"Why are you so angry all the time?"

Edmund froze in the act of tying his shoes and looked up. A woman in a light blue dress stood opposite him, leaning against the wall. Her hair was a mass of dark waves, like melted chocolate; her fingers ran through the strands idly as she observed him. They locked eyes and she arched a perfect black eyebrow at his stony glare. "My, my, aren't we in a bad mood today?"

Edmund rolled his eyes and straightened up. "You're just full of wit, as usual."

"I believe so. Why aren't you at dinner?"

"I was just leaving," Edmund straightened up and saw Liana shrug, going back to playing with her hair. Something sparkling on her hand caught his eye. "What's that?"

Her eyes focused back onto his face. "I can't read your mind, Edmund. What is it?"

"You're wearing a ring," Edmund's eyebrows went up. "New suitor?"

Liana rolled her eyes. "Hardly."

"Who is it from?"

"Curiosity is considered rude in a king."

"A lot of things are, but they're acceptable because I am a king," Edmund grinned roguishly. Liana couldn't help but smile back. "So tell me who gave it to you. It doesn't look like it was easy to come by."

"It wasn't. My brother set sail today, and he gave it to me as a keepsake. It is his," she showed him her hand and he saw that the ring, though heavy looking and decked with an expensive stone, was obviously masculine.

"I wish him a safe journey and a safe return."

"Thank you, King Edmund. And," she gave him a mock curtsy. "How rude of me to forget. Good evening to you."

Edmund bristled at her teasing. "Good evening," he picked up his sword and sheathed it, making sure she got a good look at the blade before the leather holster covered it. "And now, excuse me."

He was halfway past her when she spoke. "Were you just indirectly threatening me with your sword?"

Edmund stopped and chose his words carefully before uttering them. "I would never threaten a lady."

He heard her huff. "I suppose you say that to all the well-bred noblewomen, don't you?"

Edmund smirked and continued on his way. "Only to the pretty ones," he called over his shoulder. He chuckled when he heard her snarl at his retreating back.


"Stop making fun of her so, Ed," said Lucy reproachfully. "She'll stop teaching me otherwise, and she's very good."

"You're the queen, Lucy," Edmund rolled his eyes as he speared his meat with a fork. "I'm sure you can command her to teach you."

"No, I can't! Liana would never take on an apprentice, she only did it as a special favor."

"To whom?"

"To me," said Susan. Edmund turned to face his older sister. She calmly wiped her mouth with her napkin before speaking. "Liana and I took archery lessons together before she went to the Houses of Healing."

"It is not my fault she harasses me," said Edmund firmly. "She knows I made a mistake at the gala last year. That's all there was to it."

"Stop it, Ed, that's no excuse," Peter rolled his eyes. "Liana's incapable of harassing anybody, but you never apologized so she has every right to try to get under your skin."

Edmund snorted. "You don't know her. Liana is capable of making a man want to cut off his own arm so she can be the one to heal it for him."

Susan and Lucy gaped at him. Peter blinked, but was the first to recover. "Ed, what exactly-"

"I didn't mean myself!" Edmund looked from his sisters to his brother, and slapped a hand to his forehead in frustration. "I told you I made a mistake at the gala!"

"Well, yes, but you know what mead does to you. It loosens your tongue, but everything you say isn't necessarily a mistake," pointed out Peter.

"Please don't encourage such thoughts in him, Peter," said Susan wearily. "Liana is my friend and she didn't deserve to be humiliated the way she was last year."

"I was humiliated too," Edmund resisted the urge to sulk.

"You did have such a high opinion of yourself, Ed, we can't reprimand her for doing what we all so wished to do," Lucy giggled. "And it was so funny."

"Liana is a lovely person and not the least bit rude," said Susan. She gave Edmund a withering look as she stood up from her seat. "Try not to have her beheaded for treason, Edmund. You may like her once you stop goading her."

"I do not goad her. She goads me!" yelled Edmund to his sister's retreating back. He huffed in annoyance and turned back to his plate. Peter snorted and stabbed his meat with a dagger, tossing it into his mouth.

Lucy made a face. "That is so unhealthy, Peter."

"Its clean," assured Peter.

Lucy shook her head obstinately. "Liana says-"

She never completed her sentence. With a groan of annoyance, Edmund pushed his chair back and stormed out of the dining hall. A faun on his way in with dessert threw the remaining two royals a confused look. "Was the food not to His Highness's likening, my king?"

Peter rolled his eyes and beckoned to the faun to set the dish down. Exchanging a look with Lucy, he merely shook his head. "Don't mind him, Sunar. He's going through some things."