The Plan

Marina

I was still angry with Annalise when I got home that night after dinner. I’d sent Mercy to help her get dressed and done little more than nod and smile at dinner. When we got home I started going up to go to bed.

“Rina,” Papa said, stopping me, “I think we need to talk.”

“Alright,” I said and followed him into the library. “What is it that you want to talk about?” He sighed and sat down.

“Aaron said today you’re considering going to Tumona?” He said. I sighed.

“I knew you’d object,” I said. He frowned. “I want to see where you’re from, and furthermore, I think you should go with me.”

“I won’t go back there,” he said. I sighed. “If I didn’t go back when it could have spared us all,” he closed his eyes, “why would I go now?”

“Because I can’t go alone,” I said softly. He looked at me and sighed. “Because I might have to spend the next year lying and maneuvering in a place I don’t know. A place I do know won’t be safe for me.” He looked at me.

“What are you planning?” He asked. I sighed.

“If Annalise refuses the prince, or if he decides he can’t take her,” I shook my head, “well, her anymore, I’ll go back with them. I’ll present myself for the alliance,” he wrinkled his brow.

“And your Lieutenant doesn’t mind this plan?” He said. I pressed my lips into my mouth. “Don’t misunderstand me, it’s not a bad plan. It’s actually quite a good one. Daniel could always be distracted by something new and shiny.”

“Damian doesn’t love the idea,” I admitted. “But he understands it.” He nodded. “The excuse of visiting Tumona, well, that simply makes the most sense to get me there.” I sat down. “I do want to go though. I want to see Vacana, see the temple. It feels important.” He smiled.

“Marie and I left for good reasons,” he said softly, “they’re not,” he exhaled, “it’s not a good place, for girls like you. The sisters there, the temple,” he shook his head, “it’s cold, and detached. They don’t want Seers to be human, to feel.” I looked at him. “I don’t want to see you hollowed out.” He was sitting on the couch now, he looked exhausted. I knelt in front of him and took his hands.

“Papa,” I whispered, “I won’t be hollowed out, I’m not,” I looked at him. “We don’t have to be afraid.” He pressed his forehead to mine. “I’m strong, you raised me strong. The Goddess made me strong.” He smiled softly. “And it may not happen at all.”

“Oh my sweet girl,” he said softly.

“Besides which, surely Queen Elana has changed a few things?” I said. He snorted. “She’s your cousin and Raymond seems human enough to me.”

“He got out young,” he said, “and he’s a boy.” I laughed. “My cousin,” he exhaled. “Her mother, even more so, will take kindly to my returning to the island.” I smiled.

“You’re overthinking this,” I said, “I promise.” I kissed his forehead. “I’m going to bed.”

“You can tell Lieutenant Lestoff he can simply escort us home, rather than slip in through the servants quarters,” he smiled coyly at me. I blushed.

“I have told him that,” I explained, “but he still thinks you don’t like him for some reason.” He laughed. “Good night.”

“Good night,” he said. I walked upstairs and undressed and tried to stay awake waiting for Damian, but instead fell almost instantly to sleep, and even more importantly, for the first time in what felt like ages, I dreamt.

I was standing on a beach. Not our beach, one covered in rocks, the sea in front of me had drifts of ice. A large wave was forming, and a girl was standing next to me. She was dressed all in black, even veiled in it, except for her very vivid brown eyes, which met mine.

“You see how unsettled they become?” She said, her tone was even, calm, as if we were finishing a conversation we’d been having for a while. “The Dark Lady will fill the vacuum of chaos, as is her right.”

“But if she rises,” I choked out against the cold air. The other girl shrugged.

“Who can say?” She said. “But hurry, will you? I’ve grown bored.” The wave crashed taking me with it and I tried to scream but instead found myself choking on sea water.

“Marina,” Damian’s panicked voice called me back as I woke up, gasping for breath, and screaming, shaking, and sweating, “Marina, please, calm down, love,” I met his eyes and sobbed, and he pulled me close. “Oh my darling,” he sighed, “was it bad?”

“Awful,” I said. “I saw,” I swallowed and realized I couldn’t tell him. Something about, her, felt like a betrayal. “I can’t remember, but it ended with a wave taking me.” He nodded and stroked my hair, I rested my cheek against his chest. “I tried to wait for you.”

“The Dream didn’t want to wait,” he said with a dark chuckle. I missed him. “And you were busy today, plotting.” I looked up.

“You’re angry with me,” I said. He looked at me again and kissed me softly.

“No,” he said, “I’m angry at Eric, for thinking he could ignore Annalise’s desires because of his own insecurities. I’m angry that I’m the son of a ferryman and whore so I’m dependent on him to give you what you deserve. I’m angry that Daniel is rash and stupid and would rather force unhappiness on all of us than acknowledge his daughter’s fate and ability.” I kissed him gently. “But I’m not angry with you.”

“We’d be together in Phania,” I said quietly. “It would have to be secret, but,” he laughed, softly this time, but still that humorless dark laugh.

“Maybe,” he said, “but more likely they’d keep me busy, away from you. They likely know about us by now, and if you’re there for Eric,” he sighed, “they won’t want me near you.” I looked at him. “And that would be worse than leaving you here, being close enough, just out of your sight. Or even worse in the same room but not able to touch you, or talk to you.” He sighed. “Torture.”

“War would be worse,” I said softly.

“I know,” he said. “Maybe they’ll make up.”

“Maybe,” I said softly. “I hate this.” He exhaled. I kissed him gently. “My father said you don’t have to slip in, you know.” He smiled.

“It will be good practice.” He teased. I swallowed and clung to him until we were both sleeping.

