“Devin,” Elysia said, fidgeting with the new growth on the mint plant. “How would you describe your brother?”
Elysia bent down to smell the plant, it’s sharp scent a welcome relief on her nerves. The question had been on her mind for the past few days and each day she had worried over the words like a dog at a bone. She straightened and tucked a strand of hair behind her ear, turning her gaze to Devin. He was waiting for her attention with mirth in his eyes. He looked back at the snapdragons he had been examining and tickled one under its chin as he spoke.
“How should one describe Kieran? Some would tell you that he’s cold, calculating, and uncaring. Others would tell you that he’s foolish, stupid, or an oaf. That he cares for nothing beyond his duty.” Devin turned with a smile as the snapdragons grabbed at his fingers. “I tell you these things so that as people find out about your engagement, as they emerge from the woodwork like grub, you have already heard the worst.”
Elysia dragged a small bulb of water from the vase against the wall. She held it between her hands as she crossed to the snapdragons. Gently she coaxed the water into the soil of the snapdragons, appeasing their agitation as the water met their roots. Elysia cocked her head and met Devin’s eyes. “And you? You were the one I asked about after all.”
“My brother is my best friend. You’ve met me, you know how full of life I am, surely that answers all your questions.”
Elysia frowned. “Not really, no.”
Devin’s easy laugh filled the greenhouse. “I am simply teasing you. Truth be told, we’re not too similar.”
He paused. Elysia watched his eyes focus on the snapdragons as they reared back on their stalks, threatening each other. “People will tell you he is cold because he is silent and stoic. But, it is because Kieran hates having attention on himself. He’s always had it. Being the oldest, the crown has always weighed heavy on him. Being that he is a large man, he cannot go anywhere without people seeing him. So, he draws in on himself. Some say he never smiles, but it’s because they don’t see him in private. They say he never laughs because they treat him as if he has no humor.
“I’ve heard soldiers call him stupid when they think nobody of importance is around, because they’ve been in the room where he will listen to each advisor before stating his own thoughts. The opposite is true. He understands the limits of his own knowledge and seeks guidance from others. And finally, they will tell you that he does not love you. That he will see you as a duty. That one is the hardest for me to answer. Kieran cares for our people. They are his reason for living, but to say it is all he cares about? I wouldn’t dare.”
Elysia fidgeted with the clipping shears a gardener had left on the table.”And what will you tell him about me?”
Devin’s hand landed on hers. She met his eyes again to find them soft. “I will tell him that people call you stubborn, fierce, and power hungry. That you have been given everything you want and it has made you spoiled. That you will terrify our people with your magic. I will tell him you will fight him on everything.”
Elysia smiled, understanding. “I sound frightful. How do you think he will take it?”
“He will be fearful, he will clench his jaw as his only tell. Until I explain that you are called stubborn and power hungry because you too thirst for knowledge. That you want to understand the world around you and won’t rest until you do. I will tell him that you fought past your birthright for all your accomplishments and it is only the envy of others that fuel those words. I will tell him you are strong, that you will not fall before him like a wilting flower. That your magic will scare those of our society who don’t expect it, but that you’d never turn it upon the people you will call your own. And finally, I will tell him that without a doubt, he will love you.”