The Ship

The ball was incredibly magical. I danced with more men than I could count, most of them provenance heirs. And William. And Tristan.

I even convinced Papa to come and watch a bit, although I drank far too much wine and had to go to bed before Annalise.

Which wound up for the best as it was the middle of the night when Elodie shook me awake.

“What is it?” I asked. She looked at me. “Elodie, I don’t understand?”

“A ship arrived,” she whispered. I nodded. “I didn’t want to wake The Queen, but, well,” I swallowed and nodded.

“Is it him?” I asked.

“We don’t know,” she said softly, “we do know that it’s here, and it’s flying a Phanian flag.” I nodded and got out of bed, pulling a dressing gown on.

“Elodie, please go wake General Martin and Countess Olivia and my father,” I said softly. “If you can find Lady Athena and Viscount Aaron, them too.” I paused. “And Captain Dugarry.” She nodded and headed out. I took a deep breath and walked through the sitting room and knocked on Annalise’s door. She didn’t answer which didn’t surprise me because she is usually sound asleep at this time. I’ll never understand how she sleeps so well.

I opened the door and gasped at what I saw. Annalise was there, but definitely not asleep. She was undressed and wrapped around an equally nude Tristan. They turned and saw me and I swallowed, frozen.

I really wasn’t sure what I was supposed to do, but I did at least manage to cover my eyes. I saw, well a lot, anyway, but when I managed to look back, Annalise had pulled a robe on on Tristan was scrambling for his shirt, his pants now on.

“I’m sorry,” I managed to stammer, “I didn’t,” I met Annalise’s eyes and we just started giggling. The situation didn’t feel funny, but we couldn’t stop. Tristan looked bewildered.

“If you two are quite done?” He said. Annalise bit her bottom lip and nodded. “Is everything alright, Marina?” I swallowed.

“It appears a Phanian ship is in harbor,” I said. “I think you should go find some fresh clothing and well, your sister and the General.”

“Of course,” he mumbled, “of course it’s that.”

“Tristan,” Annalise said softly, “we don’t know.” He shook his head.

“Your Majesty will excuse me,” he said, “regardless of who it is, I have work to do and so do you.” He started walking out.

“Tristan,” she called after him, but he slammed the door. “If this is Prince Eric, he has hilarious timing.”

“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to interrupt,” I said. She sighed. “Or to laugh but.”

“Well, it was funny,” she said, “I’m sure it will help Tristan if you tell him that you were impressed by anything you saw.” I laughed again.

“That may only send him into a guilt spiral about my feelings,” I pointed out, “better to pretend I saw nothing.” She smiled.

“Are you alright?” She asked. “You don’t mind?”

“I’d rather not see it again,” I said, “but no, I do not mind, I’m over him.” I picked at the blanket. “William wanted to tonight, even after I’d told him things couldn’t continue between us.”

“You didn’t?” She asked. I shook my head. He called it the perfect way to say good bye. The way he whispered that had given me chills, and not the good kind.

“I don’t love him,” I said softly, “and I’m not ready.” I looked at her. “We should get you dressed. I told Elodie to assemble every one in the council chamber.” She sighed. “I think the green riding dress.”

“Not blue?” She asked. “If it’s Phanians, I should be pushing the goddess.” I shook my head. “No?”

“No,” I said, “you’re the Queen of Cammadan, you’re the Sword too, but you’re Queen first, and they need to know that.” She nodded. “Wear the Goddesses crown though, not the Land Crown.”

“Just in case,” she laughed as I pulled the dress tightly around her. Then I put the crown on her head. I exhaled. “What?”

“When I used to Dream you,” I said, “this is what you wore.” She nodded. “I wanted you in it yesterday, but everyone else wanted something less,” I moved my head from side to side.

“Severe?” She tried. I nodded. “No wonder you were afraid of me,” she grinned. “I look fierce.” I laughed. “What if he doesn’t like me?”

“I think everyone who’s ever met you likes you,” I said softly. “And you don’t have to marry him, no matter what your visions said.” She smiled and hugged me. “I’ll give you a moment.” I walked out and down to the council chamber.” Papa, Countess Olivia and General Martin were all sitting on one side. Aaron was sitting on the other with Athena. Tristan was standing, staring out the window.

