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Chapter 2

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The next few weeks passed quickly for Thorne. He settled into his new home, learning the grounds and meeting the other staff and guards. After the third day, he was approached by Rivek and asked to once again formally accept or decline his position; once he accepted, he was led back into one of the back rooms of the palace, and a small, vivid orange nagi with hair even brighter red than his tattooed the royal insignia onto his arm, along with three bars.

"The insignia is your pass onto the grounds," Rivek explained while the orange naga worked. "The bars are your clearance level. Groundskeepers and the outdoor guards get one bar--they're only allowed in the first level. Laundry workers and cooks get two; that's the next level up, and it includes the banquet halls and the parlors, as well as the library. Pages, handmaidens, court jesters and bards get three bars. You're allowed anywhere on the lower two floors, which includes the courting chambers and the guest bedrooms as well as the royal dining chambers on the second floor."

Thorne noticed that Rivek had four bars tattooed onto his own shoulder. "Where can you go that I can't?" he asked, as much to keep himself distracted from the pain as anything.

"The royal bedchambers, and the upper royal court," Rivek replied. "Four bars is the highest level, and since I'm the head of the household I have to have access. Of course," he added, lifting an eyebrow and winking at Thorne, "I don't just go barging into the King's chambers any time I please."

Thorne chuckled. "I can see how that might be a bad idea," he agreed.

Rivek beamed, looking pleased. "As for you--if you're extended invitation you may, of course, enter the rooms restricted to you on general principles. It's not uncommon for the King to request entertainment when he's entertaining foreign diplomats, which he usually does in the upper royal court. But you will be given special escort, on those occasions. Otherwise those grounds are restricted to you."

Thorne briefly wondered what the punishment was for wandering onto restricted grounds, but fortunately caught that one before it left his mouth. He could always ask Makah later, after all.

After the application of his tattoo, his place in court was explained to him. He was officially an artisan, and his patronage included room, board, and basic freedom within the city, as well as a small amount of spending money, which he would receive on a weekly basis (though Thorne would quickly realize the royal idea of "a small amount" was significantly different than his). His clothing was to be specially tailored, but he was not required to wear any official royal garments unless called upon.

"You may be requested on occasion to play for one of the noblemen in the city," Rivek explained to him. "As a personal favor from the king or the prince, or to entertain the princesses if they go calling upon their lady friends. That would also require you be properly attired. But don't worry," he added, smiling a little when he caught Thorne chewing his lower lip, "a page will be sent to assist you. Most of the clothing is rather complicated, and you'd need assistance anyway."

When he'd finally finished learning what he needed to know in terms of the way the household was run, Thorne was released to explore on his own. Frowning, he'd asked what he should do on a daily basis, but Rivek shook his head. "Your job is to compose, to practice your music, and to entertain when called upon," he said. "You have no other responsibilities than that. Unless, of course, one of the royal family requests otherwise," he added with another wink. "That is a general addendum to just about any rule I give you."

"Royalty trumps all. Got it." Thorne grinned, when Rivek laughed. If nothing else, he reflected, at least his superior was the decent sort.

And many of the staff turned out to be as well. He met Makah a few times in the barracks, and the Sentry-turned-Palace guard had taken him exploring the grounds, as well as the forest just beyond the city, deeper into the mountains. He and Thorne became close, spending what time they could together, and Makah, while still somewhat shy around the bard, turned out to have a bit of a poet's heart; he offered Thorne several snatches of verse, which Thorne was able to turn into several new songs. And over the weeks, Thorne made friends with several of the pages and handmaidens, often offering to sing or play or tell stories for them while they were busy at their tasks. Though he didn't realize it at first, he was quickly becoming a favorite of the staff, and it showed in little comforts: freshly pressed linens every day, piping hot breakfasts, baths scented with fragrant oils. Anything the palace staff could do to make him more comfortable, they did, and he was never without someone to talk to. All in all, he was settling in quite nicely, and while he had no one of his own rank he felt truly comfortable turning to for companionship, he had no real complaints. But for one thing: he hadn't seen Kaven since the first night he'd arrived.

