Alabassin Li'endrin wandered the halls of his new 'home', restless with anxiety, expecting guards to seize him and deposit him into a cell deep below the castle. He thought often of Kayta as no one heard from her — or the group escorting her back to Paridzule — for a long time. Alabassin trusted Black Rose to have good reason for not delivering her into the hands of what remained of her family at once, but he wished the man would hurry. People in the castle were anxious, emotions and tempers flared often, so Alabassin did his best to make himself scarce around people such as Lady Kienna. Her temper was legendary in Relavia. He had no wish to be present when, and if, she got angry. Warring with Paridzule for ages, he learned everything he could about the kingdom at a young age. Their strengths and weaknesses, the best places to strike. Everything his father could find and use against his lifelong enemy, guaranteed Mandorak exploited it. Alabassin often felt the Ni’adzul family was closer to kin than his own at times.
Lost in his thoughts, Alabassin exited the building out a side door near the kitchens. The aromas beckoned him to stay and accept the samples the cook insist he try. Instead, he made his way over to the training grounds. As he approached, he saw a tall, blond woman leaning against the wooden railing. Every so often she barked out commands and the warriors who fought paused to listen. At the sound of his footsteps, she turned.
“Lord Alabassin,” she said. She inclined her head at his approach. She shaded her bright blue eyes from the suns, her full red lips tilted down at the corners. Her icy demeanor did not escape his notice.
“Trinara,” he responded, with a terse nod of his own. “You can drop the 'Lord' bit. I gave up my titles when I defected and swore fealty to Kienna.”
“I'll believe it when I see it,” she muttered. She turned away from him, her attention focused on the warriors.
“Any word on Kayta?” he asked. He tried to ignore the bite in her comment. He knew her nerves were just as frayed as everyone else's and tried not to rise to her bait for an argument.
“No, not yet. Damn it all to hells, Trinsin!” Trinara slammed her fist against the rail. “That is the third time Annisse has bested you today! You're twice her size, man. Focus on what you're doing and stop getting distracted by her breasts!” The man Trinara chastised turned crimson and hung his head.
“Go easy, Trinara. Everyone is just as worried about Kayta as you are, now that the majority of the warriors know she's alive and well.”
“Go easy? Why, so we can give your father yet another advantage? Sod off, Alabassin,” she snarled. Trinara placed a foot on the lower rung of the fence and launched herself over the top. She stormed off to yell at her warriors, so Alabassin sighed, and turned to leave. A little way off to the side, Hedric leaned against the castle walls, arms folded across his chest.
“Don't let her get to you, Alabassin,” he said. “She’s nasty when she's worried. No one can get near her.”
“No worries,” Alabassin said. He shrugged a shoulder. “When you've lived with my father, you get used to being treated as if you are crap on a boot.” He joined Hedric in the shade, watching the warriors train.
“Maybe that will change,” Hedric said. Alabassin glanced at him out of the corner of his eye. He tried to gauge if he was sincere, or if he was being sarcastic.
“Any word yet? Has he moved across the borders?” Alabassin asked, curious of his father’s movements, or lack thereof.
“No, not yet. I don't know what he's thinking, marching just before winter. Not a smart move if you ask me.”
“He doesn't care,” Alabassin said. He shrugged again and leaned up against the wall next to Hedric, mimicking his stance. “I'm sure you know by now, he'll sacrifice his own people to get what he wants. It won't affect him in the slightest. I remember reading one of my grandfather's journals once. He wrote something to the effect that lives of the 'mere mortals' — meaning citizens of Relavia — were insignificant. I think the majority of the Li'endrin bloodline thought of themselves as gods. I think they are just insane.”
“That's obvious,” Hedric said with a derisive snort. The two men chuckled.
“But, throughout that history, my father's included, I have learned one very important thing,” Alabassin said after a reflective moment.
“Which is?” Hedric asked. He raised a brow and turned to look at the young prince.
“No Li'endrin does anything without reason. It doesn't matter how insignificant the tactic, they are calculated, and well thought out. Even something as trivial as moving his armies at a time of year that his enemy might consider a huge mistake. Do you understand?” Alabassin stared hard at Hedric.
“I understand,” Hedric said with a nod. The two men lapsed into silence for a few moments, each lost in their own thoughts. Hedric ruminated over Alabassin’s information. Alabassin wondered once more about Kayta’s location.
“I wanted to thank you, Hedric.” Alabassin said after a long pause.
“For giving me a chance and getting to know me.”
“Anyone willing to marry into this family has to either be crazy or brave, Alabassin. Good thing you are both.”