Gifts from his mother were always interesting, yet from experience Alan knew he must be wary. 'What is it...' A look into the day of Alan of Pirates Swoop. One-shot.
He drew his hand gently down her back, watching the goose bumps rise over her skin.
'Alan,' Lianne moaned, rolling away from him. 'I'm trying to sleep.'
He laughed softly, wrapping an arm around her waist. She sighed, leaning into his hold. For a while Alan fell back to sleep, the scent of her hair comforting him into unconsciousness. He was so glad to be home.
Voices woke him hours later. There were people in the room next door, the living area connecting his suite to his knight masters. Alan pulled on a pair of trousers from the ground, tugging a shirt over his head at the same time. He gently kissed Lianne on her cheek, wondering who would possibly be up at this time of night.
Standing around a small table piled high in maps of the castle were Numair Salmalin, Sir Gareth of Naxen (the younger) and Lord Wyldon. Alan glanced bleary eyed at the clock. It was four thirty in the morning. 'What's wrong?'
Gary looked quite upset at the prospect of telling him. King Jonathan's principal advisor was very fond of his other friends son. 'Lianne's missing.'
Alan had known Lianne his whole life, being born the same year. Liam, Lianne's brother and Alan's best friend, was a year older, passing his Ordeal of Knighthood the year before. Alan had struck up a romance with Lianne then, being left in Tortall while Liam went to Carthak to visit Kalasin. Alan had left shortly after too, patrolling the Scanran border with Raoul. Tortall was still very wary of anything happening in the north so soon after the war.
But he had wasted no time since his return to Tortall in rekindling their romance.
Alan froze, a smile halfway to his lips. Lianne wasn't missing, she was lying naked in his bed. Oh Gods. He said the automatic response, 'What was that?'
Numair Salmalin looked disappointed. He had trained Alan in his Sight, and if Lianne were close by he knew Alan would know. 'She's missing, we can't find her anywhere,' a flicker of worry passed over his face. 'A maid came in to check on her a few hours ago; she had left dinner early complaining of a headache...'
Alan's stomach sank further. Lianne had really left early to meet with him.
'And she saw Lianne wasn't in bed...' Numair finished, staring at the floor.
Alan cleared his throat. 'And people are looking?'
Gary tried to grin reassuringly. 'His majesty has half the council out searching through the castle. Raoul's with your da even now.'
'Alan, you don't have any idea where Lianne might be?' Numair raised an eyebrow.
Alan remained silent, thinking of the best answer.
Gary repeated the question.
He stook a step back. It was far too early in the morning to be dealing with this! Not for the first time in his life, Alan dearly wished he could lie like Alianne. 'Maybe.'
Numair took a deep breath, calling on his last reserves of patience. 'What does that mean, Alan?'
He looked at Numy pleadingly, careful not to spare a glance for Lord Wyldon. Alan didn't want to think of how the Lord would hold this over his mother. Decidedly, he would blame it all on her.
Numair wasn't in his most sympathetic mood, mostly due to the fact he hadn't had a glimpse of sleep. 'Do you know where she is, or do you think you know?' He spoke slowly, drawing out each word as if Alan were stupid.
Alan thought he quite liked this idea - he had perfected the art of acting ignorant. In reply, he shrugged his shoulders.
'Alright, here's the deal.' Lord Wyldon couldn't help looking a little smug, thinking Alan was bound to get in trouble. He knew the look of guilt well enough from dealing with the pages all those years. 'Tell us now, and you wont be in any more trouble then you are already.'
Now Alan couldn't help meeting his eyes. Lord Wyldon may be able to over-rule the younger man, but Alan could easily out stare him. Sure enough, a shiver went down Wyldon's back and he quickly looked away. Most people found his green stare, a lot like his mothers, intimidating to put it mildly.
Numair knew too well what Alan was doing. 'Alan? This isn't getting anyone anywhere.'
He took a deep breath. Maybe this was a dream? A horrible, sordid, embarrassing nightmare.
