Before going to Lisette’s room I slipped to the office where Elodie was looking over the arrangments for the coronation.

“Commander,” she said and stood up.

“No,” I shook my head. “This isn’t about,” I sighed and we sat down. “I need a healer.” She raised her eyebrows. “My cycle is late.”

“Ah,” she said, and set her pen aside. “Have you been using Whip Willow?” I raised my eyebrows. “Well?”

“No,” I muttered. She nodded and knelt down.

“And Count Aaron, I mean, I assume Count Aaron,” she said, I nodded, as her hands moved to my abdomen, “he’s finishing, well, still in you.” I nodded. “That’s quite careless Lady Athena.”

“I’m aware, thank you,” I mumbled. “Not a problem you’ll ever have.”

“No,” she grinned up at me, “though I’ve my own frustrations in that area.” She winked.

“She still won’t tell her father?” I sighed.

“No,” she said. “Mercy is, alas, still concerned he’ll disown her. As if that matters now, he never had land, and Annalise wouldn’t let him disinherit her for it.” I nodded.

“I’d support you no matter what, though you can do better,” I said. She smiled. “So, am I?’

“You aren’t pregnant,” she shook her head and stood up. “But start using whip willow, I know it’s disgusting.” I wrinkled my nose. “Lady Marina said she’s working on something, a potion rather than the tea.”

“I’ll put up with the tea,” I said softly. She nodded. “I have to admit I’m at least a little disappointed.” She sighed. “What if I can’t?”

“Athena, you’re perfectly healthy,” she shook her head, “you’ll have plenty of children.” I frowned and leaned back in my chair. “What does your grandfather say?”

“He’s over the moon,” I muttered. She nodded. “Aaron thinks it’s all silly, the contract, and my dowry from the family. I know you don’t approve either.”

“I don’t, but only because you’re too good for them,” she shrugged, “it matters to you though, so it matters.” A bell rang and we both stood up. “We’re going to have a queen to serve, My Lady.” I hugged her tightly.

“Yes,” I smiled, “finally. I should go, I’ll see you on the other side.”


I woke up in Aaron’s bed the morning of The Coronation. I felt him breathing against my neck and smiled. To know this is settled will make peace, which I don’t know if I built for, easier. I slide my hand to my stomach.

I haven’t told him. We’ve been careless, too happy, and full of grief and relief. And I don’t know if it’s real. My period should have come last week, and it didn’t.

“Come back to me,” Aaron whispered in my ear. I laughed and rolled over.

“I didn’t mean to go away,” I said, he smiled and kissed me softly. “Aaron,” I whispered, “If,” I sighed, “I know we said we’d wait for the wedding and I’m happy to.” He brushed my hair out of my face. “But, well, we may need it to be earlier.”

“Oh,” he said, “oh I see.” I swallowed. “Are you sure?”

“No,” I said softly, “I’m late is all, I’ll see a midwife, but I didn’t want,” he nodded.

“Did you think I’d abandon you?” He asked. I shook my head.

“Never,” I said softly. “You would have by now.” He smiled and pulled me close.

“What do you need me to do?” He asked. I laughed.

“Nothing,” I sighed and stood up, “I suppose if I’m not I’ll have to start using Whip Willow, ugh,” he laughed.

“Or we could just stop sleeping together,” he shrugged. I glanced over my shoulder at him and rolled my eyes. “It’s a suggestion.”

“Mm,” I sighed and looked in the mirror.

“Are you in uniform today?” He asked. I piled my hair on my head.

“For the ceremony,” I explained, “then a gown for the ball.” He nodded. “Why?” He rolled over and pulled out a box. “Aaron,” I muttered, and opened it.

There was a small pendant on a green ribbon, with the crest of Pantona, wheat with a sun rising behind it, on one side, and two A’s intertwined on the other.

“You don’t have to wear it if you don’t want,” he said, “I don’t know if it’s still done.” I kissed him.

“I love it,” I said, “and I don’t care, I’ll bring it back in fashion, put it on me please.” He laughed and slid on the betrothment necklace. It isn’t really done anymore, not even at court, but I love that he did it. I have my mother’s still.

“You’re my family now,” he whispered, “whatever comes next.” I kissed him gently. “With the coronation settled, I want to announce it officially.”

“Alright,” I said, “but we have to do the negotiations first.”

“Right,” he mumbled, “that.” I raised my eyebrows. “Me and Tristan?”

