Kova

The kingdom of Sealm fell to the Empire of Covich. Their youngest Prince, the only royal left alive, was dragged into the throne room. Prince Kalatovich of the Covich Empire, who had led the campaign, ordered the Prince put to death to assure complete control of the kingdom. One voice rose above the murmurs of horror at the pronouncement.

"Prince Kalatovich!"

The room went still. The Prince turned eyes flashing in anger. "Who speaks?"

"I do, Highness," an elderly noble Lady stepped forward leaning heavily on a cane.

The Prince inclined his head to her. "I will hear your words." 'If I don't the people will react badly,' he thought sourly.

"The whole world knows, Highness," she began, "that the Covich Empire aids the people, even the nobles lives improve. So, after the invasion people don't fight their rule."

"Yes," Prince Kalatovich acknowledged.

"If you murder Prince Kova now our people will fight you to the last man to the last breath," the Lady told him.

The soldiers shifted as the Prince stiffened. "What?"

"You will be seen as a cruel tyrant with no pity."

"Why is this boy so special?" the Prince asked. 'We've annihilated other Royal houses,' he thought irritably.

"Prince Kova is blind and incapable of speech," she informed him. "He is seventeen years old, but has the mind and manners of a toddler. Prince Kova is everyone's little darling. He goes to the local temples to play with all the children. All of this kingdom know him or knows someone who knows him. If you murder him now after the battle our people will never accept you."

Prince Kalatovich stared at her a moment before moving to stand in front of Prince Kova. Gently, he tipped Kova's chin up. Kova's eyes were a pretty violet color fading to a light purple where the pupil should have been. The boy was clearly blind. Kova whimpered softly and tugged restlessly on the hands holding his arms.

Prince Kalatovich released his chin and stepped back pinching the bridge of his nose in thought. 'Damn it, I didn't need this complication, but the Lady is probably right. Which makes me think of something.' He dropped his hand and turned to the Lady. "Why tell me this? Don't you want your independence?"

"King Fralin was a cruel man," she answered bluntly. "I honestly believe we will be better off as part of the Empire, but that won't happen if you kill his Highness."

"Who are you, madam?" he asked.

"Hanaco, Duchess of Gralhe," she answered with a proper curtsy, cane and all.

Prince Kalatovich bowed in response and motioned her to come closer. "I would speak to you in private." Hanaco nodded and hobbled to him. "Do you have any ideas to solve this? He can't be a threat," he said softly.

"Marriage," she answered promptly. "There must be someone in the Royal Family of the Empire who is available. It would be a sacrifice," she warned, "Kova would be unable to consummate the marriage. He wouldn't understand what was happening. It would just make him cry."

"So, marriage of convenience," Prince Kalatovich murmured back.

"Binding him into the Empire's Royal family is your only hope of solving this peacefully," she told him.

Prince Kalatovich sighed and ran a hand through his hair. "Who is the boy used to seeing?"

"No one," Hanaco answered dryly, "but my granddaughter, Gilina and a few of her companions stay with him during the day. Kova isn't ever left alone. At night he has servants who stay in the room with him."

"All girls?" he asked.

"No, several of them are male," she answered.

"Alright," he said decisively. "Gather your granddaughter and three of her friends. They'll stay with Prince Kova under the watch of our guards."

"Very well, they know how to care for him. They can take over the night watch as well," she added. "Instead of changing people for the guards to watch."

The Prince nodded. "My thought exactly. Does Prince Kova require anything else?"

"His own rooms," she answered. "He knows them and they are safe for him."

"Child proofed?" he asked dryly.

Hanaco nodded. "Precisely."

"Alright, get his normal companions and I will select some guards to assign to him."

Hanaco nodded and moved back toward the crowd of nobles calling sharply for her granddaughter. The girl responded instantly to the summons. Hanaco called out three more names and two boys and another girl slid out of the crowd to her side. She rapidly explained their assignment to Prince Kova along with the added bit about them handling the night shift as well.

Gilina nodded. "We can handle it, Grandmama," she said in determination. The other three nodded their agreement.

Prince Kalatovich frowned faintly as he spoke to his General. 'None of those children can be more then fourteen. Shouldn't adults watch him?' He nodded in dismissal and the General moved to collect the men suggested for assignment.

Gilina led her friends to Prince Kalatovich and curtsied. "Your Highness, I am Gilina of Gralhe. Rosina of Halbin." The other girl curtsied. "Jhonri and Teyri of Rechal. They are cousins," she added as the boys bowed.

"Aren't you a little young for this job?" he asked coolly.

Gilina looked down her nose at him. "Hardly, your Highness, we are experienced and further more we care. All of the others are more concerned with status. They stay with Kova because it makes them look good, but there is no honor in babysitting him. We like Kova even if he is broken."

"Broken," Kalatovich repeated with a sharp frown.

Teyri nodded. "You'll hear about it if you stay for any length of time," Teyri told him. "His Majesty lost his temper with Prince Kova when he was four and hurt him. He slept for almost two weeks and when he woke he was blind and his mind didn't work right anymore."

Prince Kalatovich's mouth tightened. "I see." 'I should have made the bastard suffer instead of giving him a quick death for doing that to his own child.'

"May we go to Kova now, Highness?" Jhonri asked. "He's started to cry."

The Prince motioned them toward Kova. The children were moving before he even completed the motion. Rosina reached him first and pulled him away from the guards and into a hug. Kova clutched at her burying his face in her shoulder as he cried. Rosina started to sing softly as she pet his hair. Kalatovich was surprised how quickly Kova calmed once she started. The children gently guided him from the room as the chosen guards formed up around them. He could feel the tension in the room fade as the threat to their Prince vanished.

'Now I just have one more pressing issue,' Kalatovich thought. 'How am I going to tell my mother Telryn is the only one close to his age?'

/~/~/

"You want me to what?" Telryn asked, staring at his parents in disbelief.

His mother rang her hands looking anxious. His father looked sympathetic, but firm. "You are to wed the remaining Prince of Sealm to assure our rule there."

"But I haven't even met him," Telryn protested.

"You'll have time for that later," his father informed him. "We need this done now. Kalatovich informs me that the people will fall under our rule without protest if their Prince is properly cared for, but if he's killed they'll fight and never stop fighting."

"Then have Kalatovich marry him," Telryn snapped.

"Prince Kova is seventeen years old," was the dry response. "I doubt the people would appreciate us marrying him to a thirty three year old."

"I'm nineteen. He's still younger than me," Telryn pointed out.

"More than you know," his father muttered.

"What?" Telryn demanded.

His mother sighed. "You need to go into this with your eyes open, Telryn. Prince Kova is… damaged."

"Damaged how?" Telryn asked suspiciously.

His father glared at his wife. "Must you?"

"You can't hide things from him," his mother snipped.

"What's going on?" Telryn asked.

"Prince Kova is blind," his father told him.

Telryn shrugged indifferently, but his mother broke in. "The Prince suffered an accident as a child, Telryn. He remains mentally a child."

Telryn blinked at his mother as her meaning sank in. "Well, that's just perfect," Telryn snapped furiously. "You can't expect me to-"

"You will do as you're told," his father interrupted harshly.

