Hope you guys enjoy the new chapter!
By Meyari McFarland
Chapter Thirty: Future Plans
The next morning they were both woken by the boys who gasped and then laughed as they got hugs from both Cadfael and Macario. That they’d been caught together made Cadfael go bright red even though no one else seemed to think it was that big of a deal. His blushes made the boys giggle all through breakfast. To Cadfael’s surprise, Hamid didn’t give them any harsh looks at all. He was focused entirely on the little book Cadfael had loaned him, reading it while eating with one hand with enough intensity that Cadfael wasn’t entirely certain that Hamid tasted the food he was consuming.
After breakfast, Cadfael expected to spend the day negotiating the trade deal with Macario (possibly with stolen kisses). They had gotten a lot done but there was still quite a lot left to figure out about the fine details of the treaty. With just over twenty days left on their visit, Cadfael wasn’t terribly worried about getting the treaty done, but it would be better to finish early than to be working on it up until the last instant. Ula’s baby was a deadline that wouldn’t wait, no matter what else was going on.
His expectations were dashed when Ynes and Anwyn showed up for a visit after they left the breakfast table. Ynes blushed mightily at the bite mark on Cadfael’s neck, but she also looked delighted by it. Anwyn glared at Cadfael when Ynes’ back was turned.
“Why don’t you see if the boys want to play, Ynes?” Cadfael suggested because obviously he needed to have a talk with his twin sister about everything that had changed in the last couple of days.
“Oh yeah,” Ynes laughed. “Back in a couple of minutes you two. Annie, don’t fight.”
“Hey, why warn me?” Anwyn protested.
“Because you’re the one who looks like she’s bitten into rotten fish,” Ynes countered before slipping out of the room and bellowing for the boys. Their answering squeals made Cadfael smile at the doorway to their meeting room.
Cadfael chuckled at the delighted squeals of the boys, too happy to be truly upset at Anwyn’s scowl. It wasn’t her ‘angry at you’ scowl. Instead it was the ‘are you sure you know what you’re doing?’ scowl that only came out when Cadfael did something that she hadn’t predicted. He flapped a hand at her to say ‘stop being silly, of course I know what I’m doing’. Anwyn raised an eyebrow and crossed her arms over her chest, grumbling something under her breath that had to be curse words that her friend Iola had taught her.
“You know you’re not staying,” Anwyn said, worry finally more clear in her eyes than anger.
“Annie, of course I do,” Cadfael sighed. “Let me enjoy myself, please. This is the first time I’ve been truly happy in ages. Ula took good care of me on the way here, but I was always tense and afraid of the sailors. I’m not frightened at all here and that’s lovely. I like the kids. Azizi and Dankov are wonderful. Jinhai is so nice. Even Hamid has calmed down since I got him to start writing his memoirs.”
“He’s what?” Anwyn asked, laughter starting to dance in her eyes.
“I loaned him great-grandfather’s journal,” Cadfael explained. “He’s sort of at loose ends having turned his duties over to Macario, and he loved the idea of doing something similar. He hasn’t let me read anything yet, but it should be very interesting when it’s done.”
Anwyn laughed. “Oh Caddie, didn’t I tell you that you’d be fine on this trip?”
She came over and hugged Cadfael like they were Taji and Umar’s age. He hugged back, grateful for the love, but not craving it the way he used to back home. For once, Cadfael felt like a cup that was full to overflowing instead of one that was mostly empty. Anwyn crooned something wordless as Cadfael leaned into her side. They hadn’t cuddled like this since they were very young, possibly before Anwyn’s trip out to the City of the Ladies back home. Everything had changed for her, then. Cadfael wasn’t sure but he felt as though everything was changing for him now.
He’d spent so long resenting everything and everyone around him. The freedom that came with being accepted and loved for exactly who he was made his head swim whenever he considered it. Cadfael felt warm inside and out, as though he’d been wrapped up in his warmest blanket back home. It was perfect and he wanted the feeling to never end, even as he knew that it couldn’t last forever. Not too far off, they would have to leave this place and Cadfael would go back to being cold and lonely.
Ynes came back in as they cuddled and smiled so tenderly at the two of them that Cadfael couldn’t help but smile back at her. It made her breath catch in her chest and her cheeks go red. When Anwyn let go of Cadfael she crowed at Ynes’ expression.
“You are so smitten!” Anwyn chortled as she pointed at Ynes.
“Anwyn,” Ynes grumbled. Her grumpy expression went away as soon as Cadfael held out a hand to invite her to sit next to him.
“It’s okay,” Cadfael said as he whacked Anwyn’s shoulder hard enough to make her wince. “Annie is just being difficult.”
“Don’t want to cause trouble for you and Macario, Cadfael,” Ynes said. Her weight made the cushions shift though not as badly as if Cadfael had been there alone. Anwyn’s weight helped keep him from sliding right into Ynes’ side. “I’m glad that the two of you got together. Everyone is.”
“It is nice,” Cadfael said shyly enough that he got the delighted expression from Ynes and a snort of amusement from Anwyn. “But it’s not officially acceptable. I know that. You’re the one I can be openly attracted to, Ynes. Don’t feel bad about talking to me or even flirting a little. It makes me happy and Macario always looks delighted when you do it.”