“You can’t negotiate for yourself,” I shook my head. “You have to choose someone.” He sighed and ran his hands through his hair. “This is important to me.”

“I know that love,” he said, “and I suppose Lisette can do it.” I looked at him. “Do you want to do it before, or after I bury my father?” That was sharper than I expected from him.

“Well, that depends, doesn’t it?” I snapped back. He exhaled. “But if I’m going to have your child, it makes no difference to my people if it’s born before we marry. That’s your side of it.”

“Please don’t be mad at me today,” he said walked over and slid his arms around me. “I become irrelevant today, as if it wasn’t made clear by Harran last night.” I giggled. I liked Prince Harran, the heir of border tribes.

He knew Lisette and Aaron well, as his father had sent him to Pantona three years ago. While she’d managed most of the suitors coldly and politely, she’d clearly gone weak in the knees around Harran. I couldn’t say I blamed her, he was well over six feet tall, completely muscled and was also charming and clearly adored her. If I weren’t spoken for, I’d have gone for him myself. But the fact that anyone could turn her head besides Tristan made the truth of the future painfully clear for Aaron.

She would marry, and he wouldn’t be the person she turned to first anymore.

“Fine,” I sighed, “we’ll discuss it later, and we both have work to do today. I’ll see you at the ball.” He kissed me, and his hand slid to my stomach.

“I’d be happy, Thena,” he said. I smiled at him. “Truly.”

The Dinner

We walked quickly down the market to get to Uncle Trey’s house, and I wasn’t sure why I was so nervous.

“If he brings up the dowry, you don’t have to say anything,” I said softly. Aaron looked at me oddly. “I mean, this isn’t the negotiation.”

“I’m sorry, what?” He said. I sighed. “The dowry? Like, your dowry?” I nodded. “It’s something that’s negotiated?”

“Yes,” I sighed and straightened his jacket. “Though there isn’t much negotiation for me. My mother left the money for me, it’s not the family’s. And it’s up to Tristan and,” I paused, “well, I suppose your mother, or Lisette.” He shook his head.

“Anything else?” He asked. I smiled. “I know I’m a country bumpkin, Athena, but I do know how to be at a dinner party.” He kissed me gently and then knocked on the door. Gordon pulled it open.

“Lady Athena,” he said, “Count Pantona, please,” I smiled at him and he took my cloak and we walked into the parlor. Uncle Trey was there and my Aunt Brie. Brie’s son Alex and Charlotte, my Aunt Andrea’s daughter were also both there. My grandfather, Carlan Dumanis was standing, straight and tall, holding a glass of wine, dressed in the family colors of gold and blue.

“Thena,” Lotte smiled and stood up and embraced me. “Your Grace, I am so sorry for your loss, and please convey my respect to your mother. Your parents were uncommonly kind to me in my youth.”

“Thank you, Mistress Dufrey,” Aaron said taking her hand and kissing it. “My father was fond of you, and the horse you two chose bore our princess gloriously.” She laughed.

“Athena,” My grandfather said, I walked over and offered my cheek for him to kiss. “Count, what a pleasant surprise. Where is your brother?”

“Princess Annalise cannot be without both her body guards, Grandfather,” I laughed.

“Hm,” he said, “fine then. Tell him I expect to see him soon.” I nodded and he took Aaron’s hand. “Your Grace, as my granddaughter said, we were all saddened to hear about your father.”

“It’s kind of you sir.” Aaron said softly. “It’s hard to be too sad with such happiness in front of me though.” I looked at him, and felt myself flush.

“Ah, yes,” Grandfather smiled and we all floated towards the couches, “I received both your letter and Tristan’s, and I must say, it’s a pleasant surprise to have Athena so well settled. I thought we were going to have to drag her to Dorin to find someone appropriate.”

“Papa,” Aunt Brie said, with a slight caution in her voice, “there’s no need to discuss that now. Count Aaron, I suppose we’ll never convince you to have the wedding in Dorin?”

“I don’t believe it would be appropriate,” Trey said, winking at me. Aaron smiled. “It would have to be in Pantona.”

“I’m afraid so,” Aaron grimaced. “It would be one thing if,” I glanced at him, and he stopped. “It doesn’t matter, but it was something my father wanted.” I saw Grandfather’s face redden. I knew what he’d caught himself saying.

It would be one thing if we were noble. If Grandfather’s large house in Dorin were a proper manor, but it isn’t. So we’ll be married at Pantona.

