I woke in the morning and began my day as I usually did. I didn’t disturb Annalise, if she and Tristan had made up I didn’t want to see them together. I don’t want to see him at all, if I’m honest, but I know it can’t be helped in normal circumstances, I can avoid seeing him and Annalise together that way though, and I will.
As I got breakfast settled there was a knock on the door. I knew it wasn’t Athena, as she’d never knock, and I went to open it and smiled seeing Lefty standing there.
“Good Morning,” he said. I smiled. He was wearing the same uniform he wore when they first got off the ship.
“Good Morning,” I said softly. “I was getting breakfast arranged, if you’d like to come in.” He nodded and entered.
“Eric sent me to see if Annalise was awake,” he said. “It’s a flimsy excuse but I thought it would do.” I laughed as he wrapped his arms around my waist. “I grabbed at it because I wanted to see you.”
“I assumed as much,” I said, “I ought to be on the move,” I explained. “I have to see my father and the count and countess off.” He nodded. “You’re welcome to come with me.” He smiled.
“I wouldn’t want to intrude,” he said softly. But he was still holding me. I smiled. “Or to upset your father.” I hadn’t mentioned my father’s misgivings to him. I wondered if Raymond had? Or if he just perceived them? I nodded and Annalise’s door creaked open. She stepped out. “Your Majesty.”
“Lieutenant,” she smirked. “Marina, are you going to the carriage house?”
“I’d planned on it,” I said, “do you need anything, or would you like to come?”
“No,” she shook her head, “I spoke with Olivia and Aaron last night, and paid my respects to Caleb, but I’d like to go to the temple, later.” I nodded.
“Of course, I’ll arrange it,” I said. “Your breakfast is here.” I turned to Lefty. “You can report to the prince that she’s awake.”
“So I will,” he said, “I’ll walk with you as long as it’s convenient.” I nodded and we walked out. “She’ll go to the temple? Did The Count of Pantona honor the Goddess? I would have thought he’d worship Cornan.”
“No,” I shook my head, “Count Caleb, like most of the Cammadie nobels didn’t really honor the gods at all. They honor their ancestors, and the land they lived on. But Annalise honors the goddess, so,” I shrugged.
“And you?” He said.
“I honor the goddess,” I said simply, “but I light candles for my mother, and keep an altar of sand from Brightcoast as well.” He nodded. “Are you awfully interested in religion?” He grinned.
“No,” he said, “I honor the goddess, I’m a sailor, and the son of a long line of them. It would be unwise to tempt Rana’s wrath.” I laughed. “You knew him well? Count Aaron’s father?”
“Yes,” I whispered, “he was my father’s closest friend, and he was always very kind to me.” He nodded as we approached the apartments they were sharing. He took my hand and kissed it.
“Can I see you, after you’ve come back from your goodbyes?” He said. I nodded and he walked inside. I was out to the carriage house last, it would seem. Papa was standing with the countess, and General Martin, of all people!
“Come to say good bye, Rina?” Aaron winked at me. Athena was snuggled against him. I’d give anything to love as easily as they do.
“Yes,” I said, “I’m sorry to see you go, but I hope we’ll see you soon.” He let go of Athena and we hugged. “Your Grace,” I curtseied to Countess Olivia, who nodded. “I hope that the earth of Pantona hold Caleb’s spirit well.”
“So do we both, my darling girl,” she said and kissed my forehead. Papa looked at me and I hugged him tightly.
“We’ve never been apart, you know,” I said softly. “Not really.”
“I know my love,” he whispered. “Be strong.” I nodded and stepped away. They all boarded a large black carriage and I was standing with Athena and the general.
“I’ll be following them on horseback,” the General explained. I nodded, finally understanding, whatever was now between him and the countess, it would be inappropriate for him to ride to her husband’s burial alongside her son and her husband’s dearest friend. “Thena, be good.”
“Always,” she said and kissed him the cheek. “Come Marina, we have a lot to talk about.” She slid her arm through mine. “My brother has decided to stop being an idiot?”
“I think so,” I shrugged. “Either way, I’ve decided to stop being an idiot.” She nodded. “Why aren’t you going to Pantona?”
“It isn’t fair to Lisette,” she said softly, “and it wouldn’t be right for me to go without any plans for a wedding.” I nodded. “I’m not overly eager to get married, but it’s frustrating that Aaron feels no urgency at all.”
“He’s had a wrenching year,” I said. “You know that if he didn’t have to figure out how to run Pantona, and honor his father, and be by Annalise’s side, he’d have married you six times by now.” She smiled. “I kissed Lefty.” She stopped and grinned at me.
“Well it’s about time,” she said, “honestly, you’ve been dancing around one another since they came!”
“I was a bit distracted,” I reminded her. “But it was very nice. He’s very nice.” She smiled and nodded. “He said something though, last night,” I looked at her. “About war, and it’s possibility if the marriage doesn’t happen.”
“We’ve discussed it,” Athena said softly, “Martin and I, and what it would mean.” She sighed, “It wouldn’t be good for Brightcoast.”
“No,” I said softly. “No it wouldn’t.” I sighed. “Back before the coronation, I promised Tristan something, I might have to make good on it.”
“If King Daniel wants his brother married to Queen Annalise,” Athena smiled, “I doubt the promise of marriage to you would soothe the wound.” She sighed. “Caleb could have made her see sense of it, I’m sure he could have.”
“Not this,” I shook my head, “she likes him, but she loves Tristan, it’s hard to go back from that.” Athena nodded. “Think about it. If Aaron changed his mind, would you be happy with some merchant boy your uncle and grandfather found who you liked well enough?”
“No, I suppose I wouldn’t be,” she sighed. “You thought about this?” I nodded. “With William?”
“Yes,” I said softly. “I was never head over heals for him, but he made me happy. If my life were different I’d probably have married him.” She kissed me on the cheek.
“Poor Marina,” she shook her head, “following after us all as we run around making our messes.” I laughed. “Tell me more about Lefty. I was under the impression that he came here hoping to seduce me, so I think I should be jealous.” I giggled.
“I can’t make up my mind about him,” I shook my head, “everytime I look at him, I feel like he’s looking at me, and he’s been nothing but kind, and he talks to me, actually talks you know?” Athena smirked. “What?”
“Nothing,” she laughed, “I just keep thinking that all of your experience is with William or my brother, who had a certain picture of you in their mind. To Tristan you’ll always be silly, pious little Marina, chasing after him with flushed cheeks and reading your prayers to the goddess over dinner.” I laughed, “And William, well, I think he was overwhelmed by everything here, including you.”
“When he first kissed me he said I was the most beautiful woman in the world,” I said. “He talked like that all the time, I hated it.” I sighed. “It’s complicated though.”
“Because of Tristan?” Athena said. I nodded. “It shouldn’t be.” We both looked up to the balcony of the grand apartment. Annalise was standing in the window watching the carriage go. “You begged him to let you go, you have to do the same.”
“He told you that?” I said. She shrugged.
“He tells me everything,” Athena sighed, “it’s annoying really.” I laughed and shook my head.