“He’s brooding,” Athena whispered as I joined her. “I know it’s a shocking development.” I tried not to laugh.

“How was your evening?” I asked. She winked at me. “Good then,” I said.

“What do we know so far?” Countess Olivia asked.

“It’s the Prince,” General Martin said, “two guards came back a few minutes ago and reported as much.”

“Good,” Papa said, “good then.” He looked pale, more so than he usually did lately. “Marina, love, you and Viscount Aaron are going to go greet them?”

“Not the queen?” Athena asked.

“No,” General Martin said. “Annalise will greet them here, with you two.”

“I won’t,” Tristan said. Athena sighed loudly.

“You will,” Annalise said walking in. “I need you with me Tristan.” We all felt the tension in the room grow.

“As you wish,” he said and walked out. Annalise sighed, watching him leave.

“I’ll talk to him,” Athena said.

“No Thena, it’s alright.” Martin said and followed him. I glanced at the Countess who was blushing. I wondered for a moment how many rooms he’d left when she’d chosen someone else.

“Shall we,” Aaron said standing up and offering his arm. I laughed a little and we headed towards the port. “So, you ended things with William?” I rolled my eyes.

“Yes,” I sighed, “if you were hoping for a tenant with a deep connection to Brightcoast, I’m sorry to disappoint you.” He snorted.

“Have you seen anything?” He asked softly. I shook my head. “Well, it could be worse. Mother and The Duke and General could have sent Tristan and then Prince Eric would be pitched into the harbor.” I laughed.

The harbor isn’t a real harbor. Dovetail is built in a valley, and there is a lake, that has a large canal dug so that ships can get to the city. But for the most part, no large ships come here. Small barges and ferries every day, but nothing like what we saw now.

The Prince’s Glory stood tall over the small merchant vessels there now. My father always used to describe Phanian ships as beautiful and I understand what he meant now. This ship is gloriously beautiful. It was painted stunning blue. And there were three men standing on the dock.

“I think this is supposed to be the part we’re good at,” Aaron smirked. I nodded and we walked up.

Coronation Day

Everything in the past month happened so quickly, that I nearly forgotten it was coronation day when I woke up. I was still up ages before Annalise, though I’ll never beat Athena, who wakes up before the sun every day.

She says it’s from growing up with the General, I think she’s just showing off.

“Oh, good,” she said as I entered the sitting room, she was dressed in her guard uniform and had her gown for the ball hung up. I love that gown. It’s green, for Dovetail, but it’s embroidered with Pantona’s crest, it’s officially acknowledging her and Aaron’s engagement. “You’re awake, you can help.”

“Sure,” I said, “with what? We laid Annalise’s clothes out last night, and she’s still asleep so she couldn’t possibly need anything.”

need your help,” she sighed. “Aaron mentioned you were,” she sighed, “he said you’d been working on something.” I sighed.

“Fine,” I muttered and went back to my room. “I hadn’t planned on anyone using it yet, you should know.” I handed her a vial. She nodded. “It might not work.”

“It’s better than nothing,” she sighed. I looked at her. “I thought that I might be,” she sighed, “today though, well.”

“Oh,” I smiled. “Well, it should help, I suppose.” She smiled.

“Unless you want it for yourself,” she said. I shook my head. “No?”

“No,” I whispered and smoothed my own gown, taking it from where it was hanging. “I don’t think so. William is eager, but a little too eager, I think.” Athena nodded. “We barely know one another, and I don’t know if I love him, and I can’t think of that without loving someone.” I sat down miserably on the bed. Athena smiled and sat down and patted my hands.

“Well, good,” Athena said, “just because I made a horrible mistake the first time I went to bed with a man, doesn’t mean everyone should.”

“With Aaron?” I asked. She rolled her eyes. “Oh, Warren Davis, I didn’t know that you two had.” She shrugged.

“It was a non event,” she said waving her hand. I laughed. “Thank you.” I nodded. “I’ll help you dress.” I do love my gown, it’s pure light blue silk embroidered with small waves, the symbol of Brightcoast. Athena laced me into it and we went to wake Annalise.

When we walked into the bedroom, she was already awake and dressed. Not in either the gown we’d laid out for her, or a uniform, but a simple green dress, I smiled. It suited her.