“We had a wonderful summer,” I said softly, “Tristan too.” Grandfather nodded and the conversation changed again, to excitement about the coronation and the celebrations it would bring.

“Is it true?” Brie finally asked me. I looked at her. “About Tristan and The Princess?” I sighed and looked down. “Gods,” she leaned back.

“It’s complicated,” I said, “I think they’ve finished now, but well,” I shrugged.

“He can’t know,” she said, glancing at Grandfather. I nodded. “He has a girl picked in Dorin, and a boy for you, though that’s out.”

“Don’t tell Tristan,” I said. She shrugged. “He won’t do as he’s told, Aunt Brie.” She sighed. “And there’s Lady Marina.”

“Ah yes,” she smirked. “How is the Little Duchess?”

“They wrote to each other while we were away,” I said, “He’s more open to it than he’ll admit.” She nodded.

“I can work with that,” she said. I exhaled. Brie had always been our ally in the family. When Martin took us out of this house, when we enlisted, when I refused to come out in merchant society, she was the one who smoothed it.

Protecting Tristan, and so protecting Annalise, couldn’t be done without her.

“We need to discuss the coronation,” Grandfather said walking into the dining room beside me.

“I’ve barely discussed it with The Princess, Grandpapa,” I said simply. He sighed. “I have her trust but she has her own mind.” He frowned at me.

“Athena, I know you take your duty to the throne seriously, but your loyalty to this family must always be paramount,” he said. “We were the ones who kept your brother and you safe all these years.” I frowned at him.

“No you weren’t,” I exhaled. He blinked. “You didn’t keep us safe, Thomas did, Count Caleb and Countess Olivia did, we kept ourselves safe and Cornan watched over us. You all stayed close and quiet and bided your time. For that you will be rewarded, but I won’t let you lie about it.”

An Invitation

A few days after settling in to the palace I keep having memories. Flashes and images of our life before the fall, before Brayton. It’s aided by Lisette’s quick and easy way of running court. People are coming already. Martin’s brother’s, Lord Jeremy and Paul have arrived and I’ve never seen him quite this content.

The only shadow over our happiness is Countess Olivia, or Dowager Countess now, I suppose. And Aaron. They do their best. They smile and advise Lisette, but they feel like ghosts. Aaron talks about Pantona, about taking his father home.

“Lady Athena,” Elodie slips into my sitting room one morning, “Sir Tristan,” she nods to him.

“Captain,” he says with a smile. She blushed and looked down. “How can we help you?”

“There’s a message for you,” she handed it to me. “From the Market.” I sighed.

“Right,” I muttered ripping open the seal and reading it aloud.

My Beloved Grandchildren,

I am so proud to hear of your bravery in assisting our lovely young Queen to take her rightful place. I have arrived in Dovetail this morning and would be most pleased to see you this evening.

Your Affection Grandpapa, Carland Dumanis

“I’m not going,” Tristan said. I rolled my eyes at him. “Tell him she can’t spare us both.”

“I’m not going alone,” I said. I glanced at Elodie, who held up her palms and backed out of the room.

“Bring Aaron,” Tristan shrugged. “He’ll love it, he can talk about Pantona’s trade needs, and Grandfather will drop dead of happiness to host a Count.”

“You’re a coward,” I grumbled, “You just don’t want to go because you know Aunt Brie will have some debutante to throw at you.” He raised his eyebrows.

“You got it in one, look at you,” he muttered. “Alex came to see me yesterday. Apparently there’s enough gossip about us.”

“Oh,” I said softly, “but I thought after, that you weren’t.”

“We aren’t,” he sighed. “The suitors are coming, Cornan help me.” I pinched him playfully.

“You aren’t so bereft of admirers,” I said, “there’s Marina, for one.” He smiled. “She loves you, she always has.”

“She loves Annalise,” he said, “so do I.”

“You’re hopeless,” I shook my head. I stood up and walked to the apartment Aaron had been keeping. “Hello,” I smiled.

“Hello,” he smiled, “William Santino wrote me. He’s coming. He’ll even be here in time for the coronation.”

“I’m sorry, I know you were hoping to ask him to manage the estate for you,” I said. He nodded. “Do you want to meet my grandfather? He invited us to dinner and Tristan refuses but I think you’d be a worthy substitute.” He laughed and stood up, wrapping his arms around my waist.

“I’ll happily go,” he said. I smiled, so glad to have him.


