William

I’ve never been one to not admit when I was wrong, and I have to admit my anxiety about returning to Dovetail was completely unfounded. Each night since we came has been delightful.

Every day it feels like new people are pouring in to join the guard, or to pay homage to Annalise, or to present their heirs.

This happens a lot. Provenence leaders, richer merchants and even vassals have brought every son who’s between the ages of thirteen and thirty. Annalise seems to find it amusing and the best part are the nights.

There are dinners and dancing and a great deal of fun. Tonight we finished eating and I was watching everyone start dancing, and smiling more than I had in ages.

“You’re alone more often than I’d think,” I turned and saw William Santino next to me. I felt my face flush. He looks so handsome in his green guard uniform. His auburn hair was reflecting the candlelight as well. “The Duchess of Brighcoast and the Princess’s right hand.”

“I’m not used to all of this,” I admitted. “Things with Brayton were more,” I cocked my head to the side, “staid and intense than now. It’s wonderful but, new.” He nodded. “What was Pantona like?”

“Not like this,” he laughed, “though Vis-I mean Count Aaron always did his best to keep things festive.” I nodded, I noticed him looking at Annalise, who was dancing with Tristan.

“Did you know them well?” I asked. He nodded.

“Would you like to hear something embarrassing?” He said. I looked at him bewildered. “I asked Count Caleb for her hand two years ago.” I giggled.

“Truly?” I asked. He nodded. “Goddess, what did he say? He didn’t tell you the truth?”

“That she was too young,” he laughed, “which she was. But no, he didn’t tell me the truth, just that he’d agreed to let her choose for herself and I was certainly welcome to continue our friendship.”

“Did she know?” I asked.

“I don’t think so,” he said, “I was going to tell her, it wasn’t as though I was madly in love with her, but we did get on well, and it made sense. We didn’t know who she was, but the best guess was she was Caleb’s bastard daughter, at the very least, so it seemed a good match for me.” I smiled.

“Why didn’t you declare yourself?” I asked, curious.

“Well,” he said softly, “the twins came, and it became very clear that a convenient match with an inn keeper in Pantona was not her destiny.” I nodded. “I still didn’t know who she was, but she was clearly in love with him.”

“I can see that being an obstacle,” I grinned. “Would you like to dance?” He smiled and took my hand and kissed it.

“I would be delighted,” he said. It was a waltz, which meant that his hand was resting on my waist the whole time. He was also chatting and flirting for most of it. I’m sure I was blushing, but the song ended eventually.

“Thank you, Master Santino,” I said softly.

“William,” he said, “please.” I smiled again. “And it was a pleasure, Your Grace.”

“Marina,” I whispered. “If you’re William, I’m Marina.” He nodded.

Later, back in the rooms as I helped Annalise undress, she asked me about it.

“I saw you dancing with William,” she said. “He’s awfully nice isn’t he? I’m so glad he decided to come. With all these strangers, it helps to have someone from home.”

“He is nice,” I said. She looked at me. “He’s an excellent dancer too.” She giggled. “Don’t look at me that way.”

“You like him!” She said and clapped. “Oh, that’s excellent! You would look well together!” I shook my head.

“I don’t know that he feels the same way,” I shrugged, “and besides, I can’t think about such things now.” She sighed as I turned down the bed. “Did you speak to Tristan?” She schrunched her nose.

“Yes,” she mumbled, “it’s all so complicated, and he’s not willing to just wait and see. I don’t even know that Prince Eric wants me, or if,” she sighed, “I don’t know.” 

“I understand,” I said softly. “I think he does too, just his pride is wounded.” She sighed.

“I suppose so,” she muttered, “if I could just marry him, I would, but I can’t! I have to at least entertain the provenance leaders and heirs, and the border princes and all of it.” She sighed, “it was easier when it was about killing shadows, don’t you think?”

“For you, yes,” I said. She laughed and yawned getting into bed. “Do you need anything else?” She shook her head. I walked out into the sitting room and saw Lady Athena walk in. “She’s asleep already.”

“Thank the god!” She muttered and fell on the couch. “I noticed you and William Santino tonight.”

“I didn’t notice you in the ballroom tonight,” I teased back. She laughed. “Or Aaron for that matter.”

“He was feeling much better,” she explained with a giggle, “much better, if you catch my meaning.”

“I do,” I said. “I feel silly about William, truly, like I used to about your brother. We only just met, and he is much older.”

“No so much,” Athena frowned. “You’re sixteen and he’s nineteen. I’d say the bigger obstacle is that you’re a Duchess and he’s an inkeeper with a Lord for an Uncle.” I shrugged.

“It was just a dance.” I said softly. But the way he’d looked at me, and the way it felt when he touched me. It was nice.

Dashing

It’s been an eventful week. Annalise decided on the grand apartment rather than the princess tower. (Countess Olivia is moving in there. She says she has good memories from it. This made Papa laugh, and General Martin’s face became quite red.) There’s been quite a lot of discussion regarding Annalise’s coronation, and what her council should look like.

And most importantly who will be coming. Aaron seems excellent at this, Annalise says it’s because he thinks way too much about people liking him. There have been two very large bones of contention so far.

“We don’t need to invite them,” Athena insisted as we debated for what felt like the thousandth time whether to extend an invitation to her and Tristan’s family. “Honestly, it might not go well if they did come.”

“It wouldn’t hurt to curry favor with the families,” Tristan argued, “Grandfather is influential, and having access to his ships could be even more benefictial. Cammadan has never had much of a navy.”

“There has to be a middle ground,” I said. They looked at me. “Perhaps you invite The Dumanis to the celebrations, but not to the ceremony.”

“The ceremony is public,” Annalise frowned.

“Yes, but there are honored guests,” I explained, “The provenence leaders, other sovereigns, that sort of thing. Carland Dumanis would not be in their number, but would be welcome at the ball.”

“An excellent compromise,” Dowager Countess Olivia observed. “That leaves our other question.” We all looked around at one another. Annalise and Tristan shared a specific look. “Have you settled which sovereigns to invite?”

