Marcus returned to his quarters after an irritating meeting with the royal council, fending off demands, suppositions and inquisitions around his mysterious guest. He and Sariya had decided it was easier for her to stay reasonably secluded for now, and give her a chance to absorb some of the ways and knowledge of his world, in the way he had when he stumbled into hers.
Which meant he had a nasty shock when he walked into his sitting room to discover it overtaken with piles of fabric and twittering people of various descriptions.
“What, exactly is going on here?”, He didn’t speak loudly, but his tone sent the words echoing into a silence none of the crowd were brave enough to break.
Except Sariya, “Moira discovered you brought me here without so much as a change of clothing, much less an outfit for the ball, so she’s organising a wardrobe for me.”
“Not a stitch to my name and the clothes I arrived in, so strange and outlandish. They look distressingly like men’s clothing.”
“Right. And so you are now getting suitable clothes, that aren’t like men’s clothing.”
“So she says.”
“How very thoughtful. Everyone, out, now. Samuel, usual door duty please. Moira,…”
Sariya interrupted before he could say something cutting, “Moira could you please go to the kitchens and fetch some food. Marcus is acting like he forgot lunch again, it always makes him grumpy.”
The crowd buzzed up again as they exited, that little snippet, and her informality with the Crown Prince, would be whispered across the entire castle before nightfall. He mentally shrugged, anyone with half a brain would have worked out they were a couple the previous night. May as well drive it home before their appearance, together, at the ball.
He ambled lazily towards Sariya, who was trying to unpin herself from some pastel gauze drapery, “No dress for the ball? Does Moira have fairy godmother ambitions?”
“She’s doing her best but she’s very strait-laced and the dress I am going to wear will make her hyperventilate. I wouldn’t put it past her to dispose of it if she saw it before I walk out the door wearing it, so I needed to do a bit of distracting. It went slightly overboard.”
“How are you going to keep her from interfering in the lead-up to the ball?”
“Oh most of my preparations will be perfectly conventional by her standards. Hair will be fine, make-up will be in a different style than she’s used to but I’m not planning on going overboard so I think that’ll interest her rather than start any alarms going. I can do all of that in a dressing gown and pop the dress on as she’s fluffing out the one she’s having altered now. Dressing gown back on, out to here to meet you, drop robe, exit stage left pursued by a hyperventilating maid.”
Marcus laughed, “I need you in the military college teaching strategy and guerilla warfare. Our generals have nothing on you.”
He helped her with the last of the pins and looked around the fabric-strewn disaster zone that had been his quiet retreat, “This is more than just a ball dress though.”
“Marcus, ‘not a stitch’ remember? You seriously think I’m going to let her near my camping gear? She thinks I have no clothing at all, which is why I’m in this rather ridiculous petticoat and robe combination and have been all day.”
Marcus privately thought she looked rather elegant and was debating whether to mention it given her clear discomfort when Moira came rattling back through the door with a tray.
“Snacks to be going on with Your Highness, thought you would prefer to not spoil your appetite ahead of this evening’s dinner engagement.”
“What dinner engagement?”
“Your Highness is dining for a single course with each of the dragon-tied in turn.”
“No I’m not, I invited my parents here for a quiet family meal ahead of tomorrow night’s spectacle and anyone who thinks I’m going to meekly submit to some underhand politicking put together behind my back clearly doesn’t know me very well.”
Moira looked to Sariya, “What? He’s right, if they want him to do something, they need to have the gumption to bring it to him rather than stick you in the firing line. They’re a bunch of cowards and not worth his or your time.”
She turned to Marcus, “How do you want to handle it?”
“I’m going to completely ignore it. I have not received an invitation and I have a prior engagement with you and my parents. And you will need a dress of some sort for that. And, Moira, see if you can find some of those busybodies from yesterday. They can clean up the disaster zone the tailors have turned my sitting room into while you hunt down a simple dress for an informal meal.”
Sariya was now processing the implications of a family dinner, “Two points, one, you are really pushing us as a couple down your court’s collective throat, is that a good idea? And two, speaking of underhanded, when exactly were you planning on telling me about this dinner tonight.”
“That’s why I’m here, I adjourned Council early so I could come up and give you time to prepare but then got ambushed by tailors and back-handed dinner invitations. And on point one, yes, I don’t want them getting silly ideas.”