Chapter eight.

Ari was lazily sipping at a brimming cup of steaming tea when Nyala and Zolan slowly entered the court-yard. After the wedding the night before, the two had disappeared, and no one had thought much of it, but Ari felt fully prepared to start teasing when she noted the scant amount of distance between them and the way they whispered to each other. Kei groaned at her side, looking as if she hadn't been ready to wake up, and Ari returned her attention to the parchments of paper in front of her.
She had set up a stable wooden table near the only tree in the training court, and had been out there since the sun had risen, despite the cold. Nyala and Zolan stopped just in front of the table, observing her with interest before they slowly approached and sat down. A tingle down Ari's spine told her that General Keita had just entered the training yard through the entrance to her left, and she scowled at herself mentally.
"So sister. . . how long have you been out here?"
Nyala asked, scooting one of the papers that was scattered on the table towards herself and looking it over before her eyes went wide.
"I didn't know he had already written another one."
She cradled the paper to her gently, reading it over several times from the way her eyes moved, and Ari nodded distantly. What she was reading and had been reading was Erro's latest work, which he apparently wanted her opinion on. So far she enjoyed it, and she heard Nyala chuckle as she set the page down and poked through the stack for the next one. After a few moments of silence, after Zolan had picked up Nyala's discarded piece of paper, and General Keita had sat down quietly, she spoke, taking a sip of tea as she did so.
"So Nyala darling, how is your husband in the bedroom? I can only assume that he's good since neither one of you made it to the finale toasting. A pity that, Erro had the masses weeping again."
Nyala chocked and look up in surprise, her eyes wide and her cheeks flushing. Zolan's mouth dropped open, and he looked to Nyala in surprise.
"I get included in the woman talk?"
Not what she had expected him to say, but it amused her all the same. Nyala sat sputtering for several long moments, and Ari raised an eye brow at the paper she read. Her wordless response was more then enough. General Keita sighed, and when she looked up, he was staring at her with a reprimanding, knowing, and above all disappointed. In her? For what? Ignoring the side of her that was slightly hurt to receive such a look, she returned her attention to the papers, and Nyala finally spoke.
"Ari, as my second, it is your duty to spar with me when I'm irritated. I am irritated. You, out on the training field. Now."
With that, she got up and started for the field, already giving the order to have the space cleared. Ari finished off the paper in her hand before she even began to comply, and before she left the table, she roughly patted Kei on the back.
"Put those papers back in order."
She ordered before she downed the rest of her tea and marched out into the ring. Nyala glared at her meaningfully, and Ari's eyes widened innocently.
"What? I was curious to know! Besides, it's not like it's inappropriate; you're married after all."
Nyala sighed, shaking her head before she accepted the wooden sword offered to her. Ari did the same and positioned herself opposite her new queen.
"Ari, there only so many people that see what you just did as teasing. I see it of course, and Zolan is naturally good humored, but other Balvedarian's are not so understanding. Take General Keita for example."
She started her attack with a feign to the left, and Ari swung her sword in a right arch on instinct. She scowled at Nyala as she continued speaking.
"If he doesn't approve of your behavior, then none of the other guards will. Zolan told me that Keita is the most unprejudiced man in the entire kingdom! What are you going to do if the entire Balvedarian court starts gunning for you? I can't protect you from everything."
Ari rolled her eyes, blocking a series of attacks that were more like conversation hen anything. It was only because of those attacks that Ari truly understood what her friend was trying to say. In private, trusted company, her usual behavior was just fine, but when they went to Balvedaria, she had to tone it down or risk being subject to consequences.
Ari hated to admit it, but she had to agree. The few Balvedarian women that she had spoken to had looked down right frightened, and the men had looked insulted. True she wasn't one to care, but the Sha'at societies image was on the line, and that she cared about more then anything.
"I'll bet you anything I can get the women to lead a revolt within two years. After that, all our problems will be solved."
She joked, putting a little more force into her next blow and knocking Nyala's sword from her hands. She had her queen pinned and on her knees in the next instant, breathing in deeply before she released her. They shared a long look, and Ari reluctantly conceded, turning her back and heading for the table. Kei had obediently reorganized the papers, and Zolan and Keita appeared to have been watching the match with interest.
"Why do I have the strangest feeling that something else entirely just happened?"
He asked Nyala curiously. She sighed and promised to tell him later, and Ari gathered up the papers swiftly before she nudged Kei roughly and motioned the girl up.
"I suggest you eat. We'll be leaving for the 'honeymoon' spot within the hour."
With that, she and Kei bustled off right as Ellie came running, looking excited and chirpy, and she set about putting her finale affairs in order.

He would never ever in a million life times understand Ari. The woman had become somewhat withdrawn, looking incredibly irritated again, and at the moment, she was getting in his way.
"The king and queen will want to dine with Prince Zolan and Princess Nyala shortly after they arrive. They should just go spend the first night in the palace, then continue on to the manor."
She practically hissed at him and turned her scowl onto full power.
"But Vera, Nikki, and Sahm went ahead to the manor to secure it and the surrounding area already. They are expecting us. If we don't come, they'll send up the war signal and we'll all be screwed because then an entire nation of angry amazons will be scouring the woods in search of their queen. Plus, it's Nyala's honeymoon. She answers to no one but her husband at this time."
She stubbornly crossed her arms over her chest and he groaned at her in frustration.
"Why must you be so difficult woman?"
"Why must you be so pig-headed and sexist?"
She returned, raising both eyebrows at him. He looked to Zolan for help, but he could read his prince's thoughts as clearly as if they had been spoken. He wanted to go to the manor, and quite liked the idea of avoiding his family for a full week and a half. Sighing, he reluctantly nodded, and Ari did the same, though hers seemed to be more triumphant. With that, the break that had turned into a resting stop for their argument ended, and they all got back up on their horses. The rest of the journey passed in silence, except the occasional call that the young amazon Ellie gave, her eyes always on the forest. These calls, though essentially mysteries, always seemed directed at Ari, because she responded to them the most.
"My Queen?"
The young one called, suddenly riding on the other side of Rolo, Keita's second. Nyala looked over at her with interest, and the young girl continued speaking.
"Kei has suggested that we cut through the woods, as that will save us time. It will be a little rougher, so Lady Ari will only agree to it if you and His Highness will."
The term that the young one used for Zolan made him nervous. In the Sha'at peoples eyes, Zolan was already king, but in his own countries, he had another month before his coronation. Would this cause conflict? He decided that he would probably just go with the flow this time around, besides, letting the amazons lead them was probably better, since they knew the woods best. Nyala and Zolan muttered agreements, and the young one urged her horse back up to where Ari's trotted energetically. The woman looked over her shoulder at him, her eyes full of curiosity. He nodded, and she shrugged before she tugged on her horses reigns and lead them slightly off the path. He was surprised that she would check with him at all. Shaking his head, he sighed.
'I am never going to understand that woman.'
He mused; his thoughts were only confirmed when they finally reached the manor.