“It’s wrong isn’t it?” She whispered. “I know I ought to wear the uniform or the gown which I will wear to the ball, but this,” she looked down.

“It’s perfect, Lisette,” Athena laughed going over and hugging her. “It’s important to remember that you’re not just The Girl Queen, you’re Lisette.” She looked at me. I nodded.

“Good,” she said, “go down and tell them we’ll be right there.” Athena and I turned. “Marina, wait.” Athena nodded and went. “Thank you.”

“For what?” I asked softly.

“For everything,” she shrugged, “I’m not sure I’d be here or feel even remotely calm about it.” I smiled and hugged her.

“Thank you,” I said softly. “I’m not alone anymore. And you’ll be amazing.” She nodded and we headed down together.

The coronation itself was quick and lovely. I’d seen the people gathered outside the palace before, but it was never like this, they cheered for their new queen.

“The dress was genius,” Dowager Countess Olivia said to me with a smile as we stood behind her. I grinned. “That was not Lisette.”

“She chose it,” I said simply, “I simply had it washed and laid with her other things.” The Countess nodded.

“You won’t be a Lady in Waiting long, Marina,” she said. I frowned. “She’ll find more for you to do with your talents.” I smiled.

“I hope so,” I said softly. “I was wondering if you’ve seen my father.” She looked at me and shook her head. “I don’t know how to help him through this.”

“You don’t need to,” she said softly. “When Marie died and then your mother, he did the same thing, he came back, and he will now. He and Caleb loved one another deeply.”

“Before he died, he said something to me,” I said, “about forgiving Annalise and Tristan.” She nodded. “He said that they never forgave him, and he mentioned my parents.”

“Not your parents, no,” she closed her eyes, “he meant Anton, and Thomas.” I looked at her. “It was all so long ago. But I was never supposed to marry Caleb, there were other plans.”  I looked at her and then at the General.

“He still loves you,” I said. She smiled.

“Perhaps,” she whispered. “Today isn’t for the past, however.” She nodded towards William. “With your father indisposed, may I offer you some parental advice about yours?” I swallowed. “He’s a good man, but not for you.” I nodded. “Not for any reason you might be thinking. I’ve never known William to make impractical decisions, and I’ve never known him to walk away from a chance to rise.” I nodded. “I don’t want to see you hurt, Marina.”

“He’s not near enough me to hurt me,” I whispered. She nodded. I knew this, this was why I’d kept him at arms length. It still hurts though.

We’re in Annalise’s sitting room now. Everyone is changing for the ball and I know I should be going to see William, but I don’t know how to tell him that I don’t want to see him anymore.

“Am I interrupting?” I looked up and saw Tristan. He was wearing a full dress uniform for the ball. Instead of the green tunic of the usual day uniform it was an embroidered green silk jacket, and straight black pants. Tristan was also wearing a blue sash because of his rank as Captain.

“No,” I said and stood up. “You’re here to escort the queen?” He nodded. “You look very handsome.”

“You look beautiful,” he said. “I hope that I can dance at least once with you. If William Santino can spare you.”

“You’re his commanding officer, I think that it’s up to you,” I pointed out. He laughed. Annalise walked out in her new gown. It was the same shade of green as the guard uniforms, embroidered with tiny blue swords.

“Hello,” she said softly.

“Your Majesty,” I curtesied, “if you’ll excuse me Captain Dugarry.” I stepped out of the room and headed towards the ballroom.

“There you are!” William walked up to me. I smiled softly at him. “I thought we were meeting before the ball.”

“I’m sorry,” I said, “The queen needed me.” He nodded. “I should get to the party.” He pulled me close. “William.”

“In a moment,” he said. “Did I upset you?”

“No,” I said softly, “it’s simply been a busy week.” He nodded. “I should go.”

“I wanted to speak to you,” he said softly, “I spoke to Lady Athena, and I’m going back to Pantona.” I swallowed.

“Truly,” I whispered. He nodded.

“Countess Olivia has decided to go, and that was why I joined the guard to begin with and The Captains have seen fit to send me,” he smiled and kissed me. “I will miss you.”

