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Sometimes, Gaiane regretted her decision to personally nurse Loholt. She loved him deeper than she’d thought possible, and the idea of not having the quiet moments to bond even further with him was always enough to couple with the hormones, still out of balance, send her into a roller coaster of guilt and despair. But each time the baby’s magic triggered, burning her, or he shifted and the needle-sharp dragon teeth broke through tender skin, the thoughts returned. Always instantaneous and fleeting, and the salve that Danny had prepared (and continued to prepare) when Gaiane had first asked for some sort of relief, worked wonders to take the pain away, but even those instances drove the guilt. She had, of course, made certain that whoever fed and looked after the prince during the night had access to the healing lotions and salves as well, and that they got plenty of rest during the day. If Gaiane was getting to sleep through the night without waking to feed and care for her baby, the person who was should be compensated beyond fairly.

The first time Loholt had shifted, he’d been asleep in his cradle and Gaiane, intending on spending time with her new son, had nearly had a heart attack at the dragon sleeping peacefully in the prince’s place. Frantic and hormonal, multiple servants and courtiers had been called upon to search for the missing baby until the queen witnessed him shifting back into his fairy self. Pallas took over watching the infant now when he was a dragon, although the familiar had never had any intention of caring for a brood of hatchlings herself. Gaiane trusted Pallas with the baby far more than she trusted Angmar, who had never really gotten to know, reserved as he was.

Still it was lonely, with the hustle and bustle around her, and the admonishments of household members about what was proper and what wasn’t, Gaiane was happy when Mordred could spare time to spend with her and Loholt. And she was happy to have a new friend as well. If one could really call a person appointed to spend time with you a friend, anyway. Gaiane wanted to forget that Alethea had been appointed to the post at all, wanted to think the girl wanted to be friends anyway, but both had been at the Castle for years. Neither had said more than a word of greeting to one another in that time. Few people had said more than a word of greeting to Gaiane since she’d come to the castle, really. It hadn’t bothered Gaiane before, being a bit of a loner. Now in the overwhelming chaos and sea of people, having no one but her husband to talk to had become more noticeable.

Less noticeable, although Gaiane was starting to feel it (unless it was the hormones at work again) was some of the distance that had grown between her and Mordred. Attentive as ever and present, there still felt like a gap forming. He was busy, of course, with rule and all the paperwork that came with it. Work, Gaiane tried to tell herself, was why they’d rarely shared a bed after she’d realized she was pregnant. Or perhaps he thought she wanted space, privacy, rest. She hadn’t exactly brought the thoughts up to him. Mordred had far more important things to deal with. Besides, it probably was just Gaiane imagining things.

Still, she needed to get out of the castle. She’d been cooped up more than long enough, first waiting for labor, then in labor, then recovering (and plenty of people seemed to be of the opinion that she should still be recovering, despite Loholt being several months old already. She dressed, a sky blue dress with various embroidered figures, with the “help” of a maid. Having dressed herself throughout her life up until her wedding day (and to be fair, she had needed some aid getting ready that day), the maid was more of a hinderance than an asset, but the queen’s objections had proved futile consistently.

“Thank you,” Gaiane said, both to the attempted help and the volunteered suggestions about activities inside the castle that might be more suiting. Gaiane still wasn’t sure how much suggesting was too much and at which rank those levels changed. It wasn’t worth correcting anyway when she could just accept it and ignore it. “But, I think Lady Alethea has a schedule already set.” Besides, she thought, liftng the smiling baby from where he played on the floor, Loholt should get to see more than stone walls and dark tapestries in dim lighting.

The walked through the corridors, Gaiane focusing on the baby, and only offering small nods of acknowledgement at everyone bowing and curtseying as she passed. A few gained a “good morning” when they offered one. When finally she found Alethea, she smiled at her, more warmly than at the courtiers in the hall.

“Please tell me we can go out today. Scheduled or unscheduled.”

photo by knowhimonline at flickr.com


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