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Chapter 14

"He just wanted a companion." Vistaren had been repeating some variation of those words at least once an hour since the seas calmed and the leviathan swam off with his new-found companion. He couldn't get beyond it. Sitting in his cabin with less than a day between him and his future bride, he found himself even more frightened than he had been before. "All that because he was lonely."

"Loneliness is powerful, my prince." Lozarr's gray eyes hadn't lost any of their sadness, but the lines around his mouth had relaxed a bit. Vistaren thought Arama was still holding him at arm's length, but he'd seen the trust she'd placed in Lo when he'd carried her into the cabin. It might be enough for Lo. Vistaren didn't think that would be enough for him.

"So much pain because no one understood him." Would that happen to him? Would his marriage steal any hope of happiness and companionship from him? Would he be driven to wander, crying his loneliness to the deeps--

"Someone did understand him," Lo said. He rested a hand briefly on Vistaren's shoulder. "Kinnet understood him."

"She wasn't what he needed though."

Lo arched an eyebrow. "Are you so sure of that? She met his need. She answered his song. She found him his companion."

Vistaren made a face. "All right, I see what you're getting at."

"Do you?" Lo straddled a chair and leaned on the back, meeting Vistaren's eyes. "I've seen you watching us. Arama and me. It's not always like this, Ren. And your situation is night and day away from ours, anyway. You don't have a choice about a political marriage, all right. But you do have a choice about whether you'll make it easy on her, or hard. You have a choice about whether you'll be happy or not. And you may feel no passion for her, but there are other kinds of love. You act like this is a situation that's entirely black and white, but it isn't."

"You know that isn't me, though, Lo." Vistaren looked at the planks between his feet. He couldn't keep holding that gaze. Lo had to have known about the mad passion Vistaren had felt for him last year. He had to have noticed that it wasn't the court daughters who caught Vistaren's eye.

"I know. I didn't say it was fair. I know the sacrifice you're being asked to make. But it's one of the things I've always admired about you, Ren. You've always done what you think is right for Amethir." Lo squeezed his shoulder. "I know you will again."

"But what's best for Amethir?" Vistaren burst out. "For them to have a king who loves men? Or for them to have a king who denies everything he's ever felt to give them an heir of the body?"

Lo's gaze was sad as he smiled. "I'm not the one who can answer that."

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