“I’ll write,” I said softly. He smiled. “And I’m sure we won’t be away from Pantona forever. If the Countess is there I know Annalise will want to visit.”

“True,” he said. “I was hoping to say goodbye properly.” I pulled away. “I didn’t mean.”

“You did,” I said softly, “I have to go.” I entered the ballroom and found Athena who was standing against a table, drinking a glass of sparkling wine. She was also in a dress uniform, though hers was styled as a gown. “William is going to Pantona?”

“Is he?” Athena said with a smirk. “You’re heartbroken of course.” I smiled. “I spoke to the countess as well, and you deserve better than a striver who can’t seem to keep his hands to himself.” Aaron walked up to us. “Count.”

“Captain,” he said and kissed her.

“I helped Marina,” she said.

“I heard,” he said. “You’ll excuse us.” I nodded as he swept her into the dancing. Perhaps I haven’t fallen in love, but I do have friends now. I’ll never be alone again.

A Letter From The Future

I think this week, has been the most incredible of my whole life. I study and help Annalise during the days and at night, when he’s through his duties and mine, I find myself in different gardens with William.

Or in parlors, or well, in his room. His room is wonderful. It’s simple and clean and smells like him. And his smell, clean linen, mixed with grass and gunpowder. He holds me close and whispers my name and kisses me and his hands move over me and, it’s wonderful.

He uses his hands on me, well, in me and that’s even more wonderful. I use mine, and I think it’s clumsy, but he hasn’t complained. It’s amazing.

“I want you,” he whispered in my ear tonight as I nuzzled against his neck in a rose garden. “I’ve never wanted anyone,” he let out a soft moan, “gods Marina, stop!” I drew back. “I’m sorry, I might,” he looked down.

“I’m not ready for that,” I said softly. He nodded. “I do care about you, and,” he kissed my palms.

“I know, love, it’s alright.” I nodded. We kissed deeply. “What we did last night should satisfy me.” I giggled and the clock struck.

“Goddess,” I mumbled, “it’s late, I have to check on Annalise.” He drew me close and kissed me again. I ran off into the palace and to the apartment.

Analise was sitting at her desk, which was unusual. She normally writes from the couch and reads from her bed.

“What is it?” I asked. She looked up. I noticed that Tristan and Aaron were standing leaning against the doors to the bedroom. Tristan was still in uniform, and he looked angry. Aaron was wearing a long blue tunic, and was pressing his fingers against the bridge of his nose, like he was fighting a head ache.

“They aren’t coming,” she whispered. “All of that, I don’t know what I expected.” She got up and walked into the bedroom, slamming her door, Tristan followed her.

“Who isn’t coming?” I asked.

“The Phanians,” Aaron said softly. “Read it, I doubt she’ll mind.” I walked over.

My Dearest Cousin,

While it is my dearest wish, and that of my husband to know you and celebrate your return and your safe begin to your reign, we will be unable to accept your warm invitation.

At the moment I don’t think that any of our beloved family will be able to join you however, we hope you would welcome a visit from our darling brother Eric this summer, to celebrate your eighteenth birthday. He is not with us now, else we would send him.

Welcome home, and may we grow ever in the light of The Goddess.

Your Affectionate Cousin,

Queen Elana of Phania

“They aren’t coming,” I repeated. Aaron nodded. “But he is, in the summer.”

“Yes,” Aaron said, “you missed quite the show. Tristan was sarcastic I didn’t think he was capable.” I nodded. “She wanted it to be over.”

“I know,” I said softly.

“You look quite rumpled,” he grinned. “Is William sitting in a courtyard feeling frustrated at the moment?”

“I think he may be,” I said walking over and pouring myself a cup of tea. “Will he stay in Dovetail?”

“William?” He asked. I nodded. “He’s in the guard, he’ll go where he’s stationed. Frankly, I thought he’d ask to be with my mother so he could go home.” I nodded. “But that was before.”

“Before,” I whispered. He looked at me. “You think he’d stay for me?”

“I don’t know,” he said, “I can see him staying because he thinks the guard is a good opportunity. He’s a fairly practical man. You of course would not be a reason to leave.” I blushed. “Rina, it’s alright, you know, for you to just enjoy something for a change.”

