“I think you’re being too hard on them,” Aaron looked at me. I frowned.
“Rastan,” I muttered, “he’s been in Rastan for a year. Sneaky little toad.”
“Lisette,” he sighed. I looked at him. “You can’t ask Marina and Tristan to stay with you now that we know this.” I sighed.
“I know that,” I sighed, “I do, I just,” I exhaled. “We have to be careful.”
“Do we?” Athena asked from the table. “We’ve been careful. They go, we spring the trap, Marina sticks a knife in his heart, it’s done.”
“Even if it kills her?” I argued. “Or Lefty? Or Caro? Or Tristan?”
“Yes,” Athena sighed. “Did you really think we’d all come out of war alive? That isn’t how it works. I’d mourn any of them, all of them. But this has to happen.” I looked at Aaron.
“She’s right,” he said. I sighed. “Are you afraid Eric won’t forgive you?”
“What does Eric have to do with it?” I snapped. They looked at each other and sighed. “Don’t do that. Don’t do the married and in love we can read one another’s mind thing. I hate that.”
“I’m trying to come up with any reason that you think we should delay again,” Aaron shrugged, “and what came to me first is that you’re worried Eric won’t forgive you if some action you take winds up hurting Lefty. Or Lady Katrin. Or Princess Karina.” I frowned at him.
“It’s not that,” I said softly. “I don’t know what it is. I Dreamed about him, and we talked and, I was so angry.” I exhaled. “I want to be there when it happens.”
“Oh,” Athena exhaled, “well I understand that.” She paused. “You Dreamed him?” I nodded. “Why didn’t you tell us?”
“I don’t know,” I sighed. “Everyone’s carrying their own burdens right now, it isn’t as though there was anything productive in the Dream. No locations, or hints. Just him being frustrating.”
The folds of the tent parted and Raymond walked in. I looked at him and he smiled sadly.
“You want to go too, don’t you?” I said gently. Aaron and Athena excused themselves.
“If at all possible,” he said. I looked down. “Annalise, they’re my family, too.” I nodded.
“Of course,” I said. “Of course, you’ll go with the others, Raymond.” He nodded. “Have you seen anything, lately?”
“No,” he sighed, “I’ve felt like Karina was in danger for a while, but I could never place it, now I understand. I got a letter from her with the others, she went to comfort her beloved Kristoff in his grief.” I smiled. “This was of course the first time they actually met.”
“But they wrote letters their whole lives,” I smiled. He nodded. “When I was her age I used to plan my whole life with Eric in my mind and we’d never even had that much.” Raymond laughed.
“When Eric offered to bring me on The Glory,” Raymond smiled, “I pictured lounging in hammocks with Randolph, while we sailed into the sunset.”
“Very romantic,” I said. He shrugged. “You’ve seen her in danger?”
“A little bit like you and Marina,” he said softly, “Karina is always in danger. If my sister is to be believed, the fundamentalists are gaining even more strength, but Karina is popular, coming home with a handsome, strong husband might enrage them.”
“Of course,” I sighed. “And Eric, lately?”
“Publicly?” Raymond asked. I shrugged. “The Prince is honored by his brother’s confidence in him, beloved by all. Privately, I’m not sure he and Daniel are speaking and everyone at court knows that he supports changing the law and making Karina the heir.” I smiled.
“But why would he support such a thing?” I grinned. He laughed.
“Yes, why,” he said, “sitting on the roof in Brinecliff staring at the lights of Brightcoast when he was sixteen have nothing to do with it.” I sighed.
“Will he be there?” I asked. “In Rastan?”
“I think so,” Raymond smiled gently. “He and Raniere have always been close.” I sighed. “And once he finds out Marina’s going Lefty won’t have a leg to stand on to keep him away.” I swallowed. “What does Prior think of this whole plan?” I shrugged.
“It’s not really any of his bussiness.” I said. “Tristan wants to give him the rangers.”
“That’s worked out so well for his own marriage, I can see why he’d wish it on you two,” he teased. I sighed. “Don’t lock him out, Annalise. He’s so devoted to you.” This surprised me. “Do you think I’m betraying Eric?”
“Betraying Eric?” I smiled. “No, it’s just, it matches up with what you said before,” he raised his eyebrows. “He’s your family too.” He smiled.
“Yes,” he said softly, “I guess he is.” I smiled. “You’re going to need him. With Marina gone, I mean.” I looked at him and nodded. He was the only person I could honestly say understood how much I relied on Marina.
“Is Evan going with you?” I asked.
“With permission,” he smirked. I rolled my eyes. “I want him to meet Eric, and Karina.” I smiled.
“Of course it’s permitted,” I said, I paused. “Prior will have to take his council vote.”
“Oh,” he sighed, “what a trial for you.” I smiled.
“Evan challenges me in ways Prior won’t,” I said gently. “I love him, but he wants to please me too much.”
“Aaron will fight you tooth and nail on everything, I’m sure,” Raymond laughed. I smiled. “Annalise, when I see him, he’s going to ask, and what should I tell him?”
“The truth,” I whispered. “That I meant to wait. I wanted to wait.” He nodded.
“Alright,” he said. “Marina said if we don’t leave by dawn she’s going without us, so I think I should get some sleep.” I nodded. “Annalise, it’s going to be alright,” he said softly. I swallowed.
“I can’t lose anyone else, Raymond,” I whispered. “I can’t lost Marina or you or,” I choked on it. Tristan. A world without Tristan, even the Tristan who had to stand on the opposite side of the room from me. Who I couldn’t touch or be with, who was now rabid to get to the woman he actually loved, even if he didn’t always realize it.
“I know,” he said gently. “We’ll protect each other.” I nodded.