Hope you guys enjoy the new chapter!
By Meyari McFarland
Chapter Thirty-Six: Approval at Last
Silence fell once more and this time Cadfael joined the others in holding his breath in anticipation. Queen Jaleesa sighed, rubbing her forehead as if Cadfael had just given her a horrible headache. He couldn’t stop himself from shaking visibly as the silence stretched onwards. Anwyn put a hand on his back, cupping his elbow as if afraid he was about to pass out. Cadfael gulped a breath of air when he realized that passing out was a real danger.
He kept his eyes locked on Queen Jaleesa as he reminded himself that this wasn’t absolutely no. If she did say no Cadfael would go home and argue Mother into fighting for him. There was no way he was going to give Macario and Ynes up, no matter how much of a pest he had to be.
Finally, after what seemed like an eternity to Cadfael, Queen Jaleesa looked at him and Ynes. She nodded once, which was apparently all that was needed for her to grant approval because Ynes shouted in joy. Raisa let loose a war whoop that startled Cadfael enough that he almost fell down while Efia and Faiza jumped up and down while hugging each other. Princess T’Kelah shook her head at them while laughing quietly behind one hand at the rapidly spreading cheering. It wasn’t just the immediate family cheering after a couple of moments. Cadfael could hear people shouting and cheering down the women’s quarters and after a moment there was excited screaming from the men’s quarters too.
“The one time you needed your Dana blood and it came through for you,” Anwyn murmured into Cadfael’s ear. “So proud, Caddie.”
He laughed only to squawk as Ynes scooped him up and swinging him through the air like a little boy only to pull him close for a kiss that was full of the laughter that had always defined Ynes to him. Cadfael kissed her back, locking his hands around her braids to keep her from pulling back too soon.
It was severely public as first kisses went, but at least no one would doubt that their marriage was real this way. Once they finally let each other’s lips go, Ynes held him on one arm, her other hand wrapped around his waist. It made Cadfael laugh. He knew he was short but this was a little ridiculous. She held Cadfael effortlessly, as though he was a child. Ynes’ expression was anything but maternal though. His cheeks went bright red at how hot Ynes’ eyes were as she stared at him.
“You’re sure about this?” Queen Jaleesa asked once the celebration died down to background sounds of celebration and the kids still screaming in delight in the men’s quarters.
“Yes!” Ynes declared.
“Very much so,” Cadfael agreed. “This is everything I’ve ever wanted, Your Majesty.”
“You know how much I wanted to marry him, Queen Jaleesa,” Ynes said. “I’ve argued with you about it ever since they arrived. He’s perfect, and I don’t want anyone else by my side as my husband.”
“All right, ush’Ynes’slom, vluu’Cad-fael’bram,” Queen Jaleesa sighed, abruptly adding the prefixes and suffixes that ordinary people used. It was so much more intimate than the royal forms she had used that Cadfael shivered and blushed. “Fine. I expect that your family will want to do some negotiation, yes?”
Cadfael nodded in time with Anwyn. “Inevitably. The negotiations might take several years, honestly. But if you approve then it shouldn’t be impossible.”
Queen Jaleesa snorted and threw up her hands in a gesture that turned them over to the Goddesses and the Ladies carved on the doors to the harem. Her expression suggested that she gave up because mere mortal women couldn’t possibly handle something like this. Ynes cheered again, pulling Cadfael into a second kiss that was every bit as wonderful as the first. He sort of wished that he could run back into the men’s quarters and stay, but that wasn’t going to happen. Cadfael knew that. It might take a couple of years before he was home to stay but at least now there was no doubt that this was his home.
“So happy I get to marry you, beautiful boy,” Ynes whispered while rubbing her nose against the tip of Cadfael’s nose. “I’ll keep you safe and love you just as much as Macario does.”
“I do like you too, Ynes,” Cadfael said just as quietly. “It’s not just Macario. You’re sweet and funny and so wonderfully protective. You make me feel safe. I do want to be your husband for real. I just want Macario, too.”
“That’s fine by me, little one,” Ynes said.
She glanced over her shoulder to the door to the men’s quarters. Macario was there, hands over his mouth as he cried. Jinhai was hugging him while Hamid rubbed his back. Azizi and Dankov both had their hands full keeping the boys from running out to demand hugs. Cadfael laughed and waved to them all. He was fairly certain that his heart was in his eyes as Macario waved back with a hand that visibly shook.
“Tide’s going out soon,” Anwyn commented. “We need to either get going or stay another day.”
“All right,” Cadfael said. “Let’s go. The sooner we get home then the sooner I’ll get to come back here to stay.”
Ynes grinned. “Let’s get you out to that coach and then on the ship. I’ll escort you two back to your ship and make sure that everyone on board knows that you’re mine. That should keep any hands from wandering where they shouldn’t be.”
“Thank you!” Cadfael said, beaming at her. “Makes me wish you were coming back with us.”
“Oh no, you are not stealing my best general, vluu’Cadfael’bram,” Queen Jaleesa huffed as they all trooped out to the waiting carriage. Her far more impressive carriage sat off to the side, draft animals untethered and munching on the thorn bushes inside the wall. “I need her right here. We’ve got too many battles to fight for her to go haring off to the other side of the world to flirt.”
