By The Water, In The Moonlight

There’s a lake right near by the camp and after dinner (which we ate with the contingent from Pantona. Countess Olivia is very good at keeping things from being awkward. I ought to ask her to teach me.) After Annalise asked if we could walk and we wound up here. We were silent for a few minutes until she started moving bubbles of water around, by carefully waving her hands.

“That’s amazing,” I whispered.

“Parlor tricks,” she muttered, “I’m out of practice and I’ve never been any good at battle magic. I don’t know how I could ever beat a shadow, let alone an army of them.” She looked at me. “I’m going to need a lot of help.”

“I don’t know that I’ll be much help,” I said softly. She looked at me. “I’m not a fighter, and you have warriors, and the twins, and,” she laughed.

“Yes, I have plenty of warriors,” she said, “and I can fight well enough on my own, that isn’t what I need help with.”

“No?” I whispered. She shook her head. “What then?”

“Just, everything else,” she shrugged, “magic, and Dovetail. I know that if I,” she inhaled deeply, “when I’m crowned, I’ll need to deal not just with fighting a battle but with being a queen, with holding court and making decisions and all that.”

“And you think that I can help with that?” I scrunched my face. She cocked her head to the side.

“Tristan said that you know the court better than anyone,” she explained, “that everyone likes you and that you understand much more than you let on.” I looked at the lake and the full moon reflecting off of it.

“Did he talk about me much?” I hoped that my voice didn’t give anything away. She shook her head.

“Only when I asked,” she said softly. “To be fair he doesn’t talk much at all.” She looked out now. “I don’t want him between us, if it can helped.”

“He isn’t,” I said. When I think about it now, I think I might have been lying. She nodded. “He’s wrong though, I’m not terribly popular. The resistance thinks I’m a silly girl, my father is an eccentric who prefers his books to their company, and the courtiers laugh at me while Brayton leers.”

“Caleb told me that part,” her face was hard now, the face I knew from my Dreams, fierce, spoiling for a fight. “He said that Brayton hopes to marry you so that he can command Brightcoast. And he thinks that Caleb is indifferent, so he figures Pantona will come too, that’s most of Cammadan.” She looked down, and swallowed, “but it’s more than that.” I looked at her an nodded. As if something we’d both always known and yet never known passed between us. “He loved my mother. He wanted her, and she chose my father.”

“Everyone always talks about how I look like her,” I said. She nodded. “You too.” She nodded again. “What have you Seen?”

“You, I knew it was you, even though I didn’t,” she said, sounding embarrassed, but I knew what she meant, “but you were at his side.” I looked at her in horror.

“I’d never,” I whispered, “not in a thousand years.” Her face broke into the fierce, terrifying smile that I knew so well.

“Good then,” she said softly. “Because I need you on my side.” She stretched and stood up. “I’ll see you tomorrow.”

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