're right. Erson, I'm ready!"
Erson grinned. "Alright then. Driver?" He turned to Victane, who was sitting up front beside him, who picked up the reins and started the horses moving.
"Goodbye, everyone!" Myal called. "I'll be back soon!"
The crowd cheered and blew kisses to her, and some cheered for Buttane as well. In fact, one voice seemed to be rather louder than the other in that respect. Buck frowned, narrowing his gaze until he located the source.
"Hilene!" he exclaimed, waving his arm high above his head.
Hilene stopped shouting now that he had Buck's attention. He met his eyes, and kept his face still and neutral.
Buck nodded once, carefully, so Hilene would know it was on purpose. At which Hilene smiled, and waved again one more time. Buck sighed as he finally turned to face where they were going. As far as he was concerned, that was him promising Hilene that he would be more straight with people, stop manoevreing things behind others' backs. But how could he do that in Resador of all places? He had a few days to think about it, he supposed. Maybe he could bring something of the valley to Resador, some of that genuine love and warmth that the people clearly felt towards Myal and Erson.
Before he could devote more thought to the topic, Dorrea, who sat on his other side, started talking to him. They chatted about the last time they had made this trip, how tiny Buck was, and it was only as they started talking about Buck's father that he realised they were discussing a dangerous amount of truth in front of people who had no idea who Buck really was. Luckily Myal seemed to be caught up in watching the countryside go by, and Victane was talking in great detail with Erson about something. Perhaps he'd heard them and got Erson talking on purpose.
Well, as long as that was the case, Buck found himself enjoying this chat. He hadn't got to talk about his father properly in a long time - about more than just why he was gone. The good bits. Even Simone wouldn't have remembered those times, so he couldn't reminisce with her.
Thought of Simone prompted Buck to check that his bucket was still safely stowed under his chair. It was tied up in a sheet, but he'd left the top of the sheet open so that Simone could breathe. He felt her batting at him with his tail as he reached his hand down, and reached in further to give her a little scratch. He couldn't wait to get back to his treehouse and let her have a whole room's worth of space - his room, their room. Their home.
When they stopped for the night, they did so in a medium sized town that Buck and the guards had visited on the way up. Their timings had meant they reached this place in midday, but they had grabbed lunch from what Buck remembered as a quiet, peaceful tavern. He'd been glad of that by then, having clocked up several days of drinking in a row by then.
There was some drinking this night, but much less quizzing of the locals to find out what they had heard recently regarding the prince. In fact, several of them seemed to clock the prince and give them a wide berth. Buck assumed this was for Erson's privacy, but he remembered some of the judgemental tones he had picked up on around this area last time, so there was another less cordial possible explanation for their distance.
"That's an interesting idea," Dorrea said, nudging Buck.
Buck shook himself out of his thoughts and back to the thick dark wood table they were sat at. He hoped that the 'interesting idea' hadn't been him talking out loud. But Dorrea pointed with her head towards Myal.
"Uh, what was that, sorry?" Buck asked.
"Nice to have you back, Buttane," Myal said, chuckling a little. "I said that I might see about getting some performers from Resador to come perform at my own court."
Buck smiled. "I think many of them would be intrigued by that. Oh, harpists - you should check out the harpists. Or poets! We have so many poets I cannot even describe." Buck wondered if trying to offload his least favourite poets onto Myal would count as scheming by Hilene's judgement.
Myal frowned and scratched her head. "You say 'we' about Resador a lot. How long were you down there?"
Well, if Buck wasn't going to stop scheming, at least he was getting progressively worse at it. "Uh, quite a while. And there's such a feeling of community down there... they're everyone's poets, you know?"
Myal smiled, sighing. "I'd love that."
"Hey, you've got that, eh? Loilyn's a real part of the community," Buck said.
"Yeah but I want more," Myal said. "I want people to be excited for the whole night, not just waiting for the end of it."
Buck nodded. "I promise I'll try and point you in the right directions, honestly."