This had mostly been settled days ago. The closest neighboring kingdoms were all invited of course, the only question remaining was Phania.

Phania is a chain of islands to the south of us. My provenence, Brightcoast is the closest point to it. My father and Annalise’s mother came from Phania when they were young. Their cousin Elana wound up marrying the crown prince, in fact. Well, now he’s the king. We don’t know much about it, sadly, the adults seem to keep quiet, but we do know things never sat well between my aunt and uncle and King Daniel and Queen Elana.

The thing is, inviting them is fraught. Not because they would come, they likely wouldn’t, they’d send representatives.

And they’ll probably send Prince Eric, the king’s half brother.

Who is the exact same age as Annalise.

A lot of people say that King Wyatt married Prince Eric’s mother just to have a child who could be united with the Cammadie heirs. We do know that after Daniel was crowned, Elana wrote to my father asking if he thought Anton and Marie would be interested in a betrothal.

They were not.

“We can’t ignore it,” Annalise said softly, “we’ll have to invite them. If they come, all the better, if they send the prince,” she sighed, “well, then they send him.” She stood up and walked out of the room. We all stared at the table.

“I should see to her,” Athena said and walked out.

“I should,” Aaron mumbled, “I’ll start on the letter.” Dowager Countess Olivia simply stood up and left. Tristan and I were left alone.

“Has she told you?” He asked. I shook my head. “She SAW him,” he mumbled and walked over to the window. “She always has.” I swallowed. “You?” He glanced over.

“Have I Seen Prince Eric?” I asked. He nodded. “No,” I whispered. “But I,” I sighed, “well, I stopped looking for that part of her life after I realized that you two were,” he nodded and I walked over to him. “Maybe it’s not what any of us think. True Dreams are confusing, and they often don’t mean what you think they do.” He looked at me. “She loves you, Tristan, and she needs you.”

“She thinks that she’s supposed to marry him,” he explained, “something about The Goddess and a wheel and being Chosen.” He looked at me. “We don’t have to talk about this.” I swallowed and then kissed him on the cheek.

“I promise,” I said, “if it’s that important to you, will fall on the very scary sword of entertaining the probably quite dashing and handsome Phanian Prince.”

“Do you think he’s dashing?” He frowned.

“Well, the stories about him are thrilling,” I shrugged, “they say that he once returned home from the northern circles with a live ice bear for Princess Katrina. He captured it with his own hands.” He raised his eyebrows. “I’m only saying.” He laughed. “I don’t suppose dashing adventurer is Lisette’s type though, she likes you after all.”

“I could be dashing,” he said. I grinned and shook my head.

“Brooding, most certainly,” I said, “brave, without a doubt, but no, you are not dashing.” He frowned. “That does not help your case. In the stories that Mercy reads dashing knights are always smiling and saying witty things.”

“Ah,” he nodded, “don’t they also,” I was suddenly swept up in his arms, “sweep young ladies off of their feet.” I giggled and he smiled at me. “You always say the right thing.”

“Papa says it’s a gift,” I smiled as he put me down. I smoothed my gown. “Talk to her, tell her you’re concerned about The Prince. She’ll understand.” I kissed him on the cheek and walked out.

“Oh,” Aaron said, walking up to me, another young man standing with him. He shared Aaron’s coloring, but it was a common look to people from the central country. He was shorter than Aaron, and his hair had less red in it. He also had green eyes. When they met mine I felt a little silly. “Marina, are you alright, you’re all flushed?” I pressed my hands to my face.

“I’m fine,” I said, I looked at the other man, “Count, you haven’t introduced me.”

“Of course,” he said, “This is Honorable William Santino,” he gestured, “William is one of my tenants, and an, ah,” he cleared his throat, “old friend of Lisette and mine, this is Lady Marina Sanpierre, Duchess of Brightcoast, Lisette’s cousin.” William bowed.

“It’s an honor to meet you, Duchess,” he said. I smiled and curtsied lightly. “Vis-that is Count Aaron was just going to present me to Captain Dugarry, it seems Her Highness sees fit to induct me into the guard.”

“Captain Dugarry is inside,” I said, “we were just discussing the Phanian question.”

“Oh, so his mood will be excellent then,” Aaron winked. I shrugged. “The Princess wanted to speak to you, when you’ve calmed down.” I rolled my eyes and curtsied to them both again, hurrying down the hall. I glanced over my shoulder and noticed Master Santino look at me again. He winked and smiling.

Only one word entered my mind.

Dashing. 

Execution

I’d never seen anything like when we rode into the city this morning. Annalise was on her white mare, dressed again in her uniform. She was also wearing the traditional silver circlet of the heir to the throne. She looked taller.

“Once she’s crowned,” Athena said to me, “the silver is yours.” I looked at her. “You’re her heir.”

“No,” I shook my head, frowning, “that can’t be right.”

“Brightcoast supersedes the other provenences,” she shrugged, “it always has, and with you being her cousin. It’s a logical choice.” I nodded. “We have work to do, you and I. We’re ladies in waiting now.”

“I know,” I said, “I think I’ll be very good at that part. Helping her pick out her clothes and brush her hair, and reading aloud.”

“I’ll be abysmal,” Athena sighed. “Tristan gets to be Captain Dugarry of Her Majesty’s personal guard. I will be the lady of the hairbrush. There’s something deeply unfair about that.”

“You could have said no,” I pointed out. Athena raised her eyebrows. “She wouldn’t have sent you away, and you could lead the guard.”

“It doesn’t make sense for me to lead the guard,” she sighed, “once things are settled I’ll be going to Pantona anyway. I’ll be a countess, which is stranger.” I smiled.

“He asked then?” I whispered. She nodded.

“Last night,” she said. “I won’t hold him to it, I mean, if he changes his mind. He’s had a terrible shock.” I looked at her.

“He won’t,” I said. She smiled. We’d reached Market Square. On any other day this place would be full of merchants haggling and children running and playing. It’s always been my favorite place in Dovetail.

Today it was different though. The people were still here but they were silent. Annalise stepped up on a dais.

