XLIII - Matchmaker, Matchmaker

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As promised, I spirit Adras back into our room. Cell. When we arrive, Xanthos sits patiently on a chaise, as if he anticipated and expected our arrival at any moment.

"Ah, you're back," He observes cheerfully, "How are things?"

"How long have you been sitting here?" I ask him, noting the lived-in look of his robes and the placidly-drawn fatigue around his eyes.

"Just an hour or two. Eris, surely you know I would wait for you for eternity." 

Adras inhales sharply behind me, and I feel his annoyance and damage sting through my tastebuds. 

Bad time to fawn, Xanthos.

"Well, things at the camp are running as smoothly as can be expected, I suppose." I hide my flushed cheeks and tortured emotions by turning to one of the windows and studying the blue-purple brush of night that chases the last golden glimmer of gloam. 

Where did this day go?

"Days pass quickly when you wake up in the middle of the afternoon," Adras says, answering my unspoken question. 

I turn around and find him smiling, easy; loose-limbed and glad to be home. It's the most relaxed he's looked since this morning's terrible confession and it puts my heart at ease.

"It's so odd how you can do that." I shake my head, making a note to be more careful about what mental guards I let slip in his presence. 

"I'm not particularly fond of being the third party to a one-sided conversation," Xanthos says, clearing his throat. 

"Hagne is getting the caravan in ship-shape, they will be ready to march in a few days time. Cyrus is sending a military escort to protect them as they travel through Yehparnath and into the capital. Everybody should be here within a fortnight." I pivot us back to the conversation at hand. 

"Excellent," Xanthos nods. "Are you two too tired to continue working today, or shall I proceed with the needs I waited so patiently to raise?"

"If your business isn't food, I'm not interested." Adras huffs and collapses onto a lounge.

Xanthos smiles and bows his head, "Very well. Though this may be something we can do over dinner."

"What is it?" Adras asks, throwing an arm over his eyes. 

"I thought it might be best, sire, if we reviewed the courtiers who are eligible for your hand in marriage."

Adras makes an indiscernible noise between a groan and a shout and reaches for a pillow to smother himself with. "This again?" he asks from below seven inches of puff.

"If we could narrow the field, it will be easier when the other candidates come in from the caravan..." Xanthos tries to reason with him gently.

"Fine, bring them in with dinner. But I won't be nice about it." Adras says.

"I shall manage their expectations accordingly. To soften the torture of this exercise, is there a particular dish I should bring you from the kitchens?"

"I don't care," Adras answers dully. 

I hang back by the window, not interested in stepping out of the shadows and into this particular conversation. Xanthos smiles reassuringly at Adras' prostrate form and then looks towards me with a raised eyebrow. I shake my head. Today is not a good day for this discussion. Not when the scrape of my rejection still tears and rips across Adras' brows like a tempestuous fever of rage and bitter betrayal. Despite his ease and nonchalance, there's a stabbing, sucking sensation in the air between us that makes it almost impossible to breathe. Swirling around us like a tempting fog of distraction is the dangling hope for discussions that should be had but that I hope will never come.

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