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A better party could not have been arranged than the one that took place spontaneously in the palace gardens the day the prisoners miraculously returned from the shadowlands.

Magic, possibility, things starting anew and lost things being found floated in the air and the citizens were drunk on it.

King Lief surveyed his people.

Tables of all shapes and sizes had been dragged from the palace and indeed all over the city when the need for them was realised and were laden with the most tumbledown feast anyone had ever seen. At first there had only been the stew and bread Sharn had insisted be made for the people who came to the palace each day to be served with other various vittles’ that could be spared. But as word had spread those coming to the palace from the city began to bring provisions of their own to add. Many already there had sent children home or away with coins to bring back what they could.

Music swelled from what seemed like everywhere for what better occasion to play could there be than this? The Ralad’s coaxed sweet notes from their flutes while the people of the Plains produced fast paced dancing music from fiddles and guitars. The Jalis sang songs of battles and heroism and birds that told their secrets to little girls.

There was dancing, there was singing, there was laughter.

Tomorrow; Lief knew, and perhaps so did everyone else, there would be tears. Tears for the faces that weren't among the revelers now. Tears for the friends and loved ones who hadn't made it back. Even now Lief could see the cracks, how the singing drowned out the names being called through the crowd, how the dancers peered through the throngs of people with each turn and sweep seeking the familiar, how some had fallen upon the tumbledown feast as if they would never see food again. Children, because dear Gems there were children, who stood bewildered amongst their people flinching at the noise until gentle hands and soft words were extended to them.

They would have work to do, all of them.

But that was for tomorrow
For now Lief chose to look upon the happiness of his people. Chose to see the smiles and hear the laughter. And although it would be hard to say whose smile was the brightest and largest one in particular caught his attention. It was not a large or bright smile that adorned Marilens graceful features but rather a soft and hopeful one and it was directed solely at one person.

Lief allowed his eyes to follow her and Ranesh through the crowd of dancers until he became aware of a presence beside him. Jasmine stood as he did looking out over the scene before them. Her gaze followed his to the Toran girl and the young man who had led her to the annuls.
“Marilen and I have spoken; I like her but I am glad you are not marrying her” She said eventually
“Such a marriage would never work out. Imagine a high born Toran woman marrying a Del Blacksmith!”
Leif laughed, truly for what felt like the first time in a long time laughed.
“Adin was a Del blacksmith and his wife was a high born Toran woman” He said just to needle the wild girl beside him.
“That was hundreds and hundreds of years ago. Now such a thing could never take place, the scandal of it” She gave a comical shiver and Lief once again laughed.
“Well if I cannot hope to marry Toran nobility a mere blacksmith as I am....”
“Del not Mere”
“....then whom can I marry?”
Jasmine pondered the question for a few seconds, on her shoulder Filli remained engrossed in devouring a piece of fruit cake with marzipan icing above them all Kree darted back and forth ecstatic to once again be in open air.
“Well” She said eventually and with no small amount of authority “I just so happen to be a blacksmiths daughter” This was true of course but Lief had never really thought on it before. Jasmine had always just been Jasmine. She had never been Jasmine of Del or Jasmine of the Forge as Lief knew she should have been. He envisioned his childhood home briefly, envisioned his childhood. It should have been Jasmines. It should have been her no older than four kneeling beside her mother pulling weeds from the herb garden. Her at age ten finally, finally after years of just watching being told she was old enough to start learning her trade. Hers were the hands that should have made thousands of nails again and again until she could do it in her sleep, hers were the feet that should have been wiped at the kitchen door lest she trek mud from the garden across the freshly cleaned floor. Every memory he had of the forge should have been hers. Was rightfully hers.
“Yes” he said “I know you are a blacksmiths daughter”
“And what scandal could there be in a blacksmith marrying the daughter of a blacksmith?”
“None I suppose”
“Well there you go”
They were silent then. The party carried on before them; Lief was certain he saw Tira taking a hesitant almost flinching bite of a peach before upon finding no harm had come to her taking another proper one. Jasmines hand slid into his and he entwined his fingers with hers.
“You would have me then?” He asked “although I am nothing but a poor blacksmith”
She ducked her head and snorted raising it again her green eyes met his and sparkled
“I would have you even if you were the King of Deltora”