The Prince's Taste-tester

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Epilogue

One Month Later

My duties as the taste-tester to the king of Haiathiel were ultimately much different than those as a taste-tester for its prince. The constant need for nagging, the fending off of affectionate advances, I no longer had to deal with in Cal. However, though I was the one who had spoken of protecting the kingdom together, Gale was nearly insufferable. Recovering from serious injuries, he exerted himself beyond what was good for him.

Correction: Chancellor Gale Holt was insufferable. Under Cal’s direction, Gale was in charge of returning the senators to their original number. He also had roles to play in general administration, addressing the complaints of the people (a job Cal had sneakily pushed away) and of course, strategies for war. Not that we had much of strategy yet for dealing with Mativ, who had not shown any aggressive movements towards the Capitol the days following Cal’s impromptu kingship. Instead, the rebels had taken to causing chaos in other regions. Still, Garigus had deployed a small number of men to help the citizens caught in the middle of the civil war. The majority of the army remained around Haiathiel patrolling both day and night.

The coronation would be in two weeks, as well as the arrival of Cousin Eli, who had been delayed by weather and circumstance for so long. This morning, the king of Haiathiel had been dashing around his castle as excited as a small boy for a birthday party. His Chancellor, hobbling after with one leg and a staff, had soon subdued him and locked him up with the senators and Aelius for a serious meeting. Aliasse, of course, was present at all meetings as queen and had involved herself in military matters. She still wore the clothes of a commoner, but no one dared tell her to wear a gown.

We were such a strange court. My own job at the king’s court, humble as it was, kept all of them safe in a small, simple way. Still, at times, I had the strange wish to find some glowing food and stuff it right down Gale’s throat! That, at least, would keep him still.

“Avi!”

I sighed. To think I had enjoyed the peace of my rooftop for only ten minutes…

After heaving himself up the stairs with a great deal of clacking, Gale frowned at me. “Why are you hanging about here?”

I pointed at the gray horizon of the city, just where it broke off into green. “For the view and some peace of mind. I was also hoping to take a nap.”

“We expected you at the meeting.”

“I check the food for poison, not tangle with politics or war,” I said. “I am the prince’s taste-tester. Er, the king’s taste-tester.”

“You are also the Chancellor’s wife.”

“That title has gone to your head!”

Gale considered me for a moment. “Then you take up my duties.”

I had my own way of protecting the kingdom, and the job of the Chancellor was all his. “No way.”

“If you feel your advice is not wise enough, that is not true. We are all callow and inexperienced. Even with Aelius and Otelius, Haiathiel has fallen into the care of young rulers.” Gale leaned his staff against the wall and then lifted his arms to allow the wind to make his sleeves billow. He almost fell flat on his face until he caught the low rooftop wall as a support.

I hid my smile at his clumsiness. “You have enough wisdom to spare.”

“I need you to temper that wisdom with compassion. Please.”

This again. “You have a heart too.”

“If I had a manor for every time I was called cold-hearted…” Gale was grinning though.

He showered so much love on me that I still couldn’t believe that another person adored me to such an extent. Best of all, I could push him away if the behavior became cloying. Since he had compromised for me, I could compromise on this.

“I’ll join in the next meeting. I promise.”The future of Haiathiel was in the hands of those I loved. And I would steady those hands in any way I could.

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