The king glowered at the map again, his fingers tightened over the arm of his throne. "List the prospects once more," he demanded, turning his glare to his advisor.
Nonplused, the older man adjusted his spectacles, and the sleeves of his robe. "There are to the south, four royal and noble progeny of marriageable age. To the north, one. And to the east, there are two." The man's brows drew together, studying the parchment held.
"Tell me about the south," the kind said, bringing a hand to his face and rubbed fingers over his forehead, closing his eyes.
"Sanc lists the Crown Prince," he peered over the top of his lens at the king. "Who is not available for marriage." The chancellor looked back at his document. "One daughter of marriageable age, but is betrothed to the Crown Prince of Catur. Third in line to the crown is the king's nephew, and the fourth in line..." The chancellor tsked and frowned at his document.
"The fourth?" The king straightened, opening his eye and stilling his fingers.
The chancellor shook his head. "He is the king's second child, of his mistress." The man cleared his throat. "The Catalonia's to the north have a daughter..."
"No issue!" The king leaned forward and held out his hand. "I want to know more about this... fourth."
Handing the parchment over, the man nodded once. "Yes, Sire." As the king skimmed summarized notes, the chancellor began to recite. "The male child is Duo Maxwell, born of Lady Maxwell, granddaughter to Arch Duke Stewart. He is seventeen, and has been training with the king's second regiment on the Yugalian border. I understand the Second has returned to the capitol until winter."
"We'll begin with him, then." The king tossed the document onto the map table and rose. "Prepare the proposal with treaty."
"Very good, Sire." The chancellor rolled the parchment. "Matrimonial ties with Sanc will strengthen the bonds with allies from Catur as well." Deft fingers tied the parchment holding ribbon. "Wise choice, Sire."
Halfway to the door, the young king paused. "I hope so," he murmured and continued walking.
"As you wish, Majesty." The young man remained kneeling with his head bowed.
"It is so," the old king said, and gestured for the man to rise. "The treaty and proposal will be signed tonight, and you will deliver them in person."
The young man raised his eyes to meet the king's. The gentle smile given held the words he longed to say in check. Instead, he bowed from the waist. "As you wish," he said, waiting for the dismissal and was not disappointed at the king's next words.
Without rushing, he took two steps back and pivoted on his heel. The king's pronouncement still rang in his ears, but eyes watched and disappointing the one who meant the most was not an option. Once clear of the official halls of the palace, the young man picked up the hem of his ceremony robes and ran. Up the stairway, he paused only a moment to flash a wicked finger gesture to the guard, whistling a catcall in his wake. But he laughed as he ran.
In the family wing, the door to his sister's boudoir was open and he barely slowed, entering. "Damn it to holy hell!" the words left his mouth even as he swung the door shut. "I'm fucking betrothed!"
"Language, Duo," his sister said, not bothering to look up from her needlework. Her maid stifled a startled giggle and shifted in her seat. "And who have you become betrothed to?" Her eyes flicked upward, tracking the young man's progress across the room and back to her craft.
The young man grumbled, and pulled robe ties, letting the heavy garment fall where he stood. "Some guy named Yuy." He dropped into a chair, swinging his legs over one arm and resting his head on the other. "You ever hear of him, ‘lena?"
Relena's brow puckered and her hands dropped to her lap. "I've met him once. About the time you went to cousin's for training." Her face cleared. "He is very good looking. And I understand he's a fair and just king."
"Oh great," the young man snorted. "Good looking?" He raised his head enough to peer at his sister.
A soft smile rounded her mouth and she nodded. "Very. Of course, he's young." Her brows puckered slightly. "Twenty or twenty-one? He might be as old as twenty-three, though he was crowned king at fifteen."
"How come you didn't opt for him?" Duo sat partly up, dropping a foot to the floor and bracing an elbow on the chair's arm.
"Well," Relena hedged, her cheeks turning pink. "I was younger then, but..." She glanced at her maid, who hid another giggle in her handiwork. "I don't know for certain, but there are rumors..."
"Rumors?" Duo's brows rose and his lips twitched. "In a royal court? I'm shocked!"
"Oh stop!" Relena laughed. "I had heard he doesn't care for the fair sex."
Words ready to spill from his mouth stilled, and Duo shut his mouth. He dropped his head back to the chair's arm and spoke to the ceiling. "I need to send Quatre a message. I leave in three days... he wants to marry before the end of the year." Already, he began planning what to bring to the north court; the hunting lodge, it was called. And what to have sent later, as time drew closer.
"Married!" he cried out suddenly. "Me?"
Relena had returned to her needlework, but glanced up smiling. "If you're afraid of your wedding night, I can tell you what to expect."
Duo groaned and slapped a hand over his eyes. "Tell me you did not just offer to tell me about..."
"Sex?" She placed a careful stitch, keeping her expression sober. "Why I think I did."
"Lena!" Duo rolled to press his face into the chair back's upholstery. "Do you have any idea how disgusting that sounds?" Her laughter soothed, and he faced her again. "Relena, what the fuck am I going to do?"
She let her hoop fall to her lap, no longer smiling. "We'll think of something, Duo. We'll think of something."