“I came here today to reclaim my place, and to execute a traitor,” she said. “But the execution of Lord Brayton Tramil will not take place.” Everyone looked at her. Including Brayton. “I am not going to rule my people by fear, and while Brayton’s crimes are severe, I have decided to show mercy, as I believe my father would have,” the people had begun to yell. It took a moment, but I realized they were cheering. “I swear by the Goddess Rana who has Chosen me, and by her consort the God Cornan that he will know greater torment than death.”

We were all stunned as we followed her straight towards the palace and into the courtyard. She dismounted and looked at Countess Olivia who nodded.

“I don’t understand,” Athena said. “What are you going to do if you aren’t going to execute him?”

“Imprison him,” I said. Annalise nodded. “But where would hold him?”

“Here for now,” she said simply, “and I thought they you and I, and the sisters and Mastero Anselm could figure out the next step.” I nodded. I suddenly understood. She wasn’t sure Amina would accept his death.

“It was masterfully done,” General Martin said, “it will appease those that stayed under Brayton’s rule, keep them in line but not infuriate them, and well, frankly, when it comes to learning about your destiny, he’s a resource.” I glanced at Tristan. He looked angry.

“I think it’s what Father would have advised,” Aaron said. Annalise smiled sadly.

“It is what he advised,” she admitted. “That if Brayton wasn’t killed in battle I show mercy.” She sighed. “It wasn’t easy.” She looked at me. “I’m sorry, Marina, you’re more at risk here than anyone.”

“It’s alright.” I said softly. “You’re right, it was a wise course of action.” She nodded. “If you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go lie down.” I walked back into the palace and took a deep breath.

The air felt clear for once. The place less haunted. I walked up to our apartment and realized that soon, my bedroom wouldn’t be my bedroom. I was Annalise’s lady in waiting which meant I would move into one of the extra rooms in her apartment.

We also had to decide which one that would be.

Traditionally the princess or queen kept rooms in The Princess Tower, a pretty space toward the west of the palace. But their hasn’t been a reigning queen since Queen Anessa, and the reigning monarch usually lives in the grand middle apartment. Like the great throne, it’s a place Brayton never dared claim as his own.

There’s so much to do.

“Marina?” Lisette walked in. She looks contrite.

“Your Highness,” I said and sat up.

“I know that keeping Brayton alive is harder on you than others,” she said. I nodded. “The others don’t fear him,” she paused, “don’t have reason to fear him the same as you.”

“He’s going to die,” I said. “I’ve never been more sure of anything than that, Annalise. And I won’t go to him, but that I’m less sure of.” She nodded. “I’ll stand by you, of course I will, and Martin was right it is a good political decision.” I sighed. “I need to sleep.”

“Of course,” she said. “If you’re feeling up to it after,” she said softly, “I, there’s a girl who won’t stop following me begging me not to behead her father and she claims to be a friend of yours? Meri or something?”

“Mercy?” I asked. She shrugged. “Her father is a minor lord who used to spit on Brayton’s boots.” Of course Mercy Williams would take this chance to make the day all about her.

“Whoever her father is, she’s quite irritating,” Annalise shrugged. “Athena suggested a tower cell, which is why I need you.” I nodded and laughed.

“I’ll speak to her,” I said. Annalise nodded and left the room. I curled in a ball and slept, Rana saw fit  to not send me any dreams. I thanked her for that.

Sword Meets Shadow

I couldn’t sleep and was staring at the ceiling of the tent, I jumped when I heard someone come in and whispered my name.

“Marina!” I turned and saw Annalise. She was dressed in a full ceremonial uniform, which frankly, I didn’t even know she had. I sat up. “Get dressed.”

“I don’t understand,” I said. She sighed, she looked serious.

“Something fine,” she mumbled and went to the wardrobe. “Something that makes you look important, and grave.” I stared at her and stood up. “Blue, it should be blue.”

“Lisette,” I said, “what is it?” She handed me a simple, but lush, blue velvet gown. “I only wore this when I was presented at the temple.”

“That’s perfect,” she said. She helped me slip it on. “We’re going to talk to Brayton.”

“We’re what?” I froze. She looked at me. “Now?”

“Yes,” she said. “If we wait until tomorrow, we won’t be allowed near him alone. And there are things I need to know.”

“Why do I have to go?” I asked softly. She didn’t understand, she didn’t know my fear. Sometimes I think Annalise doesn’t know any fear. She looked at me.

“Because,” she said, “I don’t want to be alone, and no one else will understand.” I nodded  and took a cloak, wrapping my shoulders and covering my head. We reached a tent, where two guards were standing.

“Princess,” one of them said softly, “the prisoner.”

“Will see me,” she said, she looked so dignified, I swallowed and we stepped in.

Brayton was tied to a post, he looked worn, he’d been beaten, but when he saw us, he smiled.

That knowing smirk. The feeling like he could see through my gown, and see through me. Annalise had her hand on her sword.

“Cousin,” he said softly, “and Lady Marina. To what do I owe the honor of this visit?”

“Don’t speak to her,” Annalise said sharply. “You’re going to be executed, and before that I need answers from you.”

“Of course,” he said, still staring at me, I tried to look away but couldn’t. “I did it for the throne, as you know.” He laughed. “You were going to ask me why I killed your parents, weren’t you?”

“Don’t be ridiculous,” she said. “I knew that.” He nodded.

“Ah,” he said, almost gently, “of course, our little seer.” I looked away then. “The Dark Lady came to me. With her brethren in chains, she saw an opportunity.”

“When?” I managed to breath. He smirked.

“She speaks,” he said. “When my Marie wed my cousin.”

“She wasn’t yours.” Annalise said. She sounded wounded. “My mother,” he laughed.

“You wouldn’t understand,” he said, “Lady Marina, however,” I swallowed. “To love and not have it returned is terrible, but the person is yours, and that stab, when they choose someone so close to you.” I closed my eyes. “Well, there is nothing worse, wouldn’t you agree, Marina.”

“Stop,” I said and looked at him. “We aren’t the same.” He laughed again. “You’re going to die.”