Council

Marina

Aaron is pacing nervously and I shook my head.

“You’re doing the thing,” I said. He frowned at me. “You’re doing the thing where you’re thinking as her overprotective brother rather than her advisor.” He rolled his eyes. “Aaron, she’ll be fine. This will all be fine.”

“I think you’re taking your soothing spiritual leader role a little too personally,” he said. I rolled my eyes at him. “If Eric decides to leave, it’s bad Rina.” I nodded.

“I know,” I said and straightened my skirt. “And I’ve been thinking about that, probably more than anyone.” He sighed and sat down next to me.

“Of course you have, I’m sorry,” he said. I looked down.

“I’d go with them,” I whispered. He stared at me. “Not permanently, but,” I exhaled, “I’d go to Tumona, go home.”

“This is your home,” he said, “and we need you here, Marina!” I exhaled.

“We need to keep King Daniel happy,” I said. He nodded. “Or at least, convinced we’re still serious about a real alliance.”

“Yes,” he said, his tone careful. I looked down.

“Well, Annalise isn’t the only one available for that sort of arrangement,” I said softly. He exhaled.

“Marina,” he whispered, “I can’t ask that of you,” I stood up and walked over to a small portrait of my aunt, it really was like looking in a mirror. “And I doubt Lefty and Eric,” I looked over my shoulder.

“They’ll play along,” I said softly, “they don’t want war anymore than we do.”

“So you go South,” he said. I nodded. “Athena and Annalise go west to hunt for the gods?” I nodded again. “And if they need you?” I sighed.

“I don’t know,” I said, “I do know we’ll get nowhere with the mandate while fighting off a Phanian invasion of Brightcoast.” He sighed. He kissed my forehead.

“We don’t deserve you,” he said, “you know that, hm?” I laughed and patted his hand carefully.

“I know,” I said softly. “I love you though, so that makes you worth it.” He laughed sadly. “So I hear you’re going to have a stepfather.” That lead to a bark of laughter.

“Athena is not pleased,” he said. “Meanwhile, I’m just glad my mother is happy.” I smiled.

“Athena is protective of her people,” I said, “that now includes your mother as well as The General, I can’t imagine it’s an easy equation for her.” He nodded. “I think it would be good for my father, to go back.”

“If you think so,” he nodded. “It always seemed to me he was happy to never go back.” I swallowed. “And if Eric doesn’t leave?”

“I might still go,” I said softly. “Damian wants me to see it,” I admitted, “and Pharras. I want to, too.” It was the first time I’d said it out loud. I did want to. I felt at peace here in Brightcoast, but I knew there could be no real peace until we free the gods, so I was building in restlessness. Or maybe it was real. Who could say?

Rana had been frustratingly quiet lately. Lisette said the same. Raymond too. Though he was more concerned with the whispers in his sleep from Amina. I couldn’t tell Aaron about that, though I desperately wanted to. It wasn’t my secret to confide.

“Ah,” Duchess Norvine walked in with the others trailing behind her, “Duchess Brightcoast, nice of you to join us for a change,” I blushed.

“I apologize for my absence,” I muttered taking my seat. “As it turns out the people my father had in charge were less than reliable.” She nodded. Harold Friers scowled at me. He’s less than thrilled with our treatment of his son, but it can’t be helped that he’s too young and too shy, and frankly, if the way his eyes follow Raymond are to be believed he’s probably even less interested than we are.

“Will Queen Annalise be joining us?” Friers said. Aaron looked at me.

“She was alerted to the meeting’s importance,” he said, “I’m sure she’s on her way.”

“The matter of her marriage needs to be settled,” Duchess Norvine said, “or at least addressed. If she’s set on the Phanian or he border tribes boy, that’s all well and good, but if she hasn’t someone needs to reach out to Rastan.” She glanced at me. “They can’t be ignored forever.”

“If this is literally another meeting where we discuss nothing but whether Annalise is going to get married soon,” Aaron groaned, “I’m leaving. Harvest is coming, I should be in Pantona supervising.”

He looked miserable I realized. He was listening to this group squabbling about Lisette’s love life, when all he wanted was to be home, doing the thing he was good at.

Lisette walked in then, looking regal and confident and took her place at the head of the table as everyone rose.

“I was told this was a very important meeting of this council,” she said, her eyes never leaving Aaron’s, I so often wondered what passed between them. “What could be so urgent?”

Duchess Norvine cleared her throat.

“My people managing in Dorin are confident that The Dumanis will be on your side given any need for naval intervention,” she said simply, “if that’s still something you want.” She nodded.

“It is,” she said. “For now, at least. In the future, however, I’d like the crown to be as independent of the guilds as possible.” She glanced at me and I nodded. “And as we’ll be intimately connected with Phania, I don’t see building and training our own navy as terribly difficult.”

“You’ve decided then,” Friers said. She looked at him.

“I haven’t decided anything,” she shrugged. “Lady Marina however,” I swallowed.

“I, well,” I stuttered as they all stared at me. I wanted to murder her. “Lieutenant Lestoff and I have discussed a few possibilities, of course, but, well,” I was flushed. She thought she was helping, that was the worst part.

“Let’s move on,” Aaron said, sending a sharp look around the table. “Before you came in I mentioned harvest, and from most of the midlands, wheat looks particularly strong this year.” Friers began talking about his orchards then and I zoned out. We provided fish, and it was going well for the summer, this was known. After we adjourned everyone left except the three of us. “What were you thinking?” He hissed at Lisette.

“What?” She said, “We’ve talked about it, and I thought you were settled,” she paused.

