When we got back to the palace I decided to study a bit. I’ve been trying to decifer some old stories about Queen Anessa, as a surprise for Annalise to cheer her up a little.
It isn’t going terribly well. The ancient Cammadie language is hard, and it doesn’t read well. The story were usually told out loud, rather than recorded so it’s hard to find strong records of anything.
“Lady Marina?” Elodie said quietly rousing me from an honestly far too focused amount of scribbling. “I’m sorry to disturb you.”
“It’s alright,” I said. “What is it?” She sighed and sat down. “Elodie are you alright?”
“Yes, I,” she sighed, “I don’t quite know where to begin.” I nodded again. “Lord Brayton is ill.” I exhaled.
“I thought it was something serious,” I said. “If that’s all.”
“He’s asking for you,” she said softly. “Captain Dugarry, that is, Lady Athena gave us strict orders not to come to you, but, well,” she looked at the table, “she isn’t a healer, she doesn’t understand.”
“What’s wrong with him?” I asked. Thinking of when I’d seen him last, looking so pale, which made sense, he was locked in a cell, and drawn like he hadn’t been eating. And that had been months ago. “Starvation, I’d imagine.”
“It has those symptoms,” she said, “but he eats, we’re sure of that. We thought maybe something with magic?”
“I’ve never heard of magical illness,” I said softly, “but it’s possible,” I paused, “Elodie, did General Martin leave yet?”
“No, I don’t think so,” she shook her head. “He wanted to wait a day.” I nodded and rushed to the barracks. Martin was in his office, clearly packing.
“Hello Marina,” he said, “I don’t know if you’ve ever been here.” I was panting. “What is it?”
“When you lost the blessing of the god,” I said very quickly, “when you lost it, were there physical symptoms?” He stared at me. “It’s important.”
“Clearly,” he said softly and sat down. “I couldn’t tell you.” I stared at him. “Well, I suppose that does tell you. I was comatose for nearly a month after. Or, that’s what John and Alexia told me. I would sometimes wake up and rant, but,” I sank into my chair. “Why?”
“Brayton is dying of starvation,” I whispered, “but he’s eating.” He nodded. “If Amina took her blessing from him.”
“He could be executed,” he said. I nodded. “Have you spoken to Annalise?” I shook my head. “Do so and quickly. Don’t let anyone else in on the meeting. Not Prince Eric, not even the twins.” I stared at him. “You know them, Marina, you know what they’ll say. Athena won’t hesitate to grab her sword and Tristan,” he sighed, “I know you two are strained at the moment, but if you think he wouldn’t do anything in the world to protect you,” I looked down.
“I know that,” I said, “I just, I don’t think it’s right to leave it up to just the two of us.” He nodded.
“It’s up to her, really,” he said softly. “Has she gotten the answers she wants from him?” I shrugged. I wasn’t permitted in Annalise’s interviews with Brayton. “Have you?”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about?” I shook my head. He smiled and held up his palms. “William?”
“There were six guards on duty that day,” he said. “William didn’t betray you.” I nodded. “Still, did you get what you were looking for?”
“No,” I said, “but I don’t think I ever will. I’d rather he be dead and the threat over.”
“Tell her that,” he said, “she may not decide to execute him, but it’s your right to tell her.” I swallowed and nodded. “Elodie came to you.”
“Yes, she said that he asked for me, because none of the healers have been able to do anything,” I said softly. “We’re not soldiers, it’s a different,” I sighed, “if I can help him, I probably should.” He nodded. I sighed and got up, making my way to the castle and then to the cells. No guards stopped me this time, like everyone knew. I got to the cell and looked at him.
“Hello, Little One,” he said hoarsely. “Feels a bit like old times doesn’t it? You come when I call?”
“I came because I’m a healer,” I said, “and you’re ill.”
“I’m dying,” he said, “for want of you.” I rolled my eyes. “Well, not exactly, but my failure has hastened a few things.” I nodded to the guard who unlocked the door. “This is different. Does her majesty know you’re here?”
“No,” I said softly. I reached out and touched his glands. “I wanted to know I came because it was right, not because she ordered me to.” He grinned at that. “You are eating?” I said softly.
“Yes,” he said, “and drinking water and moving about when I can.” I nodded and stepped back, opening my bag. “You’ve a prescription then, Sister Rina?” I glared at him.
“Only because I know Annalise doesn’t want you to die until she’s ready for it,” I explained. I pulled out several herbs and began mixing them. “This should hold you over until the month is out.”
“The month?” He said. “Is that my execution then?”
“No,” I said, “that appears to be how long it takes for the shock of losing the favor of a god to pass through the body.” He blinked at me. “Lady Amina has dismissed you, has she not?”
“Queen Amina,” he said, “and yes. But how do you know that?” I didn’t meet his eyes. “Oh, Martin, of course.” I stood silently. “I spoke with your Phanian boy.”
“Raymond isn’t my anything,” I said softly. “Have your guards brew those into a tea for you twice a day. Elodie will resume your care after this.” I walked out with all of my dignity, or as much of it as I could and got outside. The sun felt good and I found my way to the salt pond. Tristan was standing there.
“What are you doing here?” I asked.
“I thought,” he said, “I know you were at the temple, but I thought,” I started crying and threw myself into his arms. “Rina,” he whispered. “I’m so sorry, I,”
“I know,” I said. “I’m sorry too.” I pressed my face against his chest. The velvet of his guard uniform felt so soft. “Just hold me for a moment.” I composed myself. “I have to go see Annalise.” He nodded. “Was your conversation with your grandfather productive?”
“It seems he and Uncle Geno have a girl in mind and everything,” he said softly. I nodded. “It’s all very cold, and I keep having to remind myself that this is how it worked for my parents. My mother was in Dorin, and my father grew up here, and then they were seventeen and he went there and they did a season together and then they were married.” I nodded. I remembered Sir John and Lady Alexia, I was eight when they died. “Why were crying?” He asked.
“I can’t tell you,” I said softly. “I’m sorry, I,” he nodded. “I have to go.” I walked away from him and into the palace. Annalise was sitting at her desk. She looked at me. “Brayton is dying.”
“I know,” she said, “well, I guessed. Our last meeting was hard to get through.”
“He’ll heal, I saw to it,” I said. She nodded. “Annalise, you can’t leave him alive.”
“I know,” she sighed, “I know that but,” she looked down, “aren’t you curious? He’s the only other chosen we know, and if we’re supposed to do this, we need help.”
“He’s not the only other chosen we know,” I said. “Martin was chosen of Cornan, and Eric,” she laughed.
“That’s just a pretension of the Phanian royal family, Eric isn’t really chosen,” she said, “and Martin refuses to discuss it.” I nodded. “That’s why you went to see him isn’t it?”
“No,” I said, “I went because he has it in his mind that his duty to the Queen of Hell is to impregnate me with her sword, her champion, your dark counterpart. But you refuse to destroy him, so I’m left in fear of it.”
“Marina,” she said, “I won’t let,”
“You might not be able to stop him,” I said, “did you ever think of that?” She looked at me. “No, of course you hadn’t, nothing is beyond you, isn’t that right?” I stood up. “Nothing is too great for Queen Annalise to conquer. But he might be!” She stood up.
“I’d stop him,” she said. “I have before.”
“Your father couldn’t, Martin couldn’t, Caleb couldn’t,” I said, “but you did, and now you won’t finish it.” I marched into my room and slammed the door.