I was studying. After the decision on the invitation had been settled and (mostly) who would officially be asked to be on the council (Myself, Countess Olivia, Aaron, General Martin and Papa. As well as the two other Provence leaders, Lady Artia of Northin and Lord Wyatt Ceras from the Westlands.) the meetings have calmed down, and Annalise has gone back to training with the general so my day to day duties are slower.
I’m glad to be at my books again, looking at potions and herbs and even looking through spell histories to find something about what had happened that day the shadows attacked camp.
The library at Dovetail Palace might be my favorite room in the world. It’s encased in a glass dome, so it glitters in the sunlight and always feels warm. And that was when I found it. Not an explanation of what happened, but well, something related to what happened. It was scribbled by the same description of The Sword of The Goddess that Papa had. I didn’t recognize the writing.
I think there may be a dark sword, made from shadow and light.
I swallowed, closed the book, steeled myself and walked down to the dungeon. Most of the guards looked surprised, but no one stopped me until one.
“What are you doing here?” William Santino asked. I swallowed and looked at him.
“I need to speak to him,” I said.
“No one is supposed to,” he said softly. I nodded. “It’s important?”
“Very,” I whispered. “I wouldn’t dream of it if it weren’t.” He nodded and I walked down the long dark hallway. I managed to conjure a small ball of light, even in my fear and then I saw Brayton. He’d grown thinner, and his dark hair had lost it’s sheen. His eyes looked hollow, and I couldn’t help but wonder if The Dark Lady had forsaken him.
He noticed me though and smiled.
“Well, what an honor,” he said softly, that same mocking tone he’d always had for me dancing in his voice. “The Duchess of Brightcoast herself. The guards call you The Princess’s pet witch, did you know?”
“I didn’t come here to chat,” I said, wondering if he could hear my voice shaking.
“No,” he sighed, “did you come to prophesy my death again? It was terribly amusing the first time.” I flushed. “She blushes, perhaps you are not as impervious to me as you lead me to believe?”
“Did you believe that I was to be the mother of the dark sword?” I whispered. “Light and shadow to combat earth and sea?” He grinned.
“You found my notes!” He said. “Well, I knew we were a match, but that was terribly obscure. How often did you hide in that library?”
“Answer the question!” I said. He laughed.
“Yes, Little One,” he said, “when it was clear you had power, I did believe that we together would create a sword for Amina.” He smiled. “I still believe it, come to that. You’ve seen that there is life beyond Dugarry, then?” I looked away. “The Dark Sword, my dear, our child. Or mine an Annalise’s but her power is limited.” He inhaled. “Yours, it’s limitless, if only you’d let go of your fear.”
“I’m not afraid of my power,” I said. He smiled again.
“You’re afraid of something,” he whispered. “Besides me, that is, and you must believe, Marina, I would never harm you.”
“Wouldn’t you?” I whispered. As if being asked to bear a dark chosen one wasn’t harm. “You are going to die, you know, once I know how to sever your tie to Amina.” He nodded.
“As you say,” he whispered and I turned and walked down the hallway. I was outside in the sunshine and air and took a deep breath. I felt better already but sick to my stomach. How could he know? What could he have seen William? I didn’t even know I felt.
“Marina,” I turned hearing my name and saw William. I looked at him. “Are you alright?”
“No,” I whispered, “no, but it doesn’t matter. I can’t tell anyone about this. Only Annalise would understand and she has enough to worry about.” He nodded.
“You have friends, Count Aaron, and Lady Athena and Sir Tristan,” he said, “and your father. I spoke to him at dinner last night, he’s quite exceptional.” I looked at his big green eyes.
“I can’t tell him this,” I whispered. “He’s too,” I didn’t know the word, since Count Caleb dies, Papa has been different. He’s quiet and he’s stopped his work, and he keeps saying that it’s time for him to go home. “He kept me locked up here, while Annalise and Aaron trained for this. He never told me what my powers meant, if he knew what I just learned.” I sighed. “And Aaron and Tristan and Athena, this isn’t their speed.” He nodded. “Brayton wanted to marry me. Everyone thought it was political, so that he could control Brightcoast.”
“I see,” he said. “But it wasn’t? It was,” he frowned, “was it love?”
“No,” I said, “obsession maybe, he claims he loved my aunt, Annalise’s mother and I look like her. There’s a prophecy about Annalise, or we think it’s about her, and apparently there’s another one, and he thought that I could help him bring it about.” I stopped. “Thinks. Thinks that he can bring it about.”
“By marrying you?” William said. I nodded. “You’re terrified.”
“Annalise saw me as his bride, he’s seen it,” I explained. “Visions are hard to shake.” I leaned against the railing.
“My father and Uncle sent me to Pantona five years ago,” he said. “We have lands there and I’m not inheriting much, but I could make a life for myself. The inn is good for me, and then I befriended Lisette and Aaron, and it was,” he looked down, “there’s no fate, Marina, you won’t marry Lord Brayton, not if you don’t want it.” I blinked at him. “If I believed we were bound to what other people saw of us, I’d be wiping dishes in Pantona, married to a farm girl I’d met twice.” I smiled. “Instead, I am standing on balcony, overlooking the greatest city ever built, with possibly the most beautiful woman in the world.”
“I’m not,” I said softly. He leaned down and kissed me.
“You are,” he said, “when I first saw you, I was stunned.”
“Because I look like her,” I said. He blinked.
“You do,” he said, “but that wasn’t it. You are beautiful, so is she, but it’s different. You’re different.” I looked down. “You’re not hard like she is.”
“You’re saying I’m weak,” I teased. He laughed.
“No, Your Grace,” he said, “no, soft doesn’t mean weak.” He kissed me again and this time I pulled close and kissed him back. “Can I see you tonight?”
“You’ll see me at dinner,” I whispered. He laughed.
“That wasn’t what I meant,” he said softly. I blushed. “I’d like to see you alone.”
“How alone?” I asked. He blushed now.
“I didn’t mean,” he mumbled, “I thought we could go for a walk or something.” He kissed me again. “Maybe do some more of this.”
“After dinner I have to see to the princess,” I said, “but she usually goes to sleep long before I do.”
“Good,” he said. “We can meet here.” I nodded and he walked off. I blushed.
You’ve seen that there is life beyond Dugarry. I shuddered. There was though. He was right about that.