Chapter Nine: The Agreement

Domio sighed. “Boy, you need to find patience somewhere. You’ve been allowed to have your way so long, you don’t know how to behave in proper company.”
Lahn scowled. “Are you telling me I am spoiled?”
The serren snorted. “Yes. Your father should have dragged you back to City Lae when you ran away to the monastery. I’ll never understand why he didn’t.”
Lahn crossed his arms over his chest and glanced away. “I would have run away again. That’s why.”
“I doubt that,” Domio retorted. “You practically died in the mountains.”
“It seems you don’t know me very well,” Lahn replied haughtily.
The priest sat down. “I know you and I knew you. Why did you run away, my boy?”
“I didn’t want to marry cousin Uha,” Lahn said in a quiet voice.
“Because you are atoliy?”
Lahn shrugged. “I didn’t want to get married. I still don’t. I want to be of service, uncle. Is that so hard to fathom?”
“No,” the priest assured him. “No. But you will have more power as the spouse of the Warlord and, as such, you will be able to influence others more strongly. Don’t lose sight of one of your goals: to bring these heathens to the true God. If you bring Kah’len to the fold, think how many others will follow suit. He may not think highly of himself, but I have been making circuits at court and I have learned a great many things. He sets fads, that one. There is already talk of several aristocratic males who are going to marry other men after your wedding is done.”
Lahn cocked his head. “Really?”
The priest smiled. “Yes. Your wedding is setting a precedent.”
Lahn walked to the window, gazing out at the grounds below. It had stopped raining overnight and now Malthos shone bright in the clear sky. The sunlight warmed his face and neck. He had promised Rensen he would return the employment application today, but he had not received word from the Warlord as yet.
Lahn turned to face his uncle. “I won’t make Rensen wait any longer. Let’s find the Warlord to get his answer.”
“It is still early, Lahn.”
Lahn stomped his foot. “It is near noon! It is disrespectful of him to keep me waiting!”
The priest sighed. “He is a busy man, Lahn.”
“I am his betrothed!”
“Send a message to him,” the Serren suggested. “No need to get into an argument over this.”
Lahn wrung his hands. “It cannot be good news if he has not contacted me as yet.”
“You can’t be sure of that. Calm down.”
“I still have to ask him to sponsor me!”
“And you shall, my boy. You shall.”
“Please, Uncle. Can we not go and try to find him?”
“Alright. Let’s go.”
They took their cloaks from the hooks next to the hallway door and pulled them on, fastening the cloaks at the collarbone with silver brooches. Once outside, they were trailed by two guards as they made their way down the hallway to the west tower stairs. The stairs curved down and Lahn held his hand out to the rough stone wall. Once on the main floor, they headed towards the Great Hall. The hall was crowded with petitioners, courtiers and barristers as they waited for their names to be called to enter Court.
“Your Highness!”
Lahn turned and bowed to Lady Oona Thalmar. “My lady.”
She smiled and he was taken aback once more by her stunning beauty. She thrust her arm through his. “We must speak this instant, your Highness, about concubines for your marriage.”
“My lady, I am on my way to find the Warlord on a most important matter,” Lahn replied.
“Then allow me to accompany you, your Highness, as my son must be part of this conversation.”
Lahn stifled a sigh and bowed. “Then by all means, let us find your son.”
Lady Oona led him out into the bailey. “If I know my son, he is in his office. It is already late enough that he has exercised and looked over the troops. He may not be in a good mood, your Highness, as he hates paperwork.”
Lahn chuckled. “I know how he feels.”
She smiled up at him and patted his hand. “I have heard through the grapevine that you are thinking of continuing your scientific work at the university.”
He arched an eyebrow. “Did the Warlord tell you that?”
She laughed prettily. “Hardly, your Highness. This comes from my spies at court. Is it true?”
“I am hopeful,” he said, glancing into her dancing green eyes.
She nodded. “Then I support you. It is a lofty goal, to find a cure for the plague.”
“I think it is a reachable goal, my lady.”