He'd expected it, of course, but it was still disappointing. Much of the time, the staff weren't even certain if the prince was in the palace; he spent a lot of time away with his father or King Ipson, traveling to the noble estates outside the capital, or making diplomatic runs to the Satyr country to the south, and the Dragon drives that lived in the caves deep in the mountains to the west. Thorne would often watch out his window, and see the oxen-drawn escorts leaving or returning from beyond the palace gates, but he could never be certain if the prince was in any of them.

As for the king, he'd not been called upon by him either, though he'd been called to Lady Ephilian's chambers more than once. The Lady Ephilian, another of Ipson's daughters, claimed an interest in music, but Thorne had quickly discovered she actually just had an interest in bards. She sighed after him for nearly two weeks before one of the other palace entertainers caught her eye, and she didn't call for him again after that.

One other way to pass the time, Thorne found, was to explore the grand marketplaces in the city, which usually had items from all over the realm, and a number of strange creature beside. He'd met his first Satyr there, a dark-skinned woman with a veil over half her face who'd offered him a strange egg and a clacking bird. He'd declined both, blushing as she winked at him knowingly, and moved on quickly to the next few stalls. Once he began speaking to some of the vendors, however, he lost much of his hesitation, and began to learn much about the lands outside Ophidia. The stories that fascinated him the most were of the great oceans beyond the mountain ranges to the west, past the dragon's realms, where schools of merfolk were said to still roam the great waters, filling the air with their haunting melodies. One of the vendors had come with a great collection of oddities from the beaches: shells, strange smooth stones, creatures that looked like stars but were, she assured him, once living things. He'd purchased a large, curiously curved shell with a smooth pink inside, and a piece of what she told him was dried coral. She'd taught him how to purse his lips to the end of the shell and create a long, strange tone from the other end by blowing into it. He'd laughed at the way the market had gone momentarily still, glancing back at them with curious eyes before moving about their way again.

The visits to the markets had another advantage as well: he was learning many musical techniques from the strange visitors, new rhythms and strange cadences that never would have occurred to him to try, but which made for some very intriguing effects, when applied to his songs. He and Makah spent many afternoons just experimenting, combining the new techniques Thorne had learned with the snatches of verse Makah had composed in his head while on duty, and laughing the whole time. Some of what they came up with was rubbish, of course, but much of it was very good, and Thorne quickly amassed a repertoire that would've impressed even Karesh.

But other than the two forays into Lady Ephilian's chambers and the afternoons spent entertaining the palace staff, he did not have call to use any of them until one day, nearly two months after he'd arrived in Tolara, when Rivek approached him and told him his presence was requested in Prince Kaven's chambers for a private performance.

Thorne pushed down a feeling of nervousness and fetched his lyre. She was still his instrument of choice, though he'd played the large harp in his rooms quite happily, and he wanted her with him for this performance. He also took a moment to change, into the simplest of the garments he'd been given: a woven silk scarf over his chest and shoulders, left to trail down his back, and a silver loin plate with a matching silk cloth. He enjoyed finery, especially the bright colors and fine fabrics his performance wardrobe had consisted of, but much of what he'd been given was ridiculous. And he somehow doubted Kaven would want reminding of that. Amazing, how much time I spend thinking of what he'd want, when I've yet to spend three solid days in his presence...

Checking himself quickly in the mirror--the green silk was striking against his bright hair and tail, good--he opened his door to find his escort waiting for him, and followed the guard up the curving hallway to the floor he'd yet to enter.

The hallway arched grandly above him, skylights allowing daylight to seep in, making it the brightest of the halls he'd entered yet. Grand tapestries hung on the walls, with gloriously woven tales of Ophidia's past; Thorne found himself wishing he had access to this floor on a more regular basis, because he could've spent hours staring at the walls alone. He'd always felt a kinship to tapestry weavers; they were, after all, storytellers just like he was, and the beautiful patterns of elaborate thread was a music of itself.

The hallway was also carpeted down the center, deep reds woven with gold and silver in elaborate edging patterns, and Thorne found his lip curving up into a smirk, wondering just how much of the royal budget went into decorating this floor.

Soon, however, they stopped in front of two large, ornately carved doors with gilded handles. The escort lifted his hand and rapped lightly upon the door. "Prince Kaven? The bard has arrived, sir."

