“My lord —”
“Don’t think I haven’t noticed!”
“If I do not protect our daughter, then who shall?”
“You would have me throw away her future in the name of protection! I will not have my daughter married off to a weakling!”
“But it’s all the same to you, isn’t it, whomever she weds?”
The king did not reply.
“My lord — I know what it is you plan. But the northerners will not look kindly upon us if you renege upon any agreement we make. They place great value on the bonds of blood. Retaliation will be swift and brutal. Is it not better, then, to forge peace between our people? Will you not lay aside your ambitions? For our daughter’s sake, if not for mine?”
“Who in these times knows peace?” the king replied sardonically. “Never forget! We are not one of them. We will never be one of them. One of their blood. You are too soft, woman! Do you think they will not renege upon their promises first? When all the Court quavers in terror of our rise?”
It was some time before the queen responded.
“You have changed, my lord.”
Ashne slowly let out a breath she hadn’t realized she was holding. Closed her eyes. She shouldn’t be here, intruding on a discussion that was clearly not hers to encroach upon. And yet she couldn’t leave the queen.