Chapter Three, Part Two

"Please, be assured that we were not followed." The icy eyes were intimidating, but in them, she knew he was a man with experience and skill. But yet.

"Leucrota, if Amphrice found this out, I could not face him."

"It is well known that Father Gensia opposes this, I see no reason for Father Gensia to oppose his returning with us. Amphrice would not question the Father’s motives for being in Morra."

"Amphrice is so much more intelligent than you think," she insisted. "You know him as the son of the Emperor, but you do not know him as my brother. You do not see him behind closed doors; you do not listen to his thoughts or hear the flame lashing in his words."

"My lady," Leucrota cut in, shaking his head. "You know what my eyes have seen. I've watched your brother and yourself grow into two different yet similar individuals. The pretense of your departure was legitimate, and I do know that there are affairs in court today that will be keeping his mind upon other matters. The concerns of his sister's hobbies are absent, that I do know."

"Perhaps," Shalassah placed a finger to her lip, averting her eyes in worried contemplation. "Perhaps we should send for Gensia a week from now. Surely things would not change in such a small period of time. And it would not be so peculiar that the Father arrives the same day I've been indulging after my hobbies. Even a slight peculiarity and Amphrice would know. We are so close, and I could not disguise it from him."

"You disguise very well, my lady."

She frowned at his attempt to lead the topic astray. "I am not afraid of my brother. He knows I am opposed to this. But if he could know that I am going out of my way to work against him," she paused, her throat taunt. She held herself for a brief moment, her eyes in earnest. Then her gaze darted away to the floor, and she said softly, "I could not bear it."

Leucrota was not affected. "Your love for your brother is honorable, and the meddling of a woman in the affairs of men is a questionable deed, but you are only doing what you think is correct."

"And that does not make it correct in anyone's eyes!" she exclaimed loudly. She covered her mouth and turned to the window near her, afraid to attract unwanted attention.

Leucrota said nothing, and Shalassah fell back into morose thought. A minute passed in silence.

"If what you are doing is untrue to your eyes, then I suggest we return immediately."

Her dark eyes flashed at the suggestion. "But I will not betray my people!"

"You are their voice, my lady," Leucrota bowed his head.

"If no one acts for them, then who will?" Shalassah turned her head quickly to the window. "He returns."

She sat in regal patience, her gaze restlessly wandering through the potted plants, the ferns and over flowers she had never seen before. This was most certainly an herbalist’s laboratory, and the affection shown to these plants were obvious. There was not one browned leaf tip, not one shriveled stem or vine, the flowers and buds were full and velvety, colors as vibrant as the setting sun from the deepest burgundy to the whitest shade of yellow. Were it the cold, or were it the urgency she had instilled in this monk, this man who could possibly only be a year or two older than herself, it was hard to tell given his fine complexion, brusquely opened the door and slid inside, letting in as little cold as possible with him. His eyes shifted from her guard to her, and she could only hope that the situation had come across as desperately as she had tried it to be.

"If you would come with me now," the young monk named Kal exclaimed, "he will see you immediately."

She hid her relief and stood up, Leucrota coming to attention, having not raised his head since he bowed it. She approached the monk and Leucrota followed her.

"Then let us go to him and have this done with."

The End

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