"Father-"

"No, you will do as you are told," his father said flatly. "The crown requires your obedience. You don't have to like it. Go pack. We will be leaving in the morning. Your mother and I will accompany you. We will stay long enough to see things taken care of in the kingdom of Sealm."

Telryn went pale with anger, but rose and bowed to his father. "Yes, Sire," he said voice clipped. He stalked out being careful not to slam the door.

/~/~/

Kova was careful not to turn his head as Gilina and Rosina gossiped about him. He kept up the mindless ball rolling game with Jhonri as he listened.

"They're really going to marry him off?" Rosina demanded.

"Yes," Gilina replied. "I heard it straight from Grandmama. Prince Kalatovich's youngest brother is already on his way here. Grandmama said the Emperor and Empress are coming to see the wedding before returning to the capital."

"I can't believe she would do this to him," Rosina grumbled. "I thought she loved Kova."

"She does but she knows her duty," Gilina said sadly. "We need the Empire, but she was right the people would fight for Kova. He needs to be a part of their family even if it's just a technicality."

"I still don't think it's right. He won't even know what's happening," Rosina protested. "How is anyone going to explain the wedding night?"

'I know what happens on a wedding night,' Kova thought. 'The maids don't exactly keep their voices down.'

"There won't be a wedding night," Gilina said. "This will be a marriage of convenience only."

"As long as this Prince doesn't hurt him," Rosina muttered unhappily. "What's his name?"

"Prince Telryn," Gilina answered. "I don't know anything else though, so don't ask. I don't even know how old he is."

Kova caught the ball and kept it swaying slightly. Instantly, he heard Gilina's skirts rustle as she stood. "He's tired. Come on, Kova," she said gentling her tone. "Let's go lay down." Kova released the ball when it was tugged on and obediently rose to his feet at the gentle urging. Within minutes Gilina had him settled into his bed and was rubbing his back.

'Well, that was interesting,' he thought idly. 'Though I'd like to know how long until this Prince gets here.'

/~/~/

Telryn glared murderously at Kalatovich as he greeted their parents. Kalatovich smiled faintly at his scowl. "Telryn, how are you?" Kalatovich asked mildly.

"I've been better," he replied flatly.

Kalatovich laughed softly. "Well, would you like to meet your intended?"

"No," Telryn answered bluntly.

"Yes, we would like to meet him," his father said firmly.

Kalatovich nodded and led them through the palace. His mother held out her arm and Telryn had no choice but to take it and go along. People all bowed or curtsied as they passed. They reached what was clearly the royal wing. Kalatovich nodded to a pair of guards standing at attention at a door and went in without knocking.

Four young people rose hurriedly to their feet as they entered. They bowed and curtsied deeply to his parents as he looked around. There were four more guards in the room watching carefully, but they made no move. Their job was to watch Prince Kova not take their eyes off him to bow. Prince Kova himself was sitting on the floor with something in his hands. His head was turned toward the door, but he was slightly off not looking at the door straight on. His head was tilted to the side and Telryn realized that he wasn't looking; he was listening.

"You are dismissed," Kalatovich announced. "We wish to speak to Kova alone to explain things to him."

"Highness, he won't understand you," Gilina protested anxiously.

"We will still extend the courtesy of trying, Lady Gilina," Kalatovich said firmly. "You're dismissed." Silently the four of them filled out. "We will call for you when we are done," Kalatovich told them as they hovered by the doorway clearly loathe to leave. The guard firmly shut the door behind them.

"Odd," the Empress remarked.

"Hardly," Kalatovich disagreed. "Everyone in this kingdom is most protective of him. I've had small children yell at me in the streets not to hurt their Prince Kova."

Footsteps approached Kova, but no one touched him so he didn't move. "Up, boy," the Emperor ordered.

Kova tipped his head up, but didn't move. The Emperor frowned sharply.

"Let me, Father," Kalatovich said coming up to Kova's side. He placed a hand under Kova's elbow and tugged gently. "Come sit on the couch, Kova." Kova obediently rose to his feet, followed Kalatovich, and sat where directed. "They don't expect him to move without being guided," Kalatovich explained. "He wasn't being rude. He was waiting for you to help him."

"He's truly that bad?" his father asked.

"He seems to be," Kalatovich admitted.

"Great," Telryn grumbled.

Kalatovich sighed. "I'm sorry, Telryn. We all have to do things we don't like though."

"This messes up the rest of my life," Telryn said flatly.

'Whiner,' Kova thought sourly. 'My life is already messed up and it hasn't improved much.'

"Why are you frowning at him, Telryn?" his mother asked. "Kova hasn't done anything to you."

"Are you sure he doesn't understand us?" Telryn asked curiously.

"Yes, why?" Kalatovich asked.

"He reacted to what I said," Telryn commented. Kova could feel the eyes on him and was careful to keep his expression slightly bored like a petulant child.

"He might just like your voice," his mother said. "That's a good sign, isn't it?"

"I'm thrilled," Telryn said sourly.

"Enough," his father said gruffly. "This will happen. You don't have an option and I don't want to hear any more complaints or snipping, understood?"

"Yes, Father," Telryn answered blandly.

'Yeah, that was an honest response,' Kova thought amused.

"Kova," the Emperor called gently. Kova turned toward him offering the toy he was still holding toward the voice. "No, Kova, you keep it." Kova returned the puzzle box to his lap and pretended to let his attention drift toward the noise coming from the open window. "Do they talk to him at all?" the Emperor asked.

"Not that I've noticed," Kalatovich admitted. "They do absolutely everything for him. If they stopped he may improve, but I wouldn't hold my breath since they've babied him for the last thirteen years."

"Kova," the Emperor called again. "Do you know who I am?"

Kova turned his head back toward him and made an inquiring sound.

"I am Kanovich the Emperor of Covich," he said. Slowly, he started to explain what they were going to do. Kova listened intently, while he pretended to be bored, eventually sticking two fingers in his mouth and allowing his eyes to half close as if he was sleepy.

'Well, they certainly aren't wasting any time if we're to get married tomorrow,' Kova thought dryly. 'Good thing they've decided on a simple ceremony. My persona hates dressing up and being talked at. Hmmm, I wonder if I should throw a tantrum during the ceremony.' He thought a bit longer on that as the Emperor droned on about what they were planning with the kingdom. 'Probably not. I don't want to completely alienate Telryn. Why are they telling me about the governing side of things?'

He listened a bit more closely and barely managed not to react. 'You've got to be kidding. They're going to set us up as co-rulers?'

Kova gave the man another minute to ramble before whining softly. The Emperor broke off with a sigh. "Well, I tried," he said philosophically.

Kova whimpered around the fingers in his mouth, shifting restlessly.

"What's wrong, Kova?" the Empress asked softly. Kova whimpered again biting down on his fingers. "Kalatovich, go find one of his caretakers," she commanded.

"Yes, Mother," he said rising to his feet. As short command to the guard and moments later Gilina swept back into the room. She curtsied gracefully before moving toward Kova.

