Kadelyn knocked on the door, but wasn’t sure her polite tapping would be heard over the conversation and motion inside. Her little sister, Ineli was moving through the rooms at a speed that was unusual for her, but still easy-going for most. Cloth rustled, drawers opened and closed, lids creaked open or clicked shut, and Ineli chattered happily with her bodyguard, his deep voice more often dominating the conversation than hers. The door muffled their voices just enough that Kadelyn could amiably decide not to hear what they were saying, and she knocked a second time.
The conversation didn’t stop when Ineli moved to the door, and the girl was laughing when she opened it.
“Hello, Kadie,” she said. She dipped a curtsy out of habit, and held onto an easy, bright smile. Behind her, the room was warm and yellow from the light spilling in through the open windows. The breeze touched a cool hand to everything it could flick or flip, but most of the room and its comfortable circle of padded chairs seemed weighted down with clothing and books. Dresses and scarves and stacks of books striped the couch, the padded chairs, and the floor in deep, rich colors.
Kadelyn smiled back at Ineli without thought, glancing over the disarray. “Are you packing or just redecorating?” she asked.
Ineli’s smile broke into a grin.
“Packing,” she said. “I promise.”
She pushed the door wide and nodded Kadelyn inside as she turned back toward the center of the room. Kadelyn motioned for her bodyguard, Noach to stay in the hall, and he took his place with his back to the outer wall while she followed her sister.
Aithan, Ineli’s guard pulled himself up from the only open chair. He was taller than Ineli by almost a foot, but looked down only a few inches to meet Kadelyn’s eye. Bowing deeply to Kadelyn, he turned to Ineli and paused just at the top, questioning. Ineli nodded brightly. Aithan strode out and closed the door behind him.
Holding her skirts closer to her sides, Kadelyn stepped carefully through the arranged piles. Outside, Noach greeted Aithan – the usual warm hello which turned into a low murmur as it came through the wall, and Kadelyn settled in the open chair.
“I never know how to pack when we’re taking the Wave Crest,” Ineli said. She spread her hands, helplessly gesturing to the entire pile of her belongings. “There’s so much more room than aboard most of the ships, and we do so much more. It’s almost like being at home, and I feel like I should just take all of it, except there’s not quite that much room.”
“No,” Kadelyn said, laughing gently.
Ineli flashed her another smile over her shoulder.
“I was going to take all my favorites, first,” Ineli said. “But I’m going to need more than that.”
“You never take all your favorites,” Kadelyn murmured.
Ineli glanced back at her, eyebrows raised in light question.
“You leave one favorite dress behind so that it’s here waiting for you, clean and ready for you after you’ve scrubbed all the salt off you,” Kadelyn told her. “It makes coming home better, if you’re not waiting for all your good clothes to be cleaned.”
Ineli’s eyebrows stayed high. “That’s what Brance said.” She took a slow, quiet breath. “I guess now it’s advice I have to take.”
Looking down, Kadelyn smiled. It should not have surprised her to hear that she and her twin had voiced the same thought. They used to do it all the time, and she knew it wasn’t that easy to pull thoughts out by the root.
“Are you all packed?” Ineli asked.
Easily, Kadelyn looked up again and nodded.
“How?” Ineli asked. “You’re going to be busier than I am.”
“I am,” Kadelyn admitted. “And maybe that’s why it was easy. When you know you’re going to spend most of your time sitting in negotiations, you know exactly what you’ll need to bring.”
“I thought it would take you longer…” Ineli said. “I thought you’d want to impress.”
Kadelyn laughed silently. Leaning back, she tilted her head to look at her little sister. “Nel,” she said. “Are you saying I’m not impressive all the time?”
Ineli started to respond to assure Kadelyn that she was, and then she stopped, seeing the languid way Kadelyn sat.
Kadelyn knew what she looked like, with her heavy skirt spread around her and the embroidered tips of her boots just showing under the shining fabric. Her jacket was perfectly fitted to her shoulders, the sleeves elegantly belled and fell gracefully away from her wrists. Her school of fish tattoo swirled delicately across the back of her hand and up her arm, while her wristband glinted on the opposite hand.
