Author Explanation: This is a fun scene that just can’t seem to make it into a book, haha! I have written two different versions of this scene; one for Royal Decoy, and then this one for Royal Spy. Unfortunately, pacing has been an issue both times, and in the end it had to be cut.
Bennick was in a late night meeting with the Winsel’s guards, so Wilf escorted Clare and Vera to the spare room that had been overrun with gifts. The Winsels said they’d begun arriving a week ago, offerings from nobles eager to send their congratulations on the upcoming marriage and alliance.
Ivonne sat at a desk, apparently jotting down notes about a necklace that sat beside her. She spotted Vera and groaned, dropping the quill at once. “Thank the fates you’re back, my hand is cramped.”
Vera moved to the desk, easily taking over the inventory while Ivonne shook out her fingers.
Clare scanned the room, marveling at all the paintings, boxes, bolts of fabric, and endless jewelry. “How are there so many?” Clare asked.
Ivonne snorted as she lifted a thin, narrow box. “Because there are too many nobles trying to outdo each other.”
“And sometimes themselves,” Venn added. His arm was no longer in a sling, though he still moved gingerly. “I’ve found three gifts alone from Lady Finn. Apparently, each subsequent one was ‘better’.”
“How did you end up here?” Clare asked.
He sighed. “Just eternally lucky, I suppose.”
“Bennick won’t put him on rotation quite yet, so he might as well be useful,” Ivonne told Clare.
Venn’s face broke into a smile. “You think I’m useful?”
Ivonne just rolled her eyes.
Clare approached the pile in the middle of the floor, spotting a stack of what must be rare books, and a trunk that was so decorated with gold, she thought it looked like a pirate’s chest. “I still don’t understand why people would send so much.”
“It’s a royal wedding,” Ivonne said. “But more than that, I think people are worried they might be seen as unsupportive if they don’t give something truly magnificent.” She spoke over her shoulder to Vera. “Another gold necklace, this one with small rubies, from Lord and Lady Bent.”
Vera noted it.
“Sometimes there are amusing gifts,” Venn said. “That helps drive away the monotony.”
Clare reached for a framed painting and found the attached card. “A painting from Lord Tripp. It appears to be a portrait of himself.” She double checked the card. “Done by himself.”
Venn choked out a laugh, dropping the box he’d just lifted. “Let me see!”
Everyone crowded around the less-than-masterfully-done painting, and even Wilf grunted in amusement.
Vera finally set it aside and made a note in the inventory. “That will definitely go to Iden.”
“Can we please include a note that states it should be hung in the entrance hall?” Venn begged. “Please?”
Clare returned to the pile and Wilf moved to the far corner of the room to sort through some cards that had been separated from their packages.
Ivonne found the next strange yet hilarious gift—a beloved dog’s ashes. “To sprinkle in the ocean and know that a beloved soul of Devendra is with you,” Ivonne read from the card, her eyes wide in disbelief. “Why? Why would anyone think their dog’s ashes would make a good wedding gift?”
“Nobles are insane,” Venn said. “Haven’t you noticed?”