We raced to the market and searched quickly through the ranks, fighting a mix of shadows and Brayton’s actual soldiers. But we both froze when we saw it.

Count Caleb had been swarmed, his axe was not doing what it needed to do. We both raced over.

“Athena,” Martin called, “get him back to camp.”

“Yes,” I said as we pulled him away. Aaron was pale.

“Aaron,” he whispered, “is she,” he swallowed.

“She’s safe,” he said, “she went into the palace.”

“Good,” Caleb exhaled and then lost consciousness. I looked at the man I loved as we rode back, his father strapped to a wagon. He didn’t say anything.

“Aaron,” I said softly. He looked at me. “Marina will know what to do.”

“I hope so,” he said as we arrived. After he was settled in, we stood quietly outside the tent. “I should, my mother, and Lisette.” I took his hands.

“You don’t have to,” I said, “go be with him.” He touched my face. “Say what you need to.” He pulled me close.

“I don’t want this,” he said, “I don’t, I can’t.” I clung to him. I remembered that feeling, the hollowness, how suddenly you realized a part of you was gone that would never come back. “What am I going to do, Thena?”

“I don’t know, love,” I whispered to him. “I don’t. Come to me if you need me though.” He smiled softly and kissed me.

I wandered back, feeling ghostly, people were streaming into camp, injured and dead and safe and sound and everything in between. We won, that much was clear. I knew I should find Annalise. And Tristan, but I couldn’t. I found myself in the command tent. Elodie was standing with Martin and they turned. I ran and hugged her.

“I’m so glad you’re safe,” I whispered to her.

“You too,” she said. “Commander, General, I should check on my squad.”

“Of course,” Martin said and nodded, she saluted, “dismissed.” She left. “We need to promote her.”

“She’d make a good Captain,” I said, “I always thought so.” He nodded and we sat down. “He’s dying.”

“I know,” he whispered, “Olivia went to him.” I nodded. “Is Aaron alright?”

“No,” I whispered. “How could he be?” He took my hand. “I wish I could be happier that we won.” He laughed. “I keep thinking of my parents. I wish they could see it.”

“I know,” he said softly. “I should write to my brothers, they’ll be glad to know they can come back.” I smiled and stood up. “Just be there for him, Athena, as much as you can.” I nodded and went to my tent and found Aaron waiting for me.

“How was it?” I asked. He swallowed and we walked in and sat down.

“Difficult,” he said softly, “my mothere’s there now, and Lisette. He’ll prefer that.”

“Oh, Aaron,” I whispered and we lay down holding each other.

“We talked about Pantona,” he said softly, “for maybe for the first time in my life, about home and how he trusts me to it.” I buried my face into his chest. “He apologized, we were always supposed to have more time for that part.”

“I don’t know how it works for you,” I said softly. “Caleb was a warrior, I’ll sit vigil for him, if that’s what you’d want.” He laughed.

“We don’t honor the gods, Athena,” he said softly, “those are for those above us, and those below. Our soul belongs to home, to Cammadan itself, to Pantona, to our families.” I’d never heard him speak on it. “When it’s over, my mother and I will light candles, and we’ll say the names of each Count. When we have children, I’ll name one for him.” I smiled and cupped his face.

“Who are you named for?” I asked. He smiled.

“My great grandfather,” he said softly, “My father loved him, and never much liked his own father.” I laughed.

“Have you put a lot of thought into our children’s names?” I whispered.

“I’d always thought something with John and Alexia,” he whispered, I closed my eyes and he pressed a kiss against my forehead.

“I love you so much,” I whispered.

Battle Morning

As we ride into the city, it’s almost completely abandoned. I see a few face peaking out of the townhouses.

“Who are they?” Aaron asked nodding at one of them. Tristan snorted.

“Traitors,” he said, “they’re the nobility who stood by Brayton.”

“Things aren’t that simple,” I said softly. “We don’t know what was promised to them, what was threatened.” Lisette looked at me. “Anything like you Dreamed, Princess?”

“There were, if you can believe it, fewer people,” she muttered. Elodie smiled. “General, if you could secure the market, we’re going to the palace.”

“We’re?” Aaron said. She looked at him and nodded.

“Yes,” she said, “you, and me, and the twins.” He nodded and the four off us rode towards the large white building. Of course once we got in the gates we all heard the woosh and hiss of shadows. We dismounted and then Lisette went inside. She’d told us to stay behind, and so we did.

