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Welcome Blessings

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The coronation was an event unprecedented in the history of Welce. Not only was a new king being crowned, but the coronation was an opportunity for neighbor nations to send delegates—those that were on good terms with Welce, that is.

Ambassador Corene of Welce, the former Princess and daughter to the king-to-be, greeted an old acquaintance at the main reception. “Garameno, what a pleasure to see you again!” Corene smiled wickedly at him and took his arm to guide him further into the palace kierten. “Have you met my father, the king-to-be?”

Darien Serlast stood in a central part of the kierten, with Zoe, his wife and coru prime at his side. They were a solid center around which the courtiers and ambassadors swirled. Corene cut through the dance of diplomacy with her charge and brought Garameno directly to her father.

“Darien Serlast, soon to be King of Welce, may I introduce Garameno, heir to the Empress of Malinqua.” Corene curtsied prettily, leading Garameno to bow deeply.

“Sir. Welcome to Welce. I look forward to our meeting tomorrow to discuss trade and good relations between our respective countries.” Darien gave a short, stiff bow, while a smile ghosted over his wife’s features.

Zoe stepped in. “I’m sure you have heard many things about our temples. Corene, why don’t you bring your friend to the nearest temple after lunch? You can pull blessings for our new trade agreements before the official meeting.”

With a light laugh, Corene agreed.

~*~*~*~

The lunch was, of course, far too long. Corene did her best to entertain, but Garameno was lost in thought. After the lunch, she walked with him to the nearest temple for blessings. Garameno remained silent, though the walk was filled with the noise and color of the Plaza of Men.

“What’s the matter?” Corene asked bluntly. “You’re miles away.”

Garameno gave her one of his piercing, intelligent stares. “My cousin is due here tomorrow, as the representative from Cozique.” He paused, allowing her to absorb the information.

Corene was not impressed. “Yes? I know he’s coming—I wrote the invitation myself.”

“He has not communicated officially with Malinqua since his departure to be the husband of Melissande of Cozique.”

“Did something happen?”

Garameno looked away. “He argued, well, we argued about his arrangement. The Empress didn’t think it was suitable, and I thought he was running away from his responsibilities in Malinqua. We all shouted at each other, and before we knew it, he was on the ship to Cozique.”

“Why?” asked Corene. “They knew what they were getting into. They like each other. I’m sure Jiramondi can bend enough to get Melissande an heir or two. What’s the problem?” They reached the temple, which was surprisingly quiet. Only one person, a man in a dark blue cloak, rested on the coru bench.

“The problem is that he will continue to be…what he is.” Garameno replied. “If he’s going to father children, it should be in Malinqua, where he belongs!”

Corene nodded. Her time as an ambassador had taught her more lessons in dealing with the small minded. “So, because you and your grandmother don’t accept Jiramondi’s decision, he hasn’t contacted you personally.”

Garameno nodded. “We have received news from our ambassador to Cozique and from different ship captains, but nothing directly from him.”

“Why would you expect anything directly from him? You--and your grandmother--made it clear that this part of his life disgusts you. He has found people who like him and care about him for himself. So why should he waste any time on family members who find him repulsive?”

Garameno stared at her in shock. “I don’t find him repulsive!” His face reddened in anger.

“But you aren’t comfortable with him being sublime. You don’t accept him completely, and certainly not his choice to marry Melissande.” Corene stood tall and looked Garameno in the eye. “He’s your cousin. You and your grandmother should accept him as he is.”

“Why are you saying these things to me?” Now Garameno sounded angry.

“Because Jiramondi is my friend too. And he’s married to my friend.” Corene crossed her arms and glared. “Now lower your voice. This is a temple.” She reached into the bowl and ran her fingers through the blessing coins. “Do you want me to choose for you? My sister should be here—she picks the best blessings.”

“I don’t think I’m in the right frame of mind for blessings right now,” said Garameno.

Corene just smiled at him. “Then you need blessings even more.” She swirled her hands through the blessings and pulled three out, all the while holding his gaze. She held them out, and he took them one by one.

“What do they mean?” Garameno asked quietly. His anger and shock seemed to have drained away.

She pointed to them, one by one, as he held them in the palm of his hand. “This is kindness, clarity, and surprise.”

That made Garameno smile. “Surprise? How is that a blessing?”

The figure in the blue cloak stood suddenly and lowered the hood. Jiramondi stood before his cousin with a smirk on his face. “Surprise!”

Corene stepped forward and put a calming hand on Garameno’s arm. “He arrived a few days ago, and asked me to help him talk to you privately.”

“What happened?” Garameno asked. “I know we argued, but we snipe at each other all the time!”

“What happened?” Jiramondi looked at Corene helplessly. “Grandmother practically accused me of being a lying pervert and you stood by and let her! The idea that Melissande would be all right with me the way I am was inconceivable to both of you!” He shook his head sadly. “I needed some time. To be away from the malignancy of Malinqua.”

Garameno swallowed hard. “I was afraid you were being held against your will,” he said.

Corene could not resist. “Like your grandmother held me, and Melissande, and the others? A hostage?”

Garameno flushed, but didn’t look away. “Yes. Like that.”

“Well, I’m not,” said Jiramondi. “As you can see, I’m here and safe. Cozique is a good place for me, without whispers and rumors following me around because of Lorian.”

Corene intervened. “Garameno, why don’t you pull blessings for your cousin. It might help bring some clarity to the situation.”

Garameno nodded and reached into the blessing bowl. In quick order, he pulled three blessings and gave them to Jiramondi. “Will you at least believe that I was worried for you?”

Jiramondi smiled, a genuine smile, and clasped Garameno’s hand. “Of course,” he said, and opened his other hand to show the blessings to Corene.

“Honesty, honor, and power. Very good blessings for you!”

Garameno nodded. “I should have trusted your honor and intellect, Jiramondi.” He paused and lowered his head. “I was wrong.”

Both Jiramondi and Corene gasped theatrically. “I don’t believe it! You never admit when you’re wrong!” He laughed, and the other two joined him.

“Come along, both of you,” said Corene. “Time for a nice walk back to the palace to dress for a dreadfully stuffy dinner.