Last time on The Crown of Embers, Elisa accidentally learned Tristán’s sexual orientation, and discovered that her sister Alodia wants to marry Hector. How much more drama will I have to slog through? Find out after the cut.
Part 1: Secret Plans
I scoot off the bed and throw a robe around my shoulders. Ximena is already awake, though her long gray braid is sleep mussed. She sits near the balcony, taking advantage of the morning light to work on a tapestry. She looks up at me. “Is everything all right now?”
Yes, everything is all right, because Elisa has a plan! She has her palace mayordomo fetch Tristán – even though he filed a departure notice the night before and may have left already – for a quick meeting. Luckily, Tristán is still around, so Elisa herds him into Mara’s quarters, because this meeting has to be super secret, yo.
Tristán is afraid that Elisa means to punish him for being gay, but that’s not the case at all. Nope – Elisa needs an excuse to travel south, as well as convince the Quorum that she’s serious about remarrying. So she plans on faking an engagement with Tristán. After a few months, they will agree to separate due to compatibility issues. Tristán realizes that the broken engagement will ruin Selvarica’s standing, but Elisa offers him the open seat on the Quorum if he plays along. (Of course, she needs to find someone willing to vote him in.) In exchange, Tristán has to side with Elisa on two Quorum votes of her choosing.
Now with a valid excuse to leave Brisadulce to find the zafira, Elisa decides to announce her betrothal to the Quorum.
Part 2: Gathering a Party
We make preparations quickly. Tristán’s people and mine will travel together in state. But there are certain precautions we must take, and Hector and Tristán spend long hours together, going over routes and formations and personnel.
Ah, yes, it’s time to gather the party before venturing forth. Elisa decides to have Storm join the party, since he knows that she’s searching for the zafira.
Eduardo also bothers Elisa with some boring discussion about her choice in future husbands and that little meeting she had in the prison tower earlier. Elisa claims that she discussed marriage preparations with Tristán in the tower, but Eduardo doesn’t buy it.
The day before the party ventures forth, Rosario tells Elisa that he wants to join the party, too. Elisa tells him that he needs to stay safe at the palace. Which is good advice, because if you haven’t noticed, people tend to die horrible deaths when Elisa goes out on adventures. Rosario is also afraid of becoming king, and doesn’t want to take the throne. Elisa reassures him that he doesn’t have to become king if he doesn’t want to, and that he shouldn’t discuss it further with anyone until she returns.
Part 3: Venturing Forth
The entire palace sees us off – servants, resident nobles, the city garrison. Conde Tristán’s carriage leads the procession, followed by several guards on horseback, another carriage for my servants and supplies, and finally the queen’s carriage, larger and more elaborate than the others, surrounded by even more guards on foot. The royal crest streams behind on pennants, and almost-sheer curtains hang in the gilt-framed windows.
At last, the party ventures forth! Elisa is disguised as a maid, while a decoy Elisa rides in the royal carriage. Of course, Elisa worries for the decoy’s safety, as well as for Hector, Ximena, and the rest of the party. She also realizes that Hector and Ximena probably feel the same way towards her, and wonders if she’s caused her loved ones to suffer.
Hector notices that Elisa finally looks happy now that the party has ventured forth. Elisa admits that she’s happy to be in the desert again, then asks Hector if there’s any place that makes him feel more like himself. Hector finally divulges some information on Ventierra, his homeland: it’s a costal territory with rolling green hills and vineyards.
When the party sets up camp for the night, Tristán is surprised to discover that Elisa can actually pitch a tent. Apparently he thought that Elisa only did administrative work for the Malficio, instead of actually learning a thing or two about desert survival.
The next day, Hector discovers that another group is following the party. That night, Elisa has Belén swear fealty to her, then orders him to scout out their pursuers’ camp. Elisa thinks that Eduardo sent this group to follow the party, since he knows that something’s up with this little trip to Selvarica. Ximena suggests leaving a false trail for their pursuers, and Hector suggests that Elisa should ride in the servants’ carriage tomorrow.
Stuff I Forgot to Mention Above:
The only people who know about Tristán’s relationship with Iladro are his mother, a few attendants, and Elisa.
Elisa’s nice enough to not divulge Tristán’s sexual orientation to everyone if he doesn’t go along with her plan.
The Quorum seats, with the exception of those held by members of the military, are hereditary.
Tristán offers to marry Elisa for real. This doesn’t work out, though, because Tristán isn’t willing to produce an heir.
Elisa’s little discussion with Rosario makes me think that she’s going to convince him to give up his claim on the throne once he comes of age.
Eduardo is really pissed off when the party ventures forth.
Elisa refuses to learn her decoy’s name.
There are 30 people in Elisa’s party. Remember, adventuring parties must have 5x members.
All the foodstuffs mentioned in this chapter:
- Light broth with lentils and dried vegetables
- Dried dates
Next time: Belén returns with important intel. The party makes an important decision. Storm divulges some important information.