“We should be in there,” Tristan said, pacing, and then glancing up at the black guards on the balconies. “Why aren’t they attacking?”

“Who knows,” Aaron said, “but she’ll need us eventually.” I nodded and sat down on the ground. “What are you doing?”

“Ugh,” Tristan rolled his eyes. “She’s getting ready to commune.”

“She can do that?” Aaron said and looked at me. “You can do that?”

“Not always,” I said picking up the soil. “But the Palace is holy ground and there’s a battle going on. He’s probably close by.”

“By him, I assume you mean The God Cornan?” Aaron said.

“She does,” Tristan snorted. “She’s not particularly respectful, ever.” I stuck out my tongue at him. “But apparently the God likes that.”

“He does, actually,” I smiled. “Kick me or something if I’m needed.” I gripped the dirt and exhaled. “I am a soldier, yours to command.” I whispered. Slowly the wind whipped around me and I opened my eyes in the wide airy white temple. I knelt. “Sir.”

“Rise, Champion,” he said, “you’ve done well.”

“Nothing’s done yet,” I said. “I just thought, well,” he looked at me. “The Battle Magic.”

“Ah,” he said, “It is not my gift to bestow. That’s between my sisters.” I frowned. “You’re disappointed.”

“Well, it would be useful,” I said.

“The Sword is prevailing as we speak, it won’t be necessary,” he laughed. “But it will not be without loss.” I swallowed and the wave of understanding washed over me and I gasped awake. I stood up and looked at the boys.

“What is it?” Tristan said, he must have seen it on my face. Aaron walked over and took my hands.

“We have to go,” I said softly. “Aaron, your father.” He looked at me. “Tristan you’ll stay.” He nodded and looked towards the door.

“What did you See?” Aaron asked me. I shook my head. “Thena, is he dead?”

“No,” I said, “no, not yet.”

Tom And Trey

Since the shadow attack, Annalise is different. She’s so determined and almost grim. Even Tristan is keeping his distance from her. But we’re getting closer to Dovetail, and my heart skips a beat every time I think about it. We saw the city spires on the horizon today and I was thrilled.

“Athena,” Martin stepped into my tent, “I need your help with something.” I nodded and put down the map I was studying.

“Alright,” I said, “What do you need?” He sighed.

“I’m going to ask Trey to evacuate as much of the city as he can,” he explained. I whistled. “What?”

“That’s a big ask, Martin, and I don’t know that he’ll,” I sighed, “you want me to come with you.”

“He’s more likely to comply if you’re there,” he explained.

“We can start with if you’re asking him for a favor, using the word ‘comply,’ might not be your best bet,” I said. He laughed. “Drea’s probably North already, she’d be better than Trey.” He shrugged.

“We still have to try,” he explained.

“oh, I agree,” I said, “we leave now?” He nodded and I grabbed a few things and rode out towards the city, arriving at the gates. I was dressed as a merchant so we passed quickly and got to Market Street and slipped to Uncle Trey’s house. We went to the back door and I banged loudly.

Gordon, the butler opened it wide eyed.

“Lady Athena,” he said, his eyes glanced over to Martin. “General.” I couldn’t help giggling. “Please come in. I’ll wake him.” I nodded and we went to the parlor. I sat on a couch and Martin paced.

“I always hated this damn room,” he muttered. Uncle Trey walked in and stopped. He walked to me and embraced me.

“I was worried,” he mumbled, “when Lotte said you were in Pantona, and what else she found there,” he pulled away. “What on Earth were you thinking, sending them to the most dangerous possible place, Tom?”

“I was thinking that Athena and Tristan are Captains of The Royal Guard and the appointed protectors of the heir to the throne and they have a job to do,” he shrugged and leaned against a pillar. “It’s nice to see you, by the way, Trey.”

“Hmph,” Trey snorted and cupped my face, “You’re alright?”

“I’m fine,” I said, “but we need help. We’re marching on the city in a few days. With Annalise and,”

“We’d like to minimize casualties, and if anyone can quietly get people out it’s you,” Martin said. Trey looked at him, his eyes wide. “Trey, I’ll beg if you like.”

“I’ll do what I can,” Trey said softly. “Of course.” I nodded at him. “Stay for breakfast?” I smiled

“We can’t,” I said, “if someone saw Martin, they’ll already be looking for us.” He nodded. Martin looked at him.

“Thank you, for this,” he whispered. Trey looked at him.

