By The Water, In The Moonlight

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

“That’s amazing,” I whispered.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lady Athena & The Viscount

This morning I was working at changing over the cots. It seems like every day people came in injured from skirmishes with the black guards. I like the work though. I especially needed it today. Elodie looked over at me.

“What’s she like?” She asked.

“I’m not sure yet,” I answered honestly, “I think she was trying to feel us out, to be honest. It’s like she knows in concept that we’re her family, but in practice,” I shrugged. She nodded and we looked up as the tent parted. Lady Athena walked in, wearing her green guard uniform dress.

“Hello Elodie,” she said, “Lady Marina.” I nodded at her. “Could I speak to you?” I nodded and we walked outside. “I know that we’ve never quite gotten along.”

“True,” I said softly.

“I wanted to thank you,” she said quickly, “for taking care of Martin, and also to tell you that my brother is an idiot, and he was writing to you all summer and he should have told you that he and Lisette were,” she frowned, “whatever they are. I told him to.” I smiled at her. “But he said that I was being ridiculous that it wasn’t like that between you two.”

“It isn’t,” I said, “I mean, not for him.”

“Hence, the idiot,” she grinned. I laughed. “Anyway, I, thank you.” I nodded. “It was an eventful summer.”

“So I understand,” I said softly. “You’re going to be a Countess?” She blushed.

“No,” she said, “I don’t think so. The General doesn’t approve, and Aaron hasn’t asked me or anything, it was just a few kisses.” I nodded. “I wanted you to know that I appreciated you helping, I don’t know what I’d have done if I’d lost him.”

“I know,” I said softly. “It wasn’t anything, really.” She nodded.

“I hope you don’t hold it against Lisette,” she softly, “she’s really amazing and she was so excited to meet you.”

“I wouldn’t,” I said, “I don’t hold it against him, even,” I looked away. “I know you always thought I was silly.”

“To be fair you often made yourself silly,” Lady Athena said, “but having done it a few times myself over the past few months, I’m more sympathetic now.” We sat down and she hugged her knees to her chest. My breath caught in my chest. She was just so impossibly beautiful, so was Tristan at that. It was incredible to think that either of these two people existed, let alone that both of them did. “I hated Aaron when we first arrived. I thought he was just awful, he’s a terrible flirt, and he makes the most terrible jokes at the worst moments.” She laughed. “But he loves her so much, and I think he loves me, but it’s awfully hard to get him to commit to it.”

“Goddess,” I stared at her, “you do sound like me.” She laughed and then we were quiet for a few minutes. “For what it’s worth, I never thought he felt the same way. It’s only he was writing, and I missed you both so much.”

“For what it’s worth,” she said quietly, “if he hadn’t met her, I think he was about to fall in love with you.”

That wasn’t worth much. But I keep thinking about what she said, he was about to fall in love with me.

“I should get back to work,” I said. She nodded and I headed back to the main camp, but I passed Princess Annalise and Viscount Aaron on a field, I think they were sparring but they stopped when they saw me.

“Good morning, Lady Marina,” the Viscount smiled at me. “Lisette say good morning.”

“Good morning,” Annalise smiled at me, “he’s only stopping because I was beating him.”

“You were only beating me because I was letting you,” he retorted. She rolled her eyes.

“Ignore him,” she said, “I wanted to talk to you, but I have to spend the day with the General.” She kissed Aaron on the cheek. “Tonight?”

“I suppose so,” I said.

“Be good,” she pointed at him and walked away. He shook his head.

“She was beating me,” he sighed, “she’s beaten me a lot lately. I don’t like it.” I smiled. “So,” he looked at me, “you’re the Duchess of Brightcoast.”

“I will be,” I said. “You’re the Viscount of Pantona,” he nodded. “In any other time in history we’d have know each other forever. And even in this one if weren’t,” I looked down, “your parents have always been very kind to me.”

“They are very kind people,” he said and we started walking. “You aren’t what we expected, you know, based on the twins.” He stopped. ‘They weren’t quite what we expected either.”

“Annalise isn’t what I expected either,” I said. He looked at me and smiled.

“No, she’s surprising to most people,” he laughed. “She didn’t even know she was a princess until she was seven. The first thing she did was tell me that I had to do everything she says.”

“Technically speaking I think we all do,” I said. He smiled.

“It’s been just the two of us for a long time,” he said, “this is a lot. Even when the twins came it was a lot. Our lives changed completely in a matter of weeks.”

“Your father seems to think she’s ready,” I said. He looked at me, and he looked serious for the first time I’d ever seen him.

“My father and I disagree about a lot of things,” he said, “that’s the main one.” He looked over at her, talking to General Martin. “She isn’t ready.”

Shatter

I didn’t know what I was expecting. It’s like I knew, but I’d been focusing so hard on not Seeing him, that I had to ignore the feeling.