“She’s not settled,” Aaron snapped, “I thought we got through to you this morning, Lisette, nothing is settled until you are. Everything hinges on you. Marina’s future, Tristan’s life, Athena and my marriage,” I swallowed. I’d never seen him this angry. “I understand you hate it, but it’s what it is.” She stared at him.

“Marina will you excuse us?” Annalise said softly.

“No,” Aaron said, “forget it, Marina stay, I’ll excuse myself.” He gathered his things and stopped in the doorway. “That is with your permission?” He was so sarcastic the room got colder. She nodded tersely.

“He’s not wrong,” I said softly, “we just came up with an elaborate feint to keep the Phanians at bay if Eric decides he’s had enough.” She looked at me. “And you may have just destroyed any chance of it working.” She closed her eyes and nodded. “He’s never asked me,” I whispered. “Not once, because he knows I can’t say yes, and I don’t think his pride could take it.”

“I’m sorry,” she said softly. I nodded. “I’m going to talk to Eric.” I nodded.

“You do that,” I said and walked out of the room. I found my way to the small apartment that Papa and I had here. We didn’t use it much, Papa really never. Damian was waiting for me, balancing a pen between his knuckles, I sat down next to him and put my head on his shoulder.

“Good morning to you too,” he smiled. “It went that well, hm?” I looked at him.

“Is Eric angry?” I said softly. “I hate using you as a go between, but, well,” I sighed. He nodded.

“Eric is, at the moment,” he snickered, “indisposed. When I got to our rooms last night, he was falling down drunk, and he’s unable to do much but vomit.” I laughed and kissed him gently. “What’s Annalise thinking?”

“I barely got to speak to her,” I said, “But I think she wants you to train any navy we might build.” He leaned back and looked at me.

“Hm,” he nodded. “That’s interesting.” I laughed and kissed him again. “Are you still upset with me?”

“I was never very upset with you,” I said softly. He smiled. “I’m glad you introduced me to them, really, Damian, I want to be a part of your life.” He cupped my face.

“You are my life, now,” he said softly, “I hope you know that.” I curled into him. He kissed my hair.

“If you leave, I’m going with you,” I said. “I can’t bear the idea of being without you.” I felt him tense around me.

“We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it, love,” he whispered. “But I’m glad to hear it. I don’t want to be without you either.”

Correspondence

Marina

I woke up in the morning satisfied and a little foggy. Damian hadn’t stayed, and I was for the first time grateful for it. It had been a strange evening.

“Good Morning, my lady,” Marta, my maid who I’d hired in Dovetail came in. She’d come highly recommended by the sisters, she’d been studying herself but decided not to take vows. I sat up as she carefully set a tray down. “Is it alright?” She looked flustered.

“It’s wonderful,” I smiled. She nodded. “I think I’m going to be spending the whole day at the palace, so you don’t’ need to be working today.” She nodded again and then left. I’m still new at this. My maids had always been placed in my service by Brayton, trusting her feels strange. Along with my breakfast was a small pile of notes.

My Lady,

I thank you again for gracing our establishment with your presence yesterday night. You are as lovely as I had heard despite your poor taste in men. I hope to see you soon, though I fully understand it is unlikely.

Your Humble Servant

Dorian Addison

I laughed and composed a gracious and equally flirty response back to him, assuring him I would, in fact, return soon. The next was a quick note from Aaron scolding me for not being present the night before and noting we had a lot to talk about. That didn’t bode well. I wrote back saying that I would meet with him over lunch. He could brood all morning then and come to me with fully formed thoughts.

And then there was the long letter.

My Dearest Marina,

I woke up this morning thinking of you. There was a time when we were little that I was walking through the courtyard with my mother, and you were being minded by one of the sisters and you ran over to me and handed me a small bird. You explained that you’d found a nest but the mama was gone and they needed caring for. You were taking one and I ought to take the other.

I learned the other night that my bird is thriving in my grandfather’s aviary, and the third generation descended from her recently hatched. My mother had given her to my Aunt Brie who has always managed animals. What happened to your bird? I’m curious. I can’t stop thinking about it. Regardless, I plan to bring one of the descendants as a gift for you when I come home.

As your previous letter asked me to tell you about Dorin, I will do my best. Everyone is very pleasant, and formal, but as I understand it that is only because of who I am. Apparently, I am a very important person, if you were unaware. I am both A Dumanis and A Personal Friend Of The Queen so everyone finds me quite impressive.

I miss you. I didn’t quite expect to miss you this much. I didn’t last time.

Yours,

Tristan

I swallowed and wrote back.

Tristan,

I remember the birds fondly. Mine lived quite happily with me until a few years ago when Papa and I were moved to a new apartment and there was nowhere to put her cage where there was sun. So I gave her to the Temple. I assume she is still quite happy, but I don’t know. I look forward to my new bird when you bring her. I actually have my own aviary here in Brightcoast, though it’s empty at the moment, so it’s really just a sunroom with a very high ceiling. (I am also quite important, Thank You Very Much.)

Last night Damian took me to meet his friends and they looked at me like I was Rana herself. It was strange and heady. I imagine this is similar to the way you’re feeling with everyone treating you with extreme respect. Lisette seems to have taken to it more easily, but it just makes me nervous.

I miss you too.

Yours,

Marina

I did miss him terribly. I also realized he didn’t mention Lisette in his letter. Not once. Because he wasn’t thinking of her? Or because he was avoiding her? I didn’t know. I realized it didn’t matter. I thought of how when he was at Pantona when he wrote it was almost all about her, and now it was about us. I stood up and walked to the window and looked out at the see and then took a deep breath of the salt air.