Ynes laughed her booming laugh at that, draping one arm over the back of the bench. It ended up almost, but not quite, wrapped around Cadfael’s shoulders. He squirmed a little but leaned back into Ynes’ arm as his cheeks burned at how daring he was being. Anwyn snickered at him while Ynes stared at him as if she couldn’t believe her luck today.
“You can always insist that Caddie be the one to do all future negotiations,” Anwyn said slyly as she scooted away from Cadfael and Ynes’ not-quite snuggling.
Ynes lit up with delight. “That’s a wonderful idea, Annie! I think I’ll talk my sisters into doing exactly that.”
Cadfael laughed and shook his head at both of them. It was a welcome idea, one that would allow him the freedom to return to Ntombi again and again, at least until his family arranged a marriage back home. Then his wife would have a say in where he went and what he did. Maybe he could convince their mother that he should marry another trader, one with experience in Ntombi. That would at least let him visit Macario and Ynes, if not stay in their home the same way. He smiled and shrugged when both Anwyn and Ynes looked at him with worry.
“Just thinking about leaving,” Cadfael said. “I’ll be fine. There are still another couple of weeks, twenty-some days, to go before we depart. It’s all right. So why did you two want to talk to me today? I had planned on hammering out some details of the treaty with Macario this morning before he had to get back to his other duties.”
“Ah, we have an idea for a future trade deal,” Ynes said enthusiastically enough that Cadfael squirmed to get more comfortable in the crook of her arm. “You really liked the Zina silk and Anwyn thinks that it might sell very well in Aingeal. We were thinking that it might make a very good trade item.”
Anwyn nodded and began gesturing as if measuring out a moderate sized box or a bale. “They can produce it in pretty large quantities, Caddie. Think about it. Bales of silk traded for bales of Dana fabric. I think it might do pretty well on both sides. You know how much silk costs back home. Having another source of it that’s easier to take care of could make the family buckets of money.”
“It is very nice fabric,” Cadfael said thoughtfully. “Quantities and quality will be the big issue. Plus making sure that the dyes we use back home would work on the Zina silk. It could be a very lucrative trade item if we can make it work.”
Ynes and Anwyn exchanged delighted looks, as if they’d expected him to automatically refuse to consider the idea. He chuckled behind an upraised hand. At this point he had no idea if it would be a good deal, but they could always bring samples back for the rest of the family to check out. The more diversified their trade was the better it would be for both sides. More importantly to Cadfael, the more things they had to trade the more excuses he would have to come back to Ntombi and see both Macario and Ynes.
“Have you sewn anything with it yet?” Anwyn asked.
“No, but I really haven’t had the time for that sort of thing,” Cadfael said. He smiled when Macario appeared at the doorway, waving for him to come in. “They have an interesting idea, vli’Macario’blim. They think it might be worth looking at trading Zina silk for Dana fabric.”
“Really?” Macario said. He blushed as Anwyn got up and moved to the opposite side of the room, leaving Cadfael’s other side open for him.
Macario sat gingerly by Cadfael’s side, as if he was afraid that someone was going to yell at him for getting too close to Cadfael while he was sitting with Ynes. Cadfael could feel the warmth of his thigh but they weren’t actually touching. After a second Cadfael reached out and captured Macario’s hand. He squeezed gently, well aware that he was shaking with nervousness at being so bold.
To Cadfael’s surprise, Macario jumped and then stared at their joined hands. After a moment he laughed quietly and leaned close to kiss Cadfael’s cheek. Ynes chortled her delight at that. Her fingers caressed the back of Cadfael’s neck in a gesture that felt comforting instead of possessive. Across the room Anwyn smiled at them, her eyes wry and amused instead of disapproving.
“So,” Cadfael said or at least he tried to. The single word came out distorted and wrong as his throat was far too tight. He cleared his throat and tried again. “So, why don’t you tell us what you two were thinking about? I thought that the Second House was interested in weapons, not fabric.”
“That’s the thing,” Anwyn said, instantly enthused about her idea. “They can use the heavy Dana fabric for uniforms, Caddie. It’s nearly as thick as canvas but more giving when worn. I showed Ynes some of my jackets that I wear in cooler areas and she thought that if it was quilted it would make great padding under the armor.”
“She explained that it’s very hard to cut,” Ynes agreed, looking nearly as enthusiastic as Anwyn about the idea. “That’s great for armor, you know.”
“You do need special scissors,” Cadfael allowed. “And it is very, very durable. It might work quite well. I don’t think I brought any samples with me but if you’d sacrifice one of your jackets we could do up some samples, Annie.”
Anwyn grinned and jumped to her feet. “Let me go get my second favorite jacket and you can do just that, Caddie.”
She ran out of the meeting room before Cadfael could say anything. He shook his head at Anwyn’s endless enthusiasm. Maybe if he was lucky she’d take some extra time before she came back. Cadfael could do with spending some time alone with Macario and Ynes, even if the door was open and anyone could walk in. For one brief moment, Cadfael allowed himself to dream of spending all his days with the two of them.
Ynes would be his wife, the one that he saw from time to time and got to father children with. Macario would be the one that he worked with daily and whose bed he shared every night. He’d be safe and loved, cherished between the two of them. It was a beautiful dream that Cadfael didn’t honestly think he would ever get to have.
As much as he wanted this as his life, Cadfael didn’t think he would ever be given the opportunity to marry into Ynes and Macario’s family.
NOTE: You can find explanations of the various prefixes and suffixes, as well as a sorta-dictionary, sorta-story on Ntombi over here.
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