'She's in there.' Alan threw a hand in the direction of the door leading back to his room.
'In your room?' Gary's voice cracked.
Alan looked at the ceiling. 'She...' responses flooded into his brain, all as unbelievable as the next. 'She fell asleep on my couch.'
Numair closed his eyes, rubbing his temples. 'Oh Gods.'
Alan stole a glance back at Gary, who seemed as if he was fighting the urge not to laugh. 'Why don't you go fetch her.'
He spun around, quickly exiting the room. Lianne grumbled as he banged the door shut.
'Lianne?' Alan walked to the bed, picking up her clothes on the way. He gently shook her shoulder.
'What? Go away.'
'Lianne, you have to get up now.'
Her eyes snapped open. 'What is it?'
'People are out looking for you. You have to get up.' She sat up, gripping his shirt for support.
He explained quickly as she dressed, rinsing her face in the basin before encountering their doom.
Alan took a deep breath, opening the door again, a great deal more hesitant than the last.
'Right,' Gary quickly took a mental note of Lianne's haphazard dressing and Alan's tousled hair. 'Lianne, why don't you come with me. You can explain to your parents.'
Lianne folded her arms where she stood, widening her eyes at Alan.
Lord Wyldon followed her gaze. 'I think Squire Alan should stay here. He can tell Sir Raoul why he's been out all night looking for a girl in the room next door.'
Alan would have much preferred to skip the party late that afternoon, (therefore avoiding anyone who might have heard anything of the previous nights givings). But it was there the last-year-squires would be finding out when their ordeal was to take place.
Meekly he waited his turn before the old training master, as his fellow squires lined up picking an envelope from the small pile. It was a new idea they were trying out for the first time; written inside each sealed envelope was the date you'd be facing the chamber. It was meant to eliminate any show of favouritism and bribing.
His eyes swept over the small room separate from the party next door. Alan watched the dark haired boy in front of him snatch a letter up quickly and hurry away. Alan grinned at the middle aged bazhir, who he liked quite well, taking another envelope from his desk. He opened it carefully before exiting the room.
23rd of November
He frowned, crunching the paper inside of his pocket. Alan would be the first of the squires to take his ordeal, just two nights on. This would mean Aly couldn't make it back to Tortall in time as she had promised. Just his luck.
Alan entered the ball room next door alone, looking for Liam. He wondered how much his best friend knew, or guessed, about where Lianne had been late the night before. He shuddered at another thought. Or what they had been doing.
He found him at last standing by the drinks table, absently nodding along to the group of nobles he stood with. As Alan drew closer he watched the group, realising it was Roald and his friends.
Liam raised his eyebrows, a grim smile moulded onto his features. 'When?'
Alan grinned. 'Tomorrow. Lucky number one.'
Liam looked sickened. 'Oh no.'
Alan sighed, grabbing a wine glass. 'No, I'm happy to be getting it over and done with.' Liam didn't look reassured. 'Seriously.'
Alan leaned back against the wall, content at the moment to just listen. He watched Keladry of Mindelan shift from foot to foot across from him.
There was something wrong with her, Alan knew as he felt the magic inside of him swell with a curiosity only the Sight could inflict. It was simply common practice that the two stayed far away from each other, and so Alan rarely listened to the gossips with news of the realms second Lady Knight's affairs. It wasn't the resentment his twin felt towards Keladry of Mindelan; Alan just felt easier having it this way than putting on an act of friendliness.
He reached inside himself, pulling the threads of his gift into view, Seeing her as others couldn't. Alan could hardly keep the surprise from his face - she was pregnant.
Nealan of Queenscove's voice raised several notches, drawing Alan's attention back to the conversation. They were praising Keladry, of course - brave, fearless, perfect Keladry. Alan found it so incredibly boring.
'I just don't think it's fair. They're still not treating her the same, bringing us home for midwinter when we're still needed at the camp.'
Alan couldn't help the small snort escape from him. Obviously, Keladry had been brought back to Tortall because of her condition. What was Neal gabbering about?
