Sword Meets Shadow

I couldn’t sleep and was staring at the ceiling of the tent, I jumped when I heard someone come in and whispered my name.

“Marina!” I turned and saw Annalise. She was dressed in a full ceremonial uniform, which frankly, I didn’t even know she had. I sat up. “Get dressed.”

“I don’t understand,” I said. She sighed, she looked serious.

“Something fine,” she mumbled and went to the wardrobe. “Something that makes you look important, and grave.” I stared at her and stood up. “Blue, it should be blue.”

“Lisette,” I said, “what is it?” She handed me a simple, but lush, blue velvet gown. “I only wore this when I was presented at the temple.”

“That’s perfect,” she said. She helped me slip it on. “We’re going to talk to Brayton.”

“We’re what?” I froze. She looked at me. “Now?”

“Yes,” she said. “If we wait until tomorrow, we won’t be allowed near him alone. And there are things I need to know.”

“Why do I have to go?” I asked softly. She didn’t understand, she didn’t know my fear. Sometimes I think Annalise doesn’t know any fear. She looked at me.

“Because,” she said, “I don’t want to be alone, and no one else will understand.” I nodded  and took a cloak, wrapping my shoulders and covering my head. We reached a tent, where two guards were standing.

“Princess,” one of them said softly, “the prisoner.”

“Will see me,” she said, she looked so dignified, I swallowed and we stepped in.

Brayton was tied to a post, he looked worn, he’d been beaten, but when he saw us, he smiled.

That knowing smirk. The feeling like he could see through my gown, and see through me. Annalise had her hand on her sword.

“Cousin,” he said softly, “and Lady Marina. To what do I owe the honor of this visit?”

“Don’t speak to her,” Annalise said sharply. “You’re going to be executed, and before that I need answers from you.”

“Of course,” he said, still staring at me, I tried to look away but couldn’t. “I did it for the throne, as you know.” He laughed. “You were going to ask me why I killed your parents, weren’t you?”

“Don’t be ridiculous,” she said. “I knew that.” He nodded.

“Ah,” he said, almost gently, “of course, our little seer.” I looked away then. “The Dark Lady came to me. With her brethren in chains, she saw an opportunity.”

“When?” I managed to breath. He smirked.

“She speaks,” he said. “When my Marie wed my cousin.”

“She wasn’t yours.” Annalise said. She sounded wounded. “My mother,” he laughed.

“You wouldn’t understand,” he said, “Lady Marina, however,” I swallowed. “To love and not have it returned is terrible, but the person is yours, and that stab, when they choose someone so close to you.” I closed my eyes. “Well, there is nothing worse, wouldn’t you agree, Marina.”

“Stop,” I said and looked at him. “We aren’t the same.” He laughed again. “You’re going to die.”

“Lady Amina will not accept my death,” he whispered. “Asked the Princess,” he said, I looked at Annalise, I saw fear in her eyes. “She saw you at my side, Lady Marina, my queen.”

“Visions change,” I whispered, “I saw you sitting on the great throne and Dovetail in flames as she entered the city, and here you are, helpless.” Annalise looked at me. “You’re going to die and even if you didn’t, I chose her.”

He looked stunned. For the first time in my life, I saw Lord Brayton, my greatest fear, looking small and broken.

“Queen Amina need a vessel in this world,” he whispered. “I am that vessel. But I doubt she would stop with me.” Annalise nodded.

“Your execution will be tomorrow,” she said simply. “You know your crimes.” She turned and I went to follow her.

“I’d have given you the world,” he said.

“I didn’t want that world,” I said. I walked after Annalise. She was shaking. “It’s over.”

“It clearly isn’t,” she said. “But this battle is.” I nodded. “You’re not like him.”

“No,” I whispered. “But I could be.” She looked at me.

“I’m not marrying him,” she blurted out. I looked at her. “Tristan, not right away, I can’t, I have,” she looked away. “There’s something, I can’t explain, I can’t tell him, and I,” she looked down. “And he loves you.”

“Not like he does you,” I whispered. “And I am over him, I think.” She nodded.

“What if Brayton’s right?” She asked. “What if Amina doesn’t accept his death?” I closed my eyes.

“Then you have to free Rana and Cornan,” I said. “But you have to do that anyway.” She smiled sadly. “I’m sorry, about Caleb.” She closed her eyes.

“I can’t,” she whispered, “he’s gone and, I can’t sense him.” I looked at her. “My parents, I could always, feel them, my mother especially,” she sighed, “but he’s just gone.”

“That’s good,” I said, she looked at me, “it means he’s at rest, Annalise. Your parents lingered because they needed to be avenged.” She nodded.

“I suppose so,” she said. “I’m going to be queen. I don’t know how to do that. Caleb was supposed to help me. He always said he would.”

“You still have Olivia, and Martin and,” I looked at her. “Me, you have me, you’re always going to have me.”

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