I walked into the Princess Tower, at Annalise’s request, and to greet the countess and was surprised by the man sitting at the tea table with them. I don’t know why, but I expected Mastero Benjamin Anselm to be a hunched bearded wizard of a fairy tale.
Instead, the man arguing animatedly with Annalise about the properties of riverdune (a sort of sea weed found in the harbor here) is a straight backed, clean shaven man in his late sixties. He was wearing robes I’ve never seen before, a deep green color, similar to the guard uniforms.
“This is her then?” He said, noticing me. Annalise sighed dramatically and nodded.
“Yes, Mastero,” she said. “This is my cousin, Duchess Marina of Brightcoast, Marina, meet Mastero Anselm, a righteous thorn in my side.”
“It’s my honor,” I said quietly. He nodded as I went and sat with them. “I’m glad to meet you finally.”
“If you’ve half your mother’s talent, you must do well enough,” he said, “always thought it a shame Anne was first born. She’d have been marvelous in the university.”
“That’s kind of you to say,” I smiled. Annalise winked at me. “I’m afraid I don’t have a lot of time.”
“Of course,” he said, “we need to discuss this nonsense with Brayton and The Dark Lady.” I nodded. “I’ve already told Her Majesty that if she’d told me earlier I would have come.”
“And as soon as it became clear even with the passing of the blessing that this was still a threat I told you,” she said, as if she’d said it a hundred times.
“What’s your proposal, Lady Marina?” He asked. He simply talks like a teacher, asking this as if it were an exercise or analysis of a legend. Because of that, I was able to think on this more clearly than I have for a while.
“I think he needs to be sentenced to death,” I said. “For his crimes against Cammadan, and the threat he poses. I have no doubt that this won’t stop Amina, only Rana and Cornan have that power, but she will have to find another vessel of appropriate power and proximity. That won’t be as easy.”
“And of course if you two would commit to your mandate rather than flitting about this palace,” he pointed out, “we’d all be in a more secure position.”
“I have responsibilities beyond my mandate,” Annalise said defensively, “and we haven’t been ‘flitting about.'”
“The gods sent you an explorer prince with a ship and orders to become your husband,” Anselm said. “Visions and dreams since you were a child, telling you what you need to do, what is expected when you claimed your crown. You were chosen to free them and end the threat of darkness to the world, you’ve been given the tools and opportunity to do so, and what is it you do when they are presented? You throw parties and share your bed with a merchant guard.” I swallowed and stared at Annalise. He’d said the thing we didn’t say. “You toss the man who murdered your parents and destroyed a carefully cultivated balance in a cell and look to him for answers on your calling.”
“Don’t lecture me,” she said, her eyes narrow.
“Someone needs to,” he snapped. “If what Aaron’s told me is true, since Caleb’s death you’ve been very foolish, Lisette.”
“You go too far,” she said, her voice calm and serious. He smiled and nodded. “I am Queen of Cammadan, I am The Sword, I will not be dictated to.”
“My apologies,” he held up his hands, “indulge an old man who changed you as a baby. It’s hard to see you so grand.” She softened at that. “I worry that if you neglect this you’ll miss the rising tide. I don’t want to lose you as I did your father.”
“What if his death only enrages Amina?” Annalise asked. “Or trying to kill him only makes him stronger? We still don’t know how to harness that battle magic Marina used in the camp attack, a newly raised shadow army would not end well without it.”
“I can’t speak to military strategy,” I shrugged, “you know that, but I can heal shadow injuries, I know that much, I can teach the others.” Annalise nodded. “I disagree, Mastero, though, that Annalise should count on Prince Eric to aid in her search for the wheel. From everything Lieutenant Lestoff says, as King of Cammadan.”
“I never said I’d crown him king!” Annalise gasped.
“Lord Consort then,” I shrugged, as far as I know it’s a hypothetical, but she was agitated. “he’d probably have to relinquish The Prince’s Glory.” She nodded. “Not that you couldn’t find him another ship.”
“Your father says that marrying Eric would be playing too closely into Daniel’s hands,” she whispered. I nodded.
“That’s boyhood grudges coming to bare Lisette,” Anselm said, “I wouldn’t over invest in your uncle’s opinion of the king.” She nodded.
“I’ve missed you,” she said softly. He half smiled.
“I’ve missed you too child,” he said. “You’re right that I ought to have come much earlier.” I stood up. “You and I will speak soon, Duchess, I owe your mother that much.”
“I look forward to it, Mastero,” I inclined my head. I walked out and then to the maze, I needed to clear my head after that conversation. I sat at the salt pond meditating for a few minutes.
“Is it true?” My concentration was broken by Raymond. I sighed and opened one eye, seeing him standing over me.
“Is what true?” I asked.
“Is Mastero Anselm here?” He said. I sighed and stood up. “Marina, you know,” I needed to stop him before he started in on how he needed to train and learn from a master.
“Yes,” I said, “he’s here. Though I don’t know that he’s making it terribly public or how long he’s staying.” He nodded. “Raymond, don’t bother him, Annalise needs him right now.”
“You got to talk to him,” he pointed out.
“I’m Annalise’s advisor,” I said as he sat down, opposite me, I extended my hands and he took them, “you’re an honored guest, and chosen and a member of our family, but still a guest.” He sighed and inhaled with me.
“We don’t know that I’m chosen,” he said. I rolled my eyes. “You don’t know everything, Marina.”
“I know that,” I said softly. He sighed and we inhaled again. Slowly a ball of light rose in between us. This was something we’ve been working on. It’s not as strong as battle magic, but it shares the same properties.
We have to be ready. We don’t know what will happen if Brayton is allowed to live, or if he’s killed, when it comes to his shadows. Or if Amina finds another vessel and the shadows are upon us.