“Lady Amina will not accept my death,” he whispered. “Asked the Princess,” he said, I looked at Annalise, I saw fear in her eyes. “She saw you at my side, Lady Marina, my queen.”

“Visions change,” I whispered, “I saw you sitting on the great throne and Dovetail in flames as she entered the city, and here you are, helpless.” Annalise looked at me. “You’re going to die and even if you didn’t, I chose her.”

He looked stunned. For the first time in my life, I saw Lord Brayton, my greatest fear, looking small and broken.

“Queen Amina need a vessel in this world,” he whispered. “I am that vessel. But I doubt she would stop with me.” Annalise nodded.

“Your execution will be tomorrow,” she said simply. “You know your crimes.” She turned and I went to follow her.

“I’d have given you the world,” he said.

“I didn’t want that world,” I said. I walked after Annalise. She was shaking. “It’s over.”

“It clearly isn’t,” she said. “But this battle is.” I nodded. “You’re not like him.”

“No,” I whispered. “But I could be.” She looked at me.

“I’m not marrying him,” she blurted out. I looked at her. “Tristan, not right away, I can’t, I have,” she looked away. “There’s something, I can’t explain, I can’t tell him, and I,” she looked down. “And he loves you.”

“Not like he does you,” I whispered. “And I am over him, I think.” She nodded.

“What if Brayton’s right?” She asked. “What if Amina doesn’t accept his death?” I closed my eyes.

“Then you have to free Rana and Cornan,” I said. “But you have to do that anyway.” She smiled sadly. “I’m sorry, about Caleb.” She closed her eyes.

“I can’t,” she whispered, “he’s gone and, I can’t sense him.” I looked at her. “My parents, I could always, feel them, my mother especially,” she sighed, “but he’s just gone.”

“That’s good,” I said, she looked at me, “it means he’s at rest, Annalise. Your parents lingered because they needed to be avenged.” She nodded.

“I suppose so,” she said. “I’m going to be queen. I don’t know how to do that. Caleb was supposed to help me. He always said he would.”

“You still have Olivia, and Martin and,” I looked at her. “Me, you have me, you’re always going to have me.”

Fallen

It’s quiet now, but it was chaos. Before.

When she left.

When they came back.

But it’s quiet now. I am sitting, alone, Papa could not. He is with Annalise, and with Countess Olivia. I assume Aaron is with them too.

Caleb is dead and I couldn’t help and what is the point of having these powers, of being chosen if I can’t even help someone who was always so kind and wonderful, and who loved my father, and who my father loved, and raised Lisette to be so good and brave and strong.

I was sitting with him, when they brought him back from the city, which did not burn. He had already lost too much blood and the other healers had given up. I wouldn’t. I sat with him, and closed his wounds, and waited.

I let him die, and I was so determined that I wouldn’t.

“You’re focused, Little One,” he said softly to me. I nodded. “Marina, sweet, I’m dying. It’s alright.”

“Don’t be ridiculous,” I said, trying to sound cheerful. “You won’t die. Lisette and Aaron will be back soon, and I’m sure she’ll have plenty to ask you.” He laughed.

“You sound like your mother,” he said, “dear Anne, ‘Don’t be ridiculous, Caleb.'” I blinked at him. No one ever compares me to my mother. It’s always to Queen Marie, to my aunt. He closed his eyes. “We were all so young. And Les, and Anne, they warned me, but I couldn’t, I loved her.” He smiled. “And he never forgave us, not really.” He looked at me. “You must forgive them if you can Marina. You mustn’t carry it. Someday, so much will have changed and it will seem like everyone has gone, and you’ll wish you could have forgiven them.” He didn’t feel feverish, so I couldn’t account for the babbling. “Is Olivia alright?”

“Yes,” I said, “I can fetch her if you like.” He nodded. I went to find the countess and when I did, she was sitting, rail straight, staring into nothingness.

“Who?” She asked softly. I realized, that her children and her husband had all ridden off to battle today. She looked so small.

“Count Caleb,” I said softly. She closed her eyes and nodded and followed me. She looked at him and he smiled at her. She went to his side, not saying anything just holding her hand. I knew I should leave them, but I felt frozen.

“Lady Marina,” I turned and saw Elodie behind me. She was standing straight, but covered in dirt and blood. “They’ve returned, I thought you might want to tell the princess and, viscount Aaron.” I wondered that the battle was over. I looked everywhere, but couldn’t find anyone, finally, just outside of camp, standing on a hillside I saw Annalise and Tristan.

He was holding both of her hands and she was looking up at him. He leaned down and kissed her. I hated interrupting this. It made me feel small and petty, I wasn’t interrupting because I was jealous, but a small part of me felt like it.

“I’m sorry,” I said, “Lisette, Count Caleb,” her eyes grew wide.

“Alright,” she said. Tristan smiled sadly at her. “We won. I’ll be queen. That will cheer him.”

“Yes, love,” he said softly. I looked and noticed his tunic stained with blood and slashed. I looked at both of them. “I’m alright Marina.”

“He isn’t,” Annalise said, “you can help him?” I nodded. He sighed as she left.

“He’s dying then?” He whispered, as we sat in the grass and pulled up revealing an ugly gash in his side. I grimaced and began to clean the wound.

“Yes,” I said softly. He nodded. “It’s over?”

“Just about,” he flinched, “we have Brayton. I don’t know exactly what happened but I found Lisette in the throne room binding him.”

“He’s here?” I swallowed. Tristan nodded. “She didn’t kill him?”

“No,” he said, “don’t both asking her why, she won’t say.” I knew why. She wanted answers from him. “Marina, I,” he swallowed as I sealed the wound with a blinding white light. “Gods,” he mumbled, “that’s incredible.” I blushed.

“You may have a scar,” I said, “but you won’t be infected.” He nodded. “So should I call you Your Majesty now?” I tried to tease him.

“Don’t tease,” he said, but I could see a smile twitching at his lips. “Things are going to change quite a bit. She was just assuring me that they won’t change between us, but I don’t think even she realizes that can’t be.”