Merric of Hollyrose gave him a disgruntled glare. 'What?'
Suddenly everyone was looking his way, and Alan felt very uncomfortable. 'Well, it'd happen sooner or later anyway, right? She wouldn't want to be stuck there for winter.' He smiled, locking eyes with Keladry. 'Congratulations.'
Dead silence descended upon them. Alan became aware that several conversations around their group had stopped, hearing his statement. The smile slipped from his lips.
The last time Alan recalled seeing Roald look so furious was when he had been six. Aly had put a potion in his goblet, causing all his hair to fall out when he had refused to play soldiers with them. 'Bald Roald' had remained a family nickname for years after.
'What did I say wrong?' Alan met Roald's glare, placing a very well rehearsed innocent look on his face.
'What did you say wrong?' Roald repeated, thunderstruck. 'Could you be any more rude? Did it occur to you that some of us might care about the refugees still out there?'
Oh Gods, Alan took a small step back. 'I'm sorry, I think you got the... wrong idea.' Didn't they know she was carrying a child?
He looked at Keladry again, waiting for her to come to his aid. She gave him back that same stupid stony face that didn't give anything away. How can people relate to someone that wont show what they're feeling? It was hard enough to interpret what he should say next...
Instead he turned to Liam, who faithfully began retreating with him from the circle.
Liam nodded to his brother, brushing more terse words aside. 'We'd better be going...'
'Yes,' Neal pressed. 'I think you'd better.'
It wasn't long before Alanna and Raoul had cornered him, flanked by Keladry herself. She hadn't just questioned Alan of his intentions, she'd gone running straight to his mother.
And it wouldn't be long before the whole court was talking about how rude he'd been. As if he - the Lioness's son - could ever get away with being nasty to Keladry of Mindelan! He wouldn't even attempt it!
'Alan, what exactly did you mean when you were talking to Kel before?' Raoul was still rather angry at his squire from the night before. He'd told Alan he wasn't allowed girls in his room a hundred times before, yet Alan had never been one to listen much.
He couldn't even be bothered pretending to look confused. 'What?'
'Roald said you were rather impolite to Kel earlier.' Alanna bore down on her son, ignoring that he was over a head taller then her. 'I think if you were, you should apologise to her.'
Alan looked back at Keladry. Did she really not know she was pregnant? But how can you be pregnant for as long as she was and not know? It wasn't possible! Yet surely she wouldn't have let it go this far, even if she didn't want people to know.
'I only said,' Alan drew it out slowly, as if his company were very thick. He just knew it would annoy his mother. 'That Keladry would have to return to Tortall sooner or later, and I gave her my congratulations.'
Keladry crossed her arms over her chest. 'Congratulations on what, exactly?'
Alan rolled his eyes. He probably should have drawn her aside and whispered in her ear. That would be the nicer thing to do, but she was really getting on his nerves that night - as if he didn't have enough to worry over!
'Don't you know?' Alan dropped his voice slightly. 'You're pregnant.'
Alanna frowned and Raoul turned a steady scarlet. Keladry showed nothing of course, just that stupid stone face as always.
'But thanks for having so much faith in me,' Alan couldn't help rubbing it in their noses now. 'I'm glad to know no-one would think I'd ever be rude or anything.' An elephant couldn't miss the sarcasm.
'Ok Alan.' Did Raoul just roll his eyes? 'We get your point.'
Alan smiled, waiting for more.
The younger man sighed dramatically. 'That's alright, I suppose. I might consider forgiving you, in say ten or so years.'
Alanna turned to Keladry, trying to read her. Good luck, Alan sniggered. 'Go away, Alan.'
'Go away?' Alan turned to his mother. 'I might die tomorrow and the last thing you'll ever have said to me is "Go away."'
Alanna rolled her eyes, her voice dry. 'I'll talk to you later.'
Alan glanced lastly at Keladry before leaving them. He hated the way they had all assumed he must be in the wrong, because that's what Keladry thought. Oh, how he hated it. And where was Lianne? Alan definitely couldn't stay at the party any longer after all that. Frowning, he made his way back to his rooms alone.
