It has been awhile but I regret nothing. Laptop screen is held up with a book (broken hinge).

It was several hours later, when dressed simply and hair shorn, the King rode out of the city gates quietly with his small escort, their mounts steered on the main road north. With his marriage officially but quietly declared void, he felt a strange mixture of relief, guilt, and trepidation. Wishing himself out of the situation was vastly different from having it come to pass. And no matter the need, this would still hurt Estora if and when she recovered. His mind raced with too many thoughts and scenarios of what could possibly go wrong.

And he did not even want to begin to contemplate how he would endeavor to speak to Karigan. Showing up on her doorstep and announcing that he was asking for her hand, in order to beget an heir was hardly romantic. He sighed quietly and cringed at the memory of the night on the tower, he certainly did not have a stellar record of making a good impression as a suitor.

Fastion mounted his own steed, and made a slight show of being rather displeased at the King's choice of attire, "Sire, you had better wear a uniform of a messenger or a Weapon even."

Zachary shrugged and tugged at his clothing, "Wouldn't it seem obvious if I were to disguise myself as such?"

The Weapon looked at the rest of their entourage, "A group of men traveling on their own on the road north?"

Zachary turned in his saddle to look, "I suppose not ideal, but preferable to a band of Weapons, yes?"

Fastion sighed lightly and urged his horse forward.

Karigan sat primly and unusually rigid in her seat as she took in her Captain. "He is doing what?

Laren stared into her teacup absently, "I had thought it might be a bad idea, but ultimately, there isn't much else to be done."

Karigan sat with her mouth agape, "He cannot just . . . set aside the Queen. There are consequences to what he is doing."

The Captain shrugged a shoulder, "She's taken leave of her mind and senses, and is a threat to herself and others."

The younger woman sat her cup down and smoothed her skirts, "But the council . . . ? What will everyone else think of such a thing?"

"Karigan, the castle is not oblivious to Estora's nature, and the city is rife with gossip, if anything, they are glad that she will be removed from power."

"It cannot be that easy," Karigan said suspiciously.

"It is not, for we have yet to find a way to return Estora to herself and ensure her children are safe," Laren conceded. "When it is all said and done, she is no longer part of Sacoridia's future. But you are."

Karigan shifted uncomfortably in her seat, "No matter how many times we have this conversation, it will never sit well with me."

Laren nodded cheerfully, "It chafes to be sure. Feels like a lightning bolt will strike me down for saying this, but he intends to court you with the full permission of the council."

"Oh he does, does he?"

Laren peered at the plate of offered cakes and selected something with a greenish tinge, "Now is not the time to act coy, Karigan, you are finally able to achieve what you wish for and you act missish?"

Karigan huffed, "Fanciful daydreams only, perhaps we won't suit."

"Oh you'll be just fine," Laren said around a mouthful of cake, "You've kept each other's interest for this long."

Somial reentered and took in Karigan's flustered look, and Laren's bulging cheeks. "I gather that your meeting has been successful?"

Laren frowned and swallowed her food, "You've been rather mysterious in this whole ordeal, why so much interest in helping a human Rider?"

Somial blinked, "Do I need a reason to practice my craft or to obey the orders of my liege?"

The captain sniffed, "Eletians are known amongst my kind for their aloofness, your sudden altruism could be seen as rather disquieting, you see."

He allowed the smallest of smiles to turn up the corners of his lips, "It is rather alarming to my people as well, Captain. Never fear, I do not have an alterior motive in helping the Galadheon, only that she heal properly and swiftly."

"It seems just in time," Karigan muttered.

Laren held up a finger at her, "I don't know why you are so resistant now, in light of the fact that you are to be granted that which you have desired."

The Rider faltered a moment, "I have difficulty believing that a council so intent on the sanctity of a noble marriage has suddenly decided that I am their best option."

Laren shrugged, "With their daughters married off to their second choice of suitors and a war laced with magic on the horizon, I do not think it is that unbelievable. You have experience, your family money and connections, and lastly you have the heart of the King, thus it shouldn't be too hard to ensure the royal line and succession," she finished succinctly with a sip of tea.

Karigan blushed a shade of crimson, "Again, you assume that the King and I would suit each other. We only have our own feelings, unacted on and untested."

The captain rolled her eyes, "You've seen each other at your worst, and at your best. If you still harbor a tendril of feeling for him, then I think it is safe to say that you suit."

Somial took a moment to interject, "Does your objection stem more from the lack of interaction between the two of you, or of a perceived class difference?"

Karigan gripped the arms of her chair and bristled, "There IS a class difference, Somial, it would be foolish on my part to think otherwise. Even if this works out for the best, there will always be those in court who would whisper of my father's humble roots, of our base in trade."

Laren pointed out, "Ah but at least Clan G'ladheon is well funded, which is a far cry from some of the noble houses who are unable to put out a dowry for their daughters."

Karigan slumped back with a snort and smiled wryly, "And whoever said money didn't buy happiness?"

The captain nodded, smirk in place, "Not the sort of attitude I was hoping for, but better than wallowing in self-pity."

The smile rapidly dropped and her Rider glared at her, crossing her arms over her chest as she sunk further into her chair. "It is still a mess."

Laren reached over and swatted at Karigan's knee, "If the whispers at the castle were any indicator of Zachary's potential success, I would say that at the very least, we can expect support from the families. And potentially, he could be getting on the road at any time," she finished cheerfully.

Karigan's narrowly slitted eyes popped open in surprise, "What on earth for?"

"Do keep up. To come and get you of course," Laren said blithely, "The whole idea of me coming was to settle what happened, to prepare you for what could be achieved."

Here, Laren shifted uneasily in her seat and stared into her teacup, suddenly very conscious of the eyes on her. "And also, I came to apologize."

"Per the King's command?" Karigan asked quietly.

Laren shook her head, "Partially, but no, I came of my own free will. Perhaps in any other instance, it would have been the best to keep you separated but you two . . . are special," she said with a wry twist of her lips. "I let my own disappoint color my perception of the situation."

Karigan nodded after a few moments and busied herself with looking out the window before she asked her next question, "What will become of us, as we move forward?"

Laren looked at her questioningly, but Karigan held up a hand and haltingly ground out, "What I meant to say . . . is what has been done to find Mornhavon?"

The captain blanched a moment, then looked askance at Somial before replying slowly, "I do not think you will like the operating theory that the Weapons have formed."