“Dead people make poor customers,” he said with a gentle laugh, “someone told my father that once, even if he didn’t listen.” Martin chuckled and nodded. We moved quickly back out through the kitchen and down alleys, silently back to the camp.

“Do you still,” I tried, Martin looked at me, “now that things will be settled, and you can go back to the city, I thought maybe,” he smiled.

“The first time you asked when Trey and I would be together again you were twelve,” he said, “the situation has not changed much Athena. We’d kill each other in a week.” I smiled. “But I do miss him. I always have.” I nodded. “I hate that house.”

“We all hate that house,” I said. He laughed. “I’ve always been glad you refused to give us up to the family.” He smiled at me.

“I promised your mother,” he said, “I don’t make commitments not to keep them.”

I’m Yours

Hey All! This chapter has a new song added to the playlist!!!! Also if you haven’t checked out the playlist, check out the playlist!

As the sun went down and the fires and songs started up, I was able to find my way to the one where Aaron was sitting. He’d already collected a small band of friends. It made me happy that he was fitting in.

I walked over and sat down. He looked at me and smiled softly.

“Commander,” he said.

“Your Grace,” I nodded. The others laughed quietly. “Do you have a moment?”

“Of course,” he said and we walked away. The moon was full, it was nice. “Athena,”

“Wait,” I said, “I’m sorry. I should have told you, you were right.” He looked at me and grinned. “Do not get used to me saying that.” He laughed and hugged me. “It’s more than most people know. We were making plans to run away together.” He looked at me. “My Aunt Brie, her husband is Rastani, we were going to go to his family, at least until things were settled.”

“I see,” he said. “Do you think he was sincere?” I frowned.

“I didn’t used to,” I said softly, “I thought it was all a trick. That he was telling me what would get me to trust him enough to tell him everything.” I sat down on a rock and Aaron sat with me. “When they brought Martin out into the open, when he had to run,” I swallowed, “when I realized who he was, what he was, I still had to pretend,” I shuddered. “Until he was stationed away, I still had to be with him. Let him kiss me, and touch me,” Aaron nodded, he didn’t move to comfort me. “I hated myself for it. Every night, every kiss, every whisper.”

“Oh, Thena,” he said softly. “I’m sorry.” I swallowed. “If I’d known,” I smiled and took his hand.

“After I talked to him today,” I whispered, “I realized he meant it. He was a spy, he betrayed us, but he did love me. He did want to run away with me, he thought,” I swallowed and started crying. “He thought I would still want to, after all of this, that I would choose him and us. And god help me Aaron, I might have. If what we’d been told was true, if we’d just escorted your mother home and then went back to Dovetail and then I’d found out he actually loved me, I’d have done anything to get away from there, from Brayton.”

“But it wasn’t true,” Aaron said. I looked at him. “It doesn’t matter, Athena, don’t you see that. We’re together, we’ll always be.” I looked at him. “I love you, just let me. How many times do I have to beg?” I sniffled.

“But what if,” I started. He kissed me gently.

“No more what ifs,” he said, “if we die taking the capital, we’ll be together, if we fail and live, we’ll run away together. I like the idea of your aunt’s Rastani in laws,” I laughed. “I’m yours, Athena, forever. Can you say the same?”

“Yes,” I smiled softly. “I’m yours, forever, no matter what.” He kissed me again.


Life had settled in at camp, Lisette had proved her worth and been made a Lieutenant (officially), and Tristan a Captain to make way for her. I spent most of my days training or working with newere recruits, most of them runaways from Dovetail.

In fact it was a lovely calm morning, discussing when we would move towards Dovetail. The Count and Martin like the symbol of marching in on her birthday. Aaron thinks that’s suicide.

It’s all moot now, but it didn’t make this morning less frighting, when we heard the horns and felt the shill in the air as the shadows descended. I tried to call on my strength, on whatever blessing Cornan could give me and nothing came.

My back pressed against Tristan’s when I heard the hissing voices in my head. I’d never heard them before, just seen them, disguised as men at Brayton’s back.

You are not worthy to be called warrior. One hissed at me. You who are so we you can’t even keep you legs closed. I slashed and dispersed that one.

I would kill you, so called Champion, the next came forward, I swallowed, But my commander has asked for you as a reward.

“Commander?” I asked, and then looked over the hillside and saw him standing there. Warren Davis, clad entirely in the uniform of the black guard, his dirty blond hair slicked back. Tall, strong. I swallowed.

“No, Athena,” Tristan said, as I went towards him. “General,” he called out.