Reaching his rooms Alan collapsed on his bed, exhausted. He willed sleep to take him away, but thoughts of the next night kept intruding his head. The Ordeal.
What was his greatest fear?
His greatest love - that was easy. Lianne. His greatest hate - that was easy too. Being judged. All his life people had judged Alan, mostly without any thought other then to that of his parentage. He certainly hated that, but it was something he'd learned to live with. His greatest fear? Alan's thoughts flicked to the night before.
Disappointing the people he loved.
How was the chamber going to make him face that? Alan grinned. The thought was almost comical.
Sharp rapping on his door brought Alan back to reality. Slowly he sat up, tried in vain to de-wrinkle the fabric of his clothes, and slumped his way over to let the visitor in. Alanna stood in the hall looking very worried, and younger then she had in a long while. He stepped aside, allowing her to enter.
'How are you feeling?' It was nearly always the first thing she asked. He guessed being a healer all this while had made her that way.
Alan shrugged, grinning at her. Alanna quickly lit a branch of candles on the mantle-piece, looking fondly around his room; boxes piled up high, clothing strewn everywhere. It was a mess.
She frowned, fumbling with the pocket of her coat. 'I was going to give this to you later, but I have a feeling you might need the incentive for tomorrow.' She held her palm out to her son, a small red velvet covered box in the centre.
Gifts from his mother were always interesting, yet from experience Alan knew he must be wary. 'What is it?'
Alanna smiled. 'Take it.'
Gingerly Alan took the box from her hand, swinging the delicate lid off its hinge. Inside was a dark sapphire ring, encased in diamonds on a thin ornate silver band.
He raised an eyebrow. 'You're giving me a Lady's ring?'
Alanna sighed, plainly frustrated that he didn't understand. 'Do you think I wouldn't find out about the scandal last night?'
Alan licked his lips, preparing himself for the anger that was sure to come. 'I don't know what you're talking about, mother.'
Alanna laughed, surprising him. 'It's for Lianne really.' She paused for a moment, leaning back on the bedpost. Alanna had envisioned Alan to be ecstatic. However, running a hand through his copper-blond hair, he looked more terrified then ever.
'You do want to marry Lianne, don't you Alan?'
Alan groaned, sinking onto the bed beside to her. 'It's kind of... ' he couldn't think of the right words. That in itself was highly unusual. But why was he hesitating?
It was the old ploy that those not friendly with Alan had often used to over shadow him. That Alan got everything handed to him on a plate; gold rimmed with a silver lining. His knight-master had been a family friend, he had all the acquaintances and possessions he could ever want and now it seemed he might be marrying the one he loved. It all fell too easily into Alan's lap for his liking; he wanted the chance to work for his rights and respect. And did he want to be a surrogate prince? Had anyone actually asked him?
Alanna frowned, still wondering what might be bothering him. 'I haven't done the joyous task of telling Jonathan yet. Or, asking really. I thought I'd let you dig your own grave.'
'How nice of you to say so,' Alan smiled, despite his thoughts. 'I always knew you loved me the most.'
Alanna grinned. 'Maybe.' She turned from the post to face him. 'I'm glad you're thinking it through for once, without acting on impulse.'
'That's quite a left-handed compliment.' Alan stood, pulling Alanna into a hug. 'I do believe you're getting much too good at them.'
Alanna laughed, drawing back. 'Good luck tomorrow. I'm sure you'll do fine.'
Alan snorted. 'Can I get you something? A drink, maybe?' He cast his eyes around the room, knowing it would be impossible to find anything of the sort.
'No,' her voice was stern. 'You have to get some sleep.'
Alan gave her a kiss on the cheek, walking Alanna back to the door.
She gave him a last, worried look. 'Try not to get too caught up in thought. You'll simply have to face tomorrow when it comes, whether you believe yourself to be ready or not.'
And with that she left Alan to his own devises; a sleepless night, a Royal wedding, and the rest of his life twisting ahead before him.