Dinner was on a flat area of the city's walls overlooking the harbor; a large ship sailed in the harbor. The moon and a set of torches around the area provided lighting that night, and there was a reflection from the water of light from all the surrounding homes as well. A moderate breeze flowed through the area, fresh instead of salty. Dinner was set on a small table for two; formally with lots of utensils.
I arrived fashionably late, wearing a strapless black dress. Over it, I wore a long green overcoat with a train, and a tall, white collar. I had decided to leave my weapons at home, and pull my hair up approximately the latest fashions. Having no jewelry besides the jewel, I decided not to wear any. Andrevo was wearing a white surcoat with green buttons and shiny black boots, and a black sash around his waist. He greeted me at the base of the stairs to the ramparts, bowing politely and looking slightly surprised. "Greetings, dear Juliette. You are stunning."
I smiled, holding out my hand. It had worked. "And you look very handsome this evening."
He took my hand, nearly kissing it. "Would you join me up on the ramparts?"
"I would be delighted."
He led me up a set of narrowish stairs to the rampart. "I must say, I was a bit unsure about how formal to be this evening."
"I was unsure as well, but thought other considerations were more important."
He headed over to a view of the bay as we spoke. "Of course. This is not a test or challenge. Simply dinner."
He has misunderstood me. "Of course not. But I wished to look my best...for you."
He smirked. "And you do, I agree. How have you found my little city?"
"It is very relaxing. Not at all like where I grew up."
"Since it is more the time to ask, I would be delighted to hear about where you grew up."
This was it. While it wasn't information that was exactly secret, I hadn't talked to anyone about it since I got back. If we were to be together, then I needed to take this chance. "I lived in Amber until I was twelve. My parents...were killed. Because of my...abnormality, my lands were given to my brother, with Paki to hold regency. I was livid, but there wasn't much I could do." I leaned over the ramparts, watching the ocean as I spoke. It was all I could do to simply to speak. I couldn't face him or I would lose my nerve. Andrevo listened intently, ever polite. "I was pretty much forgotten, raised by servants, such as Jackson and his wife. I met Samba then. He didn't like being in Amber any more than I did, at that time. So we made plans to escape. He was going to create dopplegangers of us, which 'died' in our 'escape.' In the meanwhile, I would walk the pattern, going to a place he had told me of, near his home. Using a trump we had made, I would bring him to me, and we would go our separate ways. I was determined I would kill a demon in chaos, to prove that I was worthy to take my birthright.
"Unfortunately, things didn't go quite as planned. Walking the pattern nearly killed me, and while I managed to pull him through as well, I couldn't leave where we were. I spent nearly five years, of that time, recovering. It's a harsh place, a desert world with almost no water. The native people, who I was with, hid in the desert, fighting a revolt of sorts against the rulers of the place, who only lived there to mine a spice in the desert they used for its many unique properties."
"The desert, besides being so dry that we had to use the technology to recapture every bit of moisture our bodies wasted, contains huge...worms which attack anything that moves. So that's where I really grew up. I fought with them, and rode the worms in the desert. Tough and unforgiving...but home nonetheless." That was all I could do, for now. I fell silent, looking out over the water.
"How often do you go back?"
"I've been back twice since I came back to Amber. The last time was for several weeks. That's where I was before you called me back for the portrait."
"That sounds like a place of penultimate purpose, with survival being victory."
"A succinct, but accurate description."
"In that perspective, this life must seem quite frivolous and wasteful."
He was right. It had seemed so, at first. "As I spend more time here, I find it seems to have its own purpose."
"There is purpose, but one often has to see it out instead the reverse."
I turned around, looking at him. "What do you find in it?"
"For a while I did feel that there is no purpose, only action driven from desire. But being one with few pressures and obligations, that was easy to conclude erroneously. It is nearly shameful to speak of my life after and purposes after hearing your story, Juliette.
Now, *this* would not do. I walked over to him, taking my gloves off and placing my hands on his. "Please...I would like to hear of it. Do not let the calluses on my hands shame the absence of them on yours."
