Sidonie knows she can only keep the worst of the unrest over her pregnancy at bay for so long. Her child, regardless of Sidonie's own deeds, or Imriel's, is still Melisande's grandchild. She wonders, viciously, if the people think she, of all women, all rulers, can manage to forget such a thing.
She tells Imriel, "I'll begin showing in less than a month."
His smile is sweet and real, happy in a way she never used to see from him, but when he says, "I know," she can hear his own concerns. He says, "We've weathered worse."
She ignores the way the pain in her lower back is urging her to sit down and says, "I was a bit more spry at those times."
Barquiel, never one to mince words, says, "You can hardly blame them, niece."
"Nor can you allow their words to be given power," Phedre responds. She says the words to Barquiel, not Sidonie, and Sidonie has a second of sheer childishness, a desire to remind everyone that she is, in fact, the crown princess.
Ysandre, who has been silent for the better part of their meeting, asks her, "What are your thoughts?"
"How does one prove the innocence of a soul yet unborn?" Sidonie asks her in return. After a second, however, she capitulates and asks, "What was your strategy?"
The expression in Ysandre's eyes is knowing, bitter. "Children of barbarians are one step up the political ladder from children of traitors. All I needed to do was negotiate a treaty."
"That was all," Phedre murmurs dryly.
Sidonie smiles a bit in acknowledgement. "I cannot change the past, and there are no readily available treaties to ease the people's mind, sadly--"
"Imriel shall have to let others speak of his accomplishments."
Imriel's gaze snaps sharply at Barquiel. Sidonie cannot blame her husband--that is not the corridor she would have expected help from, either. It makes sense a moment later, though, when Barquiel laughs. "He'll hate it."
He will, too. Imriel does not like others talking of him, good or bad, but Barquiel is right. A quiet campaign of reminding Eluans how very much their prince has done for them is the only thing for it.
Imriel hedges: "Hard to do, without it being traced back to us."
Knowing it's a form of betrayal--knowing he will forgive her--Sidonie says, "I shall take care of it."
Sidonie enlists the help of Phedre and Joscelin, and with their contacts it is almost easy to set up a fête through the House Sharizai, as well as an "historical" exhibit in the salon of a retired head of Cereus House--one of the most popular of the day. Sidonie listens as the grumblings turn to excitement, as her own anticipation of the birth begins to have companionship in the rest of Terre D'Ange.
She also keeps an ear out for the voices that are not convinced, the strident ones that do not go away. They are fewer, but they are still loud, and Sidonie knows that underestimating an opponent is more foolhardy than not acknowledging one at all.
As the baby gets heavier, her own body harder to bring under control, Sidonie asks Imriel, "What if they are right?"
It is not a fair question, she knows. Particularly not for this man who has had to live under the shadow of his mother's name, and has roamed continents in search of absolution for a dead monster-child he never got to hold. But she has to ask it. Imriel will understand. He kisses her and says, "They are not."
"How can you--"
"Eisheth and Elua. They bless this marriage, this child. All others have naught to do with it."
"Blessed Elua," Sidonie murmurs. It is a reminder that she has had faith in Imriel, even when magic nearly forbade it and when all logic argued against it.
Imriel touches his lips to hers, dry like wine and so, so familiar. "Cared naught for crowns or thrones."