It’s quiet now, but it was chaos. Before.
When she left.
When they came back.
But it’s quiet now. I am sitting, alone, Papa could not. He is with Annalise, and with Countess Olivia. I assume Aaron is with them too.
Caleb is dead and I couldn’t help and what is the point of having these powers, of being chosen if I can’t even help someone who was always so kind and wonderful, and who loved my father, and who my father loved, and raised Lisette to be so good and brave and strong.
I was sitting with him, when they brought him back from the city, which did not burn. He had already lost too much blood and the other healers had given up. I wouldn’t. I sat with him, and closed his wounds, and waited.
I let him die, and I was so determined that I wouldn’t.
“You’re focused, Little One,” he said softly to me. I nodded. “Marina, sweet, I’m dying. It’s alright.”
“Don’t be ridiculous,” I said, trying to sound cheerful. “You won’t die. Lisette and Aaron will be back soon, and I’m sure she’ll have plenty to ask you.” He laughed.
“You sound like your mother,” he said, “dear Anne, ‘Don’t be ridiculous, Caleb.'” I blinked at him. No one ever compares me to my mother. It’s always to Queen Marie, to my aunt. He closed his eyes. “We were all so young. And Les, and Anne, they warned me, but I couldn’t, I loved her.” He smiled. “And he never forgave us, not really.” He looked at me. “You must forgive them if you can Marina. You mustn’t carry it. Someday, so much will have changed and it will seem like everyone has gone, and you’ll wish you could have forgiven them.” He didn’t feel feverish, so I couldn’t account for the babbling. “Is Olivia alright?”
“Yes,” I said, “I can fetch her if you like.” He nodded. I went to find the countess and when I did, she was sitting, rail straight, staring into nothingness.
“Who?” She asked softly. I realized, that her children and her husband had all ridden off to battle today. She looked so small.
“Count Caleb,” I said softly. She closed her eyes and nodded and followed me. She looked at him and he smiled at her. She went to his side, not saying anything just holding her hand. I knew I should leave them, but I felt frozen.
“Lady Marina,” I turned and saw Elodie behind me. She was standing straight, but covered in dirt and blood. “They’ve returned, I thought you might want to tell the princess and, viscount Aaron.” I wondered that the battle was over. I looked everywhere, but couldn’t find anyone, finally, just outside of camp, standing on a hillside I saw Annalise and Tristan.
He was holding both of her hands and she was looking up at him. He leaned down and kissed her. I hated interrupting this. It made me feel small and petty, I wasn’t interrupting because I was jealous, but a small part of me felt like it.
“I’m sorry,” I said, “Lisette, Count Caleb,” her eyes grew wide.
“Alright,” she said. Tristan smiled sadly at her. “We won. I’ll be queen. That will cheer him.”
“Yes, love,” he said softly. I looked and noticed his tunic stained with blood and slashed. I looked at both of them. “I’m alright Marina.”
“He isn’t,” Annalise said, “you can help him?” I nodded. He sighed as she left.
“He’s dying then?” He whispered, as we sat in the grass and pulled up revealing an ugly gash in his side. I grimaced and began to clean the wound.
“Yes,” I said softly. He nodded. “It’s over?”
“Just about,” he flinched, “we have Brayton. I don’t know exactly what happened but I found Lisette in the throne room binding him.”
“He’s here?” I swallowed. Tristan nodded. “She didn’t kill him?”
“No,” he said, “don’t both asking her why, she won’t say.” I knew why. She wanted answers from him. “Marina, I,” he swallowed as I sealed the wound with a blinding white light. “Gods,” he mumbled, “that’s incredible.” I blushed.
“You may have a scar,” I said, “but you won’t be infected.” He nodded. “So should I call you Your Majesty now?” I tried to tease him.
“Don’t tease,” he said, but I could see a smile twitching at his lips. “Things are going to change quite a bit. She was just assuring me that they won’t change between us, but I don’t think even she realizes that can’t be.”
We walked back to camp, knowing what we would be waiting for us. Athena ran right to her twin and they held each other. Papa was sitting quietly with Viscount Aaron who looked as though all of the blood had left his body.
Count Aaron now, I realized. Aaron was the Count of Pantona, now. The smile that was always in his eyes seemed like it would be gone forever. I walked over and took his hand.
“I’m sorry,” I whispered. “I tried.” He nodded.
“I know,” he said softly. “I have to go home.” I nodded. “I’ll be back before she’s crowned. I have to, I promised him.” His voice caught in his throat. “There was so much he wanted to do, to help her with and I have to do it now.”
“Is she,” I whispered. He shook his head.
“She’s with him,” he said softly, “she won’t leave.” I nodded and then I came back here. I failed. I wouldn’t stand by her and then I let him die.