A/N: So this is another small piece that came to me the other night when I chanced across some old work of mine. The italicised verse at the beginning is what gave me the inspiration for this piece and is from a poem I wrote some years ago about Alanna from Raoul's point of view. The poem wasn't very good, with the exception of these four lines and it was this I've used for this scene. As usual, I hope you enjoy and I welcome any constructive criticism.
Oh, set roughly between PotS and the Trickster books. And for those of you that don't know, Cythera is Gary's wife.
Disclaimer: As you all know, I do not own any of this (except the poem extract)- Tamora Pierce does.
Your three Kings- you glowed for them:
The king of power, our long time friend;
The king of people, on his stained throne;
The warrior king with a wandering home.
'You look tired.'
Gary turned in shock at the voice, unaware that he had company. Seeing his long-time friend, Alanna, he smiled a little and continued sorting through the papers for the approaching meeting.
'Aren't we all, nowadays?'
Alanna grunted. 'What with war, and children, and-'
'And marrying children?' suggested Gary with a weak grin. 'First Roald, now talk of Kally. Before you know it, Thom'll be walking down that aisle.'
Alanna glared. 'That boy knows better than to leap into anything as committing as marriage with the first chit he takes a fancy to. But you're changing the subject, Gary. You look more tired than I've ever seen you, and worse than a lot of us fielders.'
'Don't exaggerate, Alanna. You men and women out there in the saddle do far more than me, you must be exhausted.' Alanna's brows had knitted together.
'Does Jon know how much he's working you? Has he even realised how stressed you are? Don't try to deny it, Gary, I'm not a healer for nothing. And I can see your hands shaking.'
Gareth the Younger sighed and laid his papers down. 'Fine. I'm exhausted; happy now? And what do you expect Jon to do? He can't do everything needed to run a whole realm on his own.'
'Yes, but it's not fair that you should be in such a state.' Alanna had folded her arms across her chest in her frustration. 'It's just like him. Have you even seen Cythera this week? I doubt it.'
Gary sighed deeply. 'Alanna, I don't need this right now. I've got documents to organise before the first meeting of the day- which, I hasten to add, is in less than a quarter mark of the hour- and a letter to draft before the second meeting-'
'Piffle,' said Alanna, cutting him off. 'Get the clerks to do it, that's what they're there for. I'm going to send you some calming tea once I get back to my quarters.'
He smiled and, lazily folding his arms around his chest, leant back against the edge of his workbench. Momentarily ignoring his paperwork, he observed his old friend. She waited for a few moments, squirming under his unusual scrutiny, before her patience wore out.
'What?' she snapped.
'I was just thinking how happy you must be that you got "out" of all this.' He waved his hand in lazy circles to take in all the surrounding rooms filled with political maps, books and scrolls. She narrowed her eyes in suspicion.
'What are you talking of?' His reply was almost inaudible and he was nearly afraid to bring up a subject they had never before discussed.
Alanna was silent, carefully assessing her friend. Eventually, she said quite determinedly, 'I would never have suited such a role.'
To her utter surprise, he began to laugh. Once again, in all predictability, her eyebrows drew together in a typical frown.
'What? I fail to see what could possibly be so funny about that, laddybuck.'
Grinning, he rejoined, 'Well, really, you are a queen, in a way.'
'Gary, what by the Great Mother Goddess are you muttering about now? By the looks of it I was all too right to be worried about your sanity.'
'No, listen to me, Alanna. You could have married Jon, our friend, who is a King of great power, and been the Queen of Tortall. You didn't, you married George- the King of Thieves, in some ways more of a true King of the people than Jon, however bloody his throne was from that repulsive ear collection he has.'
'Had. He got rid of it when he turned respectable, or so he told me. I fail to see-'
'Hush. You could have been Queen of the Rogue, if George hadn't turned respectable.'
'I don't think the Rogue has a-'
'And,' interrupted Gary. 'Liam Ironarm, your only other lover that I'm aware of, was an unofficial warrior King.' Alanna looked dubious. 'Alanna, you should have seen him fight full out, it was a glorious sight. Though he moved from place to place, if he had been a king he would have had followers aplenty, and you would have been his little queen.
'See, from my way of looking at it- whichever man you chose, you became queen in one way or another, so it's no good telling me the role doesn't suit you. The Goddess obviously wanted you to rule, Lioness.'
Alanna surveyed Gary for a long time before replying, only speaking when she heard others approach for the meeting. Her voice was quiet, her eyes cold and steady. 'I haven't spoken to you in so long I'd forgotten how strange your way of thinking can be.'
The other members of King Jonathan's Council entered the room, all ready to go into another longwinded debate about the best actions for Tortall's current situation. Alanna mingled, her mind unusually preoccupied.
Later that night, she sat on the edge of her bed, the Goddess's ember stone between her fingers. George was undressing after a long day and she should have been doing the same, but her thoughts were still stuck on Gary's idea from that morning.
Alanna hesitated, still keeping her eyes fixed on that stone in her hand. 'Do you think the Rogue would have ever needed a queen? I know you called Rispah Queen of the Ladies of the Court, but she didn't exactly rule much.'
Smiling, he crossed the room and slipped between the sheets on his side of the bed. 'No,' he commented, leaning over to snatch the stone out of her meddling fingers. 'No, I don't think the Rogue ever particularly needed a queen. The King, however, was a different matter.' Alanna smiled lightly at his blatant flirtation, but her heart wasn't in it.
'Who's been feeding you bird seed now? What idea have you got in that pretty little head of yours, lass?'
All of a sudden, Alanna decided that it wasn't worth it. So what, as to what Gary thought, why should she care? If he thought she was a queen, then let him think that. She was happy as Alanna, Champion to one King, wife to another, and mother of her children. She turned to George with a beaming smile that lit up her eyes.
'Oh, nothing of importance.' She shrugged. 'Just an old friend remarked today that I was destined to be a queen.'
'Oh, did they now? Well, Queen of my Heart, come here and show this old King just how loyal a subject you are.' Grinning wickedly, George grasped for her arm but, laughing, she evaded him.
'They said what a wonderful queen I would have made,' teased Alanna.
'Then come here and I'll show you what a wonderful queen you are.'
Relenting, she climbed back on to their bed and sunk into George's arms, ready for his kisses that she had never grown weary of, even after all these years.
'George?' she asked, once they were lying in each other's arms in their nightclothes and the dark.
'Do you really mean it?' she whispered, all frivolity gone now.
He squeezed her gently, whispering back. 'You have always been a queen to me, lass. You always will be. You didn't have to marry any King for that to happen.'