There was a stirring within the chambers, and after a moment, Kaven's voice, low and soft, drifted through the doors: "Show him in."

Thorne let out one last breath, reminding himself that if nothing else, this was a performance, and slid in after the escort, coming into Kaven's room. Once inside, he blinked, surprised; he'd expected something as grand as the rest of the floor, but Kaven's room, at least compared to the rest of the palace, was almost plain. Of course, it was far more lavish than anything Thorne would've seen at home, but the carpet was a cream color, with no designs, the linens undyed, the curtains around the bed deep blue but without the fringe that adorned Throne's own. The walls were also relatively bare, with only a few paintings, and the gilded frames around them were simple, with no designs inlaid into the metal. There was a large window, but the curtains were only half-drawn, casting part of the room into gloom and shadow; it was there Kaven sat coiled, chin resting on his arms as he gazed past the curtains and out into the grounds below. He barely glanced up, when Thorne entered, but that glance was enough to show Thorne the dark circles under the prince's eyes, and the way his hair hung unkempt down his back.

"Hullo, farmboy," Kaven said softly.

"Hello, my lord," Thorne replied, waiting for the door to shut behind him before sliding closer, unable to keep himself away. He did manage to not ask what was wrong, but only just. It made his heart ache to see Kaven so obviously unhappy. "They told me you wanted me to play for you," he offered, settling himself only a bit away from Kaven, closer than custom dictated, but not so close as to offend. He hoped. Because he was close to telling custom to go fucking hang itself.

Kaven glanced over at him, and offered him a wan smile, still resting his head upon his arms. "Yes," he said softly. "Please. I haven't...I'm sorry I haven't called upon you yet. I just returned yesterday..." he trailed off, shaking his head. "Never mind. Please, play."

"My lord..." Thorne bit his lip, hesitating, but decided to speak anyway. "I know there is much you can't tell me, and much you likely wouldn't wish to. But I will gladly listen to whatever you can or would want to share with me, and I swear it will go no further." He smiled, very shyly, flushing at his own forwardness. But Kaven obviously needed to talk to someone. "I still chatter, but I choose much more carefully what about, now."

Kaven looked slightly surprised, but considered Thorne carefully for a very long moment. Then, slowly, he murmured, "Will...I know you have many others, but will you sing the song you sang for me, the day of the engagement announcement?"

Thorne smiled and nodded. "Gladly. It's much longer, actually, they made us cut things short for the gathering. Though I added the last verse when I knew I would have the chance to sing it for you. Anyway..." He fell silent, setting hands to strings, playing the longer introduction before he began singing, his voice pitched to travel to Kaven, but not to fill the room, not this time. This was a performance not meant for a grand hall, but for a single person, and Thorne put more of his heart into it than he could remember doing in some time. "And now I'll sing, before a king, my life my dream come true. Oh soldier-boy, this song, this joy--I owe it all to you..."

Kaven had been listening with his eyes closed, but Thorne knew he wasn't asleep, even after the last note faded and the chamber fell silent again. He waited, and sure enough, Kaven soon murmured, "I'm glad you're happy, Thorne."

"So am I, usually," Thorne replied, frowning. "My lord...it's not my place to ask and I know it, but...what's wrong? Is there anything I can do? If it's to play for you and leave again, I will, and I won't ask again, but...if there's more, I'd never forgive myself for not asking."

Kaven opened his eyes at last, and Thorne bit his lip when he noted they were red, and a little shiny. "Oh, my Lord, please tell me what's wrong," he whispered before he could stop himself, then fell silent again, lowering his head and clutching his lyre to his breast.

Kaven chuckled softly, and there was a soft hiss of scales as he shifted, uncoiling and moving to look out the window into the gardens. "It's...not easy," he murmured at least, very softly. "This is not...not the life I would have chosen, were I given any choice, and I fear..." he trailed off, and his next words were so soft that Thorne had to strain to hear them: "I fear I am not well suited to it."

