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The Phantom Nature Stands

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It was a few years before they could return to Australia, in the aftermath of the war, and of the British government figuring out what, exactly, they wanted to do with Laurence, as well as what they could do with him, given popular sentiment. While Laurence certainly appreciated the others coming to his defense, he felt no small amount of bittersweet gratitude when a contingent from the Lords suggested he might be the perfect ambassador to keep an eye on the growing trade route between China and Australia.

Further, while Roland was certainly capable of taking over as Excidium’s captain, Jane wasn’t quite ready to step aside. In the interest of grooming Roland for diplomacy, rather than solely for warfare, Laurence was given charge to act as a glorified chaperone as she acquainted herself with a number of courtly maneuvers. (Though, to be entirely fair, Roland was often more prepared for these machinations than Laurence was.)

Aside from the occasional state occasion, though, Laurence was able to leave Roland to her tutors (both human and otherwise), and enjoy his retreat. While Temeraire ventured out frequently to meet with friends or gather more books to read, Laurence was content to putter about what Jane called, in her letters, his “estate,” as well as Temeraire’s pavilion and its accompanying barracks.

Then, one day, a dragon’s shadow passed over him, and when he looked up, it wasn’t Temeraire’s silhouette he saw. As Excidium settled outside the pavilion, Jane hopped, slid, and landed in front of Laurence, a devilish smile adorning her face, likely in response to his own expression: agog.

“I thought you wouldn’t mind a drop-in,” she laughed, and then Laurence had her in his arms, and that was that.