“Tristan you go,” he said. I frowned at them both. “Athena, stay with the Princess.” I frowned, but of course in moments, it didn’t matter because a blinding shock of white light shook the earth and the shadows had dispersed. Lisette ran to the edge of the battlefield and I saw Lady Marina collapsed.

“Are you alright?” Aaron asked. I nodded wordlessly. But I wasn’t. I couldn’t be. How was he so near? How was he commanding shadows? How had I been so blind to what he really was?

“You?” I asked.

“Yes,” he said. “Marina,” he muttered. I nodded. They’d connected, I wasn’t surprised. As I got to know her better, I saw how much they had in common. He ran over to Lisette, and scooped the younger girl up to carry her to camp.

“I want to interrogate him,” I said to Martin, who frowned at me. “Martin!”

“Athena, we need answers from him, we don’t need him dead.” He shook his head. I frowned. “I can feel the anger coming off of you. I don’t blame you, but you wouldn’t be able to control yourself.”

“Fine,” I said and marched away. I got back to my tent and lay down on the bed. I fell to sleep quickly. My dreams were full of memories and images. Warren cautiously sitting beside me one day at dinner. The notes I would find slipped under the door, or with my gear in the training room. His whispers of how we would get away from Dovetail, from Brayton together, his hands on me, his voice gently whispering, “Beloved,” in my ear as he entered me. I woke up then with a start. Aaron was sitting in a chair, tending to and watching a fire. “What are you doing here?”

“Everyone was busy,” he explained, “I didn’t want to be in the way.” I nodded. “Marina is alright. Exhausted, but well.”

“I’m glad,” I said honestly. He nodded. “Is something else wrong”

“Who is Warren Davis?” He asked. I swallowed and sat up.

“It doesn’t matter,” I frowned. He looked at me and shook his head.

“You know what, forget it,” he said and walked out. I stood up and followed him.

“Then you know already?” I said. He turned and looked at me. “Who told you? Tristan? The General?”

“My mother,” he said. “But don’t blame her, because she was just warning me to be gentle with you.” I suddenly swelled with affection for the countess. “But you should have told me. You were planning to marry the man and you never once mentioned,” I swallowed.

“What would you have had me say?” I said back. “That the first time a boy whispered I was pretty, I slid into bed with him faster than I could take a breath? That he made it impossible for me to trust anyone because it turned out he was a spy, and he broke my family apart and every moment I was falling in love with you, I was terrified I’d said something that would bring him back around to you, and to Lisette.” He looked at me.

“You should have told me,” he repeated, “I would have understood, at least, then why you were so,” I swallowed. “You were going to marry him.”

“I don’t need to explain that,” I shook my head. “Just because every woman you ever kissed we would see on market days.” I realized we’d walked to the medical tent.

“I wasn’t ever planning to marry any of them, Athena,” he said. His voice had shaken of it’s calm. “That was just you. I love you.”

“I was never going to marry Warren Davis,” I explained, “not when I knew what he was, but I was hurt, Aaron. I love you too.” He frowned and we turned, seeing Marina standing next to us.

“I’m glad you’re feeling better, Marina,” he said and shook his head walked away. I sighed and flopped down on one of the beds again. After talking with Marina I knew what I needed to do, but I wasn’t happy about it.

I walked over to where they were keeping him. No one tried to stop me, which was a blessing. I walked into the tent and stared at him.

“Hello Beloved,” he said softly, his hazel eyes meeting mine. I stared him down. “I was wondering when I would see you.”

“How could you?” I asked him softly. He swallowed, almost flinched. I knew him so well. Every inch of him.

“It was for us,” he explained. I snorted and crossed my arms. “Athena, what Lord Brayton has planned, what he can do, you have no idea. But I can protect you, he’s promised me. Even now, after he takes the throne, we can go away, like we always said.”

“You’ve lost your mind,” I said, “as if I’d go with you, choose you. I’d die first.” He frowned. “You’ve met her. You’ve seen.” He stared me down.

“It won’t matter,” he said. “When he has,” I cocked my head to the side. “If I tell you, what do I get?” I looked away. “So cold, My Lady. You didn’t used to be.”

“I’m sorry, Warren,” I whispered, “I’m truly sorry you traded your soul for nothing.” I turned around and left. Tristan was standing waiting for me. “Don’t start.”

“Just checking on you,” he said. “He’s insane.”

