The Second Ball

There was already another coronation ball planned for tonight, but now it was also a welcoming ball for Prince Eric. I was sitting beside Annalise, The Prince on her other side.

I glanced across the room and caught William’s eye. He’s trying not to look angry at me, or look me at all, I think.

“You’re quarreling with a lover?” I glanced over my shoulder and saw Lieutenant Lestoff. I blushed. “That guard, he’s yours then?”

“No,” I said, “not anymore.” He smiled.

“A shame,” he said, “for him, I mean.” I nodded. “I want to apologize, I believe on our ride here, I startled you.”

“I think it’s worth saying that your presence in Cammadan startles me Lieutenant,” I answered. He nodded. “You mentioned offending me, by bringing up my Sight.”

“It isn’t polite to discuss magic back home,” he explained. “We tend speak frankly about it because of my step mother, and of course The Queen, but I didn’t know,” he shook his head. “I didn’t know if it was something you would be comfortable discussing with a strange man.”

“I don’t find you terribly strange, Lieutenant,” I smiled. He grinned. “If you’ll excuse me.” I stood up and walked out onto the balcony and exhaled. I’d never done anything like that before.

But there’s something about him.

“If you were hoping to make me jealous it worked,” William said walking out. I looked at him.

“I wasn’t,” I said. He nodded. “We were just talking. And I told you yesterday,” the words caught in my throat. He came close to me, “William,” I whispered.

“I told you I was leaving,” he said, “and I am. I don’t belong here, and Aaron has offered to make me his manager so that he doesn’t have to leave.” I nodded. “But you could have waiting until I was gone to start throwing yourself at Phanian Navel Lieutenants.”

“I wasn’t throwing myself at him,” I said, not making eye contact. He lifted my face, “I’m going to miss you,” I said softly. I meant it to. I am going to miss him.

“I could have loved you, if you’d have let me.” He whispered.

“William,” I mumbled and he pulled me close kissing me. I knew this was our real goodbye. I didn’t know when he’d leave but I knew that it would be soon. I wrapped my arms around his neck. I thought of Annalise and Tristan as I’d found them this morning.

It would be easy to go with William tonight, I wouldn’t even be missed, I don’t think anyone would even think of looking for me in the barracks. I doubt he’d say no.

There is life beyond Dugarry. Brayton’s mocking echoed in my ears. But it was shut out by the warm soft voice, from earlier, assuring me that no, I was fine as I was.

“Lady Marina, The Queen was looking for you,” Tristan stepped out onto the balcony, “Master Santino, The Countess wanted to speak to you before you left in the morning.” William nodded and walked away. Tristan smirked at me. “Revenge is sweet.”

“Don’t tease me,” I said. “Are you alright?” He sighed.

“I was,” he said, “I was beyond alright, last night. and then,” he sighed. We looked inside and saw Annalise dancing with Prince Eric. “He’s what I feared he’d be.”

“I’ll keep my promise, if you want it,” I said. He took my hand.

“No,” he said, “no, this is between Annalise and I,” he looked at me. “Are you alright?” I nodded. “Truly?”

“Yes,” I said, “we were saying goodbye.” I sighed. “We knew we would have to eventually.” I leaned against the railing. “I was thinking today, about this room,” he smiled.

“It’s better now,” he said, “but I do remember good times here before.” I nodded. “My parents, and you, always so pretty in the candle light, leading the prayers to the goddess.”

“Don’t do this,” I said softly, realizing that he was still holding my hand. “We agreed, we were friends, and you and Annalise, it would be worse now.”

“I’m sorry,” he said, “truly, I didn’t mean to,” he looked down.

“What do you think of me?” I asked stepping back. “I love her, I’m sworn to protect her, and so are you, last night you were in her bed, and now you expect me to,” I looked down.

“I don’t expect anything,” he said softly, “Marina, I care for you. I always have.”

“But it’s only when things are difficult that you come to me,” I said softly. “Only when we don’t know the outcome of the battle or she’s dancing with a Phanian prince. All those years, those nights in that ballroom when I lead prayers you didn’t say anything, when I all but told you I loved you before you left, you laughed at me.” He looked down. “It isn’t fair, Tristan, let me go, please!”

I walked down the stairs into the gardens and took a deep breath, seeing the moon full, but even more stranger, Sir Raymond was sitting by the salt pond.

“You’re praying?” I asked softly. He looked at me and nodded.

“I like to pray at the full moon,” he explained, “Rana controls the moon too, because of the tides.” I smiled. “I expected you to be dancing, not out here.”

“I needed air,” I said softly. “Surely your sister didn’t send you all the way to Cammadan to pray at a salt pond. Come inside, most of the girls are quite eager to meet The Queen of Phania’s brother.” He laughed.

“The girls inside are eager to meet Eric,” he said, “not me.” I smiled softly at him. “Captain Dugarry is the queen’s lover?” I blinked at him. “And yours too.”

“Do you See, Sir Raymond?” I said softly.

“Yes Cousin,” he smiled, “the Gift runs in our family. It isn’t as strong as my sister’s, or yours at that, but yes.”

“You won’t tell them?” I asked. He shook his head. “Why not?”

“Secrets are useful,” he said, “and my sister and brother in law wish for Eric to marry Annalise, I wouldn’t defy that wish for an audience with the Goddess herself.”

He scares me, he really does look so much like Papa, but his aura, and the way he speaks are so like Brayton. It’s chilling. I made my excuses and went to my rooms, but it wasn’t what I thought it would be. Tristan was waiting for me.

“I think you’re in the wrong room,” I whispered. He walked up and kissed me. I was pressed against the door. “Tristan,” I said softly.

“I’m sorry, Marina,” he said quietly. “I’m sorry, I love you.” I nodded and we kissed again. He kissed my neck softly.

“I love you too,” I mumbled. I couldn’t resist anymore. This was all I’d ever wanted.

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