Ineli shut her mouth gently, and gave Kadelyn a dull, reproving look.
“I am looking to impress,” Kadelyn conceded. “But that makes it easier, too: I just need all my favorites. Except one.”
Ineli shook her head. Turning away, she brushed her hand over one of the nearest dresses. The touch seemed to make up her mind, and she picked it up, folded it carefully and set it inside the open trunk in front of her.
“So, you’re not nervous at all?” Ineli asked after another moment. Her voice was softer, more measured.
Kadelyn sat up again, marking the turn in her concern. Whatever her thoughts on her clothes, she had let them go, and Kadelyn could feel Ineli’s sudden attention to her. Kadelyn watched her too, leaned forward and crossed her arms on her knee.
“I am, a little,” Kadelyn said.
“About Terius Visade?” Ineli asked. She met Kadelyn’s eye over her shoulder carefully.
“Mostly,” Kadelyn said. “Though, having never met him, it’s felt like a much more general concern. Like the concern you have standing in a whole group of strangers. I could be about to meet one of any number of people.”
“And marry him,” Ineli pointed out.
Kadelyn shook her head. “That’s not so great a concern as you might think. There are plenty of chances to say no before it ever gets that far, no matter how good the alliance looks right now.”
“But you could,” Ineli said. She turned around, set her hands behind her back, braced against the edge of the trunk. “You could take his name.”
“Yes,” Kadelyn said. “He’s a First Lord’s heir. I’m a Clan Lord’s daughter, but I’m still a second child. He’ll inherit more than I will, so, yes, I’ll take his name, and move to his estates. I hear they’re beautiful. Not so crowded as here.” She looked around at the ceiling and walls, as if she could see the tangle of halls around them. “Like someone dropped a house in the middle of one of our gardens.”
Ineli watched her, and didn’t react, waiting still for something.
“It’s not a big house,” Kadelyn told her. “Compared to any house I’ve lived in before, anyway. Securing it, supplying it, managing it…” She broke into a wide smile. “It won’t be half so much work as I do here.”
“But what if you don’t go?” Ineli asked.
Kadelyn hesitated. “Then, I don’t go,” she murmured. She blinked, eyebrows coming together low as she looked at her sister.
Taking a breath, Ineli tried again. “What if you stayed? What if Brance doesn’t come around, and you become a Clan Lord’s heir? You don’t secure an estate, you manage fleets and islands, handle the large disputes of nations… Are you going to bring Terius Visade here to sit on a throne beside you and manage your estate?”
“Brance is going to come around,” Kadelyn told her, quiet and firm.
“I hope so,” Ineli said. “But I know he’s not coming with us, and an heir should for a treaty like this. And I know you do full half of his work on top of yours.”
Kadelyn paused. It wasn’t like it was hard to notice, but she wondered who had told her. “It’s work that needs doing,” Kadelyn said.
“You could hand some of it to me,” Ineli said. “I have the time.”
Kadelyn almost laughed. “If he saw you doing his work, he would take it back in an instant.”
“Tell me the bad in that,” Ineli returned.
Kadelyn did laugh, lightly, and she dropped her head until she had stopped.
“Would you bring Terius Visade here?” Ineli asked again.
“It’s not a thought that needs to be entertained yet,” Kadelyn told her.
Ineli looked down. She rocked onto the side of one foot, bracing herself against the trunk behind her still. “Yet,” she murmured. “But maybe it should be, before it gets too late.” And before Kadelyn could respond, she had lifted her head again. She met Kadelyn’s eye for just a moment, then looked to the wall.
“Does it seem to you,” she began slowly. “That life is getting more permanent?” She took a breath, blinked as if she were reviewing what she’d said. “That the decisions we’re making are getting more permanent?” She looked to Kadelyn.
Kadelyn waited a long moment before she nodded.
My friends are thieves! They stole the first line of this piece and wrote fiction of their own. Be sure to check out their blogs to see what other doors Kadie was knocking on.