"Oh," Thorne said softly, shifting his own coils. He knew that feeling well enough. He'd felt it most of his life, on the farm, hating the work his brother and father seemed to love, making messes and disasters without trying. But to hear it from the future king...he wasn't sure he had an answer. "I told you once I knew I'd make no kind of soldier, but I wasn't much of a farmer, either," he offered softly. "I can say I know how you feel, to some extent, but I don't know if it's true, in your case. Your men respect you, as do the palace staff. You have their affection, not just their loyalty. But I'm not sure that helps, does it?"

Kaven turned to look at him, seeming almost surprised to realize he was there. "I...I shouldn't have said anything," he said after a moment, and suddenly there was a flash of panic in his eyes. "Thorne," he said, moving forward swiftly and taking Thorne's shoulders in his hands, "please, I beg you, don't tell anyone about this. Don't tell anyone what I said. I...it could cause..." he shook his head, and lowered his hands, but his face remained pale.

"My lord...Kaven...I told you that you could trust me, and I meant it," Thorne said softly, aching for just how lonely Kaven must be. "I won't tell anyone else anything you say to me. For one thing, it wouldn't be right to betray a confidence. And for another...I'm here because of you. I accepted the position because it was you who offered it. And if you doubt yourself on occasion, then you're mortal, just like the rest of us. I know, I know, royalty aren't supposed to be, but...you are. I think it might be easier if you had someone around you who remembered that," he added, frowning a little back in the direction of the door.

Kaven blinked at him, then offered him a hesitantly hopeful smile. "Yeah?" he said softly.

Thorne nodded, smiling back encouragingly. "Yeah. Lady...I can't imagine having to always pretend I knew exactly what I was doing without having someone to talk to about it, get advice from, or just listen when I wasn't sure I was doing the right thing... How've you not gone insane by now?"

"I..." Kaven shrugged, suddenly looking much younger. "I have the royal council, and of course my father, and King Ipson, but..." he shook his head. "They can't...can't know I'm not like them. They can't know I'm not...I'm not really a warrior." He sighed, slumping a little, and an odd tension seemed to drain out of his muscles, at the admission.

Thorne moved closer. "You don't need a council and the king and the general," he said firmly. "You need a friend. Someone who doesn't care if you're a warrior or a bricklayer or a farmer. I admit I don't know you well, my lord, but I know I like you. And I want to help, if I can." He paused, and then tilted his head, unable to resist. "What would you be if you did have a choice?" he asked curiously.

Kaven looked surprised, as though it had never occurred to him to answer that question. "I'm...not sure," he said after a moment. "Maybe...maybe a scholar of some sort. A writer. I've always...I like to learn, and..." he shook his head. "My...my mother always read to me. Her tribe loved the written word. But Father..." he bit his lip. "Father says words are for the weak, who cannot put their bodies to something useful and must resort to their minds."

Thorne just stopped himself from snorting. "The mind can also accomplish things brute force cannot," he said quietly, instead, carefully not looking at Kaven as he wondered how Othalion won battles without tactics. "Of course, it can also get you in trouble," he added ruefully. "I discovered that soon enough back home. Too small with too big a mouth for my own good," he explained. "But if you like to learn...I'm no scholar, but I know a great many songs and stories, histories of our people. I could teach them to you, teach you to play as well, if you'd like. It's not...it won't take you away from all this forever, but perhaps for a bit..."

"Yeah...?" Kaven looked up at him again, and that hopeful smile was back, if a little hesitant, still. "I...I think I'd really like that. I've...I've watched you," he admitted. "In the gardens, with the green Sentry, and..." he trailed off, suddenly looking embarrassed.

"Makah?" Thorne smiled. "He's a friend of my family's, thanks to being stationed there when you were with us. And he's a bit of a poet, I've been helping him write melodies to match his words." Thorne slid just a bit closer, not quite touching Kaven--that was definitely breaking custom--but able to feel the warmth of his body. "I'd be happy to teach you to play, to write down some of the longer legends...whatever you'd like. And it's not that I'm not happy here, but I'd like a chance to put my skills to use, rather than just practicing them." He blushed, slightly. "I'm not complaining that you haven't called on me before now, just...I would be very happy to teach you what I can."

