Title: Songs from within the Gilded Cage Ch 1/4

Author: Kate

Rating: PG-13

Disclaimer: All standard disclaimers apply. They're not mine and I'm not making a red cent.

Summary: Kalasin has news for Kaddar. A marriage faces its most serious tests to date via a pregnancy and a miscarriage. Kalasin/Kaddar, or Kallydar

Acknowledgments: I sincerely thank Rosie for her insightful beta-ing. She's a darling, who got this to me despite stress in her personal life. Doesn't she deserve a round of applause?

Chapter One

"My Lord? I must impart some news to you." Kalasin told her mirror. She made a face. No, that wasn't right. Too serious.

She tried again, "Kaddar, why don't you sit down? I want to talk to you about--," She contorted her face again. That was definitely wrong.

Kalasin rearranged her hair and pouted prettily. "Kaddar? Do you have a minute?" She murmured. She smiled, as though he had invited her to sit down. "I know everything has been a little awkward lately. But I'd like to talk to you." She sighed. Too needy.

"Goddess, give me the words," She whispered the prayer to the Great Mother.

Kalasin shook her head so that her long black hair tumbled around her face. She was afraid that letting her hair down in this way made her look like a child, but Kaddar liked it. He liked her hair long, her heels high, and her smile honest. She liked his face and head shaved smooth, his hands clean but callused (he almost never remembered to get all the dirt out from under his nails after working in the garden, even though Varice despairingly thought it looked like the Emperor was a peasant), and his rare, but open grin.

Kalasin stood up and pulled a light robe over her chemise. The robe was a deep rose-pink; the fabric crinkled and fluttered lightly whenever she moved. She tied a sash around her mid section, then consulted the mirror once more. She stood sideways, trying to detect an alteration in her figure; she looked the same, but she felt different. She nibbled her lips just enough to make them red, then shrugged. There was no way to tell how he would take this news.

She left her boudoir and entered a parlor. Her husband was sitting on a couch, meticulously updating his garden plan and bloom records. "Kaddar?" She smiled, a little nervous, a little excited.

He looked up at her and paused writing. "Yes?"

"I—um" She sighed, "Will you put that quill down? I want to tell you something." She wanted to scuff her foot. That wasn't how she wanted to begin.

Kaddar laid the feather on the book. He looked at her expectantly. Kalasin's speeches were always entertaining.

His wife perched at the opposite end of the couch. She twisted her hands together. "You know, how we've been, uh, trying, for the last few months?" The nineteen-year-old Empress was trying to strangle the panic welling in her belly. She was an adult, she was a married woman, and she was the Empress of Carthak. But Mithros, Minos, and Shakith, she wasn't convinced that she was ready for this.

Kaddar leaned forward expectantly, "Trying?"

"To make a baby." She rested her hands on her abdomen. "It worked. I think. I'm late, anyway, and so I talked to a healer, and even though it's a little too early to tell for sure, the spell to verify—,"

She had to stop talking when he carefully—so carefully, but so happily—took her hand and brought it to his lips. During their courtship, she had felt that that gesture was so intimate—he had a way of holding her fingers and looking into her eyes that made her feel she was being caressed all over. "You are?"

"I think so," She smiled tentatively. "Does this mean you're happy about it?"

He considered her expression carefully, then pulled back, "Of course I am. But are you happy?"

"Yes." She declared, after a deep breath, "And it kind of explains all the crying and the mood swings." She blushed. "I'm sorry for what I said last week, about the letters."

"Hey, hey, it's alright." He said, in a voice that was gentler than the tone he usually used to speak to her. Not that he was rude. Just distant. Formal. "I'm sorry too. I should have told you I was going to have the letters preserved."

"Next time, I guess." She smiled again, "I know we'll want to protect all the congratulations and advice that flies across the ocean."

"So how far along are you?" Kaddar asked. He stood up and crossed the room. He opened the door to their suite and spoke to the guard to order a pot of tea. He closed the door again and she answered.

"A month, maybe six weeks." She put a hand over her abdomen. "Nothing will show for another two or three months, though."

He nodded. "Are you comfortable?"

"Well, other than the time I bit your head off for taking my letters? And when I burst into tears because Varice served tangerines when I wanted oranges? I'm fine, but there are a lot of ups and downs."

He laughed. "I noticed that you've been a bit excitable lately." He said wryly. "If you want, I can ask my sisters to talk to you. Nadereh has three, you know, and Aaminah's expecting her first next month." (Neither of them knew then that Aaminah, the sister closest in age to Kaddar, was going to die in childbirth three weeks later.)

"I'd like that." She hesitated. "I guess your mother will have advice for me too?"

"Try to stop her." Kaddar confirmed.

Kalasin nodded. A pause filled the room. The mood became awkward, as Kaddar tried to think of something to say, and Kalasin realized how rare it was for them to simply be together, without work or hobbies to occupy them.

Kaddar walked toward the bedchamber they usually shared. "I can move my things to another chamber tomorrow."

"Do you have to?" Kalasin asked, not realizing how forlorn she sounded.

"I think it would be safer." Kaddar said. "Assassination attempts really might become more frequent now. Multiple targets decreases likelihood of success."

Kalasin sighed. "But making a change indicates that there's a reason to make us targets. We share quarters almost all the time. Even when we're traveling, and at our weakest."

Kaddar looked at his pretty young wife. Her sweet blue eyes—how were her eyes still so sweet?—met his own, "I get lonely without you next to me," Her sincerity left him shaken. She teased, "And I just got used to your snoring. You don't want me to have to retrain myself, do you?"

Kaddar smiled at his Empress. Truth to tell, he wasn't a fan of sleeping in a cold bed either. He'd done it the first evening after she confronted him about the letters, and he knew he had not passed a more wretched night since his marriage. Even the time he had the flu and the healers were unable to do anything for him, the night he lay on the floor of the privy and wondered if he had been poisoned, even that event paled in comparison to sleeping on the short lumpy couch, with Kalasin's tear-streaked face and angry words reverberating through his memory.

At the time, he'd wondered if it was her monthly courses, or simple shock—he'd found out about pirates and the orphanage during the interminable banquet, and then he'd really been unable to look at her. So of course, she had redoubled her efforts at charming the ambassador and Zaimid. Kaddar didn't trust the reproachful glances that the latter kept aiming at him. Maybe Kaddar would send his single, entirely-too-attractive cousin to the Copper Isles…

Kaddar nodded. "Since it means so much to you, I'll stay. On one condition."

She arched an inquisitive eyebrow. "I'm not naming this child after your mother."

He shook his head, "No, I was going to say, you have to swear to me that you'll be more careful. I know the jewelry is heavy, but it will protect you. You have to promise to wear it, night and day. And stay with your guard. I know it can feel like the walls are closing in, but ducking away from them isn't safe either."

"I'm not a frivolous child." Kalasin defended herself, "I need moments of freedom, Kaddar. I'm not a pretty songbird you can trap and keep for your personal pleasure."

"No, of course you're not. But you don't take danger seriously."

"That's not fair. It's true; I do refuse to cower in the corner. I choose to live, instead of allowing bullies and weak men to defeat me without a fight."

"No one's attacking your courage." He said, irritated. "I'm talking about brains."

Kalasin laughed, abruptly. "It's kind of nice that we know each other well enough to snipe at one another, isn't it?"

Kaddar shook his head, unable to pick at her any more. "Must you look at the bright side of everything?" He asked, amused in spite of himself.

"It's part of my winning disposition." Kalasin batted her eyes at him. She was almost giddy with relief that he was happy, with excitement for herself. She was having a baby.