I survey the people seated around the round table and smile. "I know this room is usually reserved for council meetings, but I asked the Water Princess and Fire Prince very nicely and they said I could use it today," I announce.
"Why aren't they here?" asks Jasmine.
"Because I already asked their questions later in their own world," I answer. "However, I might as well start with you. Alyssa would like to know what is your favorite part about working as a maid for the Water Princess."
The little, black-haired girl scrunches up her face thoughtfully. "She isn't like most ladies. She's funny. I like that about her." Jasmine gets a reproving glance from her older sister, but just shrugs in response.
"All right," I say, thumbing through my notes. "Essua, Anna would like to know what you think of the Water Princess?"
Essua leans back, grinning at me. "She's everything I'd hoped she'd be, and then some. I kinda regret not being here for her arrival, because I wish I could have seen the look on her teachers' faces when she was messing with them. Still, she's awesome, and women fighting is now a thing because of her. Used to, it was just me being me."
"All right. Karlos. Amada wants to know what it feels like to be the son of Lord Abraham?"
Karlos blinks a couple time. "I ... I don't know how to answer that."
"I won't make you," I tell him. "Mnm wants to know what you think of the Water Princess and Fire Prince."
"Oh, they're awesome, I think the Water Princess scares the Fire Prince sometimes, though, but don't tell anyone that I said that."
"Um, I'll see what I can do about that." I bite my lip as I glance through my notes again. "How about this one for Jasmine again. Morgan wants to know what you like about doing hair."
"I like the fact that I can use it to make women look pretty," Jasmine answers. "And I'm good at it, so it makes me feel useful. I wasn't considered good for much else until the Water Princess came, you know."
"Oh, here's a fun one," I say. "Jakob, Mnm wants to know when you plan to ask Jill Anna to marry you."
He stiffens, sitting up straighter in his chair as he glances Jill Anna's direction. "I - uh - not until we've been Tied! If we get Tied! There are children in the room!"
I laugh. "All right, time for a bit of cultural translation. In my world, after a man and a woman have gotten to know each other, the man will ask her to marry him, after which will follow an engagement period while they plan for the marriage ceremony - or wedding, as it's called. There is no such thing as Tying, unless you're in certain countries where it is called the handfastening ceremony, which is similar, but still a marriage ceremony."
"Oh." Jakob swallows and glances Jill Anna's direction. "Well, in Rizkaland, either the man or the woman can ask, but usually only following at least several weeks of serious discussion, upwards to months or years, depending on the couple. Jill Anna knows that I am intrested in being Tied to her, but she says that, until they are certain that the former Bugslayers can have children now that the poison has been removed, and that there will be no immediate bad side affects, that we cannot seriously consider it. She says to wait a year at least, but I think it's because she's a terribly shy thing who still cannot grasp the fact that she has won the heart of Upper Klarand's Lor'son and is making excuses."
"Rashness does not become a future Lord," says Jill Anna, giving him a sidelong glance.
"I see." I nod. "Well, that is useful information. Jill Anna, Amanda would like to know your first impressions of the Water Princess."
"I thought that she was small, but beautiful, and a little wild," Jill Anna answered. "After all, she summoned me for the purpose of making pants. Pants!"
"Ah, and Lord Abraham, Mnm has the same question for you."
"I believe I answered that question in my intrview during your Blog Tour," Lord Abraham answered. "But I'll answer it again - I honestly did know who she was the moment we met. She was small, but unafraid, she was brilliant with a sword, and there was a look to her eye - the same otherwordly sparkle that I also saw in the eye of the Fire Prince. She had the grace of a queen and the skill of a warrior, and yet even as she held the sword against the Fire Prince's throat, I knew there was no malice in her, only a strong instinct to protect. She was the girl sent to us to fight the Dragon - and for the first time, I pitied the Dragon."
"I actually thought quite the same," said Jakob. "Small, feirce, more than she seemed, and very much the match for the Dragon. But also a bit scared. Which made sense, since she was in a new world and she couldn't know for sure that we actually meant her no ill will."
"Actually, she had the same question for you, too, Jakob, so thank you for preemtively answering it for me." I thumb through my notes again. "How about this one for Kiona. Mnm would like to know when Stephan stopped teasing you."
"Not until after Bookholder Rindar had a long conversation with him one day about the abuse of power," Kiona answered. "I don't know what all they talked about, but I know that after that, Stephan stopped talking almost completely, unless he had to, and he started being nice to me. And that's when I fell in love."
"Aw," I said. "How about another one for Jill Anna. Mnm would also like to know if Jasmine is your only sister."
Jill Anna actually laughed. "Oh, no, far from it. She's merely my youngest sister. There are two older than me, and three between Jasmine and I. And then we have three younger brothers after Jasmine."
"All right, everyone, I think that's good for now," I say, folding my notes away. "We have a few more questions, but they can wait a bit longer."