I slept fitfully after the ride in the valley. We’d had dinner with Olivia, she seems in better spirits, though she kept asking Eric questions about Phania, and his mother. He took them well, but she also seems so tired.
After we ate, I stood quietly on the balcony and Aaron walked out and propped himself up onto the railing. I laughed and looked at him.
“So, Lisette,” he said, “what do we think?”
“You’re the politician,” I said, he laughed. “You tell me.”
“Politically it’s the best match besides myself,” he explained. “But you know that, Father told you that often.” I nodded. “And let’s not forget your mandate. You made need ships, and I would think the Goddess would approve heartily.” That made me role my eyes.
“You don’t believe in my mandate, or the goddess,” I pointed out.
“I don’t not believe in it,” he pushed down, “and you believe which is the important part. Lisette, don’t be foolish.” I nodded. “What does Tristan say?”
“Nothing good,” I sighed leaning forward. “He thinks I’m tying myself to fate. Maybe I am, I don’t know.”
“He’s afraid,” Aaron said, “I am too, you know. You’re different now, you have to be, I understand that, but it’s scary to see you change.” I nodded.
“I think I need to sleep,” I said softly. I went back carefully, through some back passages I found. (Meant, probably for the royal couples to visit one another) I got back to the apartment, and Marina undressed me quickly. She was in another world, and I didn’t ask.
I didn’t want to know.
I climbed into bed and fell asleep. I Dreamed. I was riding down a beach, a wider, whiter beach than I’d ever seen, it was Brightcost, I knew it was Brightcoast. There was a gleaming golden palace in front of me and behind me a smaller manor house. I stopped my horse, and looked over the sea, which was raging. The storm reached us and the horse reared and I fell backwards being pulled out to sea. I screamed, but crushed under the waves, I couldn’t breath.
When I broke through the water I was pulled onto a ship deck.
“You find me in the strangest places, my dear cousin,” I skittered back at the voice. I’d been expecting Eric, or perhaps the Goddess, but it was Brayton, dressed in his black robes.
“How?” I asked.
“Perhaps I’ve been lonely,” he shrugged, “or perhaps Amina and Rana have reached a detante.” I reached for my belt, drawing my sword, “for Goddess sake Annalise, it’s a Dream, you can’t stab me. Always the damn sword with you, like your father.” I frowned.
“Rana wouldn’t have drowned me,” I said.
“No,” he said, “though she’s clearly impatient.” I woke with a start then. I needed to talk to Marina. I scurried out of bed into the sitting room. Her door was closed. I didn’t want to wake her. I sat trying to find my center when the door swung open and my heart caught in my chest.
Marina was flushed, still in her gown from the dinner but rumpled, Tristan was behind her, and I understood.
She stammered something and left. I couldn’t blame her. I couldn’t blame either of them. I wanted to be angry, I wanted to scream.
“Say something,” he said. I blinked at him. “Lisette,” he whispered, “please, say anything.”
“What should I say?” I asked. “That I hate you both? That I don’t understand? I don’t, and I do.” He nodded. “I have no right, when I refused you, I set you free, and it isn’t as though I didn’t know how Marina felt.” He stepped closer and kissed my forehead.
“I promised to stay with you,” he said. I nodded. “But I can’t, it’s agony.” I swallowed.
“What then?” I asked.
“The Dumanis have suggested an arranged match,” he said, “I’d go to Dorin.” I nodded. “Not immediately, but before spring,” I nodded again. “I’ll always love you.”
“I know,” I said softly. We kissed and then he left.