We walked back to camp, knowing what we would be waiting for us. Athena ran right to her twin and they held each other. Papa was sitting quietly with Viscount Aaron who looked as though all of the blood had left his body.

Count Aaron now, I realized. Aaron was the Count of Pantona, now. The smile that was always in his eyes seemed like it would be gone forever. I walked over and took his hand.

“I’m sorry,” I whispered. “I tried.” He nodded.

“I know,” he said softly. “I have to go home.” I nodded. “I’ll be back before she’s crowned. I have to, I promised him.” His voice caught in his throat. “There was so much he wanted to do, to help her with and I have to do it now.”

“Is she,” I whispered. He shook his head.

“She’s with him,” he said softly, “she won’t leave.” I nodded and then I came back here. I failed. I wouldn’t stand by her and then I let him die.

Davis

I woke up, still in the medical tent to a lot of shouting. Not of the happy joyous kind either. Lady Athena and Viscount Aaron were arguing very loudly.

“You could have told me is all I’m saying,” he shouted at her.

“Just because you lived in the same place your whole life, so every girl you ever kissed we would encounter on market days,” she shouted back.

“I’ve never agreed to marry them,” he retorted.

“And I was never going to marry Warren Davis,” she insisted, “not really, not once I knew what he was.”

“You should have told me,” he reiterated. I was up now and found them. Aaron looked serious. Athena looked furious. “I’m glad you’re feeling better Marina.” He said before stomping away.

“I didn’t mean to interrupt,” I said softly.

“You didn’t, we were going in circles,” she mumbled. “You are feeling better.” I nodded. “That was amazing, whatever it was that you did. Terrifying, absolutely, but amazing.” I nodded.

“Have you seen him?” I asked.

“From a distance,” she whispered. “Do you know what happened?” I shook my head. “I was in love with him, or I thought I was, and so I told him about all of this, about Martin and my parents and,” she sighed, “I was wrong, and he was in Brayton’s pocket, and,” she sighed.

“I thought it might be that.” I said. “I should get to work.” Athena nodded. “Be patient with him. You and Tristan have been working towards this your whole lives, and Annalise always knew, but for Aaron and I, this was a lot, all at once.” She nodded. “And he’s madly in love with you.”

“Is he?” Athena smiled, helping me to make up a bed. I nodded. “You’ve Seen something?”

“Just the way his aura brightens when you walk in the room,” I said, “I’m trying to avoid Seeing about the people I care about.” She nodded.

“Your father didn’t mean to hurt you, Marina,” she said, “being Chosen is a great honor, General Martin,” I looked up at her. “Right, you know about the expulsion and the revoking of the blessing?”

“I Saw that,” I said, “I don’t want any part of any of that. I’ll help Lisette, but I’m not,” she nodded. “Are you alright?”

“No,” she sighed, “I thought I was ready. But I’m not. I can’t protect her from those things, and when I saw Warren,” she sighed, “I knew he was spineless, but I didn’t know,” she shook her head, “I just feel so stupid.”

“You’re not stupid,” I insisted, and she helped me make up the cot I’d been working on. “I should go speak to my father.” She nodded and I walked out into the field.

“Ah, Lady Marina,” Count Caleb walked up to me. I nodded to him. I think he knew I was still upset with him and Papa. “I’m glad I ran into you.”

“Are you?” I said softly. He nodded.

“It seems our,” he sneered, “guest, requires some attention.” I nodded.

“Let me get my bag,” I went back into the tent and took the small leather satcheled begun assembling my medical supplies in. “What’s wrong with him?”‘s

“Nothing that I can tell,” he said. “But you’re the healer,” he parted the tent and I walked in.

Sir Warren Davis was sitting his hands bound, grinning at me. I’d always thought he was handsome, I could even see, now, though he looked diminished, what Athena saw in him.

Though I’d wager she’s better off now.

“Ah, Lady Marina,” he said. I looked at him, his red hair grown into his eyes. “You’re to cure what ails me, then?”

“There’s little ailing you,” I said. I could see it immediately. I quietly lit a fire and brewed a tea.

“I thought you might bring a message to Thena,” he said. I stared at him.

“No,” I said and handed him a glass of tea. He grinned.

“Lord Brayton specifically instructed me to retrieve you, you know,” he said. “He’s quite taken with you.” I tried to ignore him, but I felt my cheeks flush. “I don’t see it, but you aren’t my type.”

“She despises you,” I said. “You betrayed her.”

“I never told him anything about Athena,” he said. I looked at him. He seemed to actually believe it, which might be worse, now that I thought of it. “I adored her, I would have married her.”

“If you get back to him,” I said, “which I assure you, Princess Annalise will not allow while she breathes,” I looked him in the eye and I noticed the fear. “You can tell him that he’ll never have me. I’m not his.”

“No,” he smirked, “not yet.” I glared at him and left the tea as I stood up. “I can’t pour that.”

“A shame,” I said and walked out. Tristan was standing there. “I hate him.”

“Good to know I’m not the only one feeling that particular emotion,” he said. “Is Athena alright? I gathered that she and Aaron argued.”

“I think so,” I said. “He was talking about his orders. Apparently, I was the target.” He looked angry at that.

“We have to tell Lisette,” he asked softly. I nodded. I realized this was the first time we’d been alone since that night when we kissed. “He won’t come near you. She won’t allow it. won’t allow it.” I swallowed and looked up at him. I swallowed. “I mean, well, you know.” I nodded. “The battle won’t be far off now. You need to stay safe.”

“I have this feeling,” I whispered. “I don’t know that I will be kept away from him.” He looked at me. “I think I have to be at her side when she,” I swallowed, and he took my hand, “when it ends.”

“No,” he said, “that’s my job, remember?”

“Hello,” Lisette walked up. “Is the prisoner alright?”

“He’s fine,” I said. “Lisette, I don’t think I should go to Dovetail with you.” She looked at Tristan and then at me.

“I don’t understand,” she said, “you have to! Rina, I need you, and we,” she looked at Tristan again. “They came for you?”