“It isn’t that,” I said softly. “It’s just that things are progressing more quickly with William than I am ready for.” He frowned. “Nothing like that, I mean, he clearly would like to, and I think I may too, it’s only,” I sighed. “It’s silly.”

“You don’t want to be pregnant,” Aaron shrugged. I raised my eyebrows. “I mentioned the kitchen maids and farm girls yes? It’s a fairly common excuse.”

“I’m working on something for that,” I mumbled. I am, I think I’ve found it too, it would be a potion that would regulate a woman’s cycle so that she wouldn’t have to worry about pregnancy unless she wanted to.

Elodie says it’s genius and could change the world.

“Really?” He said. “Thena would be interested.”

“I”m sure she would,” I smirked, “but that isn’t why I don’t want to go to bed with William. I don’t want him to expect anything.” He smirked.

“Ah, yes, you after all, are a Duchess, and he is an inkeeper.” He repeated Athena’s exact phrase. I nodded. “Not such a monumental difference, of course, if our queen marries a soldier.”

“If our queen marries a soldier,” I said, “it’s even more likely that a duchess has to marry a prince.”

“Ah,” Aaron said, “yes, that.” He sighed. “My mother shouldn’t have told you that plan.”

“She didn’t,” I said, “I did the math on my own. But it’s been discussed?”

“Hypothetically,” he said. “What do you think of it?”

“Hypothetically?” I returned. He nodded. “I think it’s logical though not likely what they want. Brightcoast is a prize in Cammadan, but elsewhere?” He nodded. “They’d be more likely to push Princess Karina on you.”

“King Daniel’s daughter?” He frowned. “But she’s his only child, she’s the heir?”

“Phanian women can’t inherit,” I shook my head, “I’d be Duchess of Brightcoast and the future Lady of Tumona if they could.” I sighed. “It’s all very complicated.” He nodded.

“Well, regardless, it’s something worth considering, on your end,” he shook his head. “Lisette won’t do as she’s told, or what she thinks is her fate. She’s too contrary.” I nodded. “William is probably a welcome distraction.” He grinned. I picked up a pillow and threw it at him.

The Prisoner

I was studying. After the decision on the invitation had been settled and (mostly) who would officially be asked to be on the council (Myself, Countess Olivia, Aaron, General Martin and Papa. As well as the two other Provence leaders, Lady Artia of Northin and Lord Wyatt Ceras from the Westlands.) the meetings have calmed down, and Annalise has gone back to training with the general so my day to day duties are slower.

I’m glad to be at my books again, looking at potions and herbs and even looking through spell histories to find something about what had happened that day the shadows attacked camp.

The library at Dovetail Palace might be my favorite room in the world. It’s encased in a glass dome, so it glitters in the sunlight and always feels warm. And that was when I found it. Not an explanation of what happened, but well, something related to what happened. It was scribbled by the same description of The Sword of The Goddess that Papa had. I didn’t recognize the writing.

I think there may be a dark sword, made from shadow and light. 

I swallowed, closed the book, steeled myself and walked down to the dungeon. Most of the guards looked surprised, but no one stopped me until one.

“What are you doing here?” William Santino asked. I swallowed and looked at him.

“I need to speak to him,” I said.

“No one is supposed to,” he said softly. I nodded. “It’s important?”

“Very,” I whispered. “I wouldn’t dream of it if it weren’t.” He nodded and I walked down the long dark hallway. I managed to conjure a small ball of light, even in my fear and then I saw Brayton. He’d grown thinner, and his dark hair had lost it’s sheen. His eyes looked hollow, and I couldn’t help but wonder if The Dark Lady had forsaken him.

He noticed me though and smiled.

“Well, what an honor,” he said softly, that same mocking tone he’d always had for me dancing in his voice. “The Duchess of Brightcoast herself. The guards call you The Princess’s pet witch, did you know?”

“I didn’t come here to chat,” I said, wondering if he could hear my voice shaking.

“No,” he sighed, “did you come to prophesy my death again? It was terribly amusing the first time.” I flushed. “She blushes, perhaps you are not as impervious to me as you lead me to believe?”

“Did you believe that I was to be the mother of the dark sword?” I whispered. “Light and shadow to combat earth and sea?” He grinned.

“You found my notes!” He said. “Well, I knew we were a match, but that was terribly obscure. How often did you hide in that library?”

