"Right," he said. "I've got the feel of it. I expect your Lady wants to be doing her own planting on this side of the eyrie, but we can take care of the other side."
"Other side?" Lucivar said, feeling like he'd taken a bad slide on what he'd thought was solid ground.
"Lady Marian's a hearth witch, isn't she?" Tarl said, making the question close to a demand. "She'll spend the rest of the summer fretting if this side is put to rights and the other side is left so untidy. We've got two days and"…he looked around as men shifted to make room for newcomers…"plenty of hands to do the job."
Lucivar closed his eyes and accepted that he'd kicked the first pebble, so he couldn't complain…too much…about the avalanche that came out of it. "Fine."
"Right, then," Tarl said, rubbing his hands together. "The first thing we have to do is move those rocks."
Why am I here?Marian asked herself as she looked around the two-story building packed with furniture.
"Tell me again why I'm here?" the man beside her asked.
Jaenelle looked over her shoulder at him. "Because you're male."
"And I'm being punished for this because… ?"
"You're Lucivar s father."
He sighed. "I thought that would be the answer." He paused, then added, "Lucivar wanted to select his own furnishings. He said so. Several times."
Jaenelle turned to face them. "That's what he said. He changed his mind, and he picked me to do the shopping for him. And I picked the two of you to help me." She smiled at her helpers in a way that was not the least bit reassuring.
Marian glanced at the man to see what his reaction would be. Lucivar's father. S. D. SaDiablo. That was how Jaenelle had introduced him when they'd all settled into the Coach for the journey to Nharkhava. It was only because Luci… Prince Yaslana had mentioned it that she knew his father was the Steward of the Dark Court at Ebon Askavi. Being the Steward of the most powerful Queen in Kaeleer made him a very influential man. And yet, here he was, helping his daughter buy furniture for his son.
Of course, his daughter was the Queen of Ebon Askavi and his son was the Warlord Prince of Ebon Rih. But still…
So it brought her back to the question of why she, a Purple Dusk hearth witch, was here with them. Surely they weren't interested in the opinions of Prince Yaslana's housekeeper.
"If we're going to select furniture for all the rooms Lucivar intends to use, at least for the immediate future, I suggest we split up," Prince Sa-Diablo said. "We'll be able to look at more of what's being offered."
"Good idea,"Jaenelle said. "I'll start over there." As she turned, one of the men who had been hovering nearby leaped forward to meet her. She smiled at him.
"I'll take a look at the dining room furniture," Prince SaDiablo said. His hand lightly brushed Marian's shoulder. "Why don't you accompany Jaenelle?"
"Oh," Marian said. "Wouldn't you rather…"-
"Let me rephrase that."Amusement filled his gold eyes. "Age and rank have their privileges. You, my dear, drew the short straw and, therefore, get to deal with Jaenelle."
"That's not reassuring," Marian muttered.
"I didn't say it was."
As he moved past her, the other man waiting to help them said, "This way, High Lord."
Marian watched the two men make their way down the aisles of furniture. High Lord? What an odd title. Maybe it was his official title as the Steward? Although… She'd heard it before. She just couldn't recall where or why.
She shook her head and hurried to catch up to Jaenelle.
It took her less than a quarter of an hour to realize Jaenelle Angelline had more energy than a roomful of puppies and less sense than any of those puppies when it came to choosing furniture that was suitable for an eyrie, let alone the home of a Warlord Prince. How was she supposed to tell the Queen…or even Lucivar's sister, for that matter…that the lamp Jaenelle was admiring with the lumpy base and the froofy, fringed shade made her shudder just to look at it? Or that the small table, which would probably look lovely in the drawing room of an aristo house, would look pathetic in rooms that had the weight of stone and were extensions of the mountain on which they were built?
She tried to be tactful, reminding herself that she was just the housekeeper, but when she saw Jaenelle eyeing a hutch with elaborate curlicues…
"No," she said firmly.
Eyebrows rising in surprise,Jaenelle turned to look at her. "Why not?"
Because I don't want to spend half a day dusting the thing.Which wasn't an appropriate thing to say, especially when the man assisting them was listening so attentively. "It's just not… appropriate," Marian said weakly.
Jaenelle narrowed her sapphire eyes. "So far, nothing we've looked at has been 'appropriate.' "
That was true.
"But I haven't heardyou make any suggestions," Jaenelle continued.
"Oh, but I'm just…"Those sapphire eyes stopped her…and made her think. She wasn't "just" a housekeeper at the moment. She was Eyrien. She didn't know anything about aristo houses, but she knew Eyrien dwellings. Of the three of them, she probablydid know best what was appropriate for Luci… Prince Yaslana's home.
Turning away, she began studying the other hutches available. Clean lines. Strong pieces. Lucivar's eyrie had more windows than most, which gave the rooms more light, but the wood always had to complement stone.
Seeing two possible hutches, Marian went over to examine them more closely.
Saetan watched the two women wander among the furniture, amused at the way Jaenelle now meekly followed Marian instead of the other way around.
*Witch-child?* he called on a Black psychic thread.
*You weren't really interested in that lamp, were you?*
Jaenelle snorted. *Of course not. It's hideous. I didn't think I'd have to find so many things that wouldn't suit before Marian jumped in.*
Saetan pressed a fist to his mouth and coughed to hide the chuckle. The man attending him wouldn't understand his amusement. *I found a dining table.*
*A real one?*
*Yes, a real one.* He watched Marian as she opened the doors of a cabinet. Even from a distance, he could see her excitement, almost sense the longing as her fingers stroked the wood…and saw her shoulders slump as she turned away from it. *What is that, witch-child?*
*A sewing cabinet,* Jaenelle replied, still examining it. *There are shelves for cloth, little pegs for thread, bigger pegs for skeins of wool, all kinds of drawers to hold supplies.*