Ynes just laughed so Cadfael laughed with her. She set him in the carriage like a fragile flower that needed to be protected, giving Anwyn a hand up only to settle by Cadfael’s side. He blushed and leaned into her side, well aware that it was the first time they’d cuddled in public. Their many talks in private certainly didn’t count. Anwyn grinned at the two of them, bouncing on her seat as the carriage smoothly began to roll. When Cadfael looked back the entire family was waving goodbye, Macario included. His tears were gone, replaced by a delighted grin that split his face in half. Cadfael waved at them until they went around a corner and lost sight of everyone. Then he sighed and set his head on Ynes’ shoulder.
“You did so good,” Anwyn chortled. “Seriously, I tried to offer your hand but Queen Jaleesa turned me down flat. Three times. I can’t believe you got her to accept.”
“I’ve been asking for permission to propose since your arrival, Caddie,” Ynes agreed. “Queen Jaleesa was sure that we were blowing things out of proportion. She wouldn’t listen.”
“Didn’t want to listen, you mean,” Anwyn grumbled.
“I don’t care,” Cadfael declared before Anwyn could go off on a rant about people not listening to women who were too short. “I want this. I’ve wanted it practically since we arrived. If she’d said no I would have gone home and battled all of our relatives for the right to come back. If that didn’t work then I would have insisted on the right to be a slave in the household for a year.”
Anwyn stared at him, mouth dropped open for a moment. “And how would that have improved things? Even if Mother allowed you do any such thing. You still wouldn’t be married to Ynes.”
“No, but I would be living in the house that I love with the people I care about,” Cadfael said while rolling his eyes. “I would have had a full year to overcome Queen Jaleesa’s disapproval and that’s more than long enough to work a deal, even for me.”
That made Anwyn nod thoughtfully. Cadfael let her think. It gave him more time to cuddle with Ynes. The trip home was probably going to be just as horrible as the trip here had been. Over the last forty days he’d done his best to gain back all the weight he’d lost and then a little bit more. The waistband on his petticoats and kilt were a bit tight. Hopefully he wouldn’t lose everything he’d gained. Getting home so sick and weak from his perennial sea sickness would be horrible since Cadfael was fairly certain he’d have to fight Mother and his other female relatives to have the proposal taken seriously. As long as Anwyn backed him up, though, it should be fine.
Ula was waiting when they got to the port, standing on the dock with one hand on her back. Her belly had grown while they were in Ntombi. It was obvious now that she was pregnant though she hadn’t had to start wearing her shirt untucked yet. Cadfael made a mental note to check with her once they were under way about making adjustable panels for her pants so that she could keep wearing them. Ynes helped him out of the carriage and held his hand as they made their way up the dock to Ula’s side. Anwyn handed Cadfael’s jewelry box to him while the driver and one of the ships’ sailors had their trunks.
“This is new,” Ula commented once they reached her side.
“Caddie proposed to Ynes,” Anwyn explained with a huge grin on her face. “Ynes said yes once Queen Jaleesa approved it.”
“Really?” Ula said with enough delight that Ynes grinned at her and Cadfael blushed. “Congratulations to you both, then.”
“This really isn’t unheard of in Aingeal,” Ynes commented quietly to Cadfael. “A male proposing to a female, I mean.”
“Mmm, not unheard of but very rare,” Cadfael admitted. He shrugged shyly. “Two of my uncles and one of my cousins has done it, though the cousin proposed to another man. I refuse to let you and Macario go. Ever. I just had to work up the courage and make sure that Queen Jaleesa couldn’t say no.”
Ynes laughed and picked him up for another hug and kiss that lasted at least half of forever. The sailors on the ship cheered until Anwyn cursed at them in Aingealese and yelled their engagement to the heavens. Once she did that the sailors on the other ships started cheering, shouting horribly bad versions of Ynes’ battle cry. Pretty soon the port was as noisy as Ynes’ house had been. Cadfael spared a moment to wonder if the celebration would spread across the city and then shook it off. It hardly mattered. All that mattered was that he was going to get to come back and stay someday.
“Take care of my boy for me, Captain Ula,” Ynes said as she set Cadfael back down.
“I promise to deliver him home safely and then back again, Lady Ynes,” Ula replied. “We’d best go if we want to catch the tide.”
“Be careful,” Cadfael told Ynes as he caught her hands and pulled her down for a quick kiss that lasted longer than he expected. “Don’t get hurt while I’m gone.”
“You take care of yourself too, Caddie,” Ynes said, gently tapping his nose with one fingertip. “Come back soon.”
She let Cadfael go, nodding as Ula put a hand on Cadfael’s back to escort him back onto the ship. Unlike the departure from Aingeal, Cadfael stayed by the rail and waved to Ynes until they were out of sight. Only then did he go to his cabin. His heart hurt a little with the knowledge that he wouldn’t see Ynes and Macario for months, at least half a year, but it didn’t hurt as bad as it could have. Someday not too far off he’d return to Ntombi and never have to leave again.
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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