“Answer the question!” I said. He laughed.

“Yes, Little One,” he said, “when it was clear you had power, I did believe that we together would create a sword for Amina.” He smiled. “I still believe it, come to that. You’ve seen that there is life beyond Dugarry, then?” I looked away. “The Dark Sword, my dear, our child. Or mine an Annalise’s but her power is limited.” He inhaled. “Yours, it’s limitless, if only you’d let go of your fear.”

“I’m not afraid of my power,” I said. He smiled again.

“You’re afraid of something,” he whispered. “Besides me, that is, and you must believe, Marina, I would never harm you.”

“Wouldn’t you?” I whispered. As if being asked to bear a dark chosen one wasn’t harm. “You are going to die, you know, once I know how to sever your tie to Amina.” He nodded.

“As you say,” he whispered and I turned and walked down the hallway. I was outside in the sunshine and air and took a deep breath. I felt better already but sick to my stomach. How could he know? What could he have seen William? didn’t even know I felt.

“Marina,” I turned hearing my name and saw William. I looked at him. “Are you alright?”

“No,” I whispered, “no, but it doesn’t matter. I can’t tell anyone about this. Only Annalise would understand and she has enough to worry about.” He nodded.

“You have friends, Count Aaron, and Lady Athena and Sir Tristan,” he said, “and your father. I spoke to him at dinner last night, he’s quite exceptional.” I looked at his big green eyes.

“I can’t tell him this,” I whispered. “He’s too,” I didn’t know the word, since Count Caleb dies, Papa has been different. He’s quiet and he’s stopped his work, and he keeps saying that it’s time for him to go home. “He kept me locked up here, while Annalise and Aaron trained for this. He never told me what my powers meant, if he knew what I just learned.” I sighed. “And Aaron and Tristan and Athena, this isn’t their speed.” He nodded. “Brayton wanted to marry me. Everyone thought it was political, so that he could control Brightcoast.”

“I see,” he said. “But it wasn’t? It was,” he frowned, “was it love?”

“No,” I said, “obsession maybe, he claims he loved my aunt, Annalise’s mother and I look like her. There’s a prophecy about Annalise, or we think it’s about her, and apparently there’s another one, and he thought that I could help him bring it about.” I stopped. “Thinks. Thinks that he can bring it about.”

“By marrying you?” William said. I nodded. “You’re terrified.”

“Annalise saw me as his bride, he’s seen it,” I explained. “Visions are hard to shake.” I leaned against the railing.

“My father and Uncle sent me to Pantona five years ago,” he said. “We have lands there and I’m not inheriting much, but I could make a life for myself. The inn is good for me, and then I befriended Lisette and Aaron, and it was,” he looked down, “there’s no fate, Marina, you won’t marry Lord Brayton, not if you don’t want it.” I blinked at him. “If I believed we were bound to what other people saw of us, I’d be wiping dishes in Pantona, married to a farm girl I’d met twice.” I smiled. “Instead, I am standing on balcony, overlooking the greatest city ever built, with possibly the most beautiful woman in the world.”

“I’m not,” I said softly. He leaned down and kissed me.

“You are,” he said, “when I first saw you, I was stunned.”

“Because I look like her,” I said. He blinked.

“You do,” he said, “but that wasn’t it. You are beautiful, so is she, but it’s different. You’re different.” I looked down. “You’re not hard like she is.”

“You’re saying I’m weak,” I teased. He laughed.

“No, Your Grace,” he said, “no, soft doesn’t mean weak.” He kissed me again and this time I pulled close and kissed him back. “Can I see you tonight?”

“You’ll see me at dinner,” I whispered. He laughed.

“That wasn’t what I meant,” he said softly. I blushed. “I’d like to see you alone.”

“How alone?” I asked. He blushed now.

“I didn’t mean,” he mumbled, “I thought we could go for a walk or something.” He kissed me again. “Maybe do some more of this.”

“After dinner I have to see to the princess,” I said, “but she usually goes to sleep long before I do.”

“Good,” he said. “We can meet here.” I nodded and he walked off. I blushed.

You’ve seen that there is life beyond Dugarry. I shuddered. There was though. He was right about that.

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.