Winter 439 H.E., Pirate's Swoop.
Baron George of Pirate's Swoop, formerly George Cooper, King of the Rogue, turned to face the speaker.
"Coram," he greeted, fondly. "Care for a drink?"
George had always found it hard to dislike the former soldier, even when he'd complained - loudly - about Alanna cavorting with thieves. Coram's heart was certainly in the right place – and he'd brought Alanna home in one piece.
"Later," the old guardsman said, shaking his head. "The lass is telling me you intend to marry her."
"That I do," George replied, knowing all too well what this was about. Coram wanted to see that his former mistress wasn't going to get her heart broken – again.
"You're to marry the way nobles do?"
"Aye." George rolled his eyes and the other man grinned. "Their Majesties won't let us get away with anything else. I overheard her telling Thayet that we should have just wed in the desert and been done with it."
Coram helped himself to a chair by the fire, bracing his hands on his knees. "Mayhap. Less fuss among the Bazhir – there's sensible folk. She says you've turned respectable."
"As respectable as the likes of me get," the newly-made baron answered, stretching. "Not that it's taken my wits from me."
The man who had brought Alanna up from childhood frowned. "You'll do right by her," he began, his eyes level and serious. "Or gods help you an' me both…"
"I'll answer to you." George nodded. "You won't believe me, but I care for that lass as much as you do." He shook his head and grinned. "Of course I'll do right by her – I didn't wait this long just to chase her off to someone else. Or get myself killed."
Coram grinned back. "Sensible of you. Now, how about that drink, man?"
"George?" A feminine voice called from the corridor outside the study. The woman in question entered, her short hair tossed from the wind, wearing her usual breeches and shirt. "Coram?" She looked from George to her old friend, confusion in her violet eyes. "What…?"
"We were just about to have a drink, darlin'," George answered, rising to take her by the hand. "Join us?"
She smiled crookedly. "I'm feeling far too much like a proper female - might as well."
Coram muttered, obviously disapproving.
Alanna rolled her eyes and turned to him, a stubborn angle to her chin. "It's too late for you to tell me to behave as a 'proper' female should, Coram; I'm not one. I'll do as I please in my home…" She smirked over her shoulder at George, who shrugged. Was she baiting the old soldier? She was.
Coram mock-glared at her, affection in his face. "Ye did whatever ye pleased long before this. No matter what I said. Was why you were up afore His Grace so often."
Alanna blushed red and scowled. "You're exaggerating," she accused her former companion. "And - Goddess. George Cooper - don't you dare laugh." She rounded on him, as he bit back laughter.
"I'm sorry, lass," he replied, stifling his amusement. "Truly."
She looked doubtful, but turned her attention away from him and back to Coram.
"Trebond blood in ye. More stubborn 'n any I ever saw," the older man continued. "The lot. I raised you, don't forget - an' I know. Proud, too. If you're not goin' to cry over some other fool man, I don't mind. Not as if you ever listen t' me."
Alanna bent to hug the old soldier, who tolerated this briefly before pushing her away. "Stop that," he growled. "If I were to tell ye not to get married, ye'd do it anyway. Outta spite."
She laughed and wiped tears from her eyes and, smiling brightly, settled in a chair. Coram's approval - even if it was somewhat grudgingly given - meant more to her than he'd previously thought, George realized, fetching the brandy.