Noble, 49

In Politics, Yesterday’s Enemies Can be Today’s Confidants

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“Are we going to get there in time?” Geoffrey asked Cliff, sitting at his table in the inn. They’d been forced to stop early two days in a row by snowstorms, and now they were late getting to the Dolovin capital. The wedding was tomorrow.

Cliff nodded. “The weather is hard to control but not impossible. If the snow hasn’t let up by an hour before sunrise, Master Gaston and Antoine and I will do a spell.”

Geoffrey nodded. The inn was warm, but the snow outside made it feel cold. He was glad he didn’t live in the north. “How hard will that be for you?”

“Doesn’t matter.” Cliff smiled. “We’ll get you there no matter what.”

Geoffrey did not like the tone of that no matter what. “I don’t want you putting yourselves in danger.”

“Don’t worry about it, my lord,” Cliff said. He had a bowl of heavy soup in front of him. “Our job is to support the king, and that’s what we’re going to do.”

Going to Franz’s wedding was important, but doing magic that was too hard for too long could kill a person, and no wedding was worth killing three people to get to.

But Geoffrey doubted Giacomo saw it that way. He didn’t like not getting his way, he never had. “All of our jobs are to support the king,” Geoffrey told Cliff. “But that doesn’t mean we have to kill ourselves to do it.”

“Hey,” Cliff said. “Don’t worry about us, okay? We know what we’re doing. We’re pretty good at this magic business.”

Looking at the way Cliff’s shoulders were set, Geoffrey sighed. “Okay. I’m not trying to doubt your abilities, I’m just worried.” Cliff had been decent to him more than once when he hadn’t needed to be.

“I know. It’s a good quality of yours. But you’re getting to the wedding and that’s that.” Cliff smiled at him. “I’d like to finish eating and go to bed if you don’t mind. I’m going to be getting up pretty early tomorrow.”

“Okay,” Geoffrey said with a sigh. What was it about Giacomo that made people so willing to lay down their lives for him? To give him everything, no matter what it cost them? Geoffrey didn’t know, but he was no different than anyone else. Maybe he should go to bed too.

He got partway to the stairs when someone stopped him. “Lord Geoffrey.”

Geoffrey blinked. “Lord Hans,” he said. He’d quite honestly forgotten Hans was travelling with them. It would have made more sense for Dahlia to leave him in the capital as regent, but she hadn’t. Geoffrey wondered if Franz had insisted on that or if Giacomo had.

“I’m glad to see you in good health,” said Hans, walking with Geoffrey, subtly moving him towards the back of the inn.

“And you as well,” Geoffrey lied. He was honestly surprised that Giacomo hadn’t killed Hans yet. He didn’t need him anymore.

Hans nodded. “How is Darius doing?”

Oh, of course. Darius’s father had left Hawk’s Roost, so Hans was the only family he had in the city except for Dahlia. “He’s okay,” said Geoffrey. “He’s been a bit quiet since he came back and I haven’t had much chance to talk to him. But he doesn’t seem much different than he was before he left.” He’d always been a bit quiet.

He’d spent weeks in the Sorcerer King’s castle being used as a cockwarmer. It was the kind of thing that made people quiet even if they hadn’t been before. Geoffrey felt like he should know what to say to Darius. But he didn’t. So he’d hardly talked to him.

Maybe once Tobias Fellendart came back from being his replacement, the two of them could help each other out. Giacomo hadn’t actually told Geoffrey that was what had happened, but it wasn’t hard to figure out when Tobias had disappeared right when Darius had come back. One thing Darius had said was that King Sam had insisted on Giacomo provide him boys for that purpose. Geoffrey was a bit surprised Giacomo hadn’t sent him.

Hans nodded, going around the corner with Geoffrey. Geoffrey had a moment to wonder if Hans was planning to hurt him, but Hans just leaned against the wall. “My regency is likely to end in the summer,” he said, sagging all over.

“Likely?” Geoffrey asked. “Your regency effectively ended the last time there was a royal wedding, Hans.”

“I am aware.” Hans looked stiff now. “But on paper, I am still king regent. But Dahlia’s legitimacy and capability as a ruler are not in question, and her birthday is in the early summer. At that point, the council will vote to remove me, as is tradition. And then power will once again be concentrated in the throne.”

The throne. That was such a generic thing to say, but it was also very specific. “You mean in House DiGorre.”

“Is that not what I said?”

No, it was not. Geoffrey glanced over his shoulder, towards the common room, but they were out of sight. “That’s good. The instability that Stephan caused can finally be put to rest.”

“Stephan Fyrhawk didn’t cause anything,” Hans said. “He was there, but the instability was already present. And you and I made it worse.”

Geoffrey looked at his feet. It was so weird to be wearing boots. “And the queen has made sure to neutralize both of us. So why are we talking now?”

“Because you and I fought a war against each other and somehow both managed to lose. I’m re-appointing you to a position on the council.”

Geoffrey laughed. “That’s nice. Giacomo’s not going to let you do that.”

“Giacomo doesn’t rule Kyaine, Dahlia does. And until her birthday, I do.”

Geoffrey stared at Hans, shaking his head. “I can’t figure out your game, but you can’t possibly think I’m going to side with you against my own brother.”

“That’s not what I think at all,” Hans said. “What I think is that the queen of Kyaine is married to a very dangerous boy with no interest in preserving anyone but himself. I also believe that you are the only conscience he has ever had.”

“I’ve never been able to stop Giacomo from eating too much dessert,” Geoffrey snorted. “You think I can stop him from destroying a country?”

That was the wrong thing to say. He should have said Giacomo wasn’t going to destroy the country.

“I think you are the only check he’s ever had on his behaviour, and the only authority he’s ever respected. Maybe that’s changed, but you made him the way he is, so I believe you already know it’s your responsibility to change it again.”

Geoffrey started to say he wouldn’t, but stopped. What had he been writing letters for if not for that? “What are you going to do if I go to him and tell him we had this conversation?”

Hans shrugged. “I suppose in that case I shall have my scheduled accident a few months early. I’ll see you at the next council meeting, Lord Geoffrey. Goodnight.”

“Goodnight,” Geoffrey said, as Hans walked off. “My regent.”

Hans paused, nodded, and left Geoffrey there. Geoffrey waited a second, then started up the stairs to the queen’s room. Cliff was going up the stairs too, and Geoffrey stopped.

Giacomo had a way of making people want to give everything they had. But not always to him. And Hans was right. He’d never listened to anyone but Geoffrey.

Had Geoffrey made him that way? He didn’t know. But if everyone else was giving all they had, maybe it was time that Geoffrey started trying to make him listen again.

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