The Story So Far: Polly, kidnapped by an enchanter and his trainee and thrown in with a princess, discovers that she and her new companions are all are being threatened by a malevolent magical being known as a jadess. Can she get along with the arrogant enchanter long enough to figure out how to survive with a jadess after them? And … why does the jadess want Polly? Chapter 1 is here.
Chapter 17B:The Result
I fell to the ground and wept out all my anger, the warm Chaldean sun on my back calming me. Around me the busy hum of bees made a soothing sound. I took deep, shuddering gasps as the tears leaked out.
“Lady Penelope,” came a voice. I looked up. The Rajah was striding across the grove to me, looking extremely dark in the warm sunshine. I stood quickly, determined he should at least not see me cry.
“Lady,” he said as he reached me. His features weren’t tense with anger, as I had expected, but wide and open. I was ashamed to see a red splotch across one cheek.
“I must apologise,” he said.
That was the last thing I expected, and it nearly made me lose control. I gulped deeply and blinked in reply.
Tears leaked out. “I’m – sorry. You must think me more uncouth than ever.” I swiped furiously at my eye.
“Ah!” said the Rajah, looking as if he suddenly understood it all. “You heard that.”
“I am not deaf, and you did not speak in private.”
He looked taken aback. I felt a stab of satisfaction. Then I remembered he’d said he wanted to apologise, and I realised I had to at least give him a chance.
Carefully, I arranged my skirts and shook off the dirt of the orange grove.
“I am ashamed to admit you are right,” the Rajah went on, slowly. “That was, perhaps, unfeeling – and cruel too, if you like to put it that way.”
Gradually I was regaining control, so I nodded.
“I’m terrible,” I said. “I don’t belong at court – I shouldn’t let my mouth run away like that – I don’t know how to behave properly. I’m an embarrassment.”
If I got kicked out of court, I’d let down everyone, but after the way my stint here was going, it might be for the best.
“Perhaps you are.” His face looked amused. “But the people of the city find you intriguing.”
“A blasted Tigress,” I said bitterly. My fan was still in my hand, and I snapped it in half, letting the shards of ivory fall to my feet. No one in Angaria would let a flower girl like me anywhere near the court. Maybe for good reason, as it was turning out.
“I came to apologise,” said the Rajah, “Because – you did incense me, you know. It is a ruler’s duty to be fair in all his assessments, and you made me realize I did not do you justice. What you said was true. If, perhaps, put a little bluntly.”
“You must be used to it,” I said, sniffling a bit. “Chaldean women lose their temper all the time.”
“Not to me,” he replied.
Maria had told me he preferred meek-tempered women. And he did have trouble when anyone stood up to him. But, looking at him standing there in the sunlight, I felt a twinge of sympathy. Perhaps I enjoyed speaking my mind too much. But to be someone who never had people speak their mind to you…
He shrugged. “Well, Lady Penelope…”
“Please,” I put in, “if it isn’t too rude, please don’t call me Penelope. Most in Angaria call me Polly.”
“Lady Polly?” he said. He nodded. “The name suits you.”
“Thank you,” I replied, and decided in return it was time to be polite. “Most Exalted…”
“If I call you Polly, you must call me Rinaldo,” he said, “Before I go crazy at titles.”
“But – I thought you liked titles,” I answered, remembering what Maria DeAballah had told me.
“Only for pomp and ceremony,” he replied. “When I want to be imposing.”
I laughed. Though I could not for the life of me imagine calling him that.
He looked at me. “Tell me truthfully,” he said, “Do you know Maria DeAballah?”
“A little,” I admitted. “Why?”
“Because you remind me of her,” he replied.
“She – taught me Chaldean manners,” I told him. “Casper hired her to, because he was afraid I would embarrass myself at court when I came to visit him. Not that it helped.”
“Oh, you must not remember what I said,” he answered. “I am not always in the best mood when talking with my officers. They’re always hounding me to get married.”
Perhaps I could forgive him, though it had stung.
He turned to me. “You were right about the Enchanter too, you know. I’ve felt guilty about him ever since I trapped him here, though I don’t know what else to do. But I did not know he was a gypsy.”
I nodded. He shrugged.
“I’ve been thinking about repairing the feud my grandfather started with the Sabeans,” he said.
I moved my head approvingly, combing out the tangles in my tresses. “That would be wise.”
He looked at me and laughed. “You are some Tigress. But anyway, I want to repair this feud too. Would you consent to being friends?”
I tried to seem casual. ”Only if you take back the other insult you made on my friends.”
“You mean the princess?” the Rajah asked. “That was a statement too far, I admit. You Angarians and your loyalty to your royal family! Just as if you knew the princess – if only some of that loyalty extended to Chaldean rulers as well!”
But he grinned. “I take it back. So – Lady Polly. Friends?”
“Alright, I’ll call a truce,” I answered, and shook his hand. “Friends.”