Rysem dismounted his horse with a scowl, tossing the reigns to his stable boy without glancing at him.

"Sir? Is something wrong?" his assistant asked, falling into step with him. "I thought meeting with His Highness would…I don't know, solve the problem?"

"Oh, he suggested a solution," Rysem muttered. "I just didn't like it very much."

His assistant frowned and hurried alongside him. "Sir? And that suggestion was?"

Rysem shook his head. "Later, Seril. I will tell you later. Where are my uninvited guests?"

"The lordling and his sister?

"Of course. Why, did I get new ones while I was away?" Rysem asked, tucking his cloak around himself so the wind wouldn't pull it off.

"No, of course not," Seril muttered, hurrying after his lord as they head inside for relief from the weather. The clouds said it was going to rain soon.

Rysem slowed his pace done once they were safely inside the doors of his manor house and sighed. "So? Where are they?"

"I'm not sure, my lord. I believe Orlenth to be in the library, but his sister could be anywhere."

The young lord nodded with a soft sigh. "I'll check the library, then, while you hunt up the girl. Send her to meet us when you find her."

"Yes, Sir." Seril disappeared at the next turn, ducking down the hallway that led to the ne Aruiva's rooms. The original ne Aruvias, anyway. Technically, Rysem had taken on the name along with the lands he was ruling, but he rarely thought of himself that way. Orlenth never let anyone forget their last name.

Rysem continued on to the library, where sure enough, Orlenth was sitting, hunched over a book in one of the overly-soft armchairs. He didn't look up when Rysem entered.

The lord took a moment to study him before interrupting his reading—he did look rather focused on whatever volume he was perusing. And unlike Rysem, he was actually sitting quite properly in the chair, his booted feet firmly on the ground.

"Orlenth," he finally said.

The younger man looked up from his book and raised one finely arched brow in an action Rysem never could mimic. "Oh, good, you're back. Any word yet on when you're moving out?"

The jibe was common enough that Rysem didn't even need to grit his teeth together to avoid snapping back. "I'm not. Apparently, King Reon doesn't seem to value your old friendship as much as you do. He's not kicking me out."

The delicate features on the other man's face quickly contorted into something more like anger. "What?" he hissed. "What did you say to him? I knew I should have gone. This is absolutely preposterous."

Rysem rolled his eyes and took a seat in a chair near to Orlenth's. "Where is your sister? We have some things we need to discuss in more depth."

"I am not positive," Orlenth said. "And I am not sure what she has to do with any of this. She's not the rightful heir to the title. I am."

Rysem crossed his legs as he waited for Seril and the girl. He didn't exactly enjoy talking to Orlenth, but he might as well to pass the time. "It will make sense when I explain it."

"So why don't you indulge me, then, and explain exactly what it is Reon told you to do?" Orlenth asked, setting a hardened leather bookmark in whatever it was he was reading and set it carefully down on the stand next to his chair.

"When your sister gets here."

"Why wait?"

"I don't feel like explaining it twice."

"Then I shall explain it the second time," Orlenth replied, sitting up a bit straighter in his seat and eyeing Rysem suspiciously.

Rysem shook his head but said, "He sees no reason to kick me out, as it is clearly not what the people in this region want. However, as the other nobility does take issue with it, he has proposed a solution that, if I should be so inclined to bother with, might help matters. And it has little to nothing to do with you whatsoever, dear Orlenth."

Orlenth's eyes narrowed. "If it has anything to do with my little sister, peasant, it certainly has to do with me."

"Well, we see what your sister has to say, now won't we? Oh, look, there she is now."

Tinia folded her skirts carefully as she sat down across from Rysem, close to her brother. "Lord Aruiva, what did you need?" she asked sweetly.

Rysem eyed her more carefully than her brother. He wasn't sure the sweetness was genuine, but if he had to, the king's suggestion wouldn't be too loathsome, he thought. It wasn't what he wanted, either, and he certainly would force her into anything.

"I've just gotten back from my meeting with His Highness," Rysem began. "I need to discuss some things with you now, my lady." He refused to use an honorific for Orlenth, because the man was a right bastard, but Tinia wasn't quite as bad. She almost deserved it.

"Oh? Like what?"

"His Highness will not be removing me from power, but that does, of course, cause its own complications. He has suggested, should you be willing, that I officially marry into your family, so that no one can say that I do not deserve this position. So—"

"No," Orlenth said coldly. "You will not marry my little sister."

"Orlenth—" Tinia began. Began to say what, Rysem wasn't sure, as her brother turned his glare on her and continued.

"No, Tinia. I won't allow it. You will marry whoever you like. Not someone like him for a political arrangement. I don't care what argument you've thought up to coerce yourself into this. I shall discuss this with Rysem myself, if you don't mind. Leave us."

Tinia scowled at him but sighed and stood up. "Fine. But don't blame me if you end up hating whatever comes out of this. I'm not going to bail you out again after this."

"I won't need you to," her brother assured her, turning his anger back on Rysem. "Now."

Rysem glared right back. "This isn't a decision that you can make for your sister."

"Oh, yes, I can," Orlenth replied without hesitation. "She's only twenty-two years old. She has no idea who she wants to marry yet, and I will not let her marry for political reasons. I won't."

"You're only twenty-four yourself. And your sister is much wiser than you. The people will keep rioting until a solution has been reached. If you're going to deny the simplest solution, then you had better come up with a more palatable one. Now."

Orlenth stared at him for a moment, biting the inside of his lower lip before finally saying. "I am single. There is no reason you have to marry her. Besides, this way I can fulfill my father's wish and become the duke of this place myself."

Rysem stared at him incredulously, feeling his mouth twisting in disgust before managing to control it. "Marry you? I don't want to marry another ma—"

"Oh, shut up. It would be a political marriage only. It's not as if I care who you take to bed. I certainly won't be in it. It'll make the people happy, the nobility happy, and it will keep my sister out of this disaster you caused.

"I caused?"

"Yes, you. You refused to give up the title that is rightfully mine—"

"The people didn't even want you!"

"Shut up. That doesn't matter. Is my suggestion acceptable to you or not?"

Rysem stood. "Very well. I'll marry…you, then."