We haven’t had any official receptions since getting to Brightcoast and I’d forgotten how tedious they are. But today we’re receiving the witches. Two sisters who Harran sent for, near our ages, which should be nice, having more people around.

The two girls who walked into the throne room were rather impressive, actually. They were both dressed entirely in black, and the taller one had long shiny straight hair, a round friendly face and a genially bounce in her step, the smaller one had her hair veiled, and a thinner face, and everything about her seems much more serious. They’re both brown skinned and have deeply arresting almost amber colored eyes.

“Your Majesty,” Harran said stepping forward. “May I present the honorable Brea and Nika Averran, Witches of The Westran Border tribe, and old friends of mine.”

I heard a sharp inhale from Marina, who was standing next to me. I wondered if she was feeling the same thing I was. It wasn’t as pronounced, as full, but the sisters’ presence seemed to add the same chill to a room that The Black Guards used to.

“Welcome,” Annalise said, stepping off the dais, “I appreciate your speedy arrival.”

“We are at your majesty’s disposal,” the taller one, Brea, said while curtseying deeply. “And honored that The Heir thought of us.” Harran looked down, almost blushing. I grinned.

“I trust your journey was comfortable?” Lisette asked.

“Very,” the smaller one, Nika spoke. “It was nice to see more of Cammadan, we’ve always stuck to the northern coast, for safety.”

“Of course,” Annalise said, but I’d noticed another shift in Marina’s body. I caught her eye and mouthed. “But I’m sure it was long, and you must be tired, please, follow me and I’ll show you to your quarters.”

Her? Marina had Dreamed a witch. She nodded sharply at me. I exhaled, I didn’t know if that was a good or bad sign. I followed after our honored guests and stood at the door as the reached the apartment.

“Is a soldier necessary?” Brea said, glancing at me. Harran snorted. “We aren’t a threat to you.”

“Lady Athena isn’t just a body guard,” Lisette said simply, “she’s also one of my closest advisors.”

“And The Champion of Cornan,” I said, Brea’s spine stiffened. “But by all means, Brea, was it? I can leave you all be.”

“Don’t be nasty,” Marina chastised me, I sighed, “Athena’s an acquired taste, for most of our lives she thought I was an idiot. But we’re good friends now.” I laughed and sat down next to her.

“I didn’t think you were an idiot,” I said. “I thought you were weak willed, silly and overly fixated on my oblivious brother.” I paused, “I was right about the one.”

“Sorry,” Raymond ran in, holding three very thick books. He looks so much better these days. He’s gaining weight and he’s always a little bit disheveled and busy, and suits him. “I’m sorry I missed the reception.”

“This is our cousin,” Annalise said with a gentle smile, “Sir Raymond Quents of Tumona.” Nika looked at him with her eyes narrowed.

“I was under the impression we were here to advise you,” Nika said, she was staring directly at Annalise, in a way that was probably unsettling, “not be a part of a council.”

“Nika,” Brea said softly. “My sister is correct, we’re not accustomed to,”

“Unless my father has changed a great deal in the past year,” Harran said, “I doubt this set up is unfamiliar to you, since Anders, Rian and I have basically been ruling for him for the last decade.”

“We thought that perhaps the vital young queen had things a bit more in hand than your father,” Brea said with a casual shrug.

“You were mistaken then,” Lisette sighed, “or at least misinformed, since as you can see, ruling is about as straightforward as herding cats.”

“My sister doesn’t mean to be disrespectful,” Nika said, “only, well, what is expected of us?”

“I dreamed you,” Marina blurted out, I looked at her, “I hadn’t Dreamed in months and then I had one, and you were in it, and well, I wasn’t sure it was you until I saw you today but you clearly are supposed to be here.”

“And I’ve been Dreaming that the Gods are imprisoned on tribal lands,” I said, “we have a feeling the two things are connected.”

“I’ve also been called several times by the Dark Lady and am not sure how to handle that,” Raymond said. I sighed and pressed my fingers against my nose. Brea laughed then.

“The Dark Lady would find you useful,” she sighed, “she’s never had much of a foothold in Phania. Too orderly and much to dedicated to Rana.”

“Brea,” Harran said softly, “please, be serious.”

“Of course,” she said, “but as I see it, you are actually extraneous here.” He glanced at Lisette.

“If the situation doesn’t suit you,” Lisette said, “you are welcome to return home,” she stood up, “but we do need your help, and I appreciate you coming.” She stood up and left, I followed after her as did everyone else. I could see the storm cloud over her head and decided to stay clear, I went down to the training field and went through some basic excercizes and was surprised when I saw Nika standing near me after a few moments.

“I feel like I should apologize,” she said. I looked at her.

“You barely spoke,” I shrugged. She smiled.

“Yes, but,” she shrugged, “my sister is,” she bit her bottom lip, “The Duchess called you an acquired taste?” I laughed. “Brea is the opposite, too sweet and then you find yourself sick from it.”

“I’m familiar with the type,” I said.

“It will be worse here,” she frowned. “She and Harran,” she sighed. I nodded.

“I picked up on that,” I said. She frowned, and picked up a staff. “Do you spar?” She smiled.

“Yes,” she sighed, “but not well enough to challenge you, I think.” I shrugged.

“How do you expect to get better?” I moved into battle stance. She smiled and move into hers and struck out at me, I blocked. “Agressive, that’s good.” I moved against her and she blocked me. “And quick.” I reversed her block and disarmed her but then felt a pressure push me away like wind. “Oh you have to teach me that.” I said as she pulled me up. She laughed.

“I don’t know if I can,” she admitted.

“Ugh, useless to me,” I winked. She blushed and looked down. “Not as bad as Marina, who isn’t even a Warrior and was given Battle Magic and Cornan told me it isn’t his gift to give.” She laughed.

“Does he speak to you directly often?” She asked as we made our way back to the palace.

“Not so often,” I shook my head. “I haven’t been able to commune anywhere but Dovetail or Pantona, certainly not here, and the Dreams are fewer and farther between.” I sighed. “We’re reasonably sure they’re weakening.” She nodded. “You fight well.”

“We’re all trained,” Nika shrugged. “Witches often have to travel from camp to camp, holdfast, even to cities, unlike many of our people. And warriors can’t always be spared to accompany us. Or so the Chieftain says.”

“Harran’s father?” I said. She nodded. “He mentioned something about his brothers and marrying witches.” Nika snorted. “No?”

“My sister would perhaps accept Rian,” Nika said, “but she wanted Harran.” I looked at her. “I’ve convinced her to stay, mostly because I want to.”

“I’m glad of it,” I said, “if only because you will be teaching me that move with the wind.” Nika laughed. “I’m familiar with having to navigate life with a difficult sibling.” She cocked her head. “My brother is,” I paused, realizing I hadn’t missed Tristan in a while. I’d been busy, with the wedding, with Lisette and Harran and containing the fallout from Eric. “Well, he can be difficult, though he’s apparently improving.”

“Apparently?” Nika grinned, “is he not here?”

“No,” I shook my head. “He’s in Dorin. I miss him.”

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