I was happy here, settled. Maybe I would stay. Maybe I wouldn’t. I didn’t know. But in that moment I wanted my friend here with me instead of on the other side of the continent.

The Office

I was happily sitting in my office in Brightcoast Manor when Damian walked in and I looked up at him and he smiled.

“May I help you?” I asked. He walked over and kissed me.

“Are you expected at the palace this evening?” He asked. I raised my eyebrows.

“I’m expected at the palace every evening, but I doubt I’ll be missed if I send excuses,” I stood up and he put his arms around my waist. “Why?”

“I want to take you into town,” he said. I bit my lip. “This is your home, Rina, you should know it.” I smiled and nodded.

“Alright,” I said, “but will it be safe?” He laughed and stepped back.

“No one would dare hurt you.” He said. “And if they even tried I’d kill them.” I rolled my eyes. “We’ll have fun, my darling, I promise.”

“I have no doubt,” I said. He smiled and I looked at him. “What?” I mumbled.

“Are you very busy?” He asked and kissed my neck gently. I giggled and shook my head as he back me up against the desk.

“I am quiet important,” I muttered. He nodded and kissed me gently. “Damian,” I muttered as his hands slipped up, moving my skirts to my thighs. Since coming to Brightcoast we’d been less able to have sex. He was living at the palace and me at the manor for one thing. The other was that I was busy. Aaron had warned me that running a Provenance wasn’t a joke, and I don’t know how Papa did it from so far away for so long.

“I’ve missed you so much,” he said and slipped his fingers gently inside of me teasing me open. I whimpered happily. “Oh, that’s nice,” he smiled, “you’re ready for me?” He knew the answer, he knew my body so well at this point but I nodded.

“Don’t stop,” I whimpered, as he lifted me onto the desk and pushed into me. We went quickly, but it didn’t make it less amazing. I’ll be tired of him. We finished, panting his face resting on my chest. “And is that you wanted to show me?” He laughed.

“No,” he said with a gentle chuckle. “But I want to show you the Pharras neighborhood,” I swallowed and bit my lip and nodded. “Love,” he said, “they’re your people, they should know you, and you should know them.” I nodded.

“They likely resent me,” I said, “Papa and I have been gone so long.” He sighed and kissed me gently.

“No one resents you,” he said, “as far as I know, at least. They were all curious about you, why the manor was quiet, why you’re back now,” he kissed my palms. “why no one has seen you unless they work in the palace.”

“Everyone I know is at the palace,” I said defensively, “and a lot of my work.” He laughed. “Not all of us serve discarded second sons who don’t care if we spend our evenings in slum brothels.”

“Oh,” he grinned, “I’m telling Eric you think he’s a discarded second son,” I rolled my eyes. “And I learned a lot in those brothels that you seem to be enjoying.” I blushed.

“Regardless,” I said softly, “I need to check with Athena. If she thinks I need protection.” He laughed.

“I can protect you,” he said and pulled me close. I sighed. “Live a little, Duchess, I promise it won’t hurt.” I nodded. “Good.” I sighed as he started to leave.

“What does one wear, wherever it is we’re going?” I asked. He sighed.

“I hadn’t thought of that,” he said, “I suppose something you’d wear when you’re healing.” I frowned. I hadn’t thought of the plain blue dresses lately. But I had packed them, and they were clean and simple enough. I didn’t know if I would get much more work done so I slipped out of the office and down to the beach.

Raymond was sitting, focusing and gathering water into a small tide pool. He’d been so settled since we got here, spending a lot of time in the old seminary, channeling his power and reading and studying. I join him when I can. Ever since Athena had her Dream that the gods are in Westran he’s trying to figure out how we’ll bring the sea to the desert.

“Good afternoon,” he said serenely making a small whip of water dance around me. I laughed and pushed it back to him, making it sputter in his face. He stuck out his tongue at me.

I regret so many things taken from us, but I think a lot about the thread of time where my father was able to get us back to Phania, and Raymond, Lisette and I could have been children together.

“Good afternoon,” I said and kicked off my shoes and sat down, rolling my stockings down and off and let the waved lap onto my feet. “It’s good. How is isolating it going?”

“Not so good,” he sighed and joined me. “But unlike Lisette, I’ve never been good with fresh water. I think I need her help.” I raised my eyebrows. “I know, a long shot, but I’ll ask her tonight. You’ll back me up?”

“Mm,” I shook my head, “I’m not going tonight. Damian wants to bring me into town.” He groaned. “What?”

“To meet the Pharras, here?” He asked. I nodded. “How much time have you spent in taverns, Marina?” I swallowed.

“Well, none,” I said, “once when I was nine, I was allowed to go to a fair the Dumanis held, but even then I was flanked by Black Guards.” I hugged my knees. He frowned and put an arm around my shoulder.

“I think we all forget sometimes,” he said softly. I looked at him. “You might have fun, but you should be prepared for the smell.” I laughed and kissed him on the cheek.

Brightcoast

Marina

It’s hard to describe how it felt the moment I saw Brightcoast for the first time since I was a small child. My heart nearly burst out of my chest it was so full. The smell of the sea and the sound of the waves crashing onto the cliffs felt so unbearably right to me.

There’s sunshine most mornings and then intense thunderstorms as the heart gathers in the afternoon followed by calm tranquil evenings. My power is growing too, ever since Athena and I made our vow to Annalise, summoning light, moving water, even reading people comes as easily as breathing.

“It’s home soil,” Athena said softly one afternoon as we walked down the beach, “or I suppose, water for you.” I looked at her. “Martin taught me about it, when I was little and having Dreams. A Chosen’s power is connected to home, so,” she shrugged, “you’re home. I didn’t really feel mine until I got to Pantona.” She smiled. I looked at her.