"Come, Kova," she said taking his hand from his mouth. "Let's get you fixed up." With a nod to the Royals she led him to a side room, one of the guards following on her heels.

"She knew what was wrong at a glance," the Empress said in amazement.

"I've had a lot of experience reading him, your majesty," Gilina said from the doorway, the guard nowhere in sight.

Kalatovich frowned. "Where is he? What was wrong with him?"

"He's in the privy," Gilina answered amused. "He does fine on his own, but you still have to take him to it. If he starts biting his fingers like that it means he has to go immediately, which is why I just took him instead of explaining." Gilina was even more amused that the royals seemed so embarrassed.

"I see," Kalatovich said uncomfortably. "Well, I'm glad you knew what to do."

She nodded gracefully. "Are you done talking to him? He'll need a nap soon."

"He takes naps?" Telryn asked incredulously.

"Medically he needs them," Gilina answered firmly. "If he doesn't get a nap in the afternoon, he'll have a migraine by dinner. It means he stays up late every night, but better that then a migraine."

"Doctor prescribed nap then," the Empress commented.

"Precisely, Majesty," Gilina confirmed.

"We are done talking to him," the Emperor answered. "We'll have the rest of your companions sent back in."

"Thank you, Sire," she said curtsying as they all left.

Kova returned moments later and wandered toward his toy box. "No, Kova, nap time." Kova pouted. "Nap," Gilina insisted as the others filed back in.

"I'll lie with you, Kova," Teyri said taking him by the hand.

Kova obediently followed the gentle tugging and lay down. He knew he needed to sleep, his head ached faintly already. 'I really wish the headaches were a part of the act, too.'

/~/~/

Kova spent the next morning practicing kissing. Telryn had explained his reasoning to his brother as they joined him for breakfast. Telryn didn't want to look like an idiot up in front of everyone, since Kova's most likely reaction was to flinch. 'He's probably right. I would flinch,' Kova reflected as he nibbled a pastry.

Telryn sent Gilina and her friends' away saying that he didn't need an audience. They giggled the whole way out the door. Kalatovich chuckled as he left.

Once they were alone Kova offered Telryn the toy he had hidden in his chair. To his surprise Telryn took it. He listened to the rattle that told him Telryn was trying to open the puzzle box. Telryn eventually gave up with a curse. Kova giggled. "That's funny, huh?" Telryn asked dryly. "You open it then," he said putting it in Kova's hand.

With a few motions Kova expertly opened it and handed it back to Telryn.

"Cheater," Telryn accused good naturedly as he took the box back and examined it. "You're smarter than you look. This thing is complicated."

'If this is what you had to do all day you'd be good at them, too,' Kova thought sourly. He flinched back in surprise as Telryn touched his face.

"It's ok, Kova," Telryn said gently. Kova heard him move and then he was being kissed. He flinched back and instinctively pushed Telryn away. Telryn sighed. "That was what I expected. Here Kova, open this one," Telryn commanded and put a different puzzle box in his hands.

Kova obediently fiddled with it and recognizing which one it was opened it. Kova offered it toward Telryn. "Good boy, Kova. Kiss," he said and pressed his lips to Kova's once more. Kova still flinched, but didn't push him away.

By the fifth puzzle box Kova 'figured out' that Telryn 'rewarded' him with kisses. 'This is actually a smart way to do it,' Kova thought. 'He's supposedly training me to think of kisses as a reward for doing things. Maybe I should have pretended to be stupid longer to get more kisses.'

By the time lunch rolled around Kova was responding to a touch instead of words. Telryn would touch his face and Kova would tip his head up for a kiss. After lunch Telryn helped him into bed, before leaving him with Rosina while he left to get ready for the festivities.

/~/~/

As soon as Kova woke from his nap, they started getting him ready. A bath followed by formal clothes, which made him fuss. The girls soothed him with honey candies and he settled until they started messing with his hair. That called for a full blown fit. Teyri ended up yelling at him and he 'teared up' until Teyri bribed him into good behavior with the promise of a new puzzle box. Kova settled with the new toy and allowed them to fix his hair.

"One ceremony, Kova," Gilina reminded him for the fifth time. "One ceremony and we have a new toy just for you. You can be a good boy for one ceremony, right, Kova?"

Kova nodded obediently, but he didn't think they were even looking at him.

"He's ready, Grandmama," Gilina announced. "Hold onto Grandmama, Kova." Kova didn't resist as his hand was placed on the old woman's arm. "Good boy," Gilina approved.

"Kova, what do you do when Grandmama stops?" Teyri asked intently. Kova held his free hand out and slightly to his right as they had been instructing him the whole time they got him ready. "Good job, Kova," Teyri congratulated.

The music started and Hanaco led him in walking him stately down the aisle. When she stopped at the end Kova held his hand out. Telryn took it and muttered softly, "Stairs, Kova, one, two, three, four, done." They stopped and Kova could feel the sighs of relief that he hadn't tripped.

He was amazed how much could be left out of a wedding ceremony. It was short and to the point. Kova nodded obediently when he was asked a question, but otherwise held mostly still contenting himself with playing with Telryn's fingers occasionally. Telryn let him since no one could see it but the high priest.

The high priest concluded the ceremony and Telryn gently touched the side of his face. Kova automatically tipped his face up for his kiss and the hall exploded into cheers. Kova flinched and shied away from the noise. Telryn quickly wrapped an arm around him as the cheers dimmed sharply.

Telryn led him out and down the corridor to the banquet hall. They settled at the head of the table and Kova was fervently grateful he couldn't see all the people watching him. He knew that the cooks would only serve finger foods since he was eating there. 'Which is nice. I hate dropping food,' Kova thought sourly.

"Are you hungry, Kova?" Telryn asked.

Kova nodded and slid his right hand up the table until he could feel his wine glass. There wouldn't be any wine in it. They always gave him juice that looked like wine instead. He could hear the servants putting food out on his plate.

"Eat, Kova," Telryn prompted softly, once the servants were gone.

Obedient as ever, Kova began eating. Once finished a servant stepped forward and washed his hands for him. He could hear people moving around but none came close to him. 'This is going to be really boring. I'm going to have to throw a tantrum in less than an hour at this rate.'

"Your highness," Gilina greeted politely. "Congratulations."

"Thank you, Lady Gilina," Telryn answered.

She stepped closer and murmured quietly, "He likes to dance, your highness. If you don't keep him occupied he's going to throw a tantrum. There are also several small things to keep him busy in a box under your chair."

"Thank you," Telryn told her, fervently this time instead of automatic.

'I see Gilina planned ahead,' Kova thought as he deliberately squirmed in his chair.

"Do you want to dance, Kova?" Telryn asked.

Kova nodded and reached for Telryn. Telryn laughed softly at his eagerness and took his hand. Kova followed him to the dance floor. Telryn got him into the proper position. The music intro started and Kova smiled widely. 'I love this one,' he thought gleefully.

Telryn was surprised when Kova danced flawlessly. Many of the people smiled at them as they twirled past. As the song ended Teyri stepped up with a smile. "May I dance with Kova, your highness?" he asked politely.

