The Temple to Rana in Dovetail is probably my second favorite place in the city after the library. It was always a safe a happy place for me.
My uncle built it for my aunt after they were engaged and it was opened just after their marriage. Several sisters came from Phania to help establish, what, Sister Mara, who taught me before she died, called, “a softer order.”
Annalise and I come here at least once a week, usually more, now, and it made sense to me that she wanted to come today. We walked in to the large glittering space, the salt pool at it’s center to find several sisters stop their usual bustling to bow to us, and to Eric and Raymond, who joined us. Lefty and Athena waited outside, Athena because she find prayer boring, and Lefty because Phanian men consider it an insult to the Goddess to tread on her sacred ground, being male and all. (Eric and Raymond are excepted, being members of the royal family and therefore carrying Rana’s blessing.)
“My Queen,” One of the sisters, Anna, came over and inclined her head, “Lady Marina, Lord Raymond, Your Highness.” We all nodded back to her. “We were expecting you today, I hope the goddess, and the ground keep Count Caleb. Our order always counted him a friend.”
“I’m happy to hear it Sister Anna,” Annalise smiled. The four of us made our way to a basin. I nodded to Annalise. She closed her eyes and moved her hands over the water, causing it to swirl.
As the light caught the water I saw a scene unfold. A young girl running to a man and him lifting her up in a hug. I recognized them both immediately, as Count Caleb and Annalise. She couldn’t be older than six. After the hug, Caleb knelt before his tiny princess.
“You understand what I’ve told you, Little One?” He asked.
“I think so,” she said. “If I’m the princess, does that mean that Aaron has to do everything I say?” He laughed.
“Technically, I suppose,” he said, “but a good queen, wouldn’t issue silly orders, or expect her friends to be servile.” She nodded.
“And may I still be Lisette, sometimes?” She whispered.
“If it pleases you, you can always be Lisette to me,” he said softly. She hugged him again. I could see the tears in her eyes. It was a precious memory and a good one to share.
“I’m sorry,” Eric said softly, taking her hand. She looked at him and smile. “Lady Marina?” I nodded and swirled the water. My memory was of myself at 14. I was studying at the table in Papa’s sitting room and Count Caleb and he were sitting quietly.
“Marina,” he said to me, I looked up, “you might be able to advise me.”
“Me, Your Grace?” I said softly. Was I ever that quiet? He laughed and walked over.
“My son has gotten it into his head to host a large winter faire,” he said, “unfortunately, a sixteen year old boy’s idea of amusement might not actually please all of my tenants.” I laughed. “What would you like to do at such an event?”
“A ball,” I whispered, my voice full of longing and whistfulness. “With music, and deserts, and new dresses!” He nodded seriously. “Ice skating would be nice too.”
“Both excellent ideas,” he said taking my hand and squeezing it. “New dresses for every girl in Pantona might be a bit outside of my reach, but the rest, I think will do quite well.” It dissolved.
Annalise looked at me.
“Why that?” She asked.
“He listened,” I said softly. “No one ever had before, at least not that I remembered. And those days were the most frightening. I’d just been presented.” Annalise nodded. Eric and Raymond both looked grave. I’ve told Raymond about Brayton’s pursuit of me, and either he or Annalise must have told Eric. “We should pray.”
“Into foam, and deep into the heart,” Annalise began, and we all joined her, “hold the spirit of our beloved, most gracious and kind Goddess Rana.” Raymond squeezed my hand and we all walked outside.
“I couldn’t have imagined you like that,” he said softly. “So meek and unassuming.” I laughed.
“I was very afraid,” I said softly. “And lonely.” He nodded, we were outside, and I noticed the twins were gone, I walked to Lefty. “Where are the Captains?”
“A few of their cousins came by,” he explained. “They went to bid farewell to their grandfather.”
“We should head to the market then,” Annalise said.
“We should,” I said, “you and Prince Eric should stay here.” She rolled her eyes at me. “Lisette, please? I can’t stand sitting through a lecture from Tristan about you taking your security seriously today.” She sighed.
“Fine,” she said, “but it’s their fault for abandoning me.”
“We’ll mention as much,” I teased.
“I’ll stay as well,” Raymond piped up. “I had a question for some of the sisters.” I nodded and Lefty and I began walking.
“I feel like I’ve missed a step,” I said. He laughed. “Did they all conspire to get us alone?”
“I don’t think Captain Dugarry is that enthused by the idea,” he said. “Tristan, that is, Athena practically dragged him away.” I smiled. “Did the prayer go well?” I nodded. “Good memories?”
“I think so,” I said. “It was a great comfort to Annalise.” He nodded. “Would you like to kiss me again?” He smiled and took my waist.
“Very much,” he said and kissed me.
“Rina!” Athena’s voice called out. I blushed. “Lieutenant.”
“Captain,” he nodded. He didn’t let go of me. There was something comforting about that.
“Lisette’s done?” She said. I nodded. “Are you alright?”
“I think so,” I said. “But we should get back. She wasn’t happy about having to wait.”
“I’ll find Tristan,” she said, “as you were,” she winked and walked away. I sighed and Lefty laughed, turning my face up towards him.
“You’re quite pretty when you’re exasperated.” He teased. I blushed. He kissed me again. I pressed myself close. “Mm, that’s nice as well.”
“I spoke to one of the sisters today,” I said, “you could have come into the temple, they don’t have the same restrictions as Vacana.”
“I know that,” he said softly, “but I’m still Phanian, it wouldn’t feel right. Even seeing the sisters off temple grounds with their heads uncovered unsettles me.” I giggled. “What?”
“Nothing,” I said softly, “only that you’ve sailed the world and seeing women’s hair unsettles you.” He nodded. “That’s honestly adorable, Lieutenant.”
“Not all women’s hair,” he said softly, “I like your hair for instance.” I smiled. I turned hearing a throat clear.
“We really need to return to the palace,” I saw Tristan’s face, he looked serious. “If it’s convenient, Your Grace.”
“On your leave,” I said sharply, “Captain Dugarry.” He nodded and we walked back in silence. Once we reached the temple, I realized that Lefty had been holding my hand the whole way.