I woke up in the morning and got dressed quickly, also grabbing a basket and a small pouch of coins. Most of the farmers and town shopkeepers bill us, but if any merchant carravans are passing it will be nice to be able to at least consider buying something.
I walked out the front door and saw Tristan jog up. He wasn’t wearing a shirt. I swallowed, trying not to stare.
I am not in love with him.
But I would also not be opposed to him just never wearing his shirt again. Because this is very nice. Can I make a law about that?
From here on out all guardsmen are forbidden from wearing shirts in her majesty’s presence. That could do the trick. Or I suppose that’s like when I used to order Aaron to give me his desert and he told me that he didn’t have to obey stupid orders like that.
Still, it’s a thought.
“You’re going out?” He said seeing me. I nodded.
“It’s market day,” I explained, “I told Athena.” He nodded. “Would you like to come? It’s not terribly exciting, but I shop and then I’m having tea at the inn.”
“Of course,” he smiled. “Give me a few moments to clean up, I’d be happy to join you.” I nodded as he walked inside and I swallowed, pacing back and forth, chewing my nails. He came back out dressed a little more cleanly.
“You were running?” I tried. He nodded. “Why?”
“It clears my mind,” he said. I looked at him. “It seems to need a lot of clearing these days.” I nodded. “And I like it here, it’s beautiful, peaceful, not like home.”
“Dovetail?” I said. He nodded. “I can’t wait to see it.”
“It’s special,” he grinned, “the way the palace and castle are built, they looked carved out of the mountain, the harbor is beautiful, placid and blue.” I nodded. “You don’t remember it at all?”
“The uprising was when I was one,” I said, “my parents were going from provenence to provenence after that, and I was settled here before I was three.” He nodded. “I see it in Dreams sometimes, but that’s not the same.”
“What are they like?” He asked. “The Dreams?”
“Disorienting,” I said, “vague, sometimes terrifying, other times comforting, always frustrating.” He laughed at that. “What’s funny?”
“You,” he said. “You’re so honest, it’s refreshing.” I nodded. “Back home everyone talks in circles, they have to, kind of, but it’s a nice change.” I nodded as we approached the village and saw a circle of wagons. “Oh no,” he muttered.
“What?” I laughed, “it’s only a merchant train. They might have something interesting.”
“Oh, it’ll be interesting for sure.” He sighed as we got closer. I noticed the flag flying over the train and realized why he might be tense.
“Tristan!” A girl’s voice called out, jumping from one of the wagons. “Gods, I didn’t expect to see yeh so far south!”
“Good Morning Charlotte,” he said, seeming to unclench a bit, “Lisette, please meet my cousin, Charlotte Dufrey, clearly heading this operation in front of you. Charlotte this is, um,” he stumbled, “Lisette, she’s Count Caleb’s ward.”
“Heavens,” Charlotte said, “I was going to ask how a Phanian girl came so far inland.” I smiled.
“My mother was Phanian, Mistress Dufrey,” I explained. She nodded. “Sir Tristan, I can leave you.”
“That’s alright,” he shook his head, “are yer parents here, Lotte?” The way he slipped into the Northern accent was strange but still so natural.
“Just me and Alexander,” she shrugged, “we’re here for at least a week, and if we don’t see you and Athena I will tell Grandfather, and General Martin will surely receive a strongly worded letter about your upbringing.” Tristan let out a bark of laughter that startled me. I’d barely seen him smile before.
“We’ll be by, I promise,” he kissed her on the cheek. “I’m sorry about that.”
“Your family is the Dumanis?” I asked. He nodded.
“On our mother’s side,” he explained. “She was Alexia Dumanis, youngest of the three jewels of the house, that’s what they called her and her sisters. Charlotte’s mother Andrea is the oldest, and then there’s Brie.” He stopped. “There’s a son too, Tristan, well, Trey, they call him Trey.” He looked sad. “We see them when they’re in Dovetail, but Grandfather’s main holdings are in Dorin.”
“I see,” I nodded. I could tell he was uncomfortable. We approached the main street and the farmers and shopkeepers haggle with one another. I’m greeted with a small bow and a “Lady Lisette,” by most of them, and Tristan seems more at home now. I purchase beef, and some rabbit, which Athena mentioned was her favorite before we reach the end of the street and the inn.
Pantona Inn is a small place, with about twelve rooms upstairs and a barroom and a private parlor downstairs. It’s owned by a knight named Kinney Santino, and run by his nephew William, who’s nineteen.
“Lisette!” William greeted me as we walked in, he stopped, seeing Tristan. “Oh I see.”
“Sir Tristan,” I said, “this is my very good friend William Santino. William, this is Sir Tristan Dugarry, who escorted Countess Olivia down from Dovetail.”
“I’d heard there were guests,” William smiled, “welcome to Pantona, Sir Tristan.”
“Thank you,” Tristan said shortly as we followed him into the parlor.
“Dugarry is a merchant name,” William said. Tristan nodded. “But you’re in the guard?”
“My father’s side joined the guard with my great grandfather,” Tristan explained. “We’ve been noble since then.” William nodded.
“William is from Dovetail as well,” I said, “he came here six years ago.”
“Lisette is enchanted with her ideas of the city,” William said, “I’ve never been able to impress upon her how much nicer things out here are.” Tristan nodded. I suddenly felt very uncomfortable. They were making direct eye contact with one another as if I wasn’t even there.
“I was saying the same on our walk over,” Tristan said, “though Dovetail has it’s appeal.” William nodded. “I know a Winston Santino.”
“My Uncle,” William nodded.
“Ah,” Tristan nodded. I squirmed in my seat, I felt suddenly like it didn’t matter if I was there or not. “Lisette, if you’ll excuse me, I should probably see my cousins.” He stood up. I was baffled. He’d been so friendly and engaged outside.
“I’m sorry,” I said to William, who shrugged and sipped on his drink. “How are you?”
“Good,” He nodded, “do you like them? Your guests?”
“They’re the Countess’s guests,” I said simply, “and Aaron’s I suppose.” He nodded again.
“He came here with you though,” he said.
“Well, he wanted to see market day,” I explained. He smiled.
“Of course,” he said, “a royal guard from Dovetail wanted to see Pantona’s market day.” I nodded and we finished in silence.
“I should go,” I said softly. I walked back outside and saw Tristan talking to a vendor over some flowers. I walked over. “I suppose we should get back.”
“If you like,” he said.
“Lady Lisette,” the vendor, Wyatt Sampson, said, “your young man was asking which were your favorites.” I looked at him.
“Sir Tristan isn’t my young man,” I said, “but I prefer violets.” Tristan smiled and handed him a coin and then me the violets. I sniffed them before attaching them to my belt. We walked back to the manor quietly.
I’m not in love with him.