Telryn nodded and let him take Kova by the hand. He watched and it quickly became apparent that Kova loved dancing and knew every song. Telryn danced dozens of times with him before Kova finally got tired. Telryn guided him back to his chair and got him seated. Kova found his wine glass and drank all the juice in it.

Telryn sighed faintly wondering how long it would be until they could leave. Kova played with a puzzle box absently as he listened to all the chatter around him. 'Telryn is bored,' he noted. 'I'd fidget to get him to dance, but my feet hurt. Hm, maybe he'd like a puzzle box?' Kova shifted and offered Telryn the puzzle box in his hands.

Telryn sighed faintly but took the box from his hand. Kova listened as Telryn fiddled with it. He giggled when Telryn made a frustrated noise. Reaching out Kova caught Telryn's hands. Telryn started to hand the box back, but Kova refused to take it instead shifting Telryn's fingers to the correct slat and showing him the first step to opening the box. Telryn made a surprised noise as Kova dropped his hands.

Kova tipped his head listening as Telryn fought with the box, before he heard the click of it opening. Telryn made an exultant sound and tipped the small candy out of the middle. "Here, Kova," Telryn said pressing the candy into his hand. Kova shook his head and pushed it back.

"Why do they put candy in the middle if you don't like it?" Telryn asked puzzled.

Jhonri spoke up from his position off to their left. "He likes the candy, but you opened it so it's yours. He's sharing, your highness."

I see," Telryn murmured pocketing the candy. Telryn handed Kova a different puzzle box. "You open this one, Kova."

Obligingly Kova fiddled with it, his sensitive fingers running over the outside of the box. He quickly found the first key and within another few minutes the box clicked open. He fished out a small figuring from the inside. Discarding the box, Kova ran the tips of his fingers over the figure then offered it to Telryn. "Mew?"

Telryn laughed. "Yes, Kova. It's a cat."

Satisfied, Kova sat the toy down by his plate, before sliding his hand farther up searching for his wine glass. Carefully drinking the juice in it and replacing it on the table. 'My head is starting to ache from all the noise,' Kova thought sourly, listening to a servant refill his glass once again. 'How much longer is this going to go on?'

"Your highness?"

Kova shifted recognizing the voice of his doctor, Lord Grae.

"Yes?" Telryn answered clearly having no clue who he was talking to.

"I am Lord Grae, perhaps your brother mentioned me?"

"Ah, yes. What can I do for you, my lord?"

"If you will pardon me, I think it would be best if you took Kova back to his rooms now," Lord Grae suggested softly. "The children don't have the authority to make such a suggestion or they would have said something. Kova is looking rather tense and I'd say we have maybe half an hour before he gets a migraine from all the noise."

Telryn nodded. "I see. That's no problem. Thank you, for letting me know."

"Of course, your highness," Lord Grae said and turned back toward his wife.

Telryn tugged gently on Kova's arm. "Come on, Kova, come with me."

Kova obediently rose and kept pace with Telryn up to his parents. Telryn murmured an explanation to them and they were granted leave. Telryn guided him out of the ball room and through the halls. Once back in the familiar surroundings of his room Kova wandered away toward his closet. He could hear the guards stationing themselves around the room and Telryn following him. With no thought toward modesty, Kova started stripping out of the court finery and leaving it all in a pile on the chair in his closet. Reaching out, Kova found by feel a simple pair of pants and a shirt. As he struggled into them he could feel Telryn watching him. 'So, is he interested or just resigned? I really hope he doesn't try anything tonight…or any night for that matter. I'd be obliged to scream and have absolute hysterics.'

Telryn sighed as Kova moved back toward him. Kova stopped and tipped his head making an inquiring sound. "You know," Telryn said absently, "that's just something I don't get. All four of your play mates claim you can't talk, but you can clearly make noises. You should be able to speak at least a little."

Kova stuck his fingers in his mouth and fidgeted.

"I really do wonder how much of this is you and how much of it is the fact that they've trained you to be helpless," Telryn said seemingly idle.

'Oh, bad line of thought. I need this cover. It's not safe for me to be intelligent,' Kova thought biting down on his fingers.

"Yeah, ok, come here, Kova," Telryn said with a sigh. Kova instantly moved forward and Telryn guided him to the privy door. He left Kova there to do his business and went to dismiss the guards. Kova could hear them arguing even with the door closed.

"We are to guard Prince Kova, your highness."

"You can stand guard outside the door," Telryn told them flatly. "You can station men at the windows if you want, but you clearly don't need to stay in here. Kova is not a threat."

"Your highness-"

"No," Telryn snapped cutting him off, "you're dismissed."

Kova listened to them leave before washing his hands and wandering back to the main room. Kova moved toward his toy box and he wasn't surprised when he heard Telryn settle on the couch. 'Well, I'm not surprised that he's ignoring me, now that there's no one watching us. So, a test I think,' Kova decided and searched through his box until he found the toys he wanted. He settled himself next to Telryn and then offered him one of the painted wooden figures.

After only a second of hesitation Telryn took the lion Kova offered. Kova made a happy noise and held up the tiger clenched in his other hand and growled. Telryn sighed, but played with him for a good ten minutes before handing back the lion and telling Kova to go play. Kova sighed but went back to his toy box and dug out all of the other animals until he had a zoo all around him. He played quietly until he heard Telryn get up and head for the door. Kova went still and listened to see what he was doing.

Telryn spoke to one of the servants in the hall and sent the girl for some of his clothes. The girl returned a short time later and Kova listened to Telryn direct her where to put his things. She bid him a rather breathless good night as she left. Kova listened to the rustle that told him Telryn was changing clothes. He tipped his head up when he heard Telryn approach.

"Time for bed, Kova," Telryn said softly sounding resigned.

Obediently, Kova started collecting the animals and putting them back in the toy box. Telryn knelt down and helped him. "What do you wear to bed, Kova?"

Kova tipped his head and made a faintly puzzled sound.

"Where are your nightclothes?" Telryn tried again.

Kova pointed in the direction of the closet.

Telryn sighed. "Show me where, Kova. Show me your nightclothes."

Kova climbed to his feet and walked back into the closet. His sensitive fingers found what he wore to bed and he offered it to Telryn who had followed him. "You wear them, Kova. It's bedtime. Put them on."

Kova stuck his fingers in his mouth and turned his head away in a clear 'I am ignoring you'.

"Not funny, Kova," Telryn said clearly irritated. "Change your clothes."

Kova dropped the clothes and turned farther away. 'What are you going to do when I'm difficult, Telryn?' Kova listened to the approaching footsteps. Then Telryn's hands were on his shirt and pulled up skimming the shirt right off before Kova could do more than squeak. The night shirt was swiftly slipped over his head and Telryn ignored him when he whined, merely guided his arms into the sleeves.

"This is too much like babysitting," Telryn said grumpily, unbuttoning Kova's pants and slipping them off. Kova made a wordless inquiring sound as Telryn tugged him into motion and got him moving toward the bed. "I don't care what they claim. I don't think you're as stupid as they think and I'm going to teach you to talk. If you can make noise you can speak," Telryn said flatly gently pushing Kova onto the bed.

