It was almost sunset by the time the queen arrived at House Drystan. The staff was in full swing preparing for her arrival. Lord and Lady Drystan and their children were awaiting Her Majesty’s carriage as it pulled up in the courtyard. Master Niall greeted Gwyneira as she stepped out of the carriage. Dressed smartly for travel, she wore a few layers of light gowns and a cloak, easily adjusted for weather. She only wore a thin gold band intertwined with her locks of ruby red hair which fell in large soft curls about her shoulders.

Gwyneira smiled sincerely when she saw Lord Cedric Drystan. It had been several years since she had seen her father’s dear friend Cedric

Cedric bowed graciously, if not a bit stiffly, as his queen approached. His eyes gleamed. “May I present Lady Aria Drystan,” the joy was palpable. “And you remember my boys.” Cedric gestured to the two men beside his wife. The “boys” were grown now, sons of a previous wife, and likely almost as old as the new lady of the house. Both were strong and had the look of honest laborers.

“It is a pleasure to finally meet you, Lady Drystan,” Gwyneira told Aria, who only bowed in reply. The queen noted how Aria kept her eyes lowered or focused on the carriage. She wondered how Cedric came to choose her, Maybe Cedric needs a little quiet, she mused to herself.

Aria bowed again and turned to the queen’s attendants, “Please come this way, and I will show you to her majesty’s rooms,” As they stepped into the manor, Aria began to scurry about the kitchen, instructing the staff on the food to prepare, settings and arrangements, and directing the queen’s maids to the rooms.

Ah, thought Gwyneira, now she’s in her element. She smiled as the Lady of the House commanded her domain.

“You must forgive my wife,” Lord Cedric sensing the queen’s change in mood, “she is from a local family, not of Noble lineage. She was not sure how to address you.”

“Ah, Cedric, you know I am not that formal.”

“Yes, my lady, I tried to tell her. But she would have none of it.” Cedric laughed. “Believe it or not, she has quite a stubborn streak for such a ‘young’ lady.” They both laughed knowingly.

Niall interrupted them with a cough and cleared his throat, “My apologies m’lady. Your maids have almost finished unloading your things…” he paused before adding, “but there is the matter of…” he gestured to the carriage. The queen had been very protective about this particular chest since leaving Brynmor.

“Thank you, Master Niall.” She blushed only slightly, angry at herself for getting distracted. But before she could respond, Cedric waved to one of his sons to go to the carriage to retrieve the item.

“No!” Gwyneira commanded. Everyone froze.  “Thank you, Lord Cedric,” she recovered, “but it is precious to me, and I will take care of it personally.”

Cedric could see deep sorrow in her eyes and recognized the grief of the loss of a loved one. “My apologies, my Queen, I meant no disrespect.”

Gwyneira softened, “I am sorry for my harshness, I…” she trailed off, tears welled up in her eyes. She quickly shook it off. “I am sorry, I will be fine. Will you please excuse me?” She waved to Niall to bring the chest, then retired without another word.

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