“Pantona,” I said. She shrugged. “I didn’t realize it was home.”

“I didn’t expect it,” Athena admitted. “But Dovetail isn’t home, and certainly not Dorin.” I laughed. “Have you heard from him?”

“Yes,” I admitted, “you?” She nodded. “He seems, unsettled.”

“It’s Tristan,” Athena said, “Unsettled is an improvement.” I laughed, and the bells from the tower at the University began to peel. “We should head back.” She sighed.

“You should,” I pointed out, “who’s dressing her? I have other responsibilities.” Tradition dictated that the summer season officially opened with a masked ball at Brightcoast Manor. We’d all been here for a week or two, but formal court hadn’t been convened yet, after tonight it would be.

I was extremely nervous.

“Mercy,” Athena said. I nodded. “So you approve?”

“A few of the newer girls don’t understand her,” I shrugged. Athena laughed. “Mercy at least understands me, so that’s close enough.” She shook her head. “I put together the costume, she’s supposed to be Anessa.”

“A strong choice,” Athena said, “and you’re going to be?” I sighed.

“One of the Glora,” I said softly. The Hadmaids of Rana. Only in the past few months, my times studying with Raymond had I learned so much about The Goddess, and what could be, when we free her. The first generation of Sisters were taught by The Glora, how to serve and honor Rana and the sea itself properly. They were beings of water and light, faded now, because of Rana’s binding on the wheel. “You?”

“No one specific,” she shook her head, “one of Anessa’s commanders. Aaron is going as a shadow, which means, all black, which is the laziest costume I have ever heard of.” I laughed and hugged her. “Elodie is coming as Mariah, which should scandalize everyone with Annalise as Annessa.”

“And only make Mercy mildly apoplectic,” I grinned. She laughed. It is funny to think about how our two closest friends before everything changed were now a couple.

“I’ll see you later,” she said and headed towards the palace. I walked into the manor and up to my bed chamber and lay down, closing my eyes to get a little sleep before everything exploded in activity.

A brief nap before people arrived would be a blessing. But I don’t know how long I actually slept.

“Hey, beautiful,” his voice whispered. I smiled and kept my eyes shut. “Your guests are arriving Duchess.” He kissed me.

“Damian,” I mumbled, “you greet them.” He laughed as I opened my eyes and looked up at him, I rolled over and straddled him. “Or they can wait.” I whispered and kissed him deeply. He slid his hands to my waist and I giggled as we rolled over again, this time onto my back.

“Darling,” he whispered, “they’ll say I’m a bad influence.” I giggled.

“You are,” I said. “I was so very well behaved and compliant before I met you.” He laughed and kissed me again, standing up. “No,” I whined, “come back.”

“After your little party,” he said, “when we have time to do things properly, I won’t let you out of that bed.” I giggled and blushed a little. Winter in Dovetail and then our ride down here, were full of moments where things were “done properly,” and I’ve become a little addicted it. But I also still find myself dizzy for realizing I’m in love with Damian and that he loves me. “I should change. I suppose you have to dance with somone very grand first.”

“Aaron,” I said, “I think, or possibly Evan Allred. Maybe Harran.” He nodded and sat down. “But then just you.” He smiled. “Damian,” I whispered.

“Marina,” he said softly and took my hand.

“Do you love me?” I whispered.

“I only love you,” he said. I smiled. “I’ll leave you to get changed. I hope you recognize me.”

“I always will,” I said softly. He laughed and kissed my hand and slipped out. I groaned and fell back against the bed, before rousing myself to get up and get changed. A letter was sitting on my dressing table and I smiled softly glancing at it again,

My Dear Marina,

We arrived in Dorin today, and if you can believe it my grandfather might be more of a tyrant here than Brayton was.

I smiled and missed him. IT felt strange that I would walk down into that ballroom and he wouldn’t be there, hovering in a corner, beaming at Annalise, smirking knowingly at me. Tristan’s absence was palpable. I quickly changed into my simple ice blue dress, my hair already in a row of braids. I placed a round crown of pink jewels that looks like coral on my head and then a golden mask. I took a deep breath and walked out of the room, ready for anything.

Into The Fire

I awoke undressed, a little blurry about the night before, but full of drive. I knew what needed to be done. I slipped out of bed, leaving Tristan, still asleep, he stirred a bit but didn’t wake. I got dressed and walked outside.

I needed to interview the prisoner, Warren Davis. Tristan had told me last night that he’d been Athena’s lover, that he’d betrayed Thomas to Brayton. That must have bought him his place commanding the shadows.

“Good Morning,” Athena said, as I approached the tent. I nodded at her. “I’m going in there with you.”

“No you aren’t,” I said simply. She scowled at me. “Thena, think, I need to question him, but I can’t have you lose it, I can’t.”

“I can handle it,” she said through clenched teeth.

“You can’t,” I said, she sighed, “you almost abandoned the fight just to go after him.” She sighed. “He hurt you.”

Yes,” she mumbled, “but that isn’t the point, you shouldn’t see him alone, where’s Tristan? Or Martin? Or hell even Marina!”

“Marina is still regaining her strength,” I said, “and I don’t need protecting. I wish you would all stop behaving as if I were a foolish child.” Athena stared at me.

“Alright,” she said softly. “But if you decide to execute him, I insist on swinging the axe.” I nodded and walked in.

Warren Davis was tied to the post holding the tent up, he grinned at me. I suppose he was good looking, in an arrogant way and if the bruises healed, he’d be handsome even.

“Your Highness,” he grinned, “I’d bow, but as you can see.” I nodded. “It is interesting to see you in the flesh. We were all so sure you were dead.”