They walked past the practice yards crowded with sparring soldiers and headed north along the cobblestone path to a two story wooden house with light blue shutters and a light blue door. There was a whitewashed wooden fence around the house and out front there was a small flower garden filled with flowering bushes and two stone benches. A large tree stood to the left of the walkway leading from the fence to the front door, but it was not an alait rose tree. This tree had a white bark and deep red leaves. The flowers were a blinding white with deep red cores.
Lahn stopped in his tracks. “What is that tree?”
Lady Oona smiled. “The oenaye tree. It is indigenous to North Torahn. It grows in abundance in the city, along Queen’s Park and further west near the Khaine River. Do you like it?”
“It is exquisite,” Lahn replied. “Does it have medicinal properties?”
She chuckled. “I’m afraid that I don’t know, your Highness. Ever the scientist, aren’t you?”
He blushed and she patted his hand.
“They should know at the university,” she said. “Come along.”
Inside the front door of the house was a small foyer with arm chairs set against the walls. There was a hallway that went directly ahead and past the stairwell. There were two archways, one to the left of the foyer and one to the right. The archways led to other hallways.
“Kah’len’s office is this way,” Lady Oona said and led him to the left.
There were chairs along the hallway between the doors. Lady Oona led him to the third door, which stood ajar. Just inside the door was a sitting room with a desk, behind which sat a young man in uniform.
The young man glanced up as they walked in. He scrambled to his feet and bowed. “Lady Oona. Welcome. Are you here to see the Warlord?”
“I am, Sergeant Kh’tar. Can you inform him I am here with Prince Lahn Obeli, his betrothed, and Serren Domio Obeli?”
The young man bowed again. “Begging your pardon, my lady, but the Warlord is in a conference with his commanders. He said not to be disturbed.”
“How long is his meeting?”
“I am not sure, my lady. He’s been locked in there for several hours. I can’t imagine it will go on much longer. Will you have a seat, please? I will let him know you are here.”
“Thank you, Sergeant,” she murmured and pulled Lahn to a chair. “Sit, your Highness. This may take some time.”
She sat between Lahn and Domio and looked at the priest. “I would love to have a conversation with you about Poa the Father, Father. I am a devotee of Atana the Mother myself, being a mother–”
Lahn tuned her out as he watched intently as the young sergeant knocked on the Warlord’s office door and snuck in, closing the door behind him. The sergeant did not return for a long time and Lahn wondered if the young man was getting a dressing down. He frowned. He didn’t hear any raised voices from inside the office. After a few minutes, Sergeant Kh’tar exited the Warlord’s office and closed the door behind him.
He walked to where they were sitting and bowed. “The Warlord begs your pardon, my lady, gentlemen. He is almost done with this meeting and will be able to see you in a few minutes, if you care to wait.”
Lady Oona smiled brilliantly at the young soldier. He blushed and ducked his head.
“We’ll wait,” she replied, and he bowed again and returned to his desk.
They waited for a goodly longer amount of time than just a few minutes. Lahn was fuming by the time the door to the Warlord’s office slid open and several soldiers walked out in full conversation. The small office filled with the din of their voices and the din followed them out into the hallway.
Sergeant Kh’tar rose and poked his head into the Warlord’s office. He said a few words before nodding and turning to face them.
“The Warlord will see you now,” the young sergeant said and bowed.
Lahn allowed Lady Oona and Uncle Domio to precede him into the office as he struggled to control his frayed temper.
Warlord Kah’len was standing behind his desk. He arched an eyebrow when they entered his office and Lahn closed the door behind him.
Lady Oona swept behind the desk and stood on her tiptoes to press a kiss to her son’s cheek.
“Don’t look so dour, my child,” she chastised. “We have to discuss important issues with you.”
Kah’len sighed and indicated the chairs. “Please sit.”
The spacious office was crowded with wooden chairs.
“I apologize for the crowded conditions,” Kah’len said as they took their chairs. “It seems there might be war despite our upcoming marriage.”
Domio sat forward. “Are you at liberty to elaborate on the matter?”
Kah’len nodded. “It will be all over court in a few hours anyway. The Isemi have increased their raids along the border towns.”