Kaven straightened a little, looking chastened. "Yeah," he said. "Yeah, you're right, I'm sorry...it's rude of me to keep you from doing what you love just because I'm..." he shook his head, cutting himself off again. "I will make certain you have more engagements from now on," he said, with a decisive nod of his head.

"That's not what I meant," Thorne said, internally shaking his head. Lady, this was going to be harder than coaxing the birds to eat from his hands. "I want to be useful to you. I will, of course, do whatever my lord commands, but..." He shrugged. "I'd like to do things that would make him happy, too. I like you, and I liked you in spite of who you were, not because of it, when we first met. Who you were was rather inconvenient, but you yourself..." He smiled slightly. "I was glad to make you laugh, to help you heal, however I could. I'd like to do the same, now, even if your wounds aren't so obvious this time. Or you can tell me to shut it and go back to playing and speaking when spoken to," he added, shrugging a little. "But I hope you won't."

Kaven smirked just a little. "I couldn't get you to do that with all the royal army at my back," he said softly. "Even if I wanted to."

"Well...no, probably not," Thorne agreed easily, grinning at him. "But you could ask, and I could try."

"I...I rather liked your first suggestion better," Kaven admitted, looking back toward the window, gazing out over the gardens.

"So do I," Thorne replied. "I'd rather be your friend. If you want me to be, of course. You already know I talk too much, and that I'm not respectful enough, even after seven years of etiquette training...but I like to think I have my good qualities, too." He grinned hopefully, internally praying that Kaven would let himself open up just this much...the other naga was so obviously lonely it made Thorne's heart ache.

Kaven looked back at him for a moment, and smiled, shyly, before turned away and nodding. "Yeah," he said, almost to himself. Then, a moment later, he lifted his head and looked back at Thorne, one eyebrow lifted and an incredulous smirk on his face. "You do talk a lot," he teased.

"I know," Thorne replied, secretly thrilled to see the smirk. "It's been mentioned once or twice. I just...one thought leads to another in my head, on most subjects, so I follow them to their end. And besides, I'm the youngest of four, in a family that already held two generations in the same house before us. It's easy to get lost in a family like that, so I always tried to make sure I was heard. Used to get in trouble a lot, too."

Kaven tilted his head. "Must've been sort of nice, though," he reflected. "To have that many people around to talk to."

"It was," Thorne agreed, shifting his coils again. "When it wasn't infuriating. It can be hard to get time to yourself, hard to get any attention, in a family like that, but...we were happy. I miss them, now. I'm happy, being a bard, but there are times I wish I could somehow do both. Be there, and here...I haven't seen my latest niece or nephew yet." He sighed, touching the pendant at his throat absently, fingering the cord for a moment.

"Oh." Kaven frowned, looking a little crestfallen. "Well...you can always go back, if you want. I mean...I won't hold you bound or anything."

"I don't want to go back, though," Thorne replied immediately. "It's...it's just a part of leaving home, I think. You don't want to go back, not really, because what you remember isn't exactly what's there anymore. But you still miss it. And I'll see them soon, I'm sure, the trip to my village isn't that long. But I was home last spring, I don't need to go again for a while." Thorne shifted again, his tail very lightly pressing against Kaven's for a moment before pulling back again. "I like it here."

Kaven turned to stare at their tails, looking like he couldn't quite believe what had just happened. But finally, he looked back up at Thorne's face, eyes worried but also hopeful. "I hope you do," he said after a minute. "I want...I want you to like it here."

"I do," Thorne replied, hiding a grin and letting his coils relax again. "It's beautiful in the gardens, and the forest, and my rooms are incredible...And I like the people, too. Everyone has been kind to me, and it's...it's more than I ever dreamed I'd have. My only complaint was that I've been a little lonely, but you're fixing that right now, so...I'm perfectly content."

Kaven looked confused. "But I...I see you with the Sentry in the gardens, and the other staff..."

Thorne nodded slowly. "Makah is good company, and we spend time together, but he has his own duties, of course, and he never...he never relaxes around me, not completely. He knows I'm supposedly above him, now, and he won't tease or joke with me unless I remind him it's all right. As for the others...I have acquaintances, people whose names I know, and who I talk to if I see them and they've a moment. But no real friends, not yet. I suppose I haven't been here that long, and it may come in time, but after...after my family, never being given a moment to myself unless I was gathering beechnuts in the forest, or hiding away from them, it's strange to have to seek people out. Even with Karesh--my master--he was always there. I'm not used to...to outranking anyone, and having it affect how I'm treated." He smiled wryly. "I'm used to being the lowest."

