Meet The Relatives by Lynda Williams, is the touching story of very Demish Dela's adventures in Red Reach. Illustrations are by Richard Bartrop.
Vras finds arguments harder than fighting.
The ugly Chief Stationer was thrust forward.
"So these spoils Fital promised to share with you," Vras said giddily, and pulled free of Dela's support to stand alone. "Would those be highborn children? Kidnapped, perhaps? Or raid spoils? Children that clans with more ambition than honor would pay Fital for?"
Frog's lower lip stiffened, stubbornly. "I never said so."
Vras rolled his eyes.
One of his nobleborns — bless her! — said, "Highness, you need that wound bound."
Vras sank down cross-legged where he was, putting out a shaking hand to Dela.
She joined him, half afraid someone would produce a seamer — a merciless first aid tool used on highborns — but they did, literally, bind up the wound, annoying him by covering his perfectly functional right eye in the process. Sert brought him a drink and stood guard. The locals settled around him in clumps.
Frog tried to desert and was hauled up short.
Arguing broke out.
Vras seemed less willing to cope with it than he'd been to fight. He settled with his bloody head in her lap.
"Dela," he said, looking up.
"Vras?" she asked, finding a rare, bloodless curl of back hair to touch.
"You're Demish. You sort it out."
"I'm no good at this part," he said, simply. "You're Demish. You sort it out."
She squeaked at him. "Pardon?"
He closed his eyes and relaxed, one hand curled around her thigh, high up.
She said, more faintly, "Vras?"
"What is she to you that we should accept her as your voice?" asked the local highborn, sounding disinclined to be civilized. "A trophy from the Demish for beating them at courtly tournaments?"
He said it so disdainfully, that Dela suspected it was some sort of insult. Perhaps they thought tournaments were sissy stuff.
Then she forgot everything, because Vras stirred himself just long enough to answer, and said, "She's my mekan'st."
And they swallow the fact, just like that. Even Sert raised no objection.
A few dozen pairs of eyes turned on Dela, expectantly.
Alright, she thought. Okay. We've got some half-exposed conspirators in a flesh-bartering business, hostages being held by an implicated stationer chief, and everybody ready to clear swords if I screw up. She sucked in her lips, wet them, and released them in a sigh heaved up from the bottom of her heart.
No problem. After all, how much harder could that be than arranging the seating plan for the Royal Wedding a month before at court?
Vras had called her his mekan'st. That was as close to being married as the Vrellish got.
She could get out and walk home if he asked.