“Are you going to wear a veil?” Mercy asked as she fingered the light green material in front of her. I glanced at Nika.
“It would be respectful,” Nika said, “for the wedding itself and maybe the first meetings with each tribal leader, but I don’t think you need to be veiled the whole time.”
“Brea doesn’t wear the veil,” I pointed out. Nika smirked.
“Brea will be veiled at her wedding, Your Majesty,” she said, “quite elaborately. I’ve seen the designs and the beginning of the weaving.”
“Mm,” I sighed, “alright then, have a few made, but nothing too ostentatious.” Nika smiled at me as the seamstress left. “I hate this.”
“You’ve gotten better at it,” Mercy said. “Your first year I would sometimes cry over how hopeless you were at picking your clothes.” She looked at Nika. “She tried to wear a uniform to her coronation ball.”
“And this is bad?” Nika’s raised her eyebrows. Mercy sighed.
“Marina would understand,” she said and then stopped. “That is,” Nika rolled her eyes.
“I’m not going to fall apart at the mere mention of her,” Nika said. “I’m angry and sad not suddenly fragile.” I smiled at her. “How was the council vote?”
“Mercifully brief,” I said with a smile. “Calla is now my heir. Mercy, I do need to talk to you and Elodie though.”
“About Althea being her protector?” Mercy said. “I think it’s a very good idea.” I smiled. “You were worried I’d be resistant?”
“A little,” I said, “I assumed Elodie would be enthusiastic.”
“Yes, well,” Mercy said, “among other things it’s what Althea wants, and I’d like my daughter to grow up happy.” I looked at her and she sighed. “Children deserve that from their parents.” I smiled at her.
“Of course,” I smiled. Nika nodded. “I should wear more blue, shouldn’t I?”
“Some grey,” Nika said, “remind everyone you don’t favor any god in particular.” I glanced at her. “Annalise,”
“Amina is my enemy even if she isn’t yours,” I pointed out. “I won’t honor her, even to make the tribes comfortable.”
“I can’t imagine anyone in any tribe expecting a daughter of Anessa and Mariah to honor Amina,” Nika shook her head. “But they’d be more favorable to Rana than Cornan.” I nodded. I looked at her.
“Are you alright?” I said softly. She sighed.
“No,” she muttered, “but I will be.” I hugged her. “How did you forgive them?” I laughed.
“I met Eric?” I exhaled. She sighed. “Not particularly helpful advice, I know.”
“Carolina advised patience and acceptance,” she mumbled.
“Well,” I frowned and picked up a pieced of blue lace and wound it around my hair, “Carolina is a saint. We’re merely human.” She laughed. “The first time I found them together I went back to my room and broke a mirror.”
“You said that was a Dream!” Mercy gasped. I rolled my eyes at her.
“I lied,” I giggled. “Of course before that anytime Tristan brought up her name I made him change the subject.” Nika sighed.
“It’s odd,” she muttered, “if I found her with Lefty, I’d forgive her in a moment, but I saw her lying in Tristan’s arms and I lost my mind.”
“Of course,” Mercy said, sitting next to her, “she admits her feelings for Lefty. She’s in complete denial about Tristan.” I looked at her. “I’ve known her longer than both of you. And I loved her first.” She kicked her feet onto the table. “Nika, have you any idea how jealous I was, the first time I saw Marina kiss you? If I’d known she liked girls, well,” she huffed, “our girlhood would have been quite different, I can tell you.” I laughed.
“I had no idea,” I said. Mercy shrugged.
“I got over it,” Mercy said, “I met Elodie. But still, old wounds.” I thought of my own old wounds.
“Really?” Nika said. “You never even kissed her?” Mercy giggled.
“If you think she’s preoccupied by him now!” Mercy said. “You have no idea what it was like when we were younger. She basically a ghost unless Tristan was talking to her.” I looked at her. “But she trusted me, and that was enough. I was jealous of her, because her father wasn’t trying to marry her off to some old man who worshipped Brayton.” I looked at her. “But she was also so beautiful, just being near her,” she shook her head. “I’m just saying I don’t blame him. It was dark here, and she was a very bright light. It’s a hard habit to break.”
“Habit or not,” Nika frowned, “I’m done indulging it.” I looked at her and circled my arm around her. “I just want to go home. I want to be with my sister, and my people and,” she exhaled. “It doesn’t matter, are we finished?” I nodded. “Thank you for trusting me with this, Your Majesty.”
“Of course,” I said as she left. I collapsed next to Mercy. “If we don’t find the gods on this trip I’m going to the sea, drowning myself and asking Rana what in the hell her problem is.” Mercy laughed. I sighed. “I don’t want to go to this wedding.” I groaned.
“Maybe Harran will pull a Tristan,” Mercy raised her eyebrows. I looked at her. “Get all in his feelings and take you to bed before going through with it anyway.”
“That is terrifically unlikely to happen,” I said softly. “And if Tristan had come to my bed instead of Marina’s he would not have gone through with the wedding.” She patted me on the thigh.
“Whatever helps you sleep at night, Your Majesty.” She stood up.