“That’s what Davis said,” I whispered, “he wants me, Lisette and he won’t stop and it puts everyone in danger.” Her face was flat and then her eyes filled with anger.

“No,” she said.

“Lisette,” Tristan said, reaching for her hand.

“No,” she said, “I’m your princess, and it’s my wish that you stay by my side. You aren’t going anywhere, Lady Marina, is that understood?” I nodded, a little bit afraid. “Good. Tristan, please tell General Martin that we’re going to march on the city tomorrow. I’m done waiting.” She walked away.

“Have you ever seen her like that?” He asked. I looked at him.

“Not in real life no,” I whispered. But that was the Annalise I knew before I knew her. The Annalise of my Dreams, who frightened me.

The Long Ride

I’m doing better riding this time, perhaps because I’m more used to it. Elodie says that it’s because I’m changed now, but I didn’t feel changed, not until today.

We were approaching a large glen, and Annalise decided it was as good a place as any to make camp. We’d only just started to settle in when they came.

It was like a storm, sudden darkness.

“You should get to safety, My Lady,” Elodie said, pulling her sword out. I nodded, but then realized it wasn’t safety that I need. I ran quickly to the center of camp, and saw the four of them.

Annalise, Aaron, Tristan and Athena standing back to back, slashing, stabbing, and shooting at the shadows. I inhaled deeply, and ran towards them. I had to help, I had to. Before I could get to them, two black guards were standing in front of me.

“I sense this one,” one of them hissed, “it’s the one we’ve orders for.” The other nodded, but as he went to grab me, something happened, I couldn’t explain it, but suddenly white light came forward and the guards were gone.

And not just the two that grabbed me, all of them. I looked around and the glen was clear. And then I swooned.

I woke up in the medical tent and saw Annalise standing over me. She was wiping me with a cool cloth.

“Elodie said this would help,” she whispered. I nodded.

“It does,” I said, “what happened?”

“I don’t know,” she shook her head, “but it was amazing. I didn’t know you could do that!” I nodded. I don’t know what I did. “Can you show me how to do that?”

“I’ve never done it before,” I admitted, “and I don’t know what it was, I just knew I had to get to you and then I was afraid.”

“It looked like battle magic,” Annalise said, “I mean, from what I’ve read about it’s descriptions. Queen Anessa, who I’m named for, they say she leveled mountains with hers.” I nodded and sat up, feeling dizzy.

“I don’t think it was that,” I said, “I’m not a warrior.” She nodded. “Is everyone alright, I should get to work.”

“Everyone is fine,” she said, “well, not everyone, Athena is rather agitated. Apparently the shadows were being marshalled by a Commander Davis. We have him prisoner now, and Martin isn’t letting her anywhere near him.”

“Goddess,” I mumbled, “yes that would agitate her.” Annalise doesn’t ask any further questions, I wonder if she needs to. I don’t know how deep she can see.

But since Warren Davis and Lady Athena were practically engaged last summer, until well, I don’t quite know what happened, but I do know that when it ended General Martin left Dovetail, so it must have had something to do with the resistance.

“Can you show me?” She said softly, after a few minutes. I blinked at her. “The thing you did with the light and the getting rid of the shadows. I understand,” she lay her hand over mine, “you’re not a fighter, you don’t want to, and that’s fine, but you need to show me then.” I swallowed.

“I don’t think that I can,” I whispered, “I’m sorry.” She nodded. “I’ll help, were people wounded? I can help with that.”

“There’s no need,” my father walked in then, he was followed by the count and countess. “Perhaps it’s time that we all spoke frankly.”

“Papa,” I said softly, “I didn’t know, honestly, and if I hurt anyone.”

“You didn’t hurt anyone, Lady Marina,” Countess Olivia said softly, “well, I don’t know if shadows feel pain, but, no one living was hurt.”

“If this is about the Sword,” Annalise started. Count Caleb shook his head, “Caleb, I know all about that, Anselm told me ages ago, and Marina thinks that she might even know why, and,”

“This is not about The Sword,” Papa said, “well, not directly.” Annalise looked at them. “There was an old term, one that few in these days know or understand, for what you are, Your Highness, and you, Marina.” He shook his head. “I didn’t believe any of it, even with Marie having the power she had or the prophecy at her birth. But well, then I met Thomas Martin.”

“Chosen,” I whispered. Countess Olivia looked very sad. They all looked at me. “We’re chosen, Annalise and I.”

“And Brayton, we think,” Count Caleb said. “You two by Rana, and him by Amina.” Annalise nodded. I’m dumbfounded. But it’s like she knew.

“It always comes down to those two,” she whispered, “in the old stories.” Caleb smiled softly at her. “Does this change anything?”

“Not for the moment,” Countess Olivia said. “It could though, it could change many things. The path of the chosen is never smooth.”

“Where is General Martin?” I asked. I thought of the moment I’d seen, when Cornan set him aside.

“We should leave you to rest,” Annalise said and stood up and they all followed her out the door.

“Papa,” I said, he turned and looked at me. “I want to talk to you.” He nodded and walked over and took the seat in Annalise’s chair. “How long have you known this?”

“I’ve never known anything,” he whispered. “I suspected.” I couldn’t even meet his eyes, I’ve never been so furious. “Rina, I,”

“How long have you suspected, then?” I managed to squeak out before tears. “When I was born? When Mama died? When I first started having the Dreams?” He swallowed. “How many times have you and Count Caleb and General Martin discussed this without me?”

“We were trying to protect you,” he said, “you’re a child.”

“I’m not,” I said, “not anymore. I haven’t been, and you wishing I was and pretending,” I was sobbing, so angry and upset. “No one taught me, I could have hurt everyone today because you kept this a secret.”

“I know,” he said softly. “Marina, but I wasn’t,” I shook my head and he got up and left.  I wept until I fell asleep again.

The Kiss

We’re going back to Dovetail and I don’t know how I feel about it. The other healers are already talking about what we’re going to need to do when battle begins and I’m nervous about what it will be like.

