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Dwoll was awash with color. Spring had burst forth in full, brilliant bloom. Every nook and cranny of the citadel crowded with life.

The white streamers and sparkly glass baubles strung from doorways and rooftops were nice, too, though Guin thought maybe the decorators had overdone it just a tad with the flower garlands. She could hardly blame them for being overzealous, but still--she'd nearly been throttled by low-hanging wedding decor three times already.

Leaning against the castle balcony railing, Guin gazed out across the city. A sweet spring wind toyed with her hair, plucking at the blossoms her mom and Mogra had braided into it. She was wearing her bridesmaid dress; a simple, pale blue gown that she actually thought made her look rather pretty. The wedding itself was due to start soon, but she still had time to get downstairs. For now, she savored this rare moment of peace. Royal weddings might be great for the economy, but living through the planning of one was akin to surviving a miniature pastel apocalypse.

The ceremony had been rehearsed so many times, Guin though she could do it in her sleep. In the absence of another male relative, Lorn was going to read the father's section of the wedding ritual. Igren was going to read the mother's half, on Matta's instance. That had been... controversial, but somehow, after living in close proximity with the woman, Guin felt it was a good choice. Yes, the emissary had plotted to murder her with a group of cannibal nutters, but--well, in the greater context of everything, Guin didn't really blame her. And she hadn't stopped apologizing for almost a year. Initially, there had been a lot of screaming and Igren had tried to place herself into voluntary exile, but Matta wouldn't let her. Lorn even appeared to hate the woman a bit less.

Matta seemed happy, even if she had driven the event organizers mad by constantly sneaking off with her handsome soldier of a groom. Everyone seemed more or less happy, in fact. Droom was walking again. Zolga too, though she needed Kip to wheel her around in her chair more often than not. Even Talon was unusually sunny, which Guin thought was mostly due to the fact she had somehow managed to ship Captain Varyn all the way from Svard for the wedding. The two women had been practically glued to each other for a solid week now.

Mom and Dad were adjusting--they kept talking in a vague sort of way about going home, but it was a distant thing, to be planned some time in the future. Both of them had expressed a fervent desire to visit Svard, because, well, dragons.

Evelyn had taken up residency in the castle library, where she devoured everything, from cookbooks to star charts. "I want to learn everything about this place," she kept saying. "Everything. And then I'm going to start a school, so I can teach it all. These people are afraid of books, and I'm going to change that..."

Her body had grown much stronger over the winter. General Terin had promised to teach her horseback riding when she was steady enough on her feet.

And Lorn. Well, Lorn had been... busy. So busy that Guin had hardly seen him for a month. He was always dashing off somewhere, or giving her odd, silent looks from across the dinner table.

She tried to tell herself that she didn't mind, but the truth was, she did. A lot. And she was irritated with herself for that. Also, she wanted to hit Lorn with a wet towel. 

Try ignoring that, you thick-skulled, uppity--

Guin sighed, frowned, and pulled the small slip of parchment from her dress pocket. She'd found it shoved under her door the previous evening. The message, written in Lorn's neat, elegant script, read:

Tomorrow at eight. Western tower balcony.

And that was it. Two short, dry lines. Six words. So here she was, when she ought to have been in the great hall with Mogra and Sanna and the rest of the bridesmaids. And he was late. Ten minutes late.

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