We’ve been riding for a week, with apparently five more days until we make it to camp. I’ve been trying my best to grip onto the familiar on these sorts of rides. I challenge Tristan to races, I’ve taken to poking Aaron as his parent’s get lost in nostalgia.
But it was this past night when the tents had been set up and the Count and Countess had gone to bed when Aaron walked out to the fire, with a massive bottle of whisky.
“Aaron,” Lisette cautioned as he poured out four glasses.
“Don’t lecture, Your Highness,” he grinned at her, “this is the last time we four will be alone for a while, I think it’s worth commemorating.”
“With the world’s most massive headache?” Tristan grimaced, sniffing his cup. I giggled.
“Sir Tristan, I am offended,” Aaron said, “this bottle was a personal gift to me, not even to the Estate, by Prince Harran of the Westran Border Tribe, and it is very good.”
“Well then,” I said and raised my cup, “to us.”
“To us,” Annalise laughed, and nudged Tristan who chuckled and raised his cup.
“To us,” he grinned. We pressed the metal camp cups to eachother, making a satisfying clink. “To The Chosen.” He kissed Lissette softly and then met my eyes.
“To Queen Annalise,” I said, “Long may she reign.” Lisette blushed and downed her cup at that one. I took a deep sip of mine. It was good, sweet and smoky and didn’t burn.
“Careful,” Aaron said, topping us all off. “When Harran brought this Lisette nearly,” she kicked him. I laughed. “Another time maybe.”
“There is nothing to tell,” Lisette said, “Harran was a gentleman. I may ask him to council, given how respectful of a no name farm girl he was, even when she was drunk and throwing herself at him.” Tristan glowered and took a deep sip of his drink.
“So, Your Grace,” he said after that, “I feel as a man of the guilds I am honor bound to ask,” I snorted at that. “Are you intentions towards my sister honorable?”
“Completely,” Aaron said straight faced. “I intend to compose my suit in writing to you, after Athena consults with General Martin.” I smiled and stood up, sitting in his lap to kiss him.
“I may not accept,” Tristan said. I kicked him then.
“Good luck explaining to Uncle Trey and Grandfather that you refused me becoming a Countess someday,” I said. “They’d kill you where you stand.” Tristan laughed.
“Fair enough,” he said, he refilled his cup, “another to us four,” Lisette snuggled closer to him, “and to the others who will join us.” I nodded as we all drank.
I thought of our friend Elodie, who’s come to us as a starving child, an orphan of our grandfather’s lust for power and control. Of Lady Marina, likely sitting beside our mentors bedside as we spoke, caring for him. Of Prince Harran, who I’d never met, but Aaron and Lisette seemed fond of.
We weren’t alone, so soon there would be more. But I understood now, why Aaron had decided tonight belonged to us. I loved him so much for it.
I also can’t believe what a joy it was to watch Lisette get drunk. She never abstained at Pantona, but it was usually just a glass or two of wine at dinner. This was different. It was delightful.
She was confident beyond belief and giggly. She also held her liquor, and for someone so small, I didn’t expect that. Tristan was falling asleep after a while.
“Come one now, my brave knight,” she giggled helping him to his feet, “I believe it is my turn to guard you.” He beamed down at her.
“When I pledged my life, I meant it,” he said. She laughed.
“I know,” she said softly, and guided him to her tent. Aaron laughed and took my hand.
“Aaron,” I shook my head, “we’re both drunk, I don’t think it would be wise.” He sighed and kissed my neck softly.
“Wouldn’t it?” He whispered. “I suppose not. You’re distracted, not just drunk, I like you focused.” I smiled and sat up cross legged looking at him. “What are you thinking, Lady Athena?”
“I am thinking about how a few months ago I’d never even thought about you,” I said, “and now, the thought of not seeing you everyday is unbearable. I’m thinking about how the four of us are about to enter a new world.” He took my hands. “It’s like the sun going down after the most lovely summer day, and I don’t want twilight to end.”
“We’ll go back Athena,” he whispered. “I swear it.” I nodded and kissed him gently. “You’re sure.”
“Absolutely,” I said and stood up, “Sleep well.” He groaned and fell back against the ground. I laughed before slipping into my bedroll and off to sleep.