I’d never seen anything like when we rode into the city this morning. Annalise was on her white mare, dressed again in her uniform. She was also wearing the traditional silver circlet of the heir to the throne. She looked taller.
“Once she’s crowned,” Athena said to me, “the silver is yours.” I looked at her. “You’re her heir.”
“No,” I shook my head, frowning, “that can’t be right.”
“Brightcoast supersedes the other provenences,” she shrugged, “it always has, and with you being her cousin. It’s a logical choice.” I nodded. “We have work to do, you and I. We’re ladies in waiting now.”
“I know,” I said, “I think I’ll be very good at that part. Helping her pick out her clothes and brush her hair, and reading aloud.”
“I’ll be abysmal,” Athena sighed. “Tristan gets to be Captain Dugarry of Her Majesty’s personal guard. I will be the lady of the hairbrush. There’s something deeply unfair about that.”
“You could have said no,” I pointed out. Athena raised her eyebrows. “She wouldn’t have sent you away, and you could lead the guard.”
“It doesn’t make sense for me to lead the guard,” she sighed, “once things are settled I’ll be going to Pantona anyway. I’ll be a countess, which is stranger.” I smiled.
“He asked then?” I whispered. She nodded.
“Last night,” she said. “I won’t hold him to it, I mean, if he changes his mind. He’s had a terrible shock.” I looked at her.
“He won’t,” I said. She smiled. We’d reached Market Square. On any other day this place would be full of merchants haggling and children running and playing. It’s always been my favorite place in Dovetail.
Today it was different though. The people were still here but they were silent. Annalise stepped up on a dais.
“I came here today to reclaim my place, and to execute a traitor,” she said. “But the execution of Lord Brayton Tramil will not take place.” Everyone looked at her. Including Brayton. “I am not going to rule my people by fear, and while Brayton’s crimes are severe, I have decided to show mercy, as I believe my father would have,” the people had begun to yell. It took a moment, but I realized they were cheering. “I swear by the Goddess Rana who has Chosen me, and by her consort the God Cornan that he will know greater torment than death.”
We were all stunned as we followed her straight towards the palace and into the courtyard. She dismounted and looked at Countess Olivia who nodded.
“I don’t understand,” Athena said. “What are you going to do if you aren’t going to execute him?”
“Imprison him,” I said. Annalise nodded. “But where would hold him?”
“Here for now,” she said simply, “and I thought they you and I, and the sisters and Mastero Anselm could figure out the next step.” I nodded. I suddenly understood. She wasn’t sure Amina would accept his death.
“It was masterfully done,” General Martin said, “it will appease those that stayed under Brayton’s rule, keep them in line but not infuriate them, and well, frankly, when it comes to learning about your destiny, he’s a resource.” I glanced at Tristan. He looked angry.
“I think it’s what Father would have advised,” Aaron said. Annalise smiled sadly.
“It is what he advised,” she admitted. “That if Brayton wasn’t killed in battle I show mercy.” She sighed. “It wasn’t easy.” She looked at me. “I’m sorry, Marina, you’re more at risk here than anyone.”
“It’s alright.” I said softly. “You’re right, it was a wise course of action.” She nodded. “If you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go lie down.” I walked back into the palace and took a deep breath.
The air felt clear for once. The place less haunted. I walked up to our apartment and realized that soon, my bedroom wouldn’t be my bedroom. I was Annalise’s lady in waiting which meant I would move into one of the extra rooms in her apartment.
We also had to decide which one that would be.
Traditionally the princess or queen kept rooms in The Princess Tower, a pretty space toward the west of the palace. But their hasn’t been a reigning queen since Queen Anessa, and the reigning monarch usually lives in the grand middle apartment. Like the great throne, it’s a place Brayton never dared claim as his own.
There’s so much to do.
“Marina?” Lisette walked in. She looks contrite.
“Your Highness,” I said and sat up.
“I know that keeping Brayton alive is harder on you than others,” she said. I nodded. “The others don’t fear him,” she paused, “don’t have reason to fear him the same as you.”
“He’s going to die,” I said. “I’ve never been more sure of anything than that, Annalise. And I won’t go to him, but that I’m less sure of.” She nodded. “I’ll stand by you, of course I will, and Martin was right it is a good political decision.” I sighed. “I need to sleep.”
“Of course,” she said. “If you’re feeling up to it after,” she said softly, “I, there’s a girl who won’t stop following me begging me not to behead her father and she claims to be a friend of yours? Meri or something?”
“Mercy?” I asked. She shrugged. “Her father is a minor lord who used to spit on Brayton’s boots.” Of course Mercy Williams would take this chance to make the day all about her.
“Whoever her father is, she’s quite irritating,” Annalise shrugged. “Athena suggested a tower cell, which is why I need you.” I nodded and laughed.
“I’ll speak to her,” I said. Annalise nodded and left the room. I curled in a ball and slept, Rana saw fit to not send me any dreams. I thanked her for that.