We were riding into the valley behind the city, and I felt so spectacularly free. This kind of movement had been restricted for so long. Tristan had left to go settle things with Grandfather, and while Lisette had seemed disturbed at first, she seemed to have calmed down. She paid light attention to her cousin but mainly to Prince Eric.
“This could work,” I said, sounding more relieved than I realized I was to Aaron. His eyes were still narrowed. “Aaron, she has to marry someone.”
“I know,” he said, “I don’t have to like it though.” I laughed. “I am trying to convince myself this is better than Harran.”
“Where is Harran?” I asked. “Surely he was invited?”
“No,” Aaron said, “We thought Tristan was coming and I thought two suitors more than sufficient.” I smiled and glanced over at Marina, she looked more confident than I’ve ever seen her, glowing under the attentions of Lord Raymond and Lieutenant Lestoff.
“Did we bring food?” I asked. Aaron shook his head.
“You brought a bow, love, I assumed you’d handle it,” he teased. I laughed and spurred my horse on. I loved to hunt, I think it’s one of the gifts that the God gave me, as I’m also quite good at it. I managed to grab a few rabbits and even spotted a stag.
Maybe a hunting party at another time, a whole stage was a bit much for lunch. Returning to the party, I asked Marina to light a fire, which I had to admit was her to let her show off a bit. Lord Raymond immediately asked for her help teaching him magic. She agreed.
Once we returned to the palace, a page handed me a note.
I think it’s settled. Come to Trey’s. Bring The General if you can convince him.
I sighed and walked into the barracks. Martin was sitting behind his desk, working on something.
“We’re invited to dinner,” I said sitting down. He looked up at me.
“No,” he said, “you’re mother is going to torment my dreams forever for not stopping this, I won’t break bread on it.”
“It worked out alright for her,” I pointed out. “Maybe it will for Tristan.” He stood up and frowned going over to the window. “What were you looking at?” I picked up the paper. It was a report from Phania.
“He’s building an armada,” Tom said, “and recruiting land troops, solidifying the alliance with Rastan to block the North.” I swallowed.
“Prince Eric told Annalise his brother wants an engagement by the fall,” I said, my throat dry. “You think if it isn’t settled they’ll invade?”
“Daniel wants The Sword on his side,” he explained, “he always did. He thinks he can control Annalise through her marriage to Eric, but he’ll do it through fear, or domination if he must.” I nodded.
“Have you told her?” I asked. He frowned and shook his head. “You have to, she needs to know.”
“I will,” he said. “Trey’s tonight?” He sighed, I sat up and nodded. “Fine, I need to talk about this with him too. As helpful from a rallying point Duchess Norvine would be, it’ll be your family who builds our Navy.”
“Fine,” I said, “if that’s what it takes to get you there. Don’t wear a uniform, you know they hate it.” I stood up and walked out of the office and through the training yard. One of the guards, Helena, I think her name is, was supposed to be on rotation, but instead she was leaning against a pillar and Harran was pushing her hair behind her ear.
“Recruit,” I said, cause her to stop mid giggled and straighten herself, “Your highness,” I grinned at Harran.
“I’m sorry Commander,” she mumbled, “Prince Harran was asking,” she exhaled, “I’ll return to patrol.”
“You do that,” I said as she walked away. I looked at him.
“You didn’t have to ruin my fun,” he said.
“You could wait until she’s off duty,” I said. He sighed. “Aren’t you supposed to be courting Lisette?”
“So you’re on my side?” He said as we walked towards the palace. “What about your brother?” I looked at him.
“I’m on her side,” I said. He nodded. “And my brother should not figure into the equation.” He looked at me. “Dance with her tonight. If you let Prince Eric monopolize her,” I trailed off.
“Yes, yes,” he shoved me gently, “I don’t need to be told how to woo, Athena, especially not a girl I had in my hands three years ago.”
“She’s a queen now,” I said with a shrug. “Might require some rewooing.” He laughed.