The Whole Family

Aly was nervous. The Tortallan embassy was coming in two days and she hadn't thought of an excuse to not be at the palace when it came. It wasn't that she didn't want to see anyone, but she wanted to show up at Pirate's Swoop for her mother's birthday. If her mother knew where she was she couldn't make it a surprise.

The quiet knock at her study door brought her out of her thoughts. She glanced outside. It was nearly dark! How long had she been there? She opened the solid oak door with a grunt. Dove stood there. It irked Aly to no end that Dove delivered her messages herself when it was likely Aly would refuse.

"What?" Aly said testily. Being sick for two months had done nothing to lighten her mood. She glanced at Dove's outfit and saw it was a formal gown that she only wore when an embassy was here...

Aly quickly thought of her options; she could run, Dove couldn't keep up in that dress, she close the door, or she could act like she'd spent the morning by the privy. I'lltakenumberthreeshe thought, already clutching her stomach with mock nausea. She looked at Dove's face from beneath her eyelashes. Dove looked totally unconvinced.

Dove hooked her arm and whispered into her ear, " What, butterflies at seeing Tortallans again? I don't see why you don't want to see the embassy..." Aly had stopped listening as Dove went on and on about how she would be excited in her place. Dove was dragging her to the throne room through one of the secret passages. Aly was protesting quietly when Winnamine appeared and took up dragging Aly to her place in the throne room so Dove could arrange herself on the throne. Winnamine positioned Aly to Dove's left and slightly behind, with Nawat beside her.

Nawat gave her one of his loving grins and Aly forgot all about having to meet another embassy until Nawat asked her what embassy she thought it was. She shook he head in response and leaned down to ask what embassy it was of Dove.

"The Tortallan, they came early." Dove said with a mischievous smirk. Aly's eyes widened. She should've read her reports stacked on her desk instead of daydreaming. Softly cursing herself, she tried to slip away but Nawat's hand caught her wrist. He gave her his "You are not getting away" grin.

The doors were suddenly thrown open. The heralds nasally announcing "Baron George of Pirate's Swoop, Baroness Alanna of Pirate's Swoop and Olau, Master Numair Salmalin, Varalidaine Sarrasri, Lord Raul of Goldenlake and Malorie's Peak, Lady Burrikam Tourikam of Goldenlake and Malorie's Peak, Sir Gareth the Younger of Naxen, Lady Cythera of Naxen, and Sir Alan of Pirates Swoop." The herald had red face when he finished his announcement and was panting as he exited the room, closing the doors behind him.

Oh, Gods! Mywholefamily! Aly thought as she watched everyone walk towards the dais without so much as a glance to who was standing by the very young Queen. Her parents were at the front of the assembly and were having one of their silent fights, where they elbowed and "accidentally" stepped on boots until one submitted. Aly watched her mother especially. Kiprioth's letters to home had opened her eyes to the fact that she not only missed her mother, she had built her up to be something that was more than human. The sight of her mother's thin frame, the bags under her eyes, and the thin worry lines that showed in her face, shook Aly with guilt. Nawat put a reassuring arm around Aly's waist assuming incorrectly that she shook with nervousness. Aly looked into Nawat's eyes and felt his calmness wash over her.

"Aly...Aly. Lovebirds, wake up!" Dove talking to them, they soon realized. Aly looked over at my parents and saw her mother wasn't looking at us but lost in thought. Nawat and Aly quickly bowed and Aly winked at everyone while Dove was introducing them. Everyone immediately closed their mouths and assumed a politely bland expression. All except her mother, that is.

She was steadily growing red and whispering something in my father's ear. That famous Lioness temper was about to burst so Aly decided to talk to them privately later. Aly shook her head when her father raised his eyebrow in the unspoken question of "Do they know who you are?" while nodding towards the young queen. He whispered something to the Lioness and Aly's mother landed a very good shot at his shin but kept her peace.

Apparently Alan had not seen the sly wink because when he got close enough to see Aly clearly he yelled "Sister!" and ran up to give Aly a hug. Aly was caught up in a huge bear of a hug before she knew and she whispered in Alan's ear some very vulgar curses she had learned from Coram and her father. When Alan released her she saw that Nawat, Dove, and Winnamine her looking at her with confused expressions.

"Care to explain, Aly?" Winnamine asked, her eyebrows raised. Aly sighed and looked towards Nawat pleadingly but he gave her a stony expression that told he won't going to get her out of this this time.

"I think I can clear a few things up. If I may, Your Majesty." The lioness said, eyes blazing. "Uh, oh" Alay and Alan said together. Alan tried to go back to the back of the group but Aly caught his ear and hissed in it "Nuh uh. You gave me away and you've to stay here until Mother's done."

"Aly is actually Alianne of Pirate's Swoop, my daughter. She ran away from home and got herself taken as a slave." The Lioness said with a dangerously calm voice. Many would have thought they heard nothing but anger in that calm voice but Aly heard guilt and hurt too, both larger than the anger. She saw out of the corner of her eye Winnamine pass a coin slyly pass a coin to Dove.