Kova squirmed around to get comfortable, but as soon as Telryn settled on the bed with him Kova snuggled up to his side. Telryn held very still for a long moment before sighing. "I take it you're used to snuggling."

Kova nodded. Telryn went ridged and Kova pulled away slightly sticking his fingers in his mouth. "Kova," Telryn said carefully, "do you like snuggling?"

Again Kova nodded.

Telryn forced himself to relax. "Come here, Kova. It's ok if you want to snuggle."

Kova made a happy noise and cuddled right back up to Telryn's side.

"I knew you weren't that broken," Telryn murmured, running his hands through Kova's hair.

Kova relaxed bonelessly against him. 'I am smarter than you even guess, Telryn, but only time will tell if I will trust my greatest secret to you.'

/~/~/

The council scowled as Telryn came in with Kova holding his hand. Telryn had made some rather drastic changes, including keeping Kova close to him. He had instructed the servants to make a 'safe' corner for Kova to play in and made sure the council took breaks when Kova needed a nap. Telryn calmly settled Kova into his corner before going to his seat. His 'chair' was specially made and was large enough to fit two people. Kova frequently took advantage of this and sat with him once Telryn had shown him the chair and let him examine it by feel.

"Really, your highness, wouldn't Kova be more comfortable in his own rooms?" Lord Brandtly asked.

"He's fine right where he is," Telryn answered. "And I do believe we've had the discussion on proper respect, Lord Brandtly. We don't need to go over it again, do we?"

"No, your highness," Lord Brandtly said with a flush. "I'm sure Prince Kova will be fine here." He was careful to place a bit of emphasis on Kova's title.

'I'm really starting to like him,' Kova thought as the meeting got underway. 'Telryn needs to replace more of the council members,' he thought critically some time later. 'They want to raise taxes again and are dismissing him when he says no. Oh, he's sounding frustrated time to interfere.'

Kova pushed himself to his feet and walked toward Telryn's raised voice. Telryn guided him to sit once he got close enough and Kova calmly snuggled into his side and offered him the puzzle box in his hand.

"Not right now, Kova," Telryn murmured.

"This is why he shouldn't be here," Lord Zoid snapped.

"Quite bluntly, Lord Zoid, he has more right to be here then you do," Telryn said flatly.

"He is useless," Lord Zoid growled.

"He is my consort," Telryn said a dangerous edge to his voice.

'Bad move,' Kova thought rather gleefully. 'Telryn has become very fond of me in the last two months, especially once I started responding vocally to only him.'

"Kova is broken. You can't fix him, Prince Telryn," Lord Zoid said flatly. "The fact that you keep continuing to try speaks volumes for your own intelligence."

Kova went very still as the tension in the room skyrocketed. 'I can't believe he said that.'

Telryn rose slowly to his feet. "Lord Zoid of Gloflen Hills, you are hereby dismissed from council. You are furthermore exiled to your own lands where you will remain until I call for you," Telryn said coldly. "If you leave your lands without permission from the Empire I will dispatch the Hunters to deal with you."

"You can't-" Lord Zoid sputtered.

"I can," Telryn snapped harshly. "Captain Wimbly, escort Lord Zoid to his rooms. He will be leaving at first light tomorrow."

"Yes, your highness," Captain Wimbly said saluting sharply. He moved up to Lord Zoids chair a hand on his sword. Lord Zoid rose to his feet and left without another word.

Telryn glared around the table. "Let's make this clear. This council only exists because I allow it. One word from me and it will be disbanded. What I do and do not do with my consort is none of your business and has nothing to do with the council. Do not test my patience again or I will have this council disbanded. Do I make myself clear?"

There was a murmur of 'yes, highness' from all around the room.

"Good," Telryn growled. He took a deep breath and shifted his gaze to Kova. "Are you hungry, Kova?" he asked gently.

Kova smiled up at him. "Yes," he said clearly. Several council members gasped outright.

Telryn smiled rather grimly at them, but addressed Kova again. "Let's go eat, Kova. Council is dismissed for the day."

Kova rose to his feet and reached for Telryn. His hand was caught and Telryn led him around the table and toward the door. Kova decided the council needed another demonstration and asked, "Chi-kin?"

"Of course, Kova," Telryn said and Kova could hear the smile in his voice. "We can have chicken for lunch." The door hadn't even closed behind them when the council exploded into chatter exclaiming over Kova speaking.

"Good job, Kova," Telryn murmured squeezing his hand. "That was perfectly timed, even if you really did just want chicken."

Kova smiled but waited until they were in their rooms and had their lunch before implementing the next step in his plan. Once the servants were gone and the door was closed on the guards, Kova looked directly at Telryn and asked, "How long are you going to leave Lord Zoid on his lands?"

There was dead silence from the other side of the table.

"You're the one that kept telling everyone I'm smarter than they thought," Kova informed him. "Didn't you believe what you were saying?"

"Dear Gods, you really can talk," Telryn choked out.

"I talk very well, thank you very much."

"But why didn't you talk before?" Telryn demanded.

"Use your head, Telryn," Kova said coolly. "If I had showed you my intelligence before your family would have killed me. I didn't survive thirteen years in hostile territory just to throw it away on the off chance you may be nice. I had to wait and see what you were like."

"Why didn't you ever talk to Gilina?"

"Hostile territory," Kova replied, taking a bite of his lunch.

"What does that mean?"

"You know how I got hurt, Telryn," Kova said impatiently

"That was when you were little," Telryn protested.

Kova laughed. "Not really. Do you want to know the whole story? No one else knows what really happened."

Telryn hesitated. "Yes," he said slowly, "I want to know."

"When I was four and a half my father discovered a plot from his council," Kova said. "My three older brothers were just as bad as my father and the council decided to get rid of them. They had a plan to kill my father, mother and all of my older siblings, not just my brothers. Set themselves up as regents and rule themselves. Father never found out if they were going to train me or if I was going to be a figurehead for the rest of my life, but that hardly matters. His spies told him the councils plans and he had them all killed. Shortly after that he realized that I wasn't like my brothers. I didn't like to hurt people or make unreasonable demands, even at four.

"His people liked me and hated him. He couldn't stand it and knocked me down the main stairs. Everyone says I don't remember, but I do. I saw him calculate where to hit me so I fell. I remember waking up to darkness. I remember him telling Lord Grae that he should have just let me die."

"That's horrible," Telryn said, sounding sick.

"No, horrible was my mother who told Lord Grae to dispose of me since I wasn't perfect anymore," Kova said flatly. "Lady Hanaco kept me alive. She pointed out that their kindness toward me during my recovery was the only thing that was keeping the people from staging a revolution."

"Why did you stay silent?" Telryn asked. "Why didn't you let them know you'd recovered?"

"Why should I?" Kova retorted. "So, they could try to use me again? So my father would see me as a threat again? So my brothers would start beating me again? What good would have come of me showing them I was better? This way no one hurt me. No one tried to use me against me father. No one allowed my brothers anywhere near me. I was safe. Even from the Empire."

"What?" Telryn demanded.