“Brayton never thought I was dead,” I said. He laughed.

“No, no he did not,” he sighed. “He had plans though.”

“For you?” I asked. He shrugged, as much as he could. “I’d have given you an army, and maybe even a title. I think you picked the wrong side, Commander.” He frowned.

“I chose Cammadan,” he said, “others understood that.” I leaned against another post.

“Athena didn’t,” I said, he snapped his head over to me. “She asked if she could execute you, should it come to that.”

“Athena,” he whispered, “is a practical woman, in the end,” I laughed.

“You think she’ll come back to you?” I sighed. “I’m sorry Warren, but no.” He glared at me.

“They won’t accept you,” his voice sharpened, “the Provenance leaders and the court. They hated your mother, they thought she was a witch and a whore, and your father was a fool who she trapped with magic and promises of glory from the gods.” I swallowed hiding the lump in my throat.

“I am of Cammadan, of the line of Dovetail, reared in her heart.” I said. “But I am also of Phania and the sea. Rana and Cornan united in me to bring balance to the world.” He grinned.

“You were reared in her heart by another fool,” he sneered, “you call Aaron Pantona brother because you grew at his side, but everyone knows he is also your brother by blood.” I slapped him, hard across the face.

“Insult my father and Olivia again and it won’t be my hand you feel,” I growled as he laughed and I walked out of the tent. I swallowed and went to Olivia’s tent. She was awake, fully dressed, hair not a stitch out of place. I don’t understand how she does these things.

“Lisette,” she said, “sit darling. You look pale. I’ll make tea.” I looked at her.

“I need to know the truth,” I said, she frowned, “All of it, about you, and my father.” She sighed.

“Oh,” she said softly and sat back down. “Darling, there isn’t much to tell, we were young, my father wanted me to be queen.” She looked down. “I loved him, I won’t deny it, but, well, we weren’t a good match.” I nodded and sat down. “With Anton and me, it wasn’t real, Lisette, we were playing a game, flirting, dancing,” I nodded.

“And with Martin?” I asked softly.

“That was different,” she said softly. “That was,” she looked away, “that was two people who had no bussiness together breaking one another’s hearts.” I nodded. “Why are you asking me this now?”

“What am I walking into?” I said. She smiled. “In Dovetail, Davis,”

“Ah,” she said, “I’m sure he said many things, Aaron is your father’s son, your mother was a witch who spelled your father.” I nodded. “Lisette, your mother was loved in the capital. Young and beautiful and full of light from the gods. Your father was enamored of her, we all were. If we were enchanted, well, then we were easily duped, I suppose.” I smiled.

“I need to see Martin,” I said softly, “we need to go to Dovetail as soon as possible.”

“Lisette,” she cautioned, “listen to me, do not let this derail you. The plans Caleb and Thomas have made,”

“I need to go,” I said simply. “Olivia, it needs to be over.” She nodded.

Dinner

Tristan met me as the sun was going down and took my hand. He kissed me softly and we pressed our foreheads together.

“You were trying to tell me something,” I said, “before, when Thom-General Martin came in.” He sighed and frowned.

“Yes, I was,” he admitted, “I told you, in Pantona, that there wasn’t anyone else, that,” I smiled. “I think I was blind to something.”

“She loves you,” I said softly. “Marina, Lady Marina,” he nodded. “And you?” He shrugged. “You feel the same?”

“No,” he said, “no, it’s only,” he frowned, “I shouldn’t have, I never told her about,” he sighed, “it doesn’t matter. Shall we go?” I nodded and we moved quickly towards where my family was.

My family. Not Olivia and Caleb and Aaron. But my uncle and cousin. My blood, my mother’s blood, my family. And I knew walking in that she was going to hate me.

“Ah, your highness,” my uncle, Lestat, Uncle Les.

“Lisette,” I said softly, after he bowed and stoof up. “Please, I don’t want to be,” Marina looked at me and frowned. “I can’t imagine you called my mother your majesty.”

“Only when teasing her,” he smiled. “Well, then,” he said, “Lisette, and you met Marina earlier.”

“Of course,” I said. She smiled softly at me. “I’m glad to know you finally. I hope we can be friends.”

“I hope so too,” she said, “hello Sir Tristan.”

“Lady Marina,” he said softly. I hadn’t seen him this quiet in a while. But I liked dinner, and looking at my uncle I had the same, well not the same, but a similar feeling about how I did when I saw Thomas. He could tell me about my mother.

“What have you been doing?” I asked Marina finally. She looked oddly at me again. “In Dovetail?”

“In Dovetail?” She repeated. I nodded. I’d talked about Pantona, and my life at least a little. “Very little. Since we got here though, I’ve been very busy. I’m learning to heal, and it turns out all of the nothing and studying I’ve done it’s helped me here.”

“So many hours in the library,” Tristan said, “here we all thought you were hiding from us.” She wrinkled her nose at him and stuck out her tongue and I swallowed. Maybe he didn’t love her back, but there was an easiness between them, something that I’d never seen in him.

“I’m looking forward to seeing Dovetail,” I admitted. Uncle Les smiled and sipped his wine. “Did you always live there?”

Another memory and story from that. I wanted to hurl myself at Tristan, to claim him, there. He was mine, we’d made promises, whispered and shared parts of ourselves she would never see.

But I knew I was being ridiculous. Tristan said he didn’t return her feelings, I had to trust him. As we discussed battle strategy, I noticed something else change, the way he was looking at me and then I felt the final shift. She saw.

I excused myself and left quickly, I wanted her to see me, but I knew it that moment that she wouldn’t. I could explain later.

