We’d arrived at our first camp and were discussing the signs of The Dark Lady (drought, mostly) when the messenger arrived.

“Word from Rastan,” he said. He handed a paper to Annalise and then one to me.

“You’ll excuse us,” Annalise said and we all rose with nods. I opened my letter.

Dearest Marina,

I gasped seeing Damian’s handwriting and sat down.

I’ve been told that my silence has worried you. For this I beg forgiveness. Lady Dugarry assures me this will reach you safely, and that were I to claim you, you would still be mine. What a relief it is to know that.

I exhaled. He hadn’t moved on. He wanted me still. I could live on it.

“Rina,” Annalise said, “look at this.” I put mine aside.

Brayton is ensconced at Raniere’s court. He’s posing as an exile named Braga. He has been here for a year.

I looked up at her and then stood up and rushed to my tent.

“Marina!” She followed after me, as I began rifling through my trunk to a sack. “Marina, what are you doing?”

“Figuring out how much my horse can carry,” I said. She looked at me. “Then going to Dorin, I suppose and then Rastan.”

“Marina,” she sighed indulgently.

“You can’t stop me,” I said, “Damian is there with Brayton, he’ll,” I exhaled, “oh I don’t know what he’ll do, but it will be awful.”

“Lefty has been in Rastan for months, and is safe enough to write to you,” Annalise said. I swallowed. “It’s a trap, you must see that.”

“I don’t care!” I screamed. “I don’t. He’s there, alone, Eric isn’t with them. Raymond is with us.” I looked at her. “He’s alone, Lisette.”

“I know,” she whispered and took my hands. “And I know you want to protect him. But Brayton wants you running up there without a plan.” I hated that she was right. “He’s safe.” I started crying. “If you don’t want to go to Rastan at all,” she started and I stared at her. “No, no, of course you’ll go.”

“Yes,” I said. She swallowed. “I have to, you know that.” She nodded.

“I heard there was a messenger,” Tristan walked in. I looked at him and swallowed. “Is Caro alright?”

“Yes,” Annalise said softly. “Brayton is there.”

“What?” He said. “Then she isn’t alright! When are we leaving?”

“See,” I said, “it’s not just me.”

“Oh because he’s always had a level head,” Annalise rolled her eyes.

“Marina you’re not still planning on answering that sham of a proposal!” Tristan stared at me. I swallowed.

“Tristan,” Annalise’s voice was gentle. “We’re not the only people visiting for the coronation.”

“Lestoff’s there?” He asked. I nodded. “That’s why he stopped writing?”

“I think so,” I whispered, “I didn’t finish his letter.” He nodded.

“So, when are we leaving?” He repeated.

“Impossible,” Annalise threw up her hands, “both of you.” She marched out of the tent and I sat down again.

“Are you alright?” Tristan asked gently. I shook my head. “What’s troubling you most?”

“That I’m a little bit relieved,” I admitted. “He still loves me. He didn’t cut off for no reason.” I rested my head on his shoulder. “You?”

“That he’ll pursue her,” he whispered. I swallowed and nodded. We all knew about Brayton’s women. Girls sometimes. Left hollow and cool, vacant, when he tossed them aside. Some people said he used magic to warp their minds to him.

“She’s strong,” I said. “We can go tonight.” He kissed my forehead.

“Annalise is right,” he sighed, “we can’t go without a plan.” I swallowed. “Do you want me to find Nika?”

“No,” I said, “no, I have to answer him, and finish reading what he said.” He nodded and kissed me gently. “Tristan, don’t,” I said.

“I’m sorry,” he said. “I don’t know what I was thinking.” I nodded and he stood up.

I picked up the letter.

I’m sorry I stopped writing. Every one of your letters to me was a treasure, but I knew that it would put you and more immediately, Katrin in danger if anyone found out we were still in touch.

I hope it doesn’t hurt you too much to know that I find Lady Dugarry utterly charming. She’s fascinatingly intelligent, and very beautiful and half of Raniere’s court thinks I’m trying to sleep with her, which I’m sure will further endear me to your Tristan.

I smiled at this. I liked the thought of them as friends. And Tristan absolutely wouldn’t.

I have been assured that you’re going to come here no matter what I say to dissuade you, so I look forward to that. To see you and be near you again. To touch you. I can’t wait for you to meet my sister, and see a place I like as much as Rastan. It won’t be the reunion I’ve always wanted for us, but we’ll be together.

I love you, and while I know this isn’t a happy time, I can’t help but smile knowing I’ll soon see you again.

Yours, eternally, yours,


I closed my eyes and breathed out a prayer of thanks and then another of protection. He still loves me. He’s still mine. I have to hold on to that.


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