Celta Thursday/Friday, Heart Change cut
Flair crackled in the air.
Signet followed Laev's gaze first, squeezed Cratag's shoulder. He came up next to Laev and examined the fivesome of girls. Two were older, about seventeen, and three younger, more like thirteen.
One of the older girls and one of the younger ones were obviously sisters, dark haired and green-eyed. The older teen was plumper and prettier, the younger had a fierce gaze and sharp features.
The other two young girls were the Darjeeling child and another who was about thirteen and had brownish red hair and brown eyes and a self-confident look. They all wore last year's fashions, slightly shabby at the cuffs.
Laev's gaze was fixed on the striking beauty with a womanly body – surely newly adult like Laev himself. She had honey golden hair waving nearly to her waist. Her eyes were a deep amber and slightly slanted in her face. Her skin was of a tanned color that made her appear a woman dusted with gold.
Another zing. "What's that?" asked Cratag. He wasn't quite sure of the feelings surrounding him. More than sexual attraction. Dammit!
Signet looked at him with resigned amusement.
Laev went up to the five young woman and offered his most elegant bow, turned at once to the golden girl and offered his arm. The girl sent him a smile that seemed more sly than shy to Cratag and the other four girls dropped back.
Cratag and Signet's party stood still while the others walked...toward the PublicCarrier plinth and Cratag was torn.
Signet slipped her arm in his. "He's an adult now." She sighed. "And I'm afraid you're stuck with us."
An odd note in her voice had him tearing his gaze away from Laev, still feeling a dread anticipation. Though he'd hidden his own emotions throughout the afternoon, they'd been twinged and plucked as he saw all the circles of circles of alliances interact around him. Making him realize for the first time that whatever his status within his household, the respect he received for most others was because of his rank with T'Hawthorn, not because of Cratag the man. He didn't know when that had not become enough.
When he'd wanted to be considered equal to Signet when he never could be.
Furthermore, all the people in the JudgementGrove had been Druidans, doing a city dance that he didn't quite understand, with shades of nuanced behavior he could not recognize and some he knew he missed.
But now Signet was looking up at him, her gaze searching his face. For reassurance that he cared for her as well as Laev? That this time at D'Marigold Residence wasnt' just a job? Yes, he could answer that question for her. He pressed her arm against his side, twined his fingers with hers. Glanced at the rest of their little group.
Hanes had been keeping a watchful eye on those around them – commoners and minor Nobles, most of the great folk already had teleported home.
Vinni's lips had compressed. He took a couple of strides to Cratag, looked up at him, the boy's face was pale and set and angry. "Too late," he muttered. "I didn't see when this would be and wasn't paying attention and now it is too late."
Cratag banished the sinking feeling in his gut. Maybe the boy prophet wasn't talking about Laev, but Cratag could see by the set of Vinni's shoulders that he wasn't open to questions.
Signet searched Vinni's face, sensing Cratag wanted answers and the young GreatLord wasn't going to talk. "Who are those girls? she asked. She was holding Avellana back, fearing that the heavy Flair might spark Avellana's Passage.
"Ah, um." Vinni shuffled his feet, shot a glance at Cratag, back to being a boy and not a prophet. "The green-eyed girls are, um, the Mugworts."
"There was a terrible scandal about the Mugworts last year," Avellana said in her self-righteous tones.
Signet didn't recall, and it didn't matter much as far as she was concerned. What mattered was that she get Avellana out of the energy spiking around them.
But Cratag had tensed then relaxed. Something there.
Avellana was frowning. "I thought the Mugworts had left Druida." She sniffed.
"Evidently not," Signet said. "Avellana, are you judging again?"
"This would be the place," Cratag said, straight-faced.
Signet sighed. "JudgementGrove, yes. But Avellana doesn't have empathic Flair and hasn't trained to be a judge."
"Who are the other girls?" asked Cratag.
"The other ones just a little older than me are the Darjeeling girl, of course," Avellana said. "And I'm not judging her. Or maybe I am. She was right to claim her own property, even if it did mean making a scene if it was that important to her." Avellana nodded decisively. "And Lady and Lord knows the Darjeelings are very poor."
"An odd name," Hanes murmurred.
"Not a plant name, some sort of Earthan name, I think. But the Family was still founded within the first decade after the starships landed."
Signet got the idea that all the Hazels, maybe all the FirstFamiles, knew the status of all the oldest Families. The Marigolds had been founded within the first fifty years.
"The other young one is Glyssa Licorice," Avellana said. "Of the PublicLibrary Licorices. The Heir, I think."
"And the lovely girl who Laev is walking with?" Cratag asked, concern in his voice as they all watched Laev take the young woman's hand and lead her away from her friends.
"That's Nivea Sunflower," Avellana said.
"How do you know this?" Signet asked.
"My sister knew the older Mugwort and told me she was in grovestudy with Nivea Sunflower who had interesting coloring," Avellana said.
"Stunning," Signet murmured.
Cratag snorted. He'd settled into his balance as if expecting trouble and there was a line between his brows. Vinni fell into the same stance.
As if sensing their concern, Laev lifted his head from gazing at the girl beside him to meet Cratag's eyes. The younger man inclined his head in acknowledgment but didn't leave the girl.
Signet thought she caught the whisper of Laev's thought to Cratag. **I will escort GraceMistrys Sunflower home.** Then a flash of pure joy showed on his face. **I have been connecting with my HeartMate during Passage!**
Nivea Sunflower plucked at his bloused sleeve and he bent attentively to her.
"Uh oh," Vinni said.