I’ll Title It Later, Pt. 1
“Ah, Inquisitors,” Josephine calls up the stairs. A moment later Ataash appears in the door, her shirt sliding off one shoulder, and a second later Shan pops out under her arm, just his head and one bare shoulder visible around the doorframe. “I have received a letter from Valo-kas and–Shokrakar in particular. She says that she will send a letter to my parents, offering to–negotiate an arranged marriage.”
Ataash and Shan stare at Josephine for a moment, and she can feel the color rising in her cheeks. The two vashothari look at each other, then back at Josephine.
“Let me see,” Shan finally says, and squeezes between Ataash and the doorframe. He’s in just his smalls, and Josephine tries to not stare at his abs, or the freckles that cover him, or his biceps, much larger than a mage’s have any true right to be.
A grin slowly creeps across Shan’s face as he reads the letter, and as he reaches the bottom, he bursts into laughter. Ataash shuffles over to look at the letter, hikes her shirt back up onto her shoulder.
Shan says something to her in qunlat, and she laughs and grabs the letter out of his hand. She traces a few of the words he points to with her fingers, and then she looks up at Josephine.
“This is good, yes?” Ataash asks. “it is politics, and it is a good solution to the…problem? Of you not being married.”
“Of course, in theory it would be a perfect solution to our current problems, however, it would mean Shokrakar–and likely all of Valo-kas, if you have led me to believe correctly–having to visit Antiva in order to, ahem, ‘seal the deal.’ Judging from other stories you have told me, this…may not be a viable plan.”
“It will,”Shan disagrees, waving one hand as he rereads the letter, still grinning. “The kadantaam knows how to behave when they have to. Marchers hired us to guard their balls all the time. I’m sure Antivan balls will be different, and we’ll be dancing instead of looking scary, but we all have at least a little training in how to do that.”
“There is also the matter of there being three of you as marriage candidates, as compared to the more traditional one.”
“We can share,” Ataash says.
‘That is not my point,” Josephine replies. “One of you will likely need to be presented as the marriage candidate, and the others will have to be–not ignored, per se, but not highlighted in the same manner.”
“Shan,” Ataash volunteers. “He is not as visible as Cassandra, who will not like trappings anyway, and he is not as visible as me.” She pauses, rolls her shoulders; Josephine catches her giving Shan’s back muscles an appreciative glance. “Also he is a man, which should make him less objectional to your parents. Not that I imagine he is that much less objectionable than me. I am friendlier.” Ataash giggles and Shan twists to glare at her, kick one foot back to hit her in the shin. She jumps back out of the way and grins up at Josephine. “It is your decision, who you want to be your betrothed according to your traditions.” Ataash shrugs. “Our traditions are very different, where they exist at all.”
Josephine looks between the two of them–one set of orange ,earnest eyes, and one set of red, earnest eyes, meeting hers, their voices silent, waiting for an answer. Josephine stares a while longer, until Ataash jerks like she just realized something.
“If you do not want Shokrakar to send the letter she has written, tell her so. She will not send a letter if you do not want her to. The vashothari are very good with asking for permission.”
“I will…consider,” Josephine finally says, her brow furrowing. Shan holds the letter out to her, and tucks his arms across hsi chest when she takes it, though he’s smiling.
“We wait your decision, lady ambassador,” he tells her, and bows deeply. Behind him, Ataash tips her chin up until her throat is exposed.
Josephine first bows to Shan, then mimics Ataash’s tipped chin.
She turns and leaves quickly, leaving the rumpled vashothari to their own devices.
“D’you think she’ll take Shokrakar up on her offer?” Ataash asks, slipping back into qunlat.
“Dunno,” Shan replies. Ataash places her hands on his shoulders and rests her chin atop his head.
“I hope so,” Ataash murmurs, and Shan grunts in agreement.