Kaven twisted his lips wryly. "It does make things more difficult," he said, very softly. "It's hard to know who's there because they want to be, and who's there because they...they have to be."

Thorne nodded, realizing he did understand Kaven's situation, and better than he'd realized. If the staff would barely dare approach him, a mere three-bar minstrel, how did they act around the prince? "I imagine it would be," he agreed, feeling a little closer to Kaven than he had before. "I try...I try to be kind to the pages, play for them if I can, for the others, too, give them something in return for what they do for me." He bit his lip, looking out the window, before looking back. "I'm here because I want to be," he said softly. "When we...when we heard what was happening, this summer, I'd hoped to maybe see you, and have a chance to thank you again. I didn't dream I'd get this chance, but...I'm here because I want to be."

Kaven nodded slowly. "Then I'll take you at your word," he said. "And do my best to believe it." He smiled, shyly. "I think I could use the distraction, if nothing else," he added, "but it'd certainly be nice to have someone around me who isn't...isn't afraid of me, or doesn't expect me to be anything grand or glorious."

"I expect you to be Kaven, whoever that turns out to be," Thorne replied with shy smile of his own. "And I'll do my best to make sure you never have to doubt me. But I promise, I wouldn't have offered friendship to someone I wasn't actually interested in having as a friend."

"I think I can believe that," Kaven said after a moment's careful consideration. "And I guess that's a start." He bit his lip, then extended his hand.

Thorne took it, squeezing Kaven's fingers lightly, resisting the urge to just pull the other naga into a tight hug. He was so skittish, he'd probably die of shock...But Thorne did let his tail relax further, the coils pressing lightly against Kaven's even after he'd released the prince's fingers.

Kaven's smile widened. "Well," he said after a moment. "I need to speak with the council soon, but...first, I guess there's something we need to take care of."

"Oh?" Thorne lifted his eyebrows, surprised at the sudden authority in Kaven's voice. "What did you have in mind?"

"I'll show you," Kaven replied, eyes taking on a slight sparkle. "Come with me."

Thorne frowned, curious, but followed Kaven as the prince led him out of the bedroom and through the maze of corridors, several of which sloped down rather sharply. Thorne hadn't been through this part of the palace yet, so he didn't realize where they were until they got there.

The bright orange nagi, whose name Thorne had since learned was Tish, rose up on her coils and bowed low to Kaven. "My prince," she said. "How may I serve you?"

"We need a status change," Kaven murmured, nudging Thorne lightly on the shoulder to urge him forward and into the room. "Full bars, please." He winked at Thorne, then nodded. "I have to go," he said, looking regretful. "I have a council meeting to attend. But...well, my friends shouldn't need escorts, to come see me." He hesitated, looking suddenly shy and a little uncertain. "Right?"

Thorne knew his eyes were wide with astonishment, but a grin broke out across his face. "No, I suppose they shouldn't. And thank you, once more." He laughed, then, once more resisting the urge to hug Kaven, knowing it'd be even less welcomed here, with another present, even if she was busy with her inks. "I hope I'll see you again soon. And I'll start writing down some of the more interesting ballads tonight," he added, knowing Kaven had to leave, but loathe to see him go.

Kaven nodded. "Maybe I'll come check in on your progress," he said. "Assuming the meeting doesn't go on forever." He made a face. "The council members are the only people in the world who talk more than you do," he lamented. "And what they have to say is rarely interesting."

Thorne laughed aloud. "Then I am sorry, but I hope you'll be able to get away. I know a page who'll fetch food and some of that hot chocolate at any time of the night, though, and I'm usually up late anyway, so please check. I'd love to entertain you in my rooms, now that I've been in yours."