"What was the wager?" Aly asked them tiredly, trying to stall speaking to her mother for as long as possible.

Dove looked up startled and said "I said you were a noble but mother here insisted that your were a commoner." She said in an even voice, the mischievous glint in her eye back. "I guess I proved that spending time in the Dancing Monkey with you and the Rogue is not such a waste of my time."

Aly had forgotten all about the rest of the embassy until Uncle Raul started hooting with laughter. Aly looked up startled and tried to hold onto her inherited Lioness temper when her parents and Uncle Gary doubled over laughing. Aly couldn't figure out what was so funny and exchanged confused looks with everyone not in on the joke.

"Care to share the joke?" Aly yelled over the laughter. The laughter died to a few chuckles and George stepped forward to explain.

"Alanna and Jon used to come to the Dancing Dove and see me in their page days." Aly understood now but Dove, Nawat, and Winnamine still looked confused.

"Alanna and King Jonathon came to visit George, the Rogue at the time, when they were pages." understanding dawned when Raoul said this. The tension eased, everyone began relax and enjoy the refreshments set out. Aly quietly slipped out the back door but was followed by Nawat.

"Aly, why didn't you tell me this? I'm your husband you should tell me things like that!" Nawat said.

"Husband?" They heard the squeak before they saw the Lionness come out of the shadows. "And just when were going to inform me of her latest achievements? As a matter of fact, when were you going to tell me where she was all this time, Laddybuck?" the Lioness asked a shadow beside her. George of Pirate's Swoop emerged with a grin. He only shook his head in answer to the questions.

"I think we should go to Aly's study." Nawat stated before putting a swift arm around a softly cursing Aly and propelling her to her study with George propelling a loudly cursing Lioness a couple steps behind.

When they reached the study, George closed the door with a click and settled into an armchair with his wife on his lap while Nawat did the same with Aly. Aly and the Lioness automatocly launched into a full blown yelling contest while Nawat and George traded amused glances.

"Wait, someone's listening." Aly said abruptly and walked to the door and pulled it open. Alan and Dove comically fell into the room when the door was no longer supporting them. "Knights and Queens are not supposed to eavesdrop." Aly said sternly, her amusement creeping into her voice.

"Uncle Gary and Aunt Thayet do it all the time!" Alan protested as his sister grabbed him by the ear again. Dove tried to run but Aly stopped her by grabbing her arm. She gave her a sheepish smile and followed her into her study. When the door locked behind her Dove muttered "You'd think being newly wed would slow her but noooo. She's just as quick to catch you being bad, but go see the Tortallan embassy, we have to freaking' drag her to the throne room."

Aly shot Dove a glare that could melt ice before hurriedly explaining to her parents that she was going to go to Tortall for Alanna's birthday and she was going conveniently miss the Tortallan embassy by going to a "meeting" on another island that week.

"And, Ma, this is Nawat, my husband." Aly said, avoiding her mother's eyes.

"Pleased to meet you Mother." He said with her usual rough charm and bow. The Lioness nodded and started to ask why his name was Crow?

"I don't think you'll like the answer mother." Aly said with a wink at Dove who was sitting placidly on the floor beside Aly's chair.

"Well I still want to know." Alanna snapped.

"Because... well, I'm...what I mean is... I am a crow." Nawat finally managed to answer.

"What?" It wasn't the Lioness who yelled but Alan. Alanna and George were too stunned to say anything. Then Alanna said the most unexpected thing.

"That explains the shiny jewelry, and thread and cloth." She said with a wry smile.

Hours later, everyone was exhausted from a night of telling stories when Dove finally asked the question she had been dying to ask all night.

"Aly,"

"Yes," Aly replied with a yawn

"If your mother is the Lioness, then why did we only get to hear the one story about Queen Thayet and the howler monkeys and a vary vague retelling of The Quest for the Dominion Jewel?" she said with a smile.

Alan burst out laughing "Thayet's going to kill you if she hears you told that story again!" He said through the tears streaming down his face.

The next morning there was a knock on the door as Aly throwing up her breakfast from her morning sickness. After stroking Aly's head Nawat answered the door expecting to see the healer he had sent for, but instead saw the Lioness standing there, a worried expression on her small face.

"Mother, I - " Nawat began.

"I'm here because I intercepted the healer sent to your rooms on the way here." The worry lines deepened considerably when Nawat opened the door more to show Aly throwing up into the privy. Alanna rushed to her daughter's side and coaxed the sick girl into going to the bed when she began to dry heave. Alanna used a basic sleeping spell to put the girl to sleep and put her hands on Aly's stomach to started an examination when she jumped back as if shocked.

"What is it? Is it life threatening?" Nawat asked, throughly worried by now.

"Aly should be awake for this." Alanna said while she pulled back her sleeping spell. Aly came to to see a worried Nawat and an elated Alanna standing over her.

"Wha's wrong?" She asked sleepily.

"Aly, you're going to have a child!" Alanna said, jumping up and down like a seven year old.