Prince, 105

Franz was on his third cup of tea of this sitting and he had to go pee, but he made himself wait until he was done reading over the document in his hand, which was a summary of grain production on House ven Sancte’s farms.

Once he’d gotten the most important parts of it he set it down. “I’ll be right back,” he said to Boey and Silas, and he went to pee, grateful for the distraction. Once Gabrielle was crowned after Gerard’s funeral, he was going to officially be queen-consort, which added a whole lot of things into his life that hadn’t been there before. Managing all of House ven Sancte’s lands, for one.

Prince, 93

“Kenneth is still insisting that he’s innocent,” said Boey, looking at the reams of paper Kieran had shown Franz’s people how to find. “No matter the evidence that gets put in front of him, he won’t stop repeating that he’s being framed.”

“Is he being framed?” Franz asked, because it wouldn’t be the first time.

“No,” said Frederick. “He has a network of spies and informants, he has years of documentation, he even has correspondence that Lord Orwell sent him. If he’s being framed it’s because he commissioned a self-portrait.”

“Shouldn’t you be in wizard school?” Franz asked him.

Chosen One, 106

Isaac was on his way back from lunch when Jacob ran up to him, looking alarmed. “I need your help,” he said, out of breath.

“Okay,” Isaac said. Jacob had been at the palace at work, as far as he’d known. “What do you need? Is something wrong?” His mind went immediately to Matthias. Maybe he’d been in touch with Jacob.

Jacob nodded, then changed his mind and shook his head. “Yes,” he said. “Something is wrong with Dragon’s mate.”

Knighthood, 91

“These are the kitchens,” Frederick said, waving his hand around what was clearly a kitchen. “Obviously, I guess.”

Edwin smiled, looking around. It was about ten times the size of the kitchen at Stag Keep and about a hundred times as busy. “I mean, it could have been a laundry room.”

Frederick laughed. He had a cute laugh. He had cute most things. “Sure. This is Uncle Eliezer, he’s one of the cooks here. Eliezer, this is my friend Sir Edwin, he’s Prince Grey Rain and Prince Greg’s head bodyguard.”

Eliezer was an older guy who was losing his hair, but had a soft smile. “It’s nice to meet you, Sir Edwin. Thank you for everything you do.”

Prince, 79

“Ugh,” said Gabrielle, leaning back on the couch. “I hate this.”

“I did offer to do it for you.”

She nodded. “But you doing it for me means you’ll be making Boey do it for you and that’s not fair to him.”

“It’s true,” Boey said from the table, where he was reading something Silas had written.

“I just think,” explained Franz, “that the people getting married aren’t objective enough to decide who should be on the guest list. Also this is stupid, absolutely everyone is going to be on the guest list, why do we have to pretend otherwise?”

“Let’s send out non-invitations to people instead,” Gabrielle agreed, setting aside a sheaf of paper and picking up another one. “Dear Lord Artwind. I’ve never liked you and would vastly prefer if you didn’t show up at my wedding. Love, the fucking queen.”

Prince, 71

Franz woke up sore, but in a good way. He’d probably overslept, given how late Boey had kept him up last night, but it had been worth it.

He was laying diagonally across the bed, his legs over Boey’s chest. Boey was almost lengthwise across the bottom of the bed. Franz lay there for a few comfortable minutes, waking up gradually. It didn’t seem like Boey was awake yet.

So Franz sat up carefully, taking his feet off Boey, and crawled down the bed. He kissed Boey. And when that didn’t wake him up, he did it again, longer. He was just thinking of kissing Boey a little lower when Boey’s hand came up, touched his cheek, and Boey started kissing him back.

They stayed like that for a minute or so, gently kissing. “Morning,” Franz said when they stopped for air.

Others, 17

Silas’s hand hurt.

Actually his back was kind of sore too. They needed better chairs. Or maybe he just needed one of those tall chairs and writing tables other scribes used. Silas could use one; there were some in the castle library and two in the mail tower, but he didn’t have one here, and this late at night he’d rather work at home than somewhere dark and lonely.

Silas paused in his writing, thinking about that. He really was home. Here in Prince Franz’s apartments. His home. He liked that.

His quill was about to drop ink onto the page, and Silas whipped it away before it could, letting the ink fall on the table instead. He breathed out a quiet sigh. “Okay,” he whispered. He needed to pay attention. He knew that by now; he couldn’t do this job if he was going to let his mind wander. It was why he was doing it right now in the middle of the night.