Always remember that the future comes one day at a time.
Several weeks later, Jonathan called his first council meeting. Having once sat on his father's council, he felt no inclination toward holding such meetings, but Gary suggested (rather strongly) he do so anyway. He spent a few minutes pouting before he quickly remembered he was the twenty-three-year-old king of Tortall, not the three year old prince, and this was a kingly duty, not a forbidden toy or trip. Then he was just embarrassed.
As expected, Alanna and Raoul were both late. Some of the stuffier nobles glared at them, but neither seemed to notice – Raoul because such things rolled off his shoulders, Alanna because she was used to such things. "Thank you for joining us," Jonathan commented dryly, looking between his two friends, the words I'll talk to you later clear in his blue eyes. Alanna started to open her mouth, but Gary flicked his eyes at her. Now would not be the time for a clever retort, even though she had the perfect line in her mind. Damn.
"Thanks to everyone for coming today," Jonathan said, turning his attention to the room filled with friends and reluctant conservatives. "I apologize if this does not run as smoothly as previous meetings." He glanced at Gary. "Sir Gareth, I believe you have the topics for today's meeting?"
"I do, Your Majesty." Gary produced a sheet of paper with several lines on it. Alanna tried not to groan. She didn't agree to this position to be kept in meetings! Gary passed the page to Jonathan, who glanced down at it and nodded.
"First." He folded his hands on the table in front of him, looking carefully around the room. "My mother had little to do with the day to day affairs of Tortall. That was the arrangement she and my father came to, and I respect it. However, I wish for Thayet to be just as involved as I am." Alanna cautiously looked at some of the stuffier nobles, who shifted slightly. She thought she knew what Jonathan was about to ask, and she liked the idea. "I wish for her to sit in on these council meetings when her schedule permits." He let the sentence sit for a moment before glancing around. "Please, share your thoughts." Alanna sat back in her chair, biting down gently on her lip. She knew this could get mean.
"When would this start, Your Majesty?" one noble Alanna could not see asked.
"As soon as possible," Jonathan answered. "She has her own matters to attend to, but would come whenever possible. I plan on keeping her informed on what happens when she is not here." Alanna glanced around, trying to gauge reactions. No one seemed opposed to the idea, but several didn't seem particularly comfortable with it, either. She glanced at Jonathan, noting the soft crease in his eyebrows. He clearly wasn't sure how to read the nobles.
"I think it sounds like a good idea," she said carefully. All eyes turned to her, making her squirm. She never liked being the center of attention. "It seems logical, to have both the king and queen up to date on what is happening, in case one should be away when a decision needs to be made." Jonathan shot her a grateful look; she released the breath she did not know she held. Being civil was harder than she thought.
"Is anyone opposed?" Jonathan asked, glancing around. His question was met with silence. "I think I'll take that as a no." He glanced at Gary, who nodded and wrote something down on the page. "Next topic…"
And so it went, one topic after another. Most did not concern Alanna, so she sat there, practicing her best etiquette, as many of her old instructors sat at the table. Gary gave her apologetic looks, but she simply shrugged at him. Such meetings were part of the job she accepted. She hoped to go off soon. Besides, she was enjoying watching Raoul try to nap without getting caught.
"Now." Jonathan looked down at the paper, then back around the table. "As many of you may have already guessed, Her Majesty and I have some… changes in mind." He glanced meaningfully at Alanna, the first female Champion. "We have several ideas, some more revolutionary than others." Alanna watched the stuffier nobles shift, and Raoul opened a black eye. He wanted to hear this.
"Too many changes too soon could be detrimental," Duke Gareth remarked. Alanna knew he was progressively minded, but cautious.
"I am aware, thank you, Uncle," Jonathan said with a smile. "Which is why I thought we would begin with the easiest." He looked at Alanna. "Her Majesty and I would like to reinstate the rule that women may try for their shields." His Champion straightened proudly. She certainly proved they could survive the training.
"It is not unprecedented," Myles – the scholar – put in before anyone could object. "We had lady knights in the past, and they got on just fine."
"Perhaps Lady Alanna should not be here for this discussion," Lord Wyldon of Cavall mused. Alanna looked at him with fiery violet eyes. He shrugged calmly. "I mean no offense. Simply that you are clearly biased on the matter –"
"What's wrong with allowing women to become knights?" she wanted to know, looking around the table at every possible naysayer. "I'll—"
"Lady Alanna." Jonathan's sharp voice cut her off. She looked at him. "Control your temper." She bit her lip and sat back, looking to her friends for help. "Are there steps that need to be taken before such a reform can be instated?" The king looked to Duke Gareth, still training master.
"Some. We will have to make accommodations."
"Having the option doesn't mean anyone will jump on the chance immediately," Gary reminded the group. "We could have a few years before any girl even wants to try."
"We should be prepared," his father said. "We may have another Lioness waiting already." He smiled at Alanna, who returned it. She knew he was proud of her. "I have no problem with such a decree, your majesty, but I advise waiting a few years."
Jonathan nodded. "We need not decide now." He glanced at Alanna to be sure she kept her mouth shut. "But it is a priority of mine."
After the meeting ended, Alanna waited to talk to Jonathan. He sat back in his chair with a sigh. "Oh, my head hurts." He rubbed his temples.
"Manners do that to you." She grinned. "What some help?" Violet fire appeared around her fingertips.
Jonathan nodded, leaning his head back. "Please." Alanna walked over, pressing cool fingers to his temples, sending violet fire in to clear the pain. He sighed. "Thank you."
"It's a useful trick, isn't it?" She returned to her seat. "Why aren't you pressing the decree?"
"To allow more Lionesses?" he said with a smile. "Because I want to allow you your glory years before challenging your heroic name."
"Jonathan." Not even a smile.
"These things take time." He put his hand over hers. "I have made it a priority. But even with the ballads being sung about you, and all your great deeds, people need time to accept you. Today, all I wanted was to get them thinking. I'm hoping to get support for some other reforms first, and then push this. But I need Uncle Gareth on my side, and he seems to think time is best."
"I hate waiting," she grumbled. "There could be a girl at the convent right now, wishing she could try for her shield instead. I don't want her to have to wait."
"There could be ladies in the palace now who wish they had your courage," he reminded her. "Thayet and I will work on it, Alanna. You have my word. Just be patient."
She smiled. "I'm not very good at that."
"I know." He kissed her hand. "But you're never too old to learn."
Trying to get back into the voices of these characters… again. There is so much development in the Alanna/Jonathan relationship I want to explore… Hope you enjoyed!