He held my hands as he spoke. "My parents are quite opposites; my mother driven by passions and my father calculative and realist. I have spent most of my life in the pursuits of artistic nature, beyond the simple Trump magics that goes with being a Sprottle. I have been to desert wastes, grand mountains, broken worlds, on starships, in wars, and inside great creatures seeking art. During all of that I have fought in wars for the family upon these lands and others in the Golden Circle. For the glory of Amber, and of my family. I have always been here, near Amber and under its shadow."
Could we be more different? "I do not think grandmother could have thrown two more different people together."
He chuckled. "My father loves her and she loves him back for what he is; and I cannot begrudge them more than that."
Pay attention, dear. "I was not speaking of them...dear."
Andrevo blushed and smiled, almost shyly. "Odd duality."
"My aunt would say it is the reflections of the pattern repeating themselves in its servants."
He sighed. "I hope not."
Wrong words for tonight, it seems. I frowned. "Then do not think of it, not tonight."
"That falls quite close to business, and tonight is not for that. Tonight... is dinner, and we shan't neglect that for too long."
We had all but forgotten that. And at the mention of it, my stomach reminded me that I liked to eat more often than my cousins as well. "I'm afraid it might be cold by now. I hope it hasn't been ruined."
He gestured towards the table, smiling. "Nothing will be cold unless intended so."
I smiled at his thoughtfulness. He had planned everything. "Even so, I am starting to get hungry. Another one of my little...defects, I suppose." Andrevo gestured towards a doorway, and shortly there after appetizers come out, salad, fresh bread, and caviar. I started to walk over to the table with him. "It smells wonderful, dear. I think good food is the luxury I prize above all others, with the possible exception of a hot shower."
"Well I cannot claim to have hunted the food this evening, for among other skills I am a poor fisherman."
I chuckled. "I don't know if I can have a poor fisherman for a husband. My fishing skills, are, of course, exceptional...having grown around large bodies of water and all."
"I would judge you otherwise, sarcasm aside. It's a hunters game of extreme patience and understanding of habits."
"I have never had the urge to try it."
Andrevo waved his hand dismissively. "Leave it to those that love it, for there are more engaging pursuits for sure."
"Any other you would suggest, perhaps one that could be enjoyed by more than one person?"
"I cannot fathom recommending anything other than what we are doing right now, for you are quite engaging mi`lady."
I could get used to this. "Surely you flatter me."
He took some of the red wine we were being served, and toasted. "But perhaps you were speaking instead of planning for tomorrow."
I sipped at the wine. It would not do to get drunk. "And tomorrow, and tomorrow."
"You have seen what I like to do, and I have guesses at what you like to do."
"Perhaps we should try doing one of them together. Riding, or falconing? I'll even put up with Basil, for you." I smiled. I didn't dislike the horse that much.
"I do enjoy both of those; and Basil can stay behind as that shall please you." Ever the gentleman.
"I believe the expression is...It's a date." Then, our meal came out, freshly seared fish. It was wonderful, and I savored each bite as we ate, thinking.
"You look pensive."
"Do you have expectations of this evening you'd like to share?"
"I was considering the days after this evening. I do think I might enjoy being married to you, Andrevo Sprottle." There is was.
"Might? I must work harder."
I chuckled. "Might is more than you would have gotten out of me a couple days ago. Consider it a strong might."
"Well, then I shall persist in my patient assaults upon your defenses."
Defenses that were starting to fall apart. "You will find no objection from this quarter. But, seriously, I look forward to spending more time together...and even to our marriage, whenever it may come to pass."
"I look now and enjoy the company I have wrought." He finished eating, and I finished as well.
"The hour grows late, and I am an early riser."
Andrevo stood, and I did as well, taking a last look over the bay. He spoke. "I'll expect you early for a nice ride down the coast, then."
"I will call upon you at sunrise then."
He bowed. "Thank you for joining me for dinner."
"It was my pleasure."
He offered his shoulder to escort me. "Shall we? Just in case you forgot the way."
"I would be delighted." I leaned close to him, my head on his shoulder, as we walked. We chatted about where we wished to ride tomorrow as we walked back. I enjoyed the moment. When we got to the door of my chambers, he leaned over to give me a kiss. I was hesitant at first, but it was definitely...enjoyable. When we finished, I quickly entered my rooms, closing the door behind me.