Just because we’re supposed to be leaving in a day doesn’t mean that I can rest. First of all it would give us away, and also, leaving Dovetail always makes me antsy. It has every since our parents died.
I’m out in the training yard, kicking the ass of some new recruit from the coast. He can’t keep up with me, and Tristan is looking on from the other side of the training field. He’ll say that me wiping the floor with this boy is bad for morale.
As the boy lands on on his back, he finally squeaks,
“I yield, Lady Athena,” I smile and help him up.
“You did well, Everett,” I said, “you’ve improved.” He frowned. “I’m serious, I didn’t expect the blow on the left side and the staff clearly suits you better than a sword. Keep working. You may even beat me one day.”
“I doubt that My Lady,” he said, but he was beaming. Tristan and I have different ideas about what motivates the guards.
I walk over to my brother who’s shaking his head.
“He wants to see us,” he’s grimacing. I nod.
“Well, we’re leaving,” I muttered, “I assumed as much.” He nodded. “I’m going to change.”
“You’re going to have to decide someday, Thena,” he said, “if you want to be a warrior or a lady.” I flipped my hair in his face and he sputtered it out.
“I do not,” I replied, “this is Cammadan. We have a long standing tradition of both.” He sighed loudly. “Besides, he likes me pretty, and it helps us all if we do as he likes.” Tristan grumbled something and stalked off. I went to the apartment and washed my face and glanced in a mirror.
The thing about surviving in Lord Brayton’s court is that you have to shine but not glow. Too much attention and you’re a threat, but not trying at all singles you out as well. I pulled my training tunic off and slid a simple burgundy dress over my head. I didn’t want to keep Brayton waiting, which meant anything more elaborate was out of the question. I brushed my hair quickly and slid a belt with one ceremonial guard’s dagger around my waist.
I met Tristan at the door to the throne room. He’d changed too, out of his tunic into a more casual Guard’s jacket.
“You look presentable,” I grinned. He shoved me and I laughed but steadied my face as we walked in.
The great Throne Room of Dovetail Palace was, allegedly, once a place of light and glory. But Lord Brayton and his black guards do not care for light, or transparency, or glory. Just darkness and secrets and fear. The large windows have been covered in tapestries for almost as long as I can remember.
I have a few memories of chasing a curly haired, dark skinned toddler about as the sun darted in and out of the glass, but I breath deeply to bury that. My memories of Annalise help no one. The Princess died before we could ever protect her.
“Lady Athena, Sir Tristan,” the soft, and ice cold voice of Lord Brayton Dovetail broke through the darkness. “Thank you for coming.”
“We are at your disposal,” Tristan said shortly and wish a bow. I swept into a deep curtsy as well.
“Of course,” Brayton grinned. “I worry about you both, being abandoned by the general must have been painful.” My hand twitched. It would be my death but it would be so easy to grab my dagger and put it through his heart.
For my parents.
“We serve the crown and the throne,” I managed, though the word choked me. “May The Princess return and sit upon it one day.”
“Yes, yes,” he said, “we pray for my cousin’s safety.” I nodded and stood. “Count and Countess Pantona have requested your services if you are willing.” I glanced over and noticed the Count and Countess, in their green clothes, their auburn hair clean and brushed, both of them too dignified for anyone’s good.
“We’d be honored,” Tristan said, glancing at the count who nodded, “to perform any service to true lords of Cammadan.” I heard a gentle squeak from behind us.
“You have something to say, Lady Marina?” Brayton purred.
“N-no, My Lord,” she managed stepping forward, “I didn’t mean to, only, Tr-Sir Tristan,” she looked down, “and Lady Athena would be so missed, here, at court.” She’s such a little fool. I know I should try to like her better, as she will, with all luck, be my queen someday but she makes herself so ridiculous.
Especially when it comes to my brother.
“Of course,” Brayton said, “they will be. None the less, I cannot deny such loyal courtiers a simple request, even for your comfort my dear.” She curtsied and stepped back. “Lady Athena, you have no objection?”
“None at all, My Lord, and why would I?” I asked. She’s an idiot but I do pity her, so I bat my eyelashes and seem as though his interest flatters me.
“Well, Commander Davis could complete his mission any day,” he said, “surely you wish to greet your intended?” My spine stiffens.
“Commander Davis and I both serve at your pleasure, sir,” I managed, not retching. “I know he will forgive my absence.”
“Of course he will,” he said, “Countess, will you accept your body guards?”
“Gladly, My Lord,” Countess Olivia of Pantona said. She winked at us and I smirked.