"Didn't they teach you anything at the Academy?"
Silk came to consciousness slowly and saw Liselle standing over him with only a hint of her dimples showing. "Or did you just not listen when they told you to never trust circumstances too good to be true?"
He groaned and felt his head for lumps. There weren't any, but he felt it was taking a strange amount of time for him to wake up properly.
"Oret," Liselle supplied helpfully. "How did he poison the legendary Silk of Boktor, with something as obvious as oret?"
Silk pushed himself up onto his elbows and squinted up at her. "I was drunk." he mumbled.
"Really," she said icily, all hint of a smile gone. "I thought it was normal protocol to not drink on missions of state." Liselle folded her arms and glared at the rat faced little man on the ground.
"You know what," he said warily, struggling to get up, "I think I'll just go outside and have some food."
"This will all be in my report to Javelin," she said waspishly to his retreating back. They both knew why she was so annoyed- it was just another in a long list of things he had let her down on.
Liselle remembered the royal banquet that evening, and sighed. If Silk didn't appear with her, rumours would fly- unhelpful for two visiting spies.
The kinglet of Pallia was a scrawny, pockmarked man even smaller than Silk. He sat at the high table wearing a lurid orange doublet that clashed horribly with his simpering wife's bright pink dress.
Liselle, of course, had guessed that Silk would try and outsmart her by wearing subdued grey instead of his usual flamboyant doublets , so she wore a vibrant blue gown that Silk perfectly offset.
When he finally arrived in the small antechamber where they waited to be announced, he scowled at her and then laughed. "You're very good," he said ruefully.
"Well, I wouldn't be Hunter if I wasn't, would I?"
Silk held out his arm as the guests in front of him were heralded in to the banquet hall. "Shall we?"
Velvet took his arm and caught a whit of his spicy, exotic cologne. She let herself bask in this small moment of touching until the herald announced their names.
"His highness, Prince Kheldar of Drasnia, and the Margravine Liselle of Boktor!"
They swept into the room, his smile impish and hers slightly lofty. Taking their seats among the assorted Karandese nobility, Liselle smoothed her skirts out and they waited for the food to arrive.
Karandese food was extremely spicy, and they both knew which dishes to look out for and which to avoid. However Silk misjudged an innocent looking green curry and ended up cursing profoundly and groping about for water.
"Language, Kheldar," Liselle said calmly, finishing a bowl of the same curry while he gasped out expletives.
After eating their fill, the two spies made their excuses and left the hall, having seen all they needed to. On the way up to their chambers, they discussed what they had observed. The reason for them attending the banquet was purely political, and they had gleaned much from their neighbour's idle gossip.
They parted ways at the top of the stairs and Silk undressed, thinking very hard about something not entirely political.
His problem was Liselle. The one they called Velvet had grown up from the young girl who used to pull his nose, to a lush woman who could constantly outsmart him and then make his knees weak by flashing her dimples at him.
The more he thought about it, the more his hunger grew for something that had never happened with Porenn. He slipped on a loose robe and crept along the hall to her chambers, remembering exactly what had happened last time he did this.
Just as he raised his hand to knock, her door opened, and he found himself facing her.
"You got here first, then." she said quietly and slightly, Silk thought, seductively.
Silk inclined his head to her room. "May I?"
She stepped back and allowed him to enter. She turned away to close the door and looked back to find him stretched on her bed, his robe spread open.
"My, my," she said, eying him appreciatively.
"Liselle," he said, suddenly serious. "We know each other too well for this."
"This," he said, sweeping his hand.
"Sneaking around at night, you mean?"
Silk nodded. "It was fine when we were fulfilling the prophecy, but it's hardly necessary now, is it?" He paused and gazed at her, trying to find his next words. "I mean, it's not like rank's a problem."
Liselle came and sat on the bed next to him, and he put his head in her lap.
"I know, but it adds a certain kind of thrill, don't you think?" she said, stroking his hair.
"I dream of announcing you at court back home as my fiancée. Liselle, Princess of Drasnia."
She smiled. "I always forget that if I marry you I'd be a princess. You act so... unprincely."
"That's kind of the point." he sat up and started almost lazily undoing her dress.
"You certainly don't look the part," she said, running her fingers over his scraggly beard.
"Ambar of Kotu does," Silk muttered, as he jiggled the last catch on her corset free.
She moved the pile of daggers he had extracted from her to a side table.
"You've got more daggers than I have," he said admiringly.
Finally, as she lay naked beside him, Silk reflected that, if nothing else, he would be content just to lie here with her in his arms. As far as Liselle was concerned, she would go to Hell and back if it meant he would hold her like this.
A few weeks later, after assassinating the Grolim hiding in the court of Pallia, they arrived back in Boktor with a decision made.
Bowing floridly in front of Queen Porenn, he announced, "Now, dear Auntie, may I present to you my fiancée, the Margravine Liselle."
Porenn smirked at him. "And so, the Huntress has caught her prey at last."