“Do you have siblings?”
They lay in bed as the sun came up, speaking softly. Anan woke from her light doze to answer his question.
“Yes, a lot of them. My father has three wives, two of which are still alive. I am the youngest of nine girls.”
He made a surprised noise. “Nine?”
She raised her head off his chest to look him in the eye. “Yes. Nine. That’s why I became a warrior.” She paused then corrected herself. “That is why five of us became warriors and trainers of magic. We knew the throne would never be ours. When this position became available, I wanted the privilege.”
Eloran smiled down at her. “Princess.”
His smile grew into a grin, but instead of saying more, he pulled her closer and kissed her.
Eloran returned to the castle as promised, but went to his mother first. He found her, as always, in the garden. He sat beside her and kissed her on the cheek. “Lavender.”
She closed her eyes and smiled. “I know what that means to the Finarans. Did you place a twig of lavender behind her ear?”
“And what did she do?”
“Accepted it.” He looked to his mother with a serious expression on his face. “Mother?”
She looked to him and frowned. “What is it, dear?”
He looked around, saw they were in fact alone, but still leaned in to whisper in her ear. “She’s Finaran. An elf. Princess Anan.” He pulled back. “I know the King’s name, but I never learned his children’s names.”
Camilla smiled. “She told you then?”
“You knew.” He gave her a slightly surprised look.
“Yes. I knew when you told me her name and position. I felt it best to let her tell you.”
He nodded. “I love her.”
She gave a short laugh that was almost pained. “Don’t let Laurence know.”
“What is his problem with the Finarans? They want nothing from us.”
“Well, that’s not entirely true. There are plants here that do not grow there. There are also minerals in Grenlacks that they use.”
“Yes, but the same could be said of humans and Finara. We trade with them.”
She nodded. “You would have to ask your brother why he hates them.”
“When he gets back, I may.”
Though Laurence did not like the Finarans, he was a great diplomat, and was currently in another kingdom to the north negotiating a peace and trade agreement. His mission would last several more months, but everyone was optimistic that both kingdoms would gain from the agreement.
After some silence, Eloran sighed. “Do you think father will allow me to invite Princess Anan to the ball?”
Camilla laughed. “Is that why you found me so quickly? To ask me that first?”
“Yes. Do you?”
Eloran nodded and left to find his father.