We were standing in the trees when two black guards came upon our small camp site. Elodie, who a few minutes before had seemed like simply a perky country girl jumped, quickly dodging a blow from the first guard. She swung her sword back at him and sliced his legs.
The second guard was engaged with The General and The Count, which seemed unfair, and almost certainly was. They fought like lightening, that was until the guard manage to land a blow on the General. Although it didn’t take long for the Count to then behead the guard.
“It’s safe,” he called out and we ran to them. “Martin, are you alright?”
“I will be,” the general stood up. He didn’t look alright.
“You’re bleeding,” Elodie said softly. “We have to get you back to camp.”
“Are they?” I swallowed, staring at the sprawled bodies of the guards.
“Dead?” Elodie said. I nodded. “As close to it as they get. They aren’t alive to begin with so whether than can be dead or not, well, it’s a question of semantics really.” I blinked at her again. “She doesn’t know.”
“No,” The General said, “she does not.”
“They’re shadows,” I said. “They were once men, but they aren’t any more. They’re shadows, now, they serve Queen Amina.” The Count and General looked at my father. “He didn’t tell me anything, I,” I swallowed, “about a year ago I had a dream, where Brayton pledged himself to Amina. I never told anyone, it was too frightening.”
“I have to get to Pantona,” Caleb said and shook his head, “I have to talk to Anselm about it. We suspected, but,” he inhaled. “He actually pledged himself to Queen Amina?” I nodded.
“You can’t go to Pantona now,” Father shook his head. “You’re supposed to be at Brightcoast.”
“Gods,” The Count muttered. “Fine.”
“I don’t mean to break this up,” Elodie was kneeling, hovering her hands over The General’s side. “But he is losing a lot of blood, if we ride hard we can get to the camp by nightfall.”
“Is he alright to ride?” Papa asked.
“Stop talking about me like I’m not here,” the general grumbled and we got onto our horses. I winced and we all started riding through the woods again, moving too fast for conversation. We arrived at a large encampment, I exhaled.
“It’s beautiful,” I said softly.
“Aye, it is,” Elodie smiled. “Busy place, full of folk who want to help your cousin rise to her proper place.”
“Why did you join the resistance?” I asked. She smiled.
“There wasn’t really any other place for me to go,” she shrugged, “my parents owned a tavern in Dorin, but they refused to pay the local merchant family, The Dumanis protection money. It was burned to the ground, and they died.”
“I’m sorry,” I said. She nodded.
“Lady Athena found me making my way south and brought me here,” she explained. “She feels responsible, as Carland Dumanis is her grandfather. Lord Brayton isn’t the only evil in Cammadan, Lady Marina, and if Princess Annalise returns I expect much justice to be done in her name.”
“You know Lady Athena and Sir Tristan then?” I whispered. Elodie nodded. “Their grandfather had your parents killed?”
“They don’t like to talk about it much,” Elodie shrugged, “but aye, their mother’s father.” I was quiet as we rode into the camp itself.
I used to go to the market, in Dovetail and the camp reminded me of that. People shouting to one another, children laughing and playing, the kind of busy organized chaos that is deeply comforting in a lot of ways.
“Marina,” Papa said, as we reached a large purple tent. “This is us.” I nodded to him and then to Elodie who smiled.
“I hope to see you soon, My Lady,” she said. She handed me a leather pouch. “For your discomfort. Rub it on your sore muscles, it will help.”
“Thank you, Mistress Elodie,” I said, dismounting and entering the tent. There was a small couch and I flopped on it. Papa smiled. “I like her.”
“I thought you might,” he said. “I know none of this is easy for you.” I nodded. That was an understatement, but at least he was admitting it.
“Papa,” I asked softly. He looked at me. “Count Caleb mentioned, after we talked about the Shadows that he needed to go to Pantona to speak with someone.”
“Mastero Anselm,” he said. I frowned. There were no more Masteros, Brayton had them killed because they wouldn’t recognize him as king. “He went into hiding with Anton and Marie, and he’s supervised Annalise’s magical education.”
“Oh,” I said softly. “I feel like there’s so much I don’t know.” I leaned back against the chair.
“It hurt me to keep secrets from you,” he said softly, “truly, my darling.” I nodded again. “You kept secrets too it seems.”
“I know,” I whispered, “but it was terrifying.”