Note: Yes, two Caro Chapters in a row. Needed to for plot reasons. We’ll get back to everyone else soon!
Dinner was elaborate, which we knew to expect, but I refused to make a scene, or draw much attention to myself. Alex and Emily would do enough of that. Alex took his role as the heir to The Dumanis family seriously, and Emily took her role as his wife with delight.
They were fit in beautiful new clothes, dripping in jewelry, I was reasonably sure I’d never seen Annalise in so much. I was Lady Dugarry, a soldier’s wife, an important one, but still, and I looked the part. I was in green, of course, lightly embroidered with the Great Wheel in gold around the trim of my skirt. I wore a small diadem around my hair which I had pinned up. Mostly to appease Emily, she and Mother never had given up that fight. And I of course had the small Dugarry crest, at my throat, these days on a thin gold chain that Raymond had woven as a gift.
“Lady Dugarry,” Captain Lestoff said, breaking away from Princess Rila, who look rather grumpy about it. That was when I realized, I raised my eyebrow at him. “I’d forgotten how the jewels of Cammadan’s court shine in simple settings.” He kissed my hand.
“Flattery suits you, Captain,” I said. He smirked. “I do not think the Princess appreciates your neglect however.” He shook his head.
“Her highness is used to disappointment,” he said, he nodded towards a man with dark hair, in a simple black suit. I’d never seen Brayton in person before. When he was in power he rarely left Dovetail and never came to Dorin. It was speculated that he didn’t want to rouse The Old Man. “Do you see him?” I nodded. “I can introduce you.”
“No,” I said, “I’m sure he’ll seek me out if necessary.” He nodded.
“Damian,” a young girl with her dark hair in braids and wearing a white Rastani style dress came over. “Karina is asking when we’re going on a hunt.” She stopped.
“Princess Karina,” he corrected her. The girl rolled her eyes. I that was when I notice the resemblance. “Lady Carolina Dugarry, may I present my sister, Lady Katrin Lestoff.”
“I’m pleased to meet you,” her voice turned softer, more pleasant and curtsied to me.
“As am I,” I said, “your brother is making me a good deal less homesick.”
“My brother talks of nothing but Cammadan,” she said. This fact seemed to amuse and annoy her at the same time. “Princess Karina would like to know when we may go on a hunt.”
“That isn’t up to me, Kat,” he said. “You know that. If Prince Kristoff invites her then you can go.” She pouted.
“Can’t you tell Rila,” she started, he glared at her, “oh fine, I’ll just wander around the ice garden while Karina and Kristoff make moon eyes at each other. What a wonderful use of my time.” She stalked away. He shook his head.
“I apologize, she is,” he exhaled.
“She’s sixteen,” I smiled.
“Extremely,” he sighed, “she is extremely sixteen.” I smiled. “They are all going to think I’m trying to bed you, by the way, because of Marina I’m sure you don’t know but I have an appalling reputation.”
“I grew up in Dorin, Captain,” I said as we made out way to the center of the room, “if you think I wasn’t aware of your reputation form the moment I stepped into the Guild Hall, you’re going to be disappointed.” He laughed. “My mother wouldn’t even let us near a party you and Prince Eric were known to be attending.” He smiled. “Even if you were trying I couldn’t do that to Marina.”
“No,” he said, “nor could I.” He sipped his drink. “When we first came to Cammadan, before I met Marina, I’d made up my mind to seduce Athena.” I choked on mine.
“Oh that would have been amusing,” I said.
“Instead she flattened me in a sparring match,” he sighed. “While Aaron stood on the side laughing. That first week was humbling for me, there was this girl who I couldn’t stop thinking about and she only had eyes for someone else, and then the woman I’d come to the damned place for was engaged to a count and kicked my ass into the dirt.” I laughed. “I miss them.”
“They miss you,” I said gently.
“Lady Dugarry” Princess Rila walked over. “I hope you’ve settled in. I wanted to greet you myself but I was detained.”
“Yes, your highness, thank you, our rooms are very comfortable,” I dipped lightly. “I apologize for monopolizing Captain Lestoff, I’m afraid we’re making one another terribly nostalgic.”
“Mm,” The Princess said, “of course. Your husband is an intimate of the queen, isn’t he?” I clenched my jaw. “Did you know The Commander well, Lefty?”
“Commander Dugarry and I spent a good amount of time in each other’s company, but only incidentally,” Captain Lestoff said, “we weren’t close.” Princess Rila nodded. The was the most diplomatic way I’d ever heard someone say, I can’t stand the man.
“Ah, your highness,” Brayton, Braga, I reminded myself, floated over, “Captain, I’m afraid I don’t know this lovely creature.” I saw some of Annalise in his face, which surprised me, the same cool grey eyes, and determined set of the chin.
“Of course, Master Braga,” Princess Rila’s laugh twinkled, “May I present Lady Carolina Dugarry, the first of Queen Annalise’s entourage to arrive for the coronation.” I offered my hand and he kissed it gently.
“Lady Dugarry,” he said, “Sir John and Lady Alexia’s daughter surely?” I swallowed.
“You’re Cammadie,” I said gently. He shrugged. “They are technically my in laws, though I never knew them. My husband Sir Tristan is their son.”
“I was born in Cammadan, yes, but I haven’t seen the fields in many many years,” he smirked. “Of course, no person of information could be ignorant of your family.” I nodded. “Is Her Majesty, herself coming?”
“Queen Annalise is quite occupied by events in Westran and on the border,” I explained, “she wishes to come herself, but may not be able to. The Duchess of Brightcoast will arrive soon, most certainly.” This startled him.
“I see,” he said, “I hope we can speak of home at another time,” I smiled my most innocent debutante smile and nodded. “Your Highness, your brother craves a word.” Princess Rila nodded and followed him. I exhaled. Captain Lestoff looked at me.
“Are you alright?” He asked. I nodded.
“Athena always said he liked pretty girls,” I murmured. He nodded.
“Marina said she was fourteen the first time she realized what he wanted with her,” he sighed, “I’ve seen his eyes follow Kat a few times too.” I shook my head. The thought of it was chilling. “Mistaking you for Athena was a good trick.”
“A very good one,” I admitted. “I suppose he’s posing as an exile? Someone with magic who went travelling to get away from Brayton’s control?” He nodded. “The eyes, they’re like Annalise’s, it’s unsettling.” He nodded again.
“There are a lot of reasons why I advised Eric not to come,” he admitted, “but that might have been the main one.” He looked at me. “You really won’t tell her to stay away?”
“No,” I said, “it would be a waste of time.” I smiled at him. “Do you really expect her to not come to your rescue, Captain Lestoff? It’s like you don’t know her at all.”