I sat in the courtyard with Nika while everyone else went elsewhere.
“You ought to go back to the palace,” she said softly, I swallowed. “I’m serious Marina.”
“I will,” I said softly, “but I want to be with you right now.” She nodded and looked over at Brea and Harran. She was pulling her hands away from him and he looked miserable. “Will she be alright?”
“She’s more than used to this from him,” Nika shook her head, “I suppose she thought it would be different this time.” I wove my fingers into hers. She smiled. “I’m glad you want to be with me.” I rested my head on her shoulder and she kissed my hair. “You were brave to face him alone.”
“I had no real choice,” I sighed. “He’d have killed Damian.” She nodded. “I told him, about us, about me, I guess.” She smiled.
“And?” She said.
“He asked that he remain my only while he and I are together,” I said. She nodded. “I can’t say it’s unfair.”
“No,” Nika said softly, “it’s more than fair.” She kissed me gently then. “You have marriages to perform. Have you done it before?” I laughed.
“No,” I said, “you have?” She nodded. “It feels very important.”
“Marriages are a joy, so are namings,” she said softly. “The burials are harder.” I smiled. “The Queen is sending Harran away, but keeping us?”
“Yes,” I said gently, “we need you to teach us, and to help fight Amina. She needs Harran to make sure the Tribes will accept us exploring to find The Wheel.” She inhaled.
“You should go to Damian,” she whispered, “he’ll wake and want to see you.” She’d taken to using his first name. Like she was already reading my heart. I squeezed her hand and stood up and walked to the palace, and up to my apartment. A healer I’d trained with, Bella, was sitting with him, a cool cloth on his head.
“How is he?” I said softly. She looked at me.
“Fine,” she said, “the fever passed.” I nodded remembering the worst of General Martin’s illness last year. “Is Lord Brayton,” she drifted.
“He escaped,” I whispered. She made a sign against shadows. “I tried.”
“I know,” she said and squeezed my hand. “I’ll leave you.” I nodded and sat beside him. I rested my hand on his forehead. I waited to see something, some darkness, or dream. Instead, I saw only small images. A white sand beach, where palm trees lined the water, the soft face and laugh of a woman, I knew immediately was his mother, my own face and smile, our hands intertwining.
This was good, I knew, from my reading. This was his mind and soul, reminding him of light and love, expelling the shadow. After the trauma of reliving Thomas’s fall, I hadn’t checked in on him more, but I was sure his mind was then full of the twins, and Trey and Countess Olivia. Damian’s eyes fluttered opened.
“Hello, my love,” he said gently.
“Hello,” I said softly and brushed his hair off his face. “You frightened me, you know.” He laughed.
“I raised the alarm in time?” He said. I nodded. “I’m glad.”
“Don’t think of it right now,” I said gently, “you’re not out of danger and I don’t want any darkness near you.” He smiled.
“No darkness,” he whispered, “impossible for there to be darkness when you’re near me.” I slid into bed with him. “Did you win?”
“After a fashion,” I said. He nodded. “I have to go soon. We’re going hunting.” He nodded. “Eric and Annalise are engaged, though, and he’s going home to settle things.”
“So while you hunt shadows and gods,” he said, “I’ll go home, and wait for word?” I smiled.
“When you put it like that, it sounds awful,” I sighed, “I was thinking, I’d go off hunting shadows and gods, without having to worry if you’re safe. Which sounds very nice, actually.” He laughed. “And when he comes back and they get married, we can be together forever.”
“Mm,” he whispered. “I can take one of my father’s ferries on.” I smiled.
“Yes,” I said, “and you’ll eventually be Duke of Brightcoast, like my Papa.” He laughed.
“I won’t lose you though,” he said. I swallowed.
“No, my love,” I rested my chin on his chest. “You’ll never lose me.”