Vitoria is silent, as though lost in thought, yet her fingers continually rub at her worry chain. She can hear Adelina’s voice occasionally, a distant hum in her ears that distracts her from the document on her lap and the building headache between her eyes.

“You’re being very quiet, my dear.”

She loses her place in the account again, the eighth time now. The crease in her brow deepens, and she starts again, smoothing the curled paper in her hands.

“Yes.”

She continues reading, or appearing to do so. Caught in the midst of thoughts that are flitting through her head too quickly for her to break them down, Vitoria is annoyed to be reading the same paragraph over and over again without comprehension; the words are in front of her but may as well be Asavean. No, not that, I would understand that better.

“Has anyone else seen these?”

“Oh yes, I had great fun in showing them to Asher, once he promised me that he was to return them to me and not take them away. He did regret that decision once he had finished reading them, I’m sure.”

“And he said?”

“Oh, well he didn’t say much, but he did put his head in his hands, poor boy.”

Instead of being able to focus on the words, she pushes the document away, chewing the inside of her cheek while she thinks, and Adelina embroiders the garment in her lap, cool and calm and occasionally peering up at the young briar with calculating eyes, as if able to follow her thought processes innately.

“So…..” She pauses, tongue thick in her mouth. She swallows, and tries again. “This is clearly…” She stares at the offensive thing, then picks it up and turns to the next page of it, continuing her futile studies. “I just don’t…”

“You don’t what, my lovely?“ Adelina’s syrupy voice calls to her when she is unable to continue the sentence.

Vitoria looks up at her Prince, feeling the inadequacies of her role weighing more and more heavily. Adelina looks up from her work expectantly, and Vitoria has to close her eyes so as not to see the expectancy in her gaze. She feels innately stupid, in this moment, unable to grasp and pull on the obvious thread hanging in front of her.

“Okay. So this vision, we know where it takes place. We know, mostly, who. But… “ her frustration is mounting exponentially, unable to work out the puzzle the way a Cambion would. It used to be so much easier, before she was a briar. She used to love these theological puzzles.

“And with the proper diplomatic channels, we could ask that Family when this had taken place, which would give us set dates.”

“Oh curse the dates! That’s not what this….” Vitoria stands suddenly, and it’s only Adelina’s quick reflexes that catch the scrolls before they tumble from her lap into the fountain. She paces frantically, smoothing her hair, rubbing her cheek, fidgeting a million different ways.

How Adelina can sit so calmly is beyond her.

She can see the important dots in her mind’s eye, if only she could draw the correct lines between them! She pauses, her body stilling it’s anxious pacing.

“I think I understand.”

“Understand what?” Adelina probes.

“I can’t… if I understand what I think I do, then as a Priest I am forbidden to speak of it amongst laypeople. I am just…” She sighs and sits down in a huff.

“What has you so agitated, lovely?”

She shakes her head, giving up. The cambion Prince before her might be as a mother cat trying to teach her young kitten to hunt, but she is incapable of thinking of this. “The subject matter is upsetting. May I have some more iced tea, please?”

She ignores the soft tut and the look of disapproval in Adelina’s eyes.

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