"Books, books, books," he said, placing three books on the table as punctuation; "These books don't pertain to your studies. Will your father consult you on military strategy during counsel? No. Can you duel? No . . . These don't really make sense, you know." He moved the remaining books from the chair to a corner table, then sprawled in the empty chair.
The room was relatively silent for a moment but for a thoughtful mumble of embers in the grate and an impudent wind whistling through a crack in the windowpane. She set down the volume she'd been reading when he entered, took up another, and crossed over to the centre of the room, where there were large maps laid out on a table.
"If it weren't for these books, I'd hardly know my father. They're practically the only things we have in common."
"He talks to you about them?" A maid appeared with an extra mug for tea; he took it and thanked her, looking about the room for the teapot.
"In the evenings, when we haven't visitors, he likes to teach us and talk to us about different things. I'm afraid he isn't very much interested in embroidery or dancing or the metrics of poetry, but he does appreciate strategy and somehow, I think he knows it takes effort for us to learn things that are very important to him, and it gives him a bit of hope that we won't be left dull and spiritless if we ever have to sit through days at court like Mother does."
She continued to pore over a map in the centre of the table, moving small lead figurines about on the surface of it and checking a large volume for the correct movements.
"He expects you to marry princes?"
"No. He hopes, you know, but there are only so many princes and most of them are intolerably dull and have no sense."
"You aren't a prince yet, and you know what I mean. Anyway, it isn't really important to him."
"When I first met him, I never thought of him as a father, you know? He's very much a battle-worn man, and very good in the thick of things. Sharp, really sharp, and keen-eyed." He waved his half empty mug about as he spoke and sloshed tea into the grate. The fire hissed and sent up a puff of smoke in protest.
"He doesn't love the battle for the fight; he only does it because he must protect what he loves."
"That is definitely something to admire."
"It is. These books are the least I can do to show him how much I admire and love him for that. I will never duel skillfully or plan battles or have to feed an army for three years on foreign soil, but he will or does or has. I don't want him to have to shelter me any more than he must. It is rather trying, sometimes, to not be a son for my father."