Chapter 16

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The Prince quickly regained his composure. It would not fare well for him if he took the offensive against a woman, one that would not only have married his older brother but could also be viewed as being left out in the cold by him. "It is no secret that I would prefer to have your father stand with me rather than against me, my… lady." Rhenycyn looked into her eyes and felt a small stirring of desire. He considered why he refused to court her after Thenycyn's death. The main reason had nothing to do with Dhonlaa herself except that she had been Thenycyn's choice. And he wanted to make his own choices and decisions concerning a bride, concerning everything. Pride could be a difficult vice at times. "I regret that my presence has caused these feelings of resentment to surface at what should otherwise be a joyous occasion. Perhaps as the evening proceeds we will find reason to come to better terms."

"Only if I do not live to see the morning," Valdhon said.

Rhenycyn grimaced, gave the old man a curt bow and lightly kissed Dhonlaa's hand. Then the Prince turned and immersed himself with the guests, mingling, exchanging pleasantries and talking politics. Mharkhel and Setryv hovered like vultures, neither letting the Prince nor the big, dark-eyed steward out of their sight. Vhyqyrd followed the Prince like a shadow.

After all the guests arrived, they gathered together to take part in the toast to Valdhon's eightieth birthday. The gathering uttered exclamations of surprise when the Prince presented his gift and ordered the Regi Argenti opened. The steward's circulated amongst the guests, pouring the exquisite liquid in fine crystal made by the elves from Qyntes'ah. The sparkling rainbow-colored crystal was so delicate and beautiful it almost vied for the praise given to the wine.

Mharkhel and Setryv kept a close watch on the proceedings and were pleased that nothing seemed unusual and that the big steward came nowhere near the Prince. He was occupied at the far end of the room serving Valdhon and his closest friends.

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