"I had the most secure rooms. By the time the fighting was over the guards gave me up," Kova told him. "Kalatovich knew who I was because they told him. Hanaco stopped him from killing me because I was 'damaged'. If the Empire wanted our land they were going to have to keep me alive. Kalatovich realized that and made sure I was protected. His guards stopped four attempts on my life before you got here. If I had died the people would have gone up in flames and the radicles would have got the war they wanted."

"…did anything in your life go right?"

Kova smiled. "Well, I consider you a good thing. You've never tried to hurt me either."

"Hmmm, really? I'm a good thing?"

"Yes."

"So, does this mean we are going to consummate our marriage?"

Kova scowled. "No, I'm not losing my cover just yet."

"We don't have to tell anyone that you're smart."

"If you have sex with me the maids are going to find out," Kova said bluntly, "and everyone in the kingdom will consider you a child rapist."

Telryn cringed. "I haven't touched you."

"And you won't for a while," Kova said flatly. "I may trust you enough to talk to you, but not anyone else."

"How am I supposed to trust you?" Telryn asked. "You've deceived me since I got here."

"I've deceived everyone. You're not special," Kova said amused. "And I haven't killed you when I could have. I talked to you instead."

"You can't see me to kill me," Telryn pointed out dryly. "Unless you can see me."

"No, I can't see, but you don't really need to be able to see to kill someone. I have five knives hidden in this room alone. I have seven around my bed. I would have killed you on our wedding night if I thought you were a threat."

"That's rather unnerving," Telryn said slowly.

"Yes, but I was willing to tell you that, too," Kova said.

"Why tell me today? What changed?"

"You took complete control of the council," Kova answered.

"So, you want to be co-rulers like my dad set us up as?" Telryn asked.

Kova shrugged. "I don't care. I don't know anything about ruling. I've been listening during council sessions, but that doesn't mean much. Half the time I don't have a clue what you're talking about."

Kova could feel Telryn studying him. "Alright, you trusted me, so I'll trust you. Start asking me questions. We need to get you ready to be a co-ruler. You have to start understanding what I'm doing because I don't trust this council any farther than I could throw them. The only one I even ask for an opinion is Lady Hanaco."

"I can help with who to trust," Kova offered. "No one is careful around me and I hear a lot."

"Tell me everything," Telryn commanded. With a faint smile Kova complied.

/~/~/

Three months later Kalatovich visited. Telryn planned a ball to welcome him. Kova continued to follow Telryn all over the palace. Kalatovich was stunned at the changes in Kova. Kova still didn't respond to anyone but Telryn, but the fact that he responded at all and followed on his own was amazing.

"I can't believe it," Kalatovich said for the third time, watching as Kova wandered all over the Great Hall.

"You've said that before," Telryn said dryly. "And yet you still haven't told me why you're really here."

"Dad sent me."

"I guessed that."

"He was surprised you got things in order so rapidly. He wants me to find out if you really have control or not," Kalatovich said ignoring Telryn's interruption.

"I have control," Telryn answered, "but feel free to poke around. The people are thrilled Kova is doing so much better. They love me. The council has resigned themselves to the fact that I'm not going to raise taxes just to line their pockets and are actually accomplishing the tasks I set them."

"We'll see," Kalatovich said eyes still on Kova.

"Kova," Telryn called, only slightly raising his voice. Kova turned toward them head tipped to the side. "Come here please," he continued at a normal volume.

"He heard you? He's across the room," Kalatovich said shocked.

"His hearing is much better than ours," Telryn replied. "I've been encouraging him to use his hearing to get around."

"Fascinating, if he was smarter you could have him spy for you," Kalatovich said considering. "Uncle has that man that reads lips, remember. Do you think Kova could tell you things he hears?"

"He doesn't talk that well," Telryn reminded him. "You heard him last night."

"At least he talks to you," Kalatovich said as Kova reached them and pressed up against Telryn. "How's the other side of your marriage going?"

"Don't go there, Kala," Telryn warned. "I know you're just trying to piss me off, but the servant's may just poison you or something. They're insanely protective remember?"

Kalatovich winced. "I did forget. Sorry."

Kova shifted leaning slightly toward Kalatovich. "Candy?"

Telryn blinked. "What?"

"Candy!" Kova repeated firmly.

Kalatovich laughed. "Apparently his sense of smell is better than yours, too," he said pulling a wrapped chocolate candy from his jacket pocket. "Hold your hand out, Kova."

Kova eagerly complied and Kalatovich handed it to him.

"What do you say?" Telryn prompted.

Kova turned away in his 'not listening' gesture.

"You won't get any more candy," Telryn warned.

Kova's lip quivered and he whimpered.

"No," Telryn said firmly. "Be polite."

Thank you, Kala," Kova muttered to his feet.

"You're welcome, Kova," Kalatovich answered, struggling to hide his amusement.

"More?" Kova asked hopefully.

Kalatovich laughed. "Hold out your hand." Kova obeyed and Kalatovich gave him another chocolate.

"Thank you," Kova said with no prompting.

"How surprised were they when he started talking?" Kalatovich asked.

"Lady Hanaco almost fainted. His playmates just about hit the roof. They were thrilled," Telryn answered. "The staff were delirious with joy. It's one of the main reasons they like me so much."

"Good for you," his brother replied. "Personally I'm thrilled he's doing better. Poor kid deserves to be happy, not locked up in his rooms because his parents were-"

"Kalatovich! No cussing around Kova," Telryn said cutting him off sharply. At his brothers incredulous look he elaborated. "The servants get rather upset about it. Believe me, it's way easier to just clean up your language."

"Seriously?"

"Yes."

"I'll work on that then," Kalatovich muttered. "Did you really have to throw a ball?"

"Yes," Telryn said grinning.

"I don't even like balls," Kalatovich grumbled.

"Kova does," Telryn replied. "I know you'd prefer a formal dinner, but he gets bored at those."

"Why are balls any better?"

"Kova likes to dance."

"How did he learn to dance?"

"His playmates taught him," Telryn answered.

"Dance?" Kova asked.

"Later, Kova," Telryn said absently. "We'll eat during the ball, too, Kala. You won't have to dance much. Everyone knows we're just doing it for Kova."

"Dance," Kova repeated a slight whine to his tone.

"Later, Kova," Telryn repeated firmly.

"Dance, now!" Kova cried.

"Do you need a nap?" Telryn questioned and edge to his voice.

"No," Kova whimpered.

"No tantrums, Kova, or you have to go lay down," Telryn warned.

"Dance?" Kova asked hopefully.

"No, we'll dance later," Telryn answered. Kova sighed and leaned into Telryn's side. Kalatovich had covered his mouth to muffle his laughter. Telryn glared at him. "So, help me Kala, stop it."

"Sorry," Kalatovich said not bothering to hide his grin.

"No, you're not," Telryn growled.

"Not really," Kalatovich admitted cheerfully.

"For that, I'm going to tell Gilina you like to dance," Telryn said with an evil grin.

"You wouldn't do that," Kalatovich said uncertainly.

"Oh, really? I wouldn't?" Telryn asked far too innocently.