“Are you alright?” Tristan asked as we got back to my tent and walked inside. I nodded. “You don’t seem alright.”

“I am,” I said and kissed him. “Make love to me.” He grinned and we fell back against the bed. It was restless, and quick, fitting how discomforted I felt. After, he took a lock of my hair, one of the curls, and twirled it around his finger.

“What are you thinking about?” He asked. I rolled onto my stomach and kissed him. “So we’re of the same mind then?” I giggled.

“Perhaps,” I said softly. His hands slipped around my waist and pulled me close again. “What you said, about me and winning this fight, you meant that?”

“I’d follow you to hell,” he whispered, “into the darkness and back, I wouldn’t even be able to help it, I don’t think.” I pressed my forehead against his. “Lisette.”

“Please don’t ever let me be anyone other than Lisette, with you,” I said softly, “I’ve felt so much today, and I want to be Lisette, in every moment that I can be.”

“Of course, love,” he said, “if I can be Tristan, the merchant’s son.” I nodded and we kissed again. He was everything I wanted.

“Good then,” I said. “I have too much to think about, and I don’t want that to be a part of us.”

“Lisette,” he said, “you were upset tonight?” I sighed and rolled onto my back.

“I was a lot of things tonight,” I admitted. “I was upset, and jealous, and worried.” He looked at me.

“Jealous?” He said. I nodded. “Of Marina?” I looked at him. “Lisette, she’s nothing,” I stopped him.

“No,” I said, “no, she’s wonderful, and beautiful and ladylike and you know her and she knows you.” He kissed me.

“Perhaps,” he said softly, “but I love you, and am loved by you, and I think that might be greater.” I sighed and pressed my forehead against his chest as we both fell asleep, him first, his deep childish sleep.

I dreamt that night of the palace at Dovetail, I was watching as a woman looked out over a balcony, holding a bundle. It was my mother, I realized. A man joined her, with eyes, exactly like mine and short cropped red hair. I smiled.

“How is she?” He asked softly. My mother smiled.

“Wonderful,” she said, “asleep. So you shouldn’t speak to loud.” He laughed softly.

“She’ll sleep soundly. She was named crown princess today,” he said and slipped a silver r bracelet around my wrist. My mother laughed.

“So she is,” she smiled, “they all agreed then.” He nodded. “Even if I have others, and boys?”

“Yes,” he said, “it’s settled. There wasn’t much of a fight, honestly, only Brayton resisted at all.” She nodded. “I don’t know what’s gotten into him.”

“He’s angry with me,” she frowned, “I don’t know why, but he is.” My father kissed her forehead. “I thought this was what he wanted, he always said that he wanted to study to be a mastero, and now he can!”

“I’ve given up trying to please him, Marie,” he sighed, “he’s going to be unpleasant for the rest of our lives, just as he was odd until now.”

I wanted to scream at them to heed his anger, to try something, anything, to at least be aware. I knew I couldn’t, past visions didn’t work that way. I woke up and breathed deeply.

A New Dream

I woke up this morning, covered in sweat. When the maid (another new one. I don’t know her name yet. She’s very quiet. My maids keep getting replaced. I think Lord Brayton is the cause, though I can’t be sure.) came in she wasn’t surprised. I suppose someone told her about my dreams.

This was a new one and it was terrifying. My True Dreams are always disconcerting. Whatever god or demon decided that seeing the future was in my fate also decided that I was not ever to see nice things, or things that made any kind of linear sense.

Instead I saw The Girl On The Horse, who I suppose I might as well call Princess Annalise now, we were no longer on the hill overlooking the city, now we were in the city, or what was once the city, it was engulfed in flames. Annalise was walking towards the palace, unafraid of the fire. I followed her, I didn’t have much of a choice, really, I go where the dream takes me, and she entered the grand hall of Dovetail palace. This was when I noticed that she wasn’t crowned as she’d been on the hill, she was still wearing that green velvet dress though, and she was still carrying the sword.

At the end of the great hall, Lord Brayton was sitting on the great throne, something, for all of his boldness, he’s not yet dared.

“Come to me, darling cousin,” he said. Brayton is also Annalise’s cousin, on her father’s side, “I’ve much to show you.” Then she made eye contact with me and smiled.

“I am coming,” she said, “you could tell him if you like.” That smile scares me almost as much as the burning city does. Like she’s looking forward to this fight, to any fight.

That was when I woke up, and the new maid helped me dress and then I walked out into the sitting room, where Papa was sitting.

“How did you sleep, love?” He asked. I sat down next to him, still glancing at the maid.

“Not as well as I’d like,” I said. He nodded. “I thought I might go to the market to see if I could find some herbs to make a sleeping tea.” He nodded, he dismissed the girl, which was nice.

“The same?” He asked me.

“No,” I shook my head, “no it was new.” When I told him about the dream he nodded. “Is that my fate, to be the go between?”

“I don’t think so,” he said, “but that’s part of why we want you to get away from here. The Sisters say that it’s possible Brayton’s energy is effecting your visions.” I nodded. “How would you feel about going to the resistance camp?”

“Won’t that draw suspicion?” I asked.

“If we told the truth, I suppose so,” he nodded. “I just assumed that we would lie.”

“Oh,” I nodded. “Well, yes, that would work. I suppose we could say I was going back to Brightcoast?”

“Just the thing,” Papa nodded. I smiled and spread my jam. “Perhaps next week?” I stopped.

“So soon?” I whispered. But I knew why. I’d grown thin, and I knew I looked pale. He nodded. “I suppose so.”

The Secret, The Truth

I don’t even know where to begin.

