The dragons accompanied Sariya into the next room, most going high and, to her amusement, remaining completely unnoticed. Mav, on the other hand, moved to drape themselves across Sariya’s shoulders and hissed at any of the maids who came too close.

Watching the hive of room preparation activity she had apparently generated, Sariya had trouble keeping a straight face while listening to the commentary coming through the mental connection with the gemscales. It appeared the only maid meant to be there, and becoming increasingly frustrated with the interference, was the officious one from earlier. All the rest were spies and errand-runners from various interested parties across the court. News did indeed travel fast.

Waiting until a moment when most of the group were awkwardly occupied in making the bed, she breezed back through to Marcus’ room, ignoring the squawks behind her.

“Toiletries”, she said in answer to his query, “They’re all so busy collecting gossip, none of them remembered to find me a toothbrush.”

“How many do you think are here for the gossip?”

“Oh, all of them except the one who wanted the key. She’s just trying to get her job done and the rest of them are driving her mad with all their fuss and delaying tactics.”

Marcus turned and yelled for Samuel, who popped straight in from his post outside the door.

“Give me one reason why I shouldn’t have you removed from your position this instant.”


“In that room over there, no work is currently being done, as all the maids are crouched next to my door trying to hear everything we say. I told you I wanted that room prepared for a guest. I did not ask you to blab my business all over the castle and fill my personal quarters with nosy busybodies. You will be replaced with someone I can trust and respect in the morning.”

Samuel started to splutter again until Marcus cut him off and turned to Sariya, “Let me know which of the group you would like to keep to attend you. Samuel will personally escort every single one of the others to their respective employers and provide me with a full list of names on his return.”

He then paused, gestured both of them to silence and waited for five beats. Moving to the interconnecting door, he waved them over to inspect a now near-empty room, just the one maid remained, crossly stuffing a pillow into its case.

He looked over at Samuel, “Despite what I said earlier, I’m not going to kick up a fuss with the Commander on this. There was really no way you could prevent it. At least three people were watching the courtyard when we came in. However they now think I’m actively at odds with you and we might be able to use that to our advantage. Just please be a little more discreet in future.”

He turned to the maid, “And who’s giving you a quiet handout for information?”

Sariya flicked him on the forehead, “Behave.”

The maid dropped the pillow.


“Stop taking your bad mood out on people who can’t talk back. I know you’re frustrated at the delay and the posturing, I am too, but there’s no need to scare Samuel and Moira like that.”

“How do you know her name? You weren’t in that room long enough to have any sort of conversation.”

“Mav told me”, Sariya turned to Moira, now frozen in shock in the middle of the room, “Mav tells me a lot of things, it’s amazing how many places small dragons can find themselves. You’ve made a very good impression on all the gemscales. They say you’re hard working, discreet and have a deep sense of honour. If you can cope with me being very different to the type of person you’re used to, I’d like you to remain as my personal assistant for my time here.”

Moira blushed and awkwardly bent to pick up the pillow, “I’m just doing my job My Lady, I’d be happy to stay on if you don’t mind someone who’s not got the proper training.”

“Well since I don’t have the proper training either, and don’t plan on getting it, I think we’ll do just fine together.”

The maid smiled, “Very good milady, although you do need to be careful about your closeness to His Highness, half the powers that be will marry you off to him in a wink and then the other half will be mad as fire.”

Marcus jumped in, “Who are the first half and how fast can they arrange the wedding?”

He stepped back quickly from another threatened flick.

“You’re going to have to do better than that if you want me to think about accepting your extremely carefully planned, intensely romantic proposal, in a stunningly beautiful location, that I can tell all my friends about later.”

Marcus gave her a wide, innocent grin, “Yes dear.”

Sariya settled for a mock glare and turned back to Moira, “Marcus and I are close and I’m not about to hide that. The various factions at court are going to get upset but they don’t have you, Samuel and five gemscale dragons in their camp so I’m really not worried.”

“Five? But you only have the one, the other four are bonded to the ladies of the court.”, Samuel looked confused and worried.

“They weren’t fully bonded to them, so when I suggested other names that fitted better than the previous ones bestowed, their old connections broke, and re-formed with me.”

“But there are to be five dragon-tied officially presented to His Highness at the ball in two days’ time.”

“There might be five women presented, but the only dragon-tied is Sariya, which is why this whole thing is a complete waste of time.”

Moira looked at Marcus severely, “Rituals and rites of passage are important, especially when the world is feeling a little uncertain. It helps to anchor people.”

Marcus grumbled but subsided and Moira returned to sorting out Sariya’s room.

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