"…I'll stop."

"You better."

"Brat."

"I am not nearly as bad as you."

"True."

"Tired," Kova whined.

"Alright, Kova, we'll go back to our rooms," Telryn told him. "You're ok on your own, Kala?"

"I'm sure I'll manage," Kalatovich said dryly, watching them leave.

Once safely back in their rooms Kova asked, "Your brother really doesn't like to dance?"

"He doesn't hate it, but he doesn't like it either," Telryn answered. "Are you really tired?"

"My head is starting to hurt," Kova admitted.

"We'll take a nap then."

"You don't have to nap with me," Kova muttered, heading towards their bed.

"I want to," Telryn said climbing in next to Kova. Kova remained tense and Telryn sighed. "It's ok that your head hurts, Kova. It's not like taking a nap hurts anyone."

"Normal people don't take naps," Kova snapped, still tense but unresisting when Telryn pulled him close.

"I don't see how that matters," Telryn said, gently running his fingers through Kova's hair. "Normal people can't hear across the room either and I'm glad you can do that."

Kova sighed and relaxed. "I'm glad I'm useful."

"Not useful, wanted. I want you around, Kova."

Kova didn't answer, but Telryn didn't expect him to. Kova had a hard time believing anyone wanted him around. Telryn was working on that but it was slow going.

/~/~/

Kalatovich stayed for a month. At the end of his stay he informed Telryn that he would have a favorable report for their father. He was very pleased that nothing had been exaggerated. Telryn did have complete control of the people there.

Telryn changed out several more people on the council before disaster struck. A highly contagious childhood disease started to sweep through the capital. It was similar to the flu and while children under ten bounced back just fine it was dangerous for adults. The only upside to it was once you had it you were immune to it. Kova had been exposed when he was six, but Telryn had never had it. The Empires capital was on the other side of the mountains and the sickness wasn't able to survive in the colder north.

Telryn worsened rapidly and the council started to make motions toward taking over. With Lord Grae staying constantly at Telryn's side, Kova decided to take steps. He left their rooms and stopped in the hall.

"Your highness, did you need something?" One of the guards asked.

Kova turned toward him. He took a deep breath and spoke, "Take me to the council room."

There was a sharp, tense silence before the guard stepped forward and guided Kova's hand to his arm. "Wilks, Falerin, you're with me. Gralis, go get extra guards for the council room. Trillis, get extra guards for Prince Telryn."

"Yes, Captain Wimbly," several voices answered. Kova felt some of the tension drain from him.

"Your rooms are not sound proof, your highness," Captain Wimbly said softly as he guided Kova down the hall. "We have long since been aware of your subterfuge, but like Prince Telryn we kept our silence."

"Thank you," Kova said softly.

"Are you ready for this, your highness?"

"Do I have a choice?"

"We will back you up, your highness. Whatever you need," the captain said firmly.

"Thank you," Kova repeated.

"We're here," Wimbly said softly to Kova. He continued speaking to his men, "I will guide Prince Kova to the head of the table. Take the time to spread yourselves out around the room. We will back Prince Kova up with force if necessary, clear?"

"Yes, sir," the men responded firmly.

Wimbly opened the door wide and led Kova in. The council went briefly silent before Lord Brandtly demanded, "What are you doing, Captain?"

"I am following orders, Lord Brandtly," Wimbly replied, helping Kova settle in the head chair.

"Whose orders?" Lord Brandtly snapped. "Prince Telryn is unable to give orders at this time."

"I gave the order, Lord Brandtly," Kova answered. "Please, sit down."

The council was silent. Kova could feel their eyes on him. Finally Lord Brandtly spoke very gently as if Kova didn't understand him. "We have everything well in hand, Kova. Why don't you go stay with Telryn?"

"I believe, Lord Brandtly, Telryn has already spoken to you about proper respect," Kova said dangerously. "If you 'forget' again I will have you forcibly removed. Do I make myself clear?"

"Kova?" Lady Hanaco asked as Lord Brandtly sputtered.

"Yes, Lady Hanaco?" Kova replied.

"Am I correct in assuming that you have now chosen to drop your cover?" she asked.

"Yes, Lady Hanaco. It is no longer convenient for me. The needs of the people here are more important," Kova said firmly.

"What do you need of this council?" Lady Hanaco asked.

"Prince Telryn may be ill, but I am not," Kova announced. "I realize that the council was unaware of my abilities, but I will have your obedience. You waited until Telryn was sick to try to raise taxes. You need my signature or Telryn's. You have neither. If I find out that you have instigated the tax raises, I will have you stripped of your titles and imprisoned."

"You can't do that," Lord Valshin protested.

"Give me one good reason why not, Lord Valshin," Kova said dangerously.

"You do not have the mental capacity to give us orders. The council is in control now," Lord Valshin said smugly.

"Captain Wimbly?" Kova questioned.

"Yes, your highness?" Wimbly replied promptly from behind his right shoulder.

"Have Lord Valshin removed to his rooms. Telryn and I will discuss a fitting reprisal for him later," Kova said crisply. "Does anyone else wish to insult my intelligence? I have clearly displayed that I am in full control of myself. I realize that my act fooled you for many years, but faced with recent evidence you should have reevaluated the situation." Captain Wimbly signaled two of his men during Kova's announcement and they forcibly drug the protesting noble out of the room.

Lady Hanaco spoke into the silence. "We had not put the tax raises into effect, your highness. Some of us still opposed and everything is currently at a standstill."

"Good. I did not wish to imprison anyone for stupidity," Kova said blandly.

"Stupidity?" Lady Reshal demanded.

Kova turned toward her as he answered, "Yes, Lady Reshal, stupidity. My husband would have been very angry to find out that the council had betrayed him while he was ill. He would have immediately disbanded the council and exiled all of you to your own lands."

This time there was silence to his announcement. Kova gave it a moment before continuing, "Is there anything relevant that needs to be discussed?"

Lady Dresnica cleared her throat before speaking, "Before Prince Telryn fell ill, I had asked for funds to repair the Golomn Bridge. He had not given me an answer yet."

"We discussed it," Kova replied promptly. "Captain Wimbly, send a runner to our rooms. There is a file on the desk in the study that I require." Captain Wimbly obeyed instantly and in short order the file was in Kova's hand. "Lady Hanaco, please adjust seating so you are next to me," he commanded.

The nobles obeyed without comment. "What did you need, your highness?" Lady Hanaco asked once they were all seated again.

Kova pushed the folder at her. "Find the proposal Lady Dresnica gave us five days ago."

Lady Hanaco sorted through the documents a moment before setting the proposal in front of Kova. "Here you are, your highness. It is right in front of you."

"Thank you, below that is a counter proposal that we came up with," he said.

"Counter?" Lady Dresnica protested. "We need those funds."

"Not all of it," Kova disagreed. "The amount stated was unreasonable. It was corrected. If you do not wish to sign to accept the money we are willing to give, then you may build the bridge with your own money."

