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"It's exactly what we need," Cazaril heard his own voice saying. "We'll have enough space to entertain when it's necessary. And it's connected to Iselle and Bergon's apartments by that secret passage."

"Relatively secret," Iselle amended.

"Well, yes." Cazaril bent the corners of his mouth upward into what he fervently hoped was a plausible smile. "But convenient no less. I'll be able to attend you in an instant even in the middle of the night."

"Mmm," said Bergon. He was watching Cazaril carefully.

Cazaril fought to keep his face from showing the panic that wrenched his gut as persistently as Dondo's soul ever had. He cleared his throat and gave a brisk nod. "In any case, as I have no other home to offer Betriz once we are wed, the chancellor's official residence is both our best and our only option."

"You don't have to offer me a home," said Betriz, who sat beside him on a low, padded bench. Her hand, tucked in the bend of his elbow, gave his arm a little squeeze. "I'm sure Iselle and Bergon could spare us a room or two here in the castle, if we asked them nicely."

Her words were light, but her eyes were worried. Normally, it pleased him no end that she read him as well as she did, but this one time he wished he could have been a little less transparent.

To Betriz, and to everyone else in this room, actually.

Iselle, looking much more concerned than Cazaril would have liked, smiled a little at Betriz's words. "Of course we would, if you asked nicely. But on the other hand, you may soon have a lot of little dy Cazarils running around—you may be glad of the privacy in the chancellor's residence."

Little dy Cazarils. Cazaril's pulse jolted at the royina's words. All the more reason not to try to live in that place—

"It's all right," said Lady Ista suddenly, from her seat by the fireplace. "It will be all right."

Startled, Cazaril turned to face her.

She met his gaze with eyes that were clear and steady, and not vague in the least. "It was never really his house."

Cazaril didn't have to ask who she meant.

"It belongs to the roya or the royina, and he only lived there at Orico's pleasure." The corner of her mouth quirked; painfully, Cazaril thought. "It was Arvol's house just as much as it was ever dy Jironal's, you know. More, really, as Arvol had it longer."

"Mother's right." Iselle looked relieved. "And there were dozens and dozens of chancellors before dy Lutez, too. Dy Jironal was only a—" She scrambled briefly for a passable metaphor. "A pebble on the beach of history."

"Give the walls a fresh coat of whitewash," said Ista. "Change the furniture and the tapestries." She grimaced. "For the gods' sake, choose a different bedchamber. But you two, and your children, will fill the house with your own lives and your own memories. It will be all right."

Cazaril let his breath out slowly. The tightness in his chest eased for the first time since he had realized, days ago, where he was going to have to live after the wedding. He smiled at Betriz, a real smile this time, and felt the same swell of joy that always came when she smiled back.

"I suppose it will," he said slowly. "It will if we truly choose to make it so."

. * fin * .