After the ball Aaron and I went back to my rooms and as I started to get undressed I glanced back as he settled in at the table, two small glasses in front of him.
“What are you doing?” I giggled, tying a robe around my waist.
“Remember when I wrote to you about William?” He asked. I raised my eyebrows and sat down opposite him.
“That he didn’t deflower Marina?” I asked. He laughed. “That you got drunk?”
“Yes,” he said, “with this,” he plopped a bottle in front of us and then poured two shots. It was clear, and as I picked up the glass, ice cold.
“How?” I asked. He grinned.
“Raymond enchanted the bottle,” he said, “when I mentioned I brought it back. He said that the Rastani would never drink it warm.” I laughed and we clinked the glasses and downed the spirit. It didn’t burn like whiskey, but I could feel it going right to my head.
“Oh!” I said. Aaron nodded excitedly. “Oh that is wonderful.” He smiled. “It’s Rastani?”
“Made from potatoes, apparently,” he said, “good with juices too.” I smiled and leaned across the table and grabbed the bottle re-pouring my glass. Aaron laughed and poured his we downed the next shot. A few more and I felt floaty and giggly.
“We should go back to the party,” I said jumping up.
“No,” he said, “first of all the party is over and second of all you’re drunk,” I stuck out my tongue and looked at him. “Come to bed. I’ve missed sleeping with you.” I melted and took his outstretched hand and slid into his lap.
“Tristan is going,” I whispered. He nodded. “I wanted him to go, but now that it’s happening,” I sighed. “I don’t know who I am without him.” He slowly pushed my hair out of my face. “We’ve always been together.”
“You are amazing,” he whispered, “you aren’t one of a set, Thena. I’ll miss him too, but I promise you’ll survive.” He kissed me gently. “I want to be your family.”
“You already are,” I whispered. “But, I just,” I swallowed. Trying to explain being a twin to others is hard. It’s frustrating to be treated as two halves of a whole, but in so many ways we are.
Without Tristan I worry I’m going to be off balance. I kissed Aaron again gently and we went to bed. After sleeping for a bit I got up before dawn and slipped out to go to the stable. Tristan had just finished saddling Elian and he looked at me.
“Athena,” he whispered softly.
“Tristan,” I swallowed.
“I have to meet Alex at the gates,” he mumbled. I nodded. “I’m sorry.”
“Me too,” I said. “Don’t let them change you. If you come back as some prissy merchant boy who does everything Trey says, I’ll never speak to you again.” He laughed.
“And if I come back to a harderned warrior with a single focus,” he smiled, “I will run away terrified.” I laughed and hugged him tightly. “I love you.”
“I love you too,” I whispered. “I’ll see you soon.” He nodded and wiped the tears out of his eyes. I walked back towards the palace and entered the hall. Marina and Annalise were both standing there, looking at a mossaic of a wave hitting the mountain.
Lisette’s eyes were red from crying, but she smiled when she looked at me.
“I think it’s time for us to get to work,” she said softly.
“Alright,” I answered. Marina swallowed and took a deep breath, she drew her hands together and apart, creating a small ball of light, the same blinding white as the burst of battle magic that day with the shadows. I gasped.
“It’s not me,” she said softly, “it’s the Goddess. That was the answer.” I nodded. “Balance your hands under it,” she said softly. She looks different, sure of herself and steady, holy. I nooded and did as instructed, “Annalise,” Annalise swallowed and placed her hands on the opposite side of the orb. Marina’s hovered above it.
“What now?” I asked.
“We make a vow,” Annalise said, “do you pledge to me, Athena Dugarry, Champion of The God of Land and War, that you will aid me in my mandate to free the gods from their binding to the wheel of time?”
“I so vow,” I whispered. The next words came to me, but I’d never learned them, I just knew them. “Do you, Annalise Dovetail, Sword of The Goddess of Sea and Light, vow to lead me truly? To command with justice and hope for peace in all things?”
“I so vow,” she whispered. The orb changed shape into a beam shooting up through the ceiling to the sky. I felt calm and whole. And she smiled and me.
“It is done,” Marina said with a gravitas I didn’t know she possessed. “You are bound in your service to the gods and one another.” We all made eye contact and giggled.
“Why doesn’t she have to make a vow?” I said nodding to Marina as we walked towards a parlor. Once we got there a maid appeared with a plate of pastries and a pot of coffee on a tray.
“I will,” Marina shrugged, “once I teach Raymond the ritual. I can’t do it for myself, and Mastero Anselm says he doesn’t have enough power.”
“Hmm,” I said. “So how was it?” I leaned forward.
“The ritual?” She said. “Inredible, I’ve never felt so at peace with myself.” Annalise snorted.
“She didn’t mean the ritual.” She sighed and took a long sip of coffee.
“Oh,” Marina blushed. “I don’t want to,” she muttered.
“I imagine he knows what he’s doing,” I grinned. “I asked around The Dumanis and he has quite the reputation.” Marina sighed.
“He certainly knew what he was doing,” she said pouring her own. “Who won?”
“That would be her majesty,” I kicked Annalise who shushed me. “Are you alright?” I said. Annalise sighed softly.
“I’ll miss him” she said softly, closing her eyes. “But it’s for the best.” I nodded and took each of their hands.
“I’m very much looking forward to our quest, my friends,” I said softly.