I’m not nervous about the battle itself. I have complete faith in Lisette. She’s incredible and the more time we spend together, the more sure I am that she’s going to be a great Queen. And not just because it turns out that she may in fact be chosen by the gods to do it.

Since she’s come however, I have noticed that Tristan barely speaks to me. Athena is nicer to me than she’s been our entire lives though. And I really like Aaron. He’s funny, and he clearly cares about Annalise more than just about anyone.

Today, while I was taking a break from packing up the tent and the supplies I’d learned how to use. I was sitting by the lake, which had become my quiet place, where I could feel at peace.

“I’m sorry,” I turned seeing Tristan standing behind me. “I didn’t know you’d be here.” I looked at him and nodded. “I can go, if,” he exhaled, “were you meditating? Lisette doesn’t like being interrupted when she meditates.”

“No, it’s alright,” I said and stood up. “I should get back to work, we have a lot to pack up.”

“Right,” he said softly. “I’ve missed you.” I smiled at him. “Honestly, I,” he looked down, “I didn’t mean for,”

“You don’t have to finish that,” I said softly. “There wasn’t anything,” I swallowed.

“There was though,” he sighed. “When we left, I thought that maybe when I came home, I don’t know, but then there was her, and,” he ran his hand through his hair.

Goddess, I wanted to do the same. He’s so beautiful, and the way he was talking was so sweet and made me believe that there was even a fraction of a chance he feels the same way I do. Which is why even though I knew we couldn’t, knew that he loves her and not me, I found myself kissing him.

He kissed me back! Which was even more amazing. Six months ago, if I’d kissed him, he’d have stepped away and been very dignified and said something vague and walked away. Instead he pulled me close and kissed me back. When we parted he looked down at me.

“That was wrong,” I said. He looked at me and nodded. Then we kissed again and I ran my hands through his hair. I’ve wanted this since I was ten.

“We can’t,” he mumbled, I nodded but then we kissed again. “But gods, I want you.”

“But you love her,” I said softly and stepped away. He nodded. “And she needs us.” I was crying and I didn’t know when it started. “You’re everything I thought I wanted, Tristan. I used to pray that you would see me, that you would love me, that you would save me from Dovetail, from my Dreams and the way Brayton looked at me,” he took his thumb and wiped it against my face, taking me tears. “But now, there’s Annalise and I’m not that girl anymore.” He placed his hands on either sides of my face and kissed my forehead, lingering. I shut my eyes tight.

“Can we be friends again, then?” He asked. I smiled at him.

“Yes,” I said softly, “I don’t think I want a world you’re not even my friend.” He smiled and I turned around and went back to camp. All day I was distracted, thinking about those kisses, and his arms around me, and Goddess, his eyes.

I can’t think this way and at dinner I could barely look at Annalise. She seems so happy now that we’re getting ready to move. She says that she can’t take the waiting any longer. We talked about when we got to Dovetail, and what that would be like, and how our lives would look and I felt like the guilt was going to explode inside of me. I have no idea if Tristan was looking at me, because I couldn’t look at him. I’d probably have just started crying again. After dinner I found myself with Aaron.

I like spending time with him. There’s no edge with him, and he reminds me of his father, easy to be with, quick to listen, and even quicker to cheer anyone up.

He says that he likes spending time with me because it’s nice to talk about something besides weapons for a change. Our friends are overwhelmingly obsessed with swords, for the most part. After dinner most nights the two of us sit and talk, or read, or play cards, while Annalise, the twins and Elodie go outside and spar.

“You’re quiet tonight,” he noted as we sat. I looked up from my book and nodded. “You were quiet at dinner too. You didn’t talk about the library at Dovetail or working with the sisters at the temple to develop new healing potions or anything.”

“I suppose, I’m tired,” I said simply.

“Hm,” he nodded. “I know Tristan went looking for you this afternoon.” I blushed. “Did he upset you?”

“No,” I said, “I’m just,” I swallowed, “I suppose I’m not as eager to leave as everyone else. My life here has been infinitely better than it was in Dovetail.” He raised an eyebrow.

“I suppose,” He said, “but you’re not going to be the lonely daughter of the foreign duke when you go back. You’ll be a Duchess yourself, and sitting at the queen’s right hand.” He stopped. “Or her left, I might claim the right.” I giggled.

“Her husband might want it too,” I said softly. He shook his head.

“I don’t see Tristan sitting much at all,” he said, “standing, kneeling, riding a horse, absolutely, but not sitting.” I nodded. “Something did happen.”

“Yes,” I said softly. “I don’t want to talk about it, and it’s won’t happen again, so it doesn’t matter.” He put his hand over mine. “Please don’t tell Athena, or Annalise. They’d hate me and I couldn’t stand it.”

“Of course,” he said. “But I don’t think that they would. I don’t.” I laughed. “Besides, it might not be Tristan at all. There’s the Phanian prince who’s our age, and several eligible Provenance heirs.”

“Yourself included,” I pointed out. He snorted.

“I was taken out of the running when she was twelve,” he said. I looked at him oddly. “That would be when I decided that I did in fact want to be king and I kissed her.”

“How did she handle that?” I asked. I could picture the scene.

“I had a black eye for about a week,” he grinned. “We were in the stable, I had only recently discovered that kitchen maids and village girls rather liked me, and thought that she might too.”

“She did not,” I smiled. He laughed.

“Not at all.” He smiled. “I would still marry her if it would help.” I stretched.

“I hadn’t considered Prince Eric,” I said. “Honestly, Phania never occurred to me.” He stood up.

“Spend a little more time with Lisette,” he said. “She’s obsessed with it. With him specifically. I’ve never been sure why.” I nodded. I’m going to have to ask her, but she must have Seen something.

The Sword Of The Goddess

Annalise and I sat talking pretty much until dawn. Once we were past the terribly heavy burden of the fact that she’d had a Dream of me as Brayton’s queen. (Just the thought of it makes me gag), and the Tristan mess, we were able to just talk, which was kind of amazing.

