Devlin felt a pang of annoyance at the guard who had now linked arms with her as they came towards Eglan.
            They stopped in front of his Lord Father. Dalaena held out her hand and his father kissed it, the guard had stepped back.
            “Gentlemen, I am sure you are hungry and weary from your travels. Let my men escort you to our dining hall for sustenance.”
            The guard nodded and the purple-cloaks stepped in beside him. Devlin saw the same purple-cloak guard give his sister a long smile and she returned it. He’d always liked Sir Arran, just as his sister had, but he saw something there he wished he hadn’t.
            Now it was just his sister, his father and himself. Devlin suddenly felt freer without the presence of a formal guard.
            “My apologies father as to the late hour of my arrival. We have been travelling for several days, and when the choice was laid upon us whether to stay at Popping or continue through the night, well I am afraid impatience possessed me.” Devlin snorted with laughter, and then tried to cover it with a cough. His sister looked at him with confusion, but his father understood well enough as was evident by his glare. “Well, the rest of our train shall arrive by tomorrow noon.” Her head bowed low, a perfect show of shame.
            Eglan lifted her face by the chin and smiled. “I admit the same impatience takes me too,” he looked towards Devlin then, a soft expression of irritation. Extraordinary, the effect that her presence has on father, his thorns have blunted. “And apparently your brother.” They chortled, at his expense but he cared not. Eglan continued to hold her cheek, “a whole year,” he looked her up and down and his hand dropped to his side. “You truly are a Lady now,” she blushed at his words, another perfect response.
            “How very kind of you to say,” she replied “With your leave?” Eglan nodded and Dalaena stepped over to Devlin. “And you brother, it is good to look upon your face once more.” She smiled a faint sadness in her glance that made his stomach squirm. He had to exercise restraint he knew, for he was the heir to a Lordship, but that made it none-the-easier. She held out a hand and he kissed it too.
            “The years have made you all the more graceful, dear sister.” And he let go of her.
            “I hear you seek to attend the King’s tournament?” She stood on the spot for a moment, wanting to say so much more just like Devlin.
            “I hope so. I bear the honour of both House Dray and House Laurel of our Lady Mother. I will not fail them, I am sure.” The solemn words rang out and seemed to make his father happy. “Will Sir Eldin be competing, dear sister?”
            “That is very valiant dear brother. I wish you all the luck but alas, I am afraid not. Lord Damyen does not think it prudent to send his...” she paused for a moment, briefly catching Devlin’s eye, but his face remained impassive, “...his now eldest son to a Tournament. Whilst Lord Damyen attends in his place of honour by the King, with his youngest son Astor as a Champion, my husband and I shall govern Ascocen in his absence.” She finally returned her attention to Eglan “Where is my Lady Mother?” she asked.
            “Asleep, the child within her makes her so very tired. She desired to see you sooner but I would have none of it. Your meeting can wait.” This sounded more like a courtesy than the truth. Even Devlin knew his sister and mother’s relationship was strained, to say the least. He held his tongue.
            “If that is your will, father.” She nodded.
            Eglan let out a breath he’d been holding in and seemed to age five years. “There is something we must discuss.” He motioned for the carriage to continue into the castle courtyard, the turned to look at both of them. Something changed in those hazel eyes. “Follow me,” he urged. They passed through the castle gates and entered the keep. Rushing up the spiral stairway that was through the West corridor, he bid them enter his study. Once Devlin and Dalaena were inside, he shut and barred the door. 

The End

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