The revised document was passed down the table to Lady Dresnica and she grudgingly signed it. It was passes back to Kova and he held it up to Captain Wimbly. "Read it aloud, please, Captain. I will not sign it until I am sure it is the correct document." Captain Wimbly obliged and then placed the document in front of Kova. Kova held out his hand and Captain Wimbly placed a pen in it. The council was surprised when Kova signed his name across the bottom.

"How did you do that?" Lord Quanic asked without thinking then flushed and stammered an apology.

Kova smiled at him. "Telryn and I practiced," he admitted. "What else is there to take care of?"

"Nothing pressing," Lady Hanaco replied.

"Very well," Kova said calmly. "Council sessions are currently disbanded unless something of importance comes up. If the council attempts to convene without my knowledge it will be immediately disbanded. I trust you all understand this?"

There was a chorus of 'yes, your highness' as Kova rose and moved toward the door. Captain Wimbly and two of his men fell in step with him, but the other guards remained. The council members gathered their things and left under the careful watch of the guards.

/~/~/

Kova had a tight grip on Captain Wimbly through the halls. Once he was safely in his rooms with Wimbly doubling security on them, Kova went straight to the bed where Telryn was sleeping and climbed in pressing tightly against his side.

"Kova," Lord Grae said coaxingly, "Back up a bit, little one. Telryn doesn't feel good remember?"

"I remember just fine," Kova snapped. "I'm stressed and I want to be close to him right now, so just leave me alone!"

Lord Grae gaped rather unattractively at him as Telryn stirred reacting to Kova's voice.

"Kova?" Telryn asked faintly.

"I'm here," Kova answered promptly. "I had to talk to the council. It's all better now. Captain Wimbly helped me. I'll tell you more about it when you feel better. Go back to sleep, Telryn."

"Get you sick," Telryn protested.

"I'm immune," Kova reminded him gently. "Go back to sleep."

"Alright," Telryn murmured softly, settling again. Within seconds his breathing had evened out into sleep.

"…if Telryn hadn't gotten sick, would you ever had revealed your intelligence?" Lord Grae asked.

"Eventually, but not nearly this soon or as abruptly," Kova answered tiredly. "I didn't like facing the council without Telryn."

"The guards?" Lord Grae questioned.

"Captain Wimbly is handling it," Kova answered sleepily. "He's on our side."

"As am I, Kova. Get some rest. You don't want to deal with a migraine on top of all of this," Lord Grae said softly, watching as Kova's eyes slipped closed and he fell asleep tucked up against Telryn's side.

Captain Wimbly spoke from the doorway making him jump. "If I find out you just lied to him and are not on their side you will be dealt with very harshly."

Lord Grae smiled faintly. "You have no worries. I have always been on Kova's side. Hanaco and I had a theory many years ago that Kova had recovered more than he let on, but we didn't pursue it in fear of his father's reaction. We held our silence to keep him safe. I will do more if that is necessary."

"Pray that it is not necessary," Wimbly replied.

"To all of the Gods," Grae added.

/~/~/

"You really talked to the council?" Telryn demanded several days later. He was still stuck in bed, but out of danger.

"Yes," Kova answered. "Twice. It's not fun, but no one else has crossed me since I had Lord Valshin removed. We dealt with the Golomn Bridge and we are in the process of getting supply wagons sent down to the village there. Their food stores were more depleted than previously thought. I had Wimbly send one of his men to confirm. He just returned which is why I have to go to the meeting. They can't do anything without my signature."

"I don't like you going there by yourself," Telryn grumbled, pulling Kova close.

Kova laughed. "I am definitely not alone. Wimbly won't let me step foot out of these rooms without two full squads escorting me. They come into the council room to join the ten waiting guards and the two stationed outside. I'm safe, Telryn. I promise." Kova cupped his face and gave him a gentle kiss. "I'll be back soon. Get some more sleep."

"All I've been doing is sleeping," Telryn groused as Kova left. Kova laughed softly as he walked out the door.

"I did not think council sessions were amusing, your highness," Wimbly commented as they headed down the hall.

"They aren't, but Telryn is. He wants to get up."

"Has Lord Grae given him leave?"

"No."

"Then I believe he is staying in bed," Wimbly said dryly.

"You believe correctly," Kova said with a perfectly straight face. The guards all started snickering.

Kova was still in a good mood by the time the council session was over. Telryn was up and sitting wrapped in blankets in the sitting room when he entered. "Kova," Telryn greeted warmly. "How did it go?" he asked anxiously.

"They weren't trying to trick me," Kova answered, moving carefully across the room toward him. "Trillis, one of Captain Wimbly's men, went and checked it out. His report stated that the village had actually down played how badly they needed supplies. Apparently the headman didn't want to put a strain on the capital with everyone being sick," Kova said settling next to Telryn.

Telryn was silent for a long moment, just long enough for Kova to get nervous. "I'm not really happy about getting sick, but I'm still glad this happened."

Kova frowned sharply, surprised. "Why?"

"Because now I have a partner," Telryn said softly. "I'm glad that you were willing to step up and take control when I couldn't. I'm glad that you trusted yourself enough to face the council. I'm glad that everyone knows how wonderful you really are."

Kova flushed. "I am not wonderful," he muttered.

"You," Telryn said, pulling him close, "are wonderful and I love you."

Kova froze, he even stopped breathing for a long moment. "You love me?" he managed to get out, so softly that Telryn barely heard him.

"Yes, Kova, I love you," Telryn said, pulling him onto his lap and burying his face in Kova's hair. "You are perfect."

"I'm broken," Kova whispered.

"No," Telryn said contentment coloring his tone. "You are perfect and I will always love you. I didn't think I would, even when you started really talking to me, but I know better now. You're mine and I will love you until I die."

Kova twisted and buried his face in Telryn's neck. "I love you, too," he choked out trying to hide his tears. "I- I couldn't have stood up to the council if you didn't need it. I don't know if I could have ever shown anyone just how well I recovered, but you needed me and I- I just c-couldn't let you down."

"You will never let me down," Telryn said firmly, shifting them so he was laying down on the couch with Kova laying on top of him.

"You're still sick," Kova protested, trying to shift off of him.

"No," Telryn denied, holding him tightly, "stay right here."

"But-"

"Right here," Telryn repeated. "I need you, Kova, and I'm never letting you go."

Kova relaxed into him and was silent for a long moment before venturing, "We're going to keep my people safe aren't we? The council will never be able to take advantage of them."

"Yes," Telryn confirmed sleepily. "Together there's nothing we can't do." Telryn was quiet for a minute before asking wickedly, "So does this mean we can consummate our marriage now?"

"Telryn!" Kova choked, flushing. Telryn laughed and hugged him tightly. "You have to get better first," Kova muttered, his cheeks still stained red.

"I can deal with that," Telryn said, kissing Kova gently. 'And I will love you forever,' Telryn thought as he drifted peacefully off to sleep.

(A/N: I realize that this story just kinda trails off, but there really isn't any more in this world except the consummation of their marriage and I'm just going to leave that up to your imagination. Also, (and this is important) I finished this story with quite a bit of alcohol in my system (yes, I am legal, thank you very much) so all mistakes are blamed on the vodka. Review if you like it! (if you don't, blame that on the vodka, too!))