I like her. She’s funny and smart, and she’s a very good listener. I think all of this is going to make her a very good queen. I got back and found Papa sitting at his desk, asleep on his book. I smiled and slipped it out from under him. I glanced at what he was reading.

The sword is said to rise from the union of land of sea, Chosen by The Goddess and blessed by The God, The Sword will cut the strings that bind the wheel of fate and return the gods to the world.

Something about that seemed familiar, but I knew that I’d never heard it before. Except, I thought of the vision I’d seen when I’d sat with General Martin, he said something to Cornan about the sword, and about Annalise.

I couldn’t think anymore and collpased onto my cot. I slept and for the first time since coming to the Camp, I had a Dream.

It wasn’t like any Dream, I’d had before, I wasn’t someplace specific, at least not that I could identify, but there was a large wheel turning above me in the sky. It didn’t look like a wagon wheel, more like a spinning wheel, for making thread. Seated on either side were the God Cornan, and I realized a woman who could only be Rana.

She had dark skin, and black hair tied up in a blue scarf. She was dressed in a blue gown as well, and I wanted to call to her, to ask why she wasn’t with me. Then I noticed that the thread on the wheel was also binding her where she sat, and binding Cornan.

I glanced across the field in front of me and saw Annalise. She was holding the same sword that was at her hip in my first vision of her.

But that was when I realized, the sword itself didn’t matter. Annalise was the sword. I woke up and I wondered if she knew.

“Ah,” Papa walked in, “I was looking for that.” I nodded. “I see you’ve learned something.”

“Yes,” I whispered. “She’s the sword, it’s not a real sword.” He nodded. “How long have you known?”

“Longer than she’s been alive actually,” he said softly. I cocked my head to the side. “The night my sister was born there was a prophecy that she would bear the sword of the goddess. We didn’t know what it meant of course but, well, there it is.”

“Does she know?” I asked. He shrugged.

“I don’t know what Caleb and Anselm have told her and I don’t know what she’s Seen,” He admitted. “I do know that Marie found the prophecy frightening.”

“I can see why,” I mumbled. “When she takes her throne, is that when the threads will be cut?” He shrugged again.

“I’ve studied every prophecy about the sword, I’m still not sure what cutting the threads means.” He sighed. “This isn’t for you to worry about, Marina.”

He doesn’t understand, and I think it’s the first time that I see that. this is for me to worry about, this is why I’m here, this is what Annalise was talking about last night. This is why she needs me.

“I suppose not,” I said and got up. I slipped my blue uniform dress and white apron on and headed to the tent. Annalise was waiting for me. She looked concerned.

“You Saw it, didn’t you?” She whispered. I nodded. I knew she had Seen me as well. “I have to free them.”

“I know,” I said softly. She looked worried. “I don’t think you have to do it yet though.” She laughed without much joy.

“Oh, right,” she mumbled, “not yet. But someday I have to free the King and Queen of the Universe from some kind of bizarre spinning wheel based prison. After I reclaim my throne from the evil tyrant who orchestrated the murder of my parents.” Without thinking I pulled her close into a hug. “I don’t want any of this.”

“I know,” I whispered. “But what you said last night, about needing me.”  She looked at me and nodded. “Annalise, I think this is why you need me.” She sniffed back tears and wiped her eyes.

“I think so too,” she whispered.

By The Water, In The Moonlight

There’s a lake right near by the camp and after dinner (which we ate with the contingent from Pantona. Countess Olivia is very good at keeping things from being awkward. I ought to ask her to teach me.) After Annalise asked if we could walk and we wound up here. We were silent for a few minutes until she started moving bubbles of water around, by carefully waving her hands.

“That’s amazing,” I whispered.

“Parlor tricks,” she muttered, “I’m out of practice and I’ve never been any good at battle magic. I don’t know how I could ever beat a shadow, let alone an army of them.” She looked at me. “I’m going to need a lot of help.”

“I don’t know that I’ll be much help,” I said softly. She looked at me. “I’m not a fighter, and you have warriors, and the twins, and,” she laughed.

“Yes, I have plenty of warriors,” she said, “and I can fight well enough on my own, that isn’t what I need help with.”

“No?” I whispered. She shook her head. “What then?”

“Just, everything else,” she shrugged, “magic, and Dovetail. I know that if I,” she inhaled deeply, “when I’m crowned, I’ll need to deal not just with fighting a battle but with being a queen, with holding court and making decisions and all that.”

“And you think that I can help with that?” I scrunched my face. She cocked her head to the side.

“Tristan said that you know the court better than anyone,” she explained, “that everyone likes you and that you understand much more than you let on.” I looked at the lake and the full moon reflecting off of it.

“Did he talk about me much?” I hoped that my voice didn’t give anything away. She shook her head.

“Only when I asked,” she said softly. “To be fair he doesn’t talk much at all.” She looked out now. “I don’t want him between us, if it can helped.”

“He isn’t,” I said. When I think about it now, I think I might have been lying. She nodded. “He’s wrong though, I’m not terribly popular. The resistance thinks I’m a silly girl, my father is an eccentric who prefers his books to their company, and the courtiers laugh at me while Brayton leers.”

“Caleb told me that part,” her face was hard now, the face I knew from my Dreams, fierce, spoiling for a fight. “He said that Brayton hopes to marry you so that he can command Brightcoast. And he thinks that Caleb is indifferent, so he figures Pantona will come too, that’s most of Cammadan.” She looked down, and swallowed, “but it’s more than that.” I looked at her an nodded. As if something we’d both always known and yet never known passed between us. “He loved my mother. He wanted her, and she chose my father.”

“Everyone always talks about how I look like her,” I said. She nodded. “You too.” She nodded again. “What have you Seen?”

“You, I knew it was you, even though I didn’t,” she said, sounding embarrassed, but I knew what she meant, “but you were at his side.” I looked at her in horror.

“I’d never,” I whispered, “not in a thousand years.” Her face broke into the fierce, terrifying smile that I knew so well.

“Good then,” she said softly. “Because I need you on my side.” She stretched and stood up. “I’ll see you tomorrow.”