Dedication

I was frustrated that The Viscount wanted to ride out with me. I don’t hate him anymore, now it’s more like a low humming annoyance. He’s still to flippant, and casual about Lisette, about the next step.

And I don’t like the way he flirts with me. But it’s his land and I couldn’t very well say he couldn’t come on this ride with me. We were rushing through the woods, when he stopped, I did too after a bit and tracked back to him.

“What’s wrong?” I asked.

“We shouldn’t go further,” he said and dismounted. I looked at him.

“Why?” I asked softly. “Are you going to tell me the woods are haunted, Viscount? That the tortured bride of one of your ancestors walks the woods?” He shook his head.

“Nothing that specific,” he said, “but we’re nearing where Brayton burned out the woods to find the King and Queen,” he looked down, “feels disrespectful, and Lisette says it’s haunted.”

“Do you believe her?” I asked.

“I’m not sure I believe in ghosts,” he admitted. “But like I said, it feels disrespectful.” I nodded. “You seem surprised.”

“No,” I swallowed. “No, why would I be surprised?” He laughed.

“Because you don’t like me,” he said. “And I can’t figure out why, have I been a bad host?”

“You’ve been an excellent host,” I said, “which is the problem. You don’t take it seriously, you make jokes and tease her, and,” he nodded. “The resistance is my whole life, your grace,” I explained, “and you’ve made it very clear you think that’s foolish.” He started laughing then, not mocking, just laughing. “I don’t see what’s funny.”

“The resistance is your whole life,” he said. I nodded. “And you think it isn’t mine?”

“Obviously it isn’t,” I said, “you want to stay here where it’s safe and comfortable.” He nodded.

“When I was about eight, so Lisette would have been six,” he said softly, “and my parents were away, in Dovetail or maybe with The Resistance, I don’t know,” he inhaled. “But it was the first time she had a Dream, at least when my mother wasn’t there.” I looked at him. “Have you ever been around a seer when they’re Dreaming, Lady Athena? It isn’t pretty. They sweat and thrash and scream bloody murder, and when the seer is a six year old girl who still has regular nightmares about her parents being murdered it’s all the worse.” I swallowed. “And none of the servants knew who she was, so there I was, eight years old, all she had, holding her, telling her it was alright, that she would be alright, that I would keep her safe.” I looked at him. “She knows who she is, what she has to do. She doesn’t need me to remind her. But I imagine it’s probably nice to have someone who treats her like a person.” His face had changed, the laugh that was usually in his eyes had been replaced by something steely, determined. “The resistance is your whole life, that’s wonderful, to have that kind of purpose. But LisetteĀ is my life, she’s my family, and I won’t let her be used.”

“I didn’t know,” I said. He nodded.

“There are probably many things you don’t know, my lady,” he said. “I’d be happy to illuminate anything you wish.” I sighed and shook my head and remounted. “What now?”

“You couldn’t let it last could you?” I asked. He shrugged and we rode in silence back to the manor

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