Ash, and Ob, and Pur, and Ferntongue,
Meadowsweet, Harefoot, and Fen -
these are the names of the hounds she runs:
wherever she runs, whenever she runs,
Moonwoman runs with a train of Moonlit dogs.
Lissar snorted, attempting to disguise the fact by looking down at Ash. Ossin moved uncomfortably. “I’m sorry, you know. It’s just - it’s not very politic to forbid them to talk about - her.”
She shook her head. “I know. I wouldn’t mind, if I didn’t have to sit and listen politely.” She looked down the table to the small dais where the musicians were. “Also, if anyone troubled to ask me how it went -”
“You’d never discuss it with one of them. It’s pulling teeth for your husband to get a word out of you on the subject.”
“And he was there for much of it! Yes, yes, I know. I can only tell so much at once.”
Ossin scratched under Ash’s chin, and was silent. The musicians finished their song and began another, thankfully instrumental. “What if - No, that’s a terrible idea. Never mind.”
Lissar looked at him sideways, tilting her head slightly in a way that always made him think of Ash disapproving of something. He shook his head, and grinned as guests began forming a dance. “Will you honor me, Greatness?”
Lissar laughed and rose, courtseying as the Goldhouse court had not seen until its newest houndswoman borrowed a ball gown. Now, courtiers and palace guests had some idea of what they might expect from their prince and princess, and sighed a small sigh that became greater as it traveled to the end of the hall.
Ossin bowed, and then straightened his shoulders and offered his arm. Ossin said nothing for their first few turns and Lissar was happy to concentrate on where she put her feet. She’d been up before dawn for a difficult whelping, leaving the kennels in too little time to be as prepared for the evening’s festivities as her maid would have preferred. She twitched a little as Ossin steered her helpfully around the chatty court ladies and back into the throng.
“Thank you. I think I could not have been civil had Lady Stout asked my opinion of the new song.”
Ossin only smiled. “How is Harefoot? I had hoped she would wait a day or two so that both of us could sit with her for the whelping.”
“She is well, and the puppies. Broody, but well enough. I was quite worried for her first litter as she’s so young yet, but once she’d met them, all was well.” As the tune played out, Ossin nodded to one of the attendants who bowed and moved to the refreshments table.
Lissar was content to return to her chair.. She had just remembered her slippers, which were tucked under her footstool neatly. She carefully arranged her gown as she sat, spreading the skirts and smoothing away wrinkles. Incidentally, of course, her skirts now enveloped her footstool and the errant slippers. Ossin, who had studiously not noticed her missing footwear throughout the evening, handed her a cup of mulled wine.
Ash, who had waited patiently while her people circled around the hall, felt that this was a bit excessive, and insinuated her nose into Lissar’s lap, where she laid her head with a longsuffering expression. Lissar tickled Ash’s ears and sipped the wine, and asked Ossin, “What was it, before we danced? You seemed quite inspired.”
He shook himself a bit, which only increased his sudden resemblance to one of his hounds, particularly when the dog in question was on an errand he knew would draw a scolding. “I only thought, what if -” He broke off, nodding to the doorway to the hall, where Daylily was speaking to the footman whose duty tonight was announcing guests - and events.
“My Lords, Ladies, and gentlefolk, the Princess is ready for her bedtime story, and asks that you will excuse her parents for a short while.” The assembly smiled, and sighed, and flowed to the sides of the hall, as Ossin and Lissar and Ash rose (Lissar had put her slippers on when she saw Daylily,) bowed and courtseyed from the dais, and proceeded down the hall to follow Daylily to the nursery, Ash’s nails clicking until they reached the carpeted stairs.
The music resumed as they climbed the short flight of stairs, and passed their own apartments to the nursery which had been set up in Camilla’s old rooms. Daylily courtseyed them into the room, and Ossin sighed quietly. Lissar only smiled, and went directly to their daughter.
Calla smiled and gurgled, and Lissar sat in the rocking chair next to the small bed. Ash went to the opposite side of the bed, and reached her nose to touch Calla’s other hand. Calla laughed, and patted Ash’s cold nose as Ossin leaned against the wall, across the bed from Lissar. As she took their daughter’s hand and drew a breath, he suddenly stirred. Lissar looked up, and he grinned at her.
“I was thinking, what if I wrote down Calla’s bedtime stories? I’m sure she’d love to read them as she grows, and if we had them printed, then the poets would at least have a reliable source for all their fantasies.”
Lissar laughed. “I will do it for Calla. If someone else happens to read the stories, of course I cannot be responsible for what they might do with them.” She smiled at him, and he grinned back, leaning back into his customary slouch as she looked back to their daughter, and began.
Some time ago, in a far country, there was a princess named Lissla Lissar. She was a lonely girl, for her parents were quite busy being the king and queen of her country. As Lissar grew, her closest companion was her nurse, Huldah, who every night told her tales of her mother and father and their great love for each other. One day, Lissar’s mother grew quite ill and died. All the kings of the neighboring countries sent ministers with messages of sympathy for Lissar’s country’s loss. One neighboring prince, Ossin Goldhouse, sent Ash, a puppy from his favorite bitch’s last litter, for Lissar.
But, my daughter, this is only the beginning of the story.