“I noticed,” I sighed. “He thinks I’m going to run away with him.” Tristan stared at me. “We did talk about it, but it wasn’t the sort of thing,” I frowned. “Aaron’s angry.”

“That, I noticed,” he said. “He’s hurt, Athena, but he’ll get over it.” I bumped him with my shoulder. “I’d kill himself if I thought it would help.” I smiled at my brother.

“I know you would.” I said. He smiled and shrugged.


Tristan and Lisette are eating with Duke Lestat and Lady Marina, which I guess will become normal. I’m curious what Lady Marina’s reaction will be when she finds out about them. Poor thing.

Meanwhile, I sat through a desperately awkward meal with The General, Aaron, and The Count and Countess. It was almost completely silent until Aaron finally spoke up.

“I thought,” he cleared his throat and looked at me, “I thought perhaps once things are settled I might go back to Pantona in the spring.” I stopped and smiled at him.

“I don’t think it’s up to us,” The Countess smirked. “It will take getting used to being at the whim of the crown again.” Aaron snorted.

“Aaron,” The Count cautioned.

“I’ve been at Lisette’s whim since I was four, I don’t think it will be much to get used to,” he shrugged. I smiled. “What do you think, Lady Athena? About the spring.” Martin dropped his silverware, loudly.

“I like the spring,” I said, “but me going to Pantona would be a great disappointment to my grandfather. He’s always begging me to go to Dorin.”

“You might be better off going to Dorin,” Martin said. I glared at him.

“We enjoyed having Athena at Pantona,” The Countess said, her clear blue eyes meeting his.

“Oh, honestly,” The Count sighed loudly, “Aaron, yes, of course, a wedding in the spring at Pantona would be wonderful, I seriously doubt Lisette would object on any score, except she’d probably miss you both.” I pressed my lips into my mouth. “Athena, we would of course welcome you into the family, in fact, the prospect is thrilling.” I was trying not to giggle. “Thomas, Olivia, if you two could please stop thinking these two need to reenact your own history I would very much appreciate it. I am nothing like either of our fathers, and I have no intention of making my children miserable for my own ambition.” He stood up and stormed out.

“Excuse me,” I said and stood up and walked over to Count Caleb. “Thank you, for that.” He looked at me and laughed. “I didn’t think you’d disapprove of me.”

“No,” he said softly, “I very much do not.” I looked at him. “But somehow when the subject of the lot of you comes up, The Countess and General feel the need to pick at old scabs.” I nodded.

“Are you ever jealous?” I asked, thinking of pretty Kathy Sampson, who I would have to see regularly. Or Aaron’s reaction to my past. He looked at me and smiled.

“No,” he said softly. “Not for a long time.” I nodded. “Aaron wouldn’t even think to be, it’s not in his nature.” I smiled.

“No it isn’t,” I said softly. “My grandfather is going to be disappointed.” He laughed.

“I doubt it,” he shook his head, “when he arranged your parent’s marriage I think this sort of thing was exactly what he had in mind.” I sighed.

“It makes Tristan nervous,” I admitted, “me too, but don’t tell him. Grandfather having easy access to her.” He sighed.

“Don’t tell anyone but I worry about it too,” he frowned. “I have a little more faith in your uncle and aunts, but not much.” I nodded. “You don’t need to worry about these things, Athena.”

“No offense your grace, but it’s my job to protect her, so I think I do have to,” I said. He laughed and then we saw Lisette and Tristan walking back over. “Excuse me,” he nodded. “Hello you two, who did it go?”

“I’m tired,” Lisette frowned, kissed my brother and then waved and headed to bed. I smirked at him.

“That well?” I said.

“I told you so doesn’t suit you, Thena,” he frowned. “She’s going to hate me.”

“You deserve it,” I said. “You didn’t mention once in those letters you wrote her that you’d fallen in love with a princess.” I hissed out the last part. He winced.

“It didn’t seem like,” he frowned, “I didn’t know how she felt.”

“You’re an idiot,” I said. “You can congratulate me, though. I’m engaged.”

“Hm,” he nodded. “Did Martin stop sulking then?”

“No,” I grumbled as we walked along and I kicked the road. “But it isn’t up to him. You’ll write to Grandfather?” He nodded. “Do you want me to talk to Lady Marina?”

“Do you think it will help?” He said. “I don’t like the idea of her being angry with me. We’ve always been,” he stopped, “I’m an idiot.”

“Yes,” I smiled at him, “you really, really are.”