Growing up, I’d been a little afraid of The University in Dovetail. It stood empty, save for a few Black Guards coming and going. I was barred from getting too close, for once an order from my father rather than Brayton.
Since Annalise reopened it, I still keep my distance because I’d spend every possible moment there if I could. The Masteros that survived have done an incredible job bringing the place back to life, and it’s filling daily with eager students from all over the country, who want to learn to harness the odd talents that for most of their lives they had to pretend didn’t exist.
Raymond has been flourishing and is going to be finishing his studies and becoming a Mastero soon. I’m absurdly proud of him, and the life he’s built with Evan Allred, who also studies, but as his father’s heir cannot take Mastero vows.
“Marina!” Raymond said as I walked into his lab, a large sunny room that we’d designed to be as close to a sea base as possible. “I was wondering what took you so long.”
“I’m sorry,” I said, “I didn’t realize it was urgent.” He rolled his eyes. “Nika’s here.”
“Ah,” he nodded. “Understood, Prior showed up today too, so you and Annalise will both be useless.” I stuck out my tongue. “Here,” he shoved a large orb into my hands. It was smooth and dark. “Hold that.”
“Raymond,” I said, “what is this?”
“It’s obsidian,” he muttered, “Tristan brought some last time they were in Failan because I asked for it. I think it will help.” I raised my eyebrows, “fill the pores with light, if you please.” I exhaled and shot my power through the porous stone. “OK,” he mumbled and swept a small cloud of smoke around it, but it wouldn’t settle on the stone.
“Goddess,” I whispered. “Raymond, that’s incredible. Do you know if it will work with shadow?” He shrugged.
“I can’t conjure shadows,” he pointed out, “maybe Nika can help with that test? But I think so.”
“Obsidian weapons,” I mumbled, “wielded by soldiers with gifts, Athena is going to kiss you.” He laughed.
“Or even rangers where one partner has a gift and the other doesn’t,” he shrugged. “Or if I can figure out charging.” I laughed. “How are you?”
“I’m fine,” I said, repeating what I’d said to Annalise, to Nika, but Raymond knew better and frowned.
“I haven’t heard from them either and it’s worrying,” he muttered. “I tried writing to my sister, but it was just more platitudes about how until I am freed from my unfair holding, they can’t risk Eric’s safety and blah blah blah,” he frowned. “Sometimes I think I should go back, bring Evan, live openly. They couldn’t really stop me, not anymore.”
“No,” I said, “they couldn’t, but we’d miss you.” He smiled. “We’re having a dinner when everyone arrives nothing formal.” He groaned.
“What did you say to him?” Evan walked in. I laughed at him. “He usually only makes that noise when someone tries to come into the house.”
“You have to come to a dinner at the palace,” I raised my eyebrows.
“Oh, well he can survive that,” Evan laughed and rested his head on Raymond’s shoulder.
“I can’t,” Raymond mumbled.
“You will,” I said. “Also, you’re a genius.” He grinned at me. “Raymond, I,” I swallowed, “you’d tell me, wouldn’t you if something happened,” I exhaled, “I mean, if you knew he wasn’t alright?”
“Oh Rina,” Evan said softly, I was trembling and swallowed the tears in my throat. “I’m sure he’s alright.” He hugged me tightly. “Raymond, reassure her!” Raymond looked at me.
“I wouldn’t keep it from you,” he said gently. “My best guess is they’re in Rastan, honestly, with the news of the king’s health failing, Eric would want Karina and Kristoff’s engagement settled, and Katrin basically serves Karina the same way Lefty does, well did Eric.” I nodded.
“I’m sorry, I,” I swallowed, “I’ve been so worried and today Lisette was asking, and then Nika and, I can’t,” I swallowed, “I feel like I can’t breathe anymore.”
“I know,” he whispered, “it’s alright, it’s going to be alright.” I swallowed. “You should go home.” I frowned. “I mean it, you’ve been landlocked too long, I think you need the sea.”
“I can’t,” I hiccupped, “We have to go to Westran, for Brea and Harran’s wedding.” Evan frowned.
“I’m sure you can be excused from that,” Evan said. “If you need to be home.”
“I’m sure I can’t miss it,” I said, “it would be very insulting to the tribes, and the Witches in particular, and Nika’s whole family.” I wiped my nose. “I’ll be alright.” I kissed him on the cheek. “You ought to come tonight though, to see your cousin.”
“I seriously doubt Prior has any interest in speaking to me, but I’d like to see Nika, so I’ll come,” I kissed him on the cheek. Raymond looked at me. “He’ll come too.” I laughed.