Festivity lay in the air itself, colored by the faint, promising smell of feasting, by the rustle of delicate and rich dresses twirling on the floor. The minstrels' play had slowed for the song, but no doubt they all were one in excitement to immortalise this hour for decades to come.
Chade smiled, letting the merriment infect him. It had gone well. Even Arkon Boodblade’s violent stunt had captured the imaginations of the people more than it had turned them off their barbaric neighbours.
“So this is what they call modern music,” Lady Patience announced with a shake of her head, as arch and sudden as ever, as they narrowly moved past a swaying couple. “Change the overture - the flute’s cantando is an intriguing touch - but it’s still the same old Weaver’s song. You can’t fool these old ears!”
“I’ve told you, my lady,” Chade countered, insinuating a set of steps that would leave any lesser dancer stumbling into their routine, “you are hardly old. If nothing else, accept these words for the sake of my pride - if you were to be old, whatever would that make me? But right you are; I have seen it often. The more popular the foreign and new, the more some will seek to polish our own.”
Patience outright snorted at that. “I am old, and so are you, no matter how you dress or paint your face. There is no shame in that. Why, now that I am an old lady, there is no one to dare tell me off for impropriety. It can be most convenient.” She grasped her dress to wander away from him, before once again placing her small, calloused hands on his shoulder. “It’s a good song. It has the deeper Shoaks-typical undertones with the variety of instruments they so enjoy in Jamaillia. The scrolls from the last Satrap’s court music that you sent me those few years back took me a good season to learn. But have I told you of my experiments with crossing a tree of apples and peaches?”
“I don't believe you have, but I am happy the scrolls were to your liking.” Chade didn’t hide his amusement; only this woman would be so pleased over something that had so evidently frustrated her.
"You must forgive this old man, Lady Patience, but the very fact that you appreciate your old maidenhood is a sign of how young you yet are. The world is changing mightily fast for these old bones to keep up!"
"And you live for it, you old devil!" Patience accused him. "Don't even pretend otherwise, I know you too well. The ever-changing court life draws you even more than the war missions of old."
The strings dragged out a long sigh and Chade carefully twirled Chivalry's all too insightful widow. He remembersed those days well. The Lady of Buckkeep, they had called her, with the reverence due a queen. He had considered carefully what to do had she wanted to remain so; what to do were she the only one left to take up that mantle. He had had to reveal himself to her, what had it been, in the change of seasons after his boy had gone? They had talked much in those days, when they could afford to, and much of it had opened gushing wounds.
His hand landed higher than intended on her waist in his absent mindedness and he adjusted it as they settled back into their routine.
"That may be so," he admitted freely. "There is much to enjoy. You are always welcome to it as well - the Queen greatly enjoys your company."
"As I do hers, but such is because neither of us was made for these games. No, I do not intend to stay, but I thank you for the offer. I have made a home in Tradeford and I intend to return to it."
Chade was much too well trained to glance at Tom Badgerlock, standing off to the side next to his 'ailing' master, but his thoughts chased the spaces in between Patience's words like rabbits. She had left a home to stay at Buckkeep once before, for the sake of her husband's bastard son. His best apprentice, his secretive boy. Would she stay once again if she knew he too had returned? Chade put off the speculation for a later date.
"You have distracted me," Patience accused, leaning onto him more heavily. Had she tired already? No, much likelier was that she intended to pressure him, whether she was conscious of it or not. She had always been more shrewd than any expected of her. Except, perhaps, her husband. Chivalry had always been like that. He'd seen right through people and picked and chose whom to keep.
"If I have done so, it was not by intent," he assured her courteously. "But now you have wakened my curiosity. What have I distracted you from?"
"How is Dutiful, how is our prince?" she asked intently. "It has been too long since I saw him last. I've told you - and Queen Kettricken, mind you, - my thoughts at length, back when you first announced this strange union."
Ah. Chade understood now. He remembered the visit and the following letters, not all of which the women had deigned to share with him. Patience had spoken most impressively of the risks that existed alongside the rewards. What was it she'd compared it to? The crossing of plants, the breeding of beasts? Either way, it had been most like her.
"He is well and healthy as a boy of his age can be. I have gotten… most trustworthy people to keep him safe from harm. But his feelings are, of course, his own."
"Of course," Patience muttered darkly. "That's how it always is with boys, until they burst with it. ...Ack, that pipe got started too early, now the other instruments have to up their pace."
She was, Chade thought to himself, scarily acute in her assessment of the prince. Perhaps he should consult her on his behaviour more often. But getting Lady Patience involved always proved dangerous - she had her own mind in all things.
However, that didn't mean he couldn't search her opinion. "I believe you meant to tell me of your experiments in crossing different fruit. Were you successful in that?"
"I've tried binding many different shoots," Lady Patience replied, uncharacteristically pensive instead of her usual passionate lectures. "It goes well enough with similar strains. I've grown apples with pears and peaches with plums and cherries. My most diverse tree includes 20 full different branches and seeds. But some breeds have not grown a single time. Some are too different, apples and peaches for one. It is something to keep in mind."
"Time will tell," Chade replied, matching her thoughtful tone. "It wasn't that long ago that even a single mix of these would have been considered sorcery."
"As well there may have been a time when it was commonplace," Patience countered.
"Perhaps," Chade inclined his head. "We will see. It is, after all, a time of change."
The song drew its last note and Chade bowed gallantly, in the way of King Shrewd's court. Patience returned the gesture with a curtsy in the fashion of the late Queen Constance. Oh, but it was strange to share parts of these dead times. So few remained and fewer still knew them as he had.
One of Patience's flowers fluttered out of her elaborate hairdo and he presented it to her.
"My thanks, Lord Chade. Ack, Lacey will scold me for being careless again…"
And so quickly, the dance changed and the world kept turning.