Elaine glanced around the table. “Well--it’s definitely been… interesting.” She bit her lip, and fidgeted slightly. “I mean not many weddings have riots…”
Tessina glanced at her husband and chuckled. “You should have seen ours…”
Pinabel nodded. “We had to flee the chapel just as the ceremony ended to escape Eudropin’s hounds.” He gathered a forkful of food, and then paused. “Does anyone know what happened back there? Aside from the obvious?”
“I believe the present theory is that the trio staged an attack to ingratiate themselves,” said Nisrioch. “Thus, allowing themselves to move closer to their targets.”
Pinabel stared at the Dark Lord pointedly, his one eye fixing on Nisrioch. “And you do not believe this, I gather?”
“When I met them on the road, all those three were thinking about was getting their next meal--by illicit methods if necessary,” stated Nisrioch. “That is not the behavior of professional assassins. It is barely the behavior of professional mercenaries.”
Pinabel nodded. “I must confess--I find Roince Sans Pitie’s presence here--unsettling.”
Jean glanced at him. “Why’s that?”
Pinabel hesitated in his response--only to have Tessina make it. “He’s a professional usurer. Malachel is deeply in debt to him.” Her husband glanced at her. “What? It’s open knowledge. The young King-in-waiting loves to spend money but doesn’t know how to earn it. That’s chased away most the reputable moneylenders, and left him prey to people like Roince.”
Pinabel stood up. “I believe I shall go get some drinks.” He walked away.
Nisrioch looked at Tessina. “I fear you’ve offended your husband.”
Tessina nestled her chin in her hand. “Oh, life these days offends Pinabel, the poor dear. He put such faith in the Great Lines to put things right, and now look at how things stand. Asterot is a drunken disgrace. The Belfior Maganzas are all horrible in their own unique way. Fiordespina’s the only one with any lick of sense and--well, a woman can’t sit on the Ebony Throne. Especially not a… you know.” She shook her head. “He did so much to save the family--and now it’s still dying.”
Nisrioch smiled. “You really love him, don’t you?”
“Would I have married him otherwise?” answered Tessina.
“I knew it had to be pretty deep, because of the…” began Jean--who then stopped, and looked away.
“Were you going to say ‘the face‘?” asked Tessina. She shrugged. “My husband is a great man--a hero. I consider that far more important than his appearance.” She looked at Jean pointedly. “He’s my second husband, you know. My first--Baltazar--was far better looking--even before Pinabel had his accident.” Tessina’s eyes narrowed. “Yes, a glory to behold Baltazar Druines. Handsome as could be without--foul as could be within.” She took a deep breath, and shook her head. “I do not miss him. In the least.”
“What--happened to him?” asked Elaine.
“He had an accident,” responded Tessina blankly. “Fell down some stairs in Castle Druines. Died immediately.”
“Hey, guys!” said Marfisa, returning to the table with Pinador and Malina in tow. “We’ve got sugarplums!”
Malina chewed hers contentedly. “They’re very good!”
Tessina glanced at her son. “Now--Pinador--don’t spoil your appetite with sweets.”
“Okay, mother,” said the young boy, wolfing down his sugarplum.
Marfisa looked at Elaine. “What were you all talking about?”
“This and that,” answered Elaine nervously.