“Was Grand-Commander Keron unable to diffuse the situation?” Domio asked
Kah’len shrugged. “I am unsure. All I know is that I have to send troops to the border to protect the towns there.”
Domio clasped his hands on his lap. “I am sorry to hear that, Warlord. But the Isemi are unpredictable.”
“That they are,” the Warlord agreed. “Now, what can I do for you?”
Lady Oona looked at Lahn. “You first, your Highness.”
Grateful, he bowed. “Thank you, my lady. Warlord, am I allowed to work at the university?”
Kah’len sat back in his chair. “You may be returning to your nation any day now, your highness. Do you wish to put in a bid for a position anyway?”
Lahn cocked his head. “Is war a surety?”
“It never is,” the Warlord rejoined. “My question remains.”
“Then my answer is yes, I would like to work at the university.”
“Then you may, your highness.”
Lahn grinned. “Truly?”
The Warlord’s lips quirked. “Truly.”
Lady Oona sighed. “Now that that is taken care of: we have the matter of your concubines.”
“Mother,” the Warlord said. “Have you heard nothing I’ve said?”
“What I know is that if we are to be allies to the South, you need to marry,” Lady Oona snapped, flashing her son a glare. “We were once a nation. The war will be between the North and the Isemi. If you marry Prince Lahn here, the South will have to remain neutral.”
Kah’len crossed his legs. “You should have been a politician, Mother.”
Her face softened into a smile. “I agree, but such is not my fate. Now, about concubines: Bhne Tehna spoke to me of Thrudy Inmar. I have agreed to approach the Lady’s older sister for her concubinage. But I also have petitioned the Queen of Tjish.un for a concubine from there. A half-cousin to you, Kah’len.”
Domio shifted in his seat. “Our King will want a girl from our nation to become your concubine as well, Warlord.”
Kah’len arched an eyebrow. “Three concubines?”
Lady Oona gave a very unladylike snort. “Come, my son. You can afford it. I want lots of grandchildren!”
“My lady sister has given you grandchildren already.”
“And I love them dearly,” the lady replied. “But you should have children to temper you, my son. I’ve decided the wedding should take place at the end of Kamaran.” She turned to Lahn and Domio. “There is nothing so beautiful as Kamaran, your Highness, Father. The season will make for a memorable wedding.”
The Warlord snorted. “The marriage is between two men, mother. The wedding will be remembered, I assure you, regardless of what season it occurs in.”
She waved away his words and rose. “We should go, child.”
Kah’len rose. “Wait, Mother. I’ve a request for you and his Highness here.”
“Oh?” Lahn asked and rose.
The Warlord nodded. “I am headed to my villa in the south for a week. I would like you, your Highness, and you, Father, to accompany me. My mother here will be coming as well, as will my sister and her family.”
“Well, I won’t be employed for at least a fortnight,” Lahn said. “I would be honored to accompany you to your villa, Warlord.”
Lady Oona clapped her hands. “How wonderful! A holiday! Excuse me, I have to alert my servants and I have to talk to Kahla about this as soon as possible.”
She swept from the room and Kah’len chuckled and shook his head.
“She is quite the woman,” Domio commented, admiration limning his words.
“She is,” Kah’len agreed and bowed. “Now, all you will need is your personal servant. Have you given any thought to a secretary?”
Lahn sighed. “I had not, my lord. I had no servants at the monastery.”
“Your social life is about to become complicated, your Highness,” the Warlord said. “I suggest you hire a secretary and soon.”
“I’ll give it some thought, my lord.” Lahn blushed. “Thank you. For everything.”
Kah’len bowed. “My pleasure, your Highness. We leave on the first day of next week, at dawn.”
“Very good,” Domio murmured and thrust his arm through Lahn’s. “Oh, my lord. Lahn here would like you to write a reference for his employment application.”
Lahn blushed. “Oh. Yes, my lord.”
Kah’len nodded. “Send me the form and I will fill it out and return it today.”
Lahn bowed deeply. “Thank you, Warlord.”

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