Kaven actually blushed, and when Tish glanced up at him, eyebrows raised, Thorne realized immediately how that must've sounded. "I mean...I mean since I've sung for you in your rooms I'd...oh, crap." He cringed, even as Tish bit back a snicker, and peered up at Kaven with a sheepish look on his face. "This is one of those 'should've thought before I spoke' moments, isn't it?"

Then Kaven did something amazing: he laughed. An actual, honest-to-the-Lady, genuine laugh. Even Tish looked surprised, pausing in mixing her inks and staring up at the prince for a long moment. When Kaven laughed, his whole body got into the act; he wrapped his arms around his middle and threw back his head, shoulders shaking. When he finally calmed a little, reaching up to wipe his eyes, Thorne saw his cheeks had gotten faintly pink. "That was definitely one of those moments," Kaven confirmed, still chuckling. "Take care of him, Tish. And Thorne...I'll see you tonight, if I can." He smiled, shaking his head and still grinning, then moved out of the room, leaving a rather astonished Thorne behind him.

Tish glanced up from where she was filling a needle. "I haven't heard him do that since before his mum passed," she murmured.

"He should do it more often," Thorne said, slightly dazed. Damn, but Kaven was beautiful when he let go. "I made him chuckle, once, years ago, but nothing like that..."

"Well," Tish said, taking his arm and beginning to draw an extra bar next to the three already in place, "it's more than half a dozen court jesters and twice that many bards have been able to do in over seventeen years, so you stick around, kiddo. Prince needs him some happiness once in awhile." She nodded, firmly agreeing with herself.

"I plan to. I like him," Thorne replied, looking up at the ceiling, tail twitching as she poked the needle into his skin over and over. "Do you ever do other kinds of designs? Just for decoration?"

She glanced up at him. "Suppose I could," she said, frowning as though the thought had never occurred to her. "You got something in mind?"

Thorne grinned. "I hadn't yet, but now that I know you could..." He trailed off, thinking, distracting himself from the passing pain of the needles.

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Aw, Thorne and Kaven are so very cute. I loved reading this and I can't wait for the next chapter.
Yes! More Kaven and Thorne! I'm so glad you posted this. :D

(Kaven needs a hug so bad. T_T ...And more. Yes.)
oh god this made me grin. XD I love their character interaction, and how thorne's the only one that's remotetly sure of himself, even when he's not.
Bwaaaaaaaaaaah, brilliant. I lurv these two. And Thorne made Kaven all-out laugh! Huzzah!

This is a wonderful cap to the holiday. Now I'm off to catch up on 'Survivor.'
Ah, I am so glad that Thorne finally got his full access to the castle. I remember you saying something about it in the description of one of your illustrations, I think. The story and description are coming along beautifully and I await eagerly the upcoming chapters!

~Etenity from Y!
WOOT!! NEW CHAPTER!! And just in time for the holiday! I've been waiting like a crack addict for this chapter and I wasn't disappointed! :D

So glad Kaven finally has himself a friend... and that he can laugh so hard now when he hasn't done it in so long, thanks to Thorne. Thorne really is a ray of sunshine in his dark life. He does need him.

Can't wait to read more so in other words: Can't wait for Ch. 3!! XD

Happy Turkey Day!


I'm still enjoying this story! You did a nice job in this chapter showing the discomfort that status and castes set on people, as well as emphasizing Kaven's humanity (naganity?). You (well, ya'll!) also did well making Kavan seem appropriately confident before so that his uncertainty in this chapter wasn't patently obvious. Well done, and I can't wait for me!

*waits impatiently for relationship development* 0_~
I was so happy to see this on my flist! I love seeing Thorne settel into his new life. He's just so lovable. And I can't wait to see his friendship with Kaven develop. He really needs a freind and Thorne will be good for him.
Eeee yay! A full chapter of them together! I've been waiting so patiently for this, you can't even imagine how loud I squealed when I saw the update on Y!. The end was so incredibly cute, I'm very excited for the next chapter!
They're so cute. <3
Ack! When will there be more!!!

The artwork on Y!Gal has me in a frenzy to read the rest! Please PLEASE update! Cause I'll be so sad if you don't.
Sorry for the delay!!! We'll be better about posting, promise, and you have our permission to bug us when we aren't. No excuses, have we. We just forgot!! *blush*


October 2009

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