The twins have not even been gone six hours and it seems as though everything in my life has changed. First was dinner, which was awful, as usual, especially without Tristan there, because Lord Brayton was watching me.

Again.

It feels like he always is, and it gives me the shivers. Mercy Williams says that I should be flattered. Flattered? That he feels the need to undress me with his eyes every time I see him. Plus I’ve Seen the things he does. He’s done.

If my cousin is dead, it’s because of him.

If she’s alive, it’s likely she’ll have to fight him.

I don’t know which is worse.

After that, Papa said that he wanted to talk to me in his study. This is strange, normally after dinner, Papa and I sit in the parlor and I work on my embroidery, while he writes letters to home.

Our home is Brightcoast, it’s the largest Provenance in Cammadan. Well, technically, it’s mine, since it’s my mother’s family, and Papa isn’t even from Cammadan, but I’m only fifteen and legally can’t control the seat yet.

But tonight I went to his study, I was still wearing my navy blue dinner gown, with the green wheels embroidered on the hem. It was to represent my hope that Annalise would come back. Green is the color of the royal family and The Wheel is the symbol of the Goddess Rana, who they say Annalise is chosen by.

Papa wasn’t alone, which surprised me. He was with General Thomas Martin, the leader of the Resistance forces (The resistance fights Brayton’s secret army. I know very little about any of it), and Count Caleb of Pantona.

I was surprised to see Count Caleb, as his wife had left with the twins earlier in the day, and the two of then rarely travel separately.

“Sit down, Marina,” Papa said gently. I did so, and looked a three men. General Martin was by the fireplace, he’s taller than Papa, with broad shoulders, and dark hair, cropped short. He was wearing his green uniform. Count Caleb is even taller than the General, but he’s thinner, with grey streaking his auburn hair. “We thought it was time to speak to you about a few things.”

“Have I done something wrong?” I asked. The General smiled at me.

“No, Lady Marina,” he said softly. “On the contrary, according to your father, you’ve done very well.”

I didn’t know what that meant, but it was reassuring. Especially from the General, who, if Tristan and Athena (Sir Tristan and Lady Athena) are to be believed he doesn’t give out praise much.

“We wanted to speak to you about Princess Annalise,” Papa said. His eyes met mine. “I’ve told General Martin and Count Caleb about your dreams, my dear, and they think it’s time you knew the truth.”

“She is dead then?” I whispered.

“No,” The Count said, he was smiling too, and laughing a little. “No Lady Marina, Princess Annalise is not dead, she is in fact quite alive, and safe. She’s lived at Pantona these past fourteen years.” I swallowed and nodded.

“She’s coming soon, isn’t she?” I asked. The three men nodded and I sat back in the chair.

“We’d like to take the capital before she turns seventeen,” General Martin explained.

“And before that we want to move you from the capital,” Papa said. “It won’t be safe once Annalise shows herself.”

“But in the meantime?” I asked. This time I looked to the Count. He smiled softly at me.

“In the meantime,” he said, “you are to go on as you were.” I nodded. But for some reason all I could think about was the fact that Tristan was heading towards my cousin Annalise.

And for some reason that gave me a knot in my stomach.

Goodbye, Perhaps Forever

I was glad that Papa told me Tristan, Sir Tristan, (I must remember that we aren’t children anymore.) was leaving. He couldn’t tell me where, but I did want to say goodbye. He looked at me strangely, as I handed him the handkerchief.

“Just, something to remember me by,” I said. “And for luck.”

“I see,” he said, he was smiling, but I think he thought I was being silly. I suppose that I was. In the books that I read, brave knights going on quests always take a favor from a lady with them. Of course in those books the brave knight and the lady are in love, and Tristan is not in love with me. “That’s very kind of you.”

I was blushing, but then he kissed my hand. Honestly! I think I could have swooned.

“Do you know how long you’ll be gone?” I asked.

“As long as Countess Olivia needs us,” he said simply. “We’re escorting her home and then she said she had work for us.” Us. Of course he wasn’t going alone, his sister, his twin, Lady Athena would be with him. I blinked at him. “Have you Seen anything?”

“No,” I said quickly. Not about him. Not lately. But I had been spending an awful lot of time trying not to think about him. I couldn’t tell him what I had Seen either. Papa forbade me from telling anyone whenever my Dreams were about my cousin. He says that it’s too dangerous.

He’s probably right, unfortunately, but I could barely think with Tristan holding my hand like this.

“Please try to stay safe though,” I whispered. He nodded. “And to Lady Athena, too.”

“Of course,” he said.

That’s when Lady Athena came in. The twins are tall, and they have identical blond hair, although Athena’s is long, and Tristan’s falls just into his eyes. Those perfect green eyes, that they both also have. She insisted that it was time for them to leave. I bid them both farewell, but I kept thinking about Tristan.

He hadn’t been in my dreams of late, certainly not any of the Seeing kinds. Those were just the same one over and over again.

It’s her, she looks a lot like me, actually, the same lightly curly dark hair, and same brown skin, but her eyes aren’t at all alike, hers are grey, like stormclouds. She is sitting on a horse, with a sword at her side. She’s wearing a crown, well not a crown, the crown. The Crown of The Goddess. The view from the hill is clearly of Dovetail, the capital city, where I am.

She looks at me and smiles. It’s not a friendly smile, it’s fierce, like she’s relishing something.

I told Papa and he said that it was my cousin, Annalise, the true queen of Cammadan. It makes sense, Annalise has been missing my entire life. But she’ll be turning seventeen soon and that’s when she’d be crowned, if she’s alive.

I don’t know if she is, although if I’m dreaming about her, she must be, and she must be coming!