I walked into the large throne room and held my breath and counted to ten. I don’t like being in here. The great throne sits behind the large chair that Brayton has had made for himself.
After the summer. After Annalise is seventeen he can probably claim the throne and crown. Flanked at both his sides are his black guards, not proper royal protectors, like Sir Tristan and Lady Athena, but tall, large terrifying men dressed all in black, walk with him everywhere.
Also in the room are a few courtiers. Mercy Williams’s father, Lord Carver, who is so far up Lord Brayton’s, well, a lady shouldn’t say where, but he’s one of them. And as a surprise, Count Caleb is here. He’s my father’s closest friend, and I know now more than ever that he’s on Annalise’s side, but it’s always been a little off putting how good he is at acting like he doesn’t care one way or the other.
“Ah,” Brayton smiles from the chair, I try not to shiver. “Lady Marina, so nice of you to join us.”
“I over slept, My Lord,” I said and sank into a low curtsey. “I hope I can be forgiven.” He laughed.
“Of course,” he said. “Your father has requested that the two of you be allowed to spend the summer at Brightcoast.”
“Yes,” I mumbled, I hated the way he was staring at me. It’s not as though I’m dense, he’s not the only man to look at me. But it’s the way he does, and that one Dream. The one of him with her that I find it terrifying. “If it’s alright.”
“I had many good days myself at Brightcoast,” he said. I nodded. “I’ve not thought it appropriate to move the court there in summer, not without our dear cousin.” I nodded.
“Of course,” I said softly, “I pray for the princess’s return each morning, as I know you do as well.” He nodded.
“You’ll be missed of course,” he said, “but of course I cannot deny you the right to know your home.”
“Thank you my lord,” I said softly, “if it pleases you, I’d like to keep packing.” He nodded and waved me away. I curtsied again and headed towards the door. I got outside and took a deep breath, pressing my back against the cool stone.
I was remembering the Dream. I’ve only had it once, and I never told anyone, not even my father. I was in a great hall, not the hall in Dovetail, it was even larger, and lit by candles, but the light they gave off was an eerie blue. Lord Brayton was kneeling before a throne, where a lady was seated. She was dressed entirely in black and her skin was ghostly pale. I knew her immediately, this was Amina, the Dark Lady, The Goddess of Hell.
“Rise, king of shadows,” she said, “rise and take the world above in my name.”
And then I woke up. It wasn’t long after that when Brayton began singling me out.
“You did well,” I opened my eyes to see Count Caleb standing in front of me.
“Thank you,” I said and we started walking. “I’m trying not to be afraid of him, but he’s so,” I shuddered. The Count laughed.
“Brayton has always been unsettling,” he said. “And you have more reason than most to be unsettled by him.” I looked at him. “He has hinted to your father that he’s going to ask for a betrothal.” I blinked at him. “He didn’t want to alarm you.”
“It would have,” I said. He nodded. “I won’t marry him.”
“No,” Caleb shook his head, “nor would anyone expect you to.” I looked at him. I noticed the way he looked at me for the first time.
“We look alike, don’t we?” I asked. He smiled. “An-Lisette, and I?” He nodded.
“It’s uncanny,” he said, “except for the eyes, of course. She has her father’s eyes, grey, like a storm. You look even more like Marie than she does, come to think of it.”
“My father says that too,” I said. He smiled. “What is she like?”
“You’ve Seen her, haven’t you?” He asked. I nodded. “But that isn’t the same is it? Your Aunt used to try to explain.” We were back at our rooms and in the parlor. “She’s bright, and funny. She talks too much. She can be impatient.” He was leaning back and smiling. He was thinking about his daughter, I realized. He’d raised my cousin since she was two years old.
“Can she fight?” I managed to whisper. He smiled and nodded.
“Better than any of Brayton’s black guards,” he said. “Better even than your Sir Tristan, I think.”
“He’s not my,” I blushed. He smiled and stood up, kissing me on the forehead.
“I won’t tell,” he said. “And you don’t have to marry Brayton.” I smiled.
“She can fight him?” I asked again. He looked seriously at me.
“Yes, Lady Marina,” he said, “if there is one thing that I’ve been sure of for a very long time, it is that Lisette is more than capable of fighting Brayton.”