Disclaimer: Kalasin isn't mine, I am merely borrowing her.

Kalasin - Dreams, Duty, and Love: When I was little, I dreamed of being a knight. Aunt Alanna was my hero; I wanted to be just like her. My mother too was a fighter, and my sister Vania has always talked of being a Rider. I doubt anyone will allow the youngest princess to do that, though. I certainly wasn't allowed to reach my dreams. I would never be the first known girl page. That distinction would go to Keladry of Mindelan. Not that I have any dislike for her; Roald says she worked the hardest of all of them to prove herself worthy, and I know she deserved the honor. But I would have done all she did, I'm sure. I just never got the chance.

My parents had discussed how my siblings and I would need to marry for the good of the kingdom. Roald was betrothed to a Yamani princess, first Chisakami, and then Shinkokami when the former was was killed in an earthquake. My parents discussed marriage choices for me, but then, my father made a decision that stunned me. It had been suggested by Emperor Ozorne that I marry his heir, Kaddar, when he knew my parents wouldn't agree. But apparently, either Emperor Kaddar or my father realized that a marriage alliance between our countries might be useful after all. Papa suggested it to me, and told me I would have a say. I had other choices; the Gallan king's eldest son, the younger brother of the king of Tusaine, and the king of Maren. But when I looked at my options... the Marenite king had already had several wives, and none of them ended well. He'd had one executed and had exiled another; one had died of an illness. Few would care to be his fourth queen with that record. I didn't think Papa wanted me to even consider him, but he had put himself forward, and I'd asked to know all my options. The Tusaine boy was half my age, and the Gallan Crown Prince... It came down to whether we needed the Tortall/Galla or Tortall/Carthak contract more. We have a history of good relations with Galla, but not with Carthak. We needed a connection with Carthak; I needed to step forward and make it.

I told Papa and he concluded the negotiations with Carthak. When Mama came home, she was furious that he'd done so without consulting her. They slept in separate rooms for a while. But I told Mama that it had been my choice in the end. I knew my duty as a princess, and I would do right by my people. I would help protect them, even if it was through a good marriage, rather than fighting for them as a lady knight.

I went to Carthak, to Kaddar, with Daine's words of praise for my new husband, with my siblings' promises of letters and visits, with my parents' love, and my own sense of duty. I found myself in a country so strange, so unlike my own, that I had no idea what to do. Even all the studying I had done, to prepare myself for this glittering, fancy world, wasn't enough. I felt so lost, so alone, but I had to hide it. A princess cannot show weakness; this is even more true of an empress. So I became a woman of stone, carved of marble, with sapphires for eyes.

But what I didn't see was that someone noticed what I was doing. My husband and I had barely spoken except when necessary, but he saw the changes in me. He reached out, to keep me human, and we came to know each other better. I learned that he loved gardening, and he wanted to do right by his people, just like me. He understood my dream of knighthood; he had always intended to be a scholar-mage, but after the death of his uncle's first heir, he was given that place. Neither of us had intended to rule, but now we would have to do so together. It became easier, and I soon found a friend in Sarai Balitang Hetnim, sister to the young Queen Dovasary of the Copper Isles and wife to Kaddar's cousin and healer Zaimid. I envied them their obvious love, until the evening when Kaddar and I walked in his rose garden, and he kissed me. There was no reason for it here, we were alone, and not in the bedroom. I realized then that I had found love of my own, in the marriage I made for duty.

Sometimes I wish I could have been a knight, but I'm not sorry things turned out as they did. I've found happiness with the one person I would never have expected to, and though I still dream, I have love, and I have my duty. This is all I need.

A/N: Well? R&R!