Stable Conversation

Connor strode out to the stable and hunted for something physical to do.

There was a pile of wood and an axe nearby but he wasn’t a great woodcutter and he didn’t want to risk a sharp blade with his current mood. He settled for hunting down some leather polish and a cloth and attacking his saddle.

The evening meal had started awkwardly, but good food and the easy conversation from Evan and Imelda had soothed the atmosphere between himself and Sophie.

He did believe he was on Lost Island now. Apparently one of the island’s favourite ploys for those hunting for whatever they’d lost (and he wasn’t prepared to discuss that one just yet) was a dense fog, just like the one he’d ridden through that morning, transporting them to the island, completely unaware.

Things had thawed enough by the end of the meal that he felt comfortable in starting to make plans for his and Sophie’s return home. Only to discover Sophie had no intention of returning, quite possibly ever, and nothing he said could sway her. If anything, he seemed to be pushing her further in the opposite direction.

Even bringing her parents into it was no help. It turned out she’d written them a full letter several days before, outlining her plan to find a new purpose for her life and the raven had returned with their love and blessings.

And what was this life purpose mess anyway? So what if she wasn’t going to marry Stephen any more? She could marry him instead, they’d always gotten along better anyway, and then she could go on to run his estate while he led the army and they’d raise their children and she’d be a wonderful mother and life would be great.

A throat cleared loudly nearby.

Imelda, looking at him with a raised eyebrow, “Are you always in the habit of speaking your thoughts aloud? Strikes me as a little unwise for an aspiring army commander.”

Connor could feel his cheeks burning, “No, it only happens when I’m Sophie-angry. She seems to push me to new levels of frustration, always has.”

“That does happen with those we care for the most.”

He ducked his head and focused on the saddle, this was not a topic he wanted to discuss.

Imelda perched herself on an obliging hay bale and changed the subject, sort of.

“Tell me, if your Stephen were to hop off again, and reappear with some scruff of a boy who had dragged him out of a bar fight. And he announced that this untrained whelp was to be the head of his armed forces and you had no way to argue, no recourse, what would you do?”

Connor stared at her, lost and confused.

She let him mull it over for a few minutes, then continued, “Don’t let the marriage side of things distract you, Sophia was in training for a job just as much as you. We see plenty of people of all stripes coming through this island and encounter many beings of all varieties. Sophia is one of the most intelligent , well educated, politically astute individuals I’ve ever encountered. She was being trained to be the head of your diplomatic service, if unofficially, and if I’m not missing my guess, your future king’s spy chief. I’ve never known anyone with such a talent for information.”

Connor gaped at her.

“She’d be wasted as a stay-at-home lady of the manor, bored out of her mind and miserable. Do you really want that future for her?”

With that parting blow, Imelda left him to the uncertain joys of a half polished saddle and way too much to think about.

He looked at the door to the house, down at the polishing cloth, sighed and started polishing again. Hard.

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