Papa and Annalise, Lisette, she insisted that we call her that, she said it feels strange to have people call her Annalise, got along very well. She’s bright, like Count Caleb said, and smart. She does seem uneasy sometimes, but for the most part, I can see why he believes in her.

And I can see the other thing too.

“I’m looking forward to seeing Dovetail,” she said. “Did you always live there?”

“We lived at Brightcoast until my mother died,” I said. She nodded. “I was three, I don’t remember her much, but we went to Dovetail then.”

“I remember the day you came,” Tristan smiled warmly at me. I blushed. “I was all of five, but you were memorable.”

“I believe I cried anytime any one came near me,” I laughed. Annalise smiled. “You’ll like it though, and with Brayton gone, it will be even better.”

“I’ll miss Pantona,” she sighed.

“We all will,” Tristan smiled at her. “Athena most of all, I think.” Annalise laughed.

“She’ll go back soon enough, I suppose,” she said. I cocked my head at them, but Papa was grinning. “I think that Aaron will propose once things are settled with my coronation.”

“Caleb mentioned they’d formed an attachment,” he smiled. “I wonder if the General approves?”

“I think Athena is talking to him about it tonight,” Tristan said. “It’s a ways off though, if we can’t take the Capital.”

“I don’t see why we couldn’t,” Annalise said, “I was very impressed by the army, it’s a larger force than I thought.”

“Now that you’re here,” Tristan said, “I think they could take on every shadow in hell.” She laughed and that was when I realized. I think Tristan did too, because he cleared his throat and excused himself. Annalise was blushing.

“I suppose I’ve trespassed on your hospitality enough,” she said, “It was wonderful to finally meet you Uncle.” He smiled.

“And you my dear,” he said. “I think that things will go well for all of us.” She smiled and stood up, saying goodnight. Papa looked at me. “Marina, you’re quite pale.”

“I’m alright,” I said softly, “I think I’m going to go to bed.” I headed over to my tent. I lay down and closed my eyes tightly, because I didn’t want to cry.

They’re in love with each other, and I’m a fool.

Arrival

Time moves differently here than it did in Dovetail, and I’m grateful for it. I’m busy almost all day, helping Elodie and Master Cameron, who runs the medical tent. I’m learning loads about herbs and potions and basic spells to help heal wounds and banish infection.

“Low magic,” Elodie teases me, but it’s such a relief to feel useful for once. At Dovetail I used to walk the halls and grounds and listen to everyone chatter about things that I didn’t care about and really didn’t matter at all, but at camp it’s like everything has a purpose. Count Caleb left about a week after we arrived, explaining that it was time for him to go home.

I miss him, and I know my father does. He’s been restless lately, like he knew something was going to happen soon. Of course he was right, since today everything changed. Two scouts came running from the perimeter saying that six riders were coming, two of them dressed in guard uniforms. I swallowed. A few hours later it was clear what was happening.

The twins had returned, and with them were Count Caleb, his wife, Countess Olivia, and two others, a boy, who I could only assume was Viscount Aaron, he looked almost exactly like his father, with curly auburn hair, and a soft face, and blue eyes that seemed to be perpetually laughing, and a girl.

I knew her immediately, though unlike in my Dreams, my cousin Annalise didn’t look fierce and spoiling for a fight when I first saw her. She looked unsure, as if she was out of place and worried that she’d wandered into the wrong room.

“You should go,” Elodie said, as I stared at them approaching. I felt frozen, but nodded walking.

“Lady Marina!” The Countess exclaimed coming off of her horse. I smiled at her. I liked Countess Olivia, she’d always been kind to me. Her dark hair was tied back in a braid today. “I think you’ve grown.”

“I don’t think so, Your Grace,” I said softly. I tried to keep looking at her, but I kept staring at the Princess, who looked at me and smiled shyly.

“Perhaps not,” The count smiled and dismounted. Sir Tristan and Lady Athena joined him. I wanted to hug Tristan, but he kept his distance. “May I present my son, Viscount Aaron.”

“It’s a pleasure, Viscount,” I said, curtseying. He bowed and smirked.

“I believe it’s my pleasure,” he said taking my hand and kissing it. I saw Lady Athena roll her eyes, and Sir Tristan tense a bit.

“Aaron,” Annalise finally spoke up, “don’t flirt with her.” She dismounted. We were eye to eye, I don’t know why I thought she’d be taller than I am, but she might even be smaller.

“This is Princess Annalise, Lady Marina,” Lady Athena spoke up. “Lisette, may I present your cousin Lady Marina Sanpierre of Brightcoast.”

“I’m pleased to finally meet you,” Annalise said as I curtsied, “please don’t,” she wrinkled her nose and stood up again. “Tristan tells me that you’re a seer.”

“I have True Dreams,” I managed to squeak. We started walking. “Half the time I don’t even know what they mean until it’s already come to pass.”

“Oh,” she nodded, “I’ve found that too, it’s always helped when I talk about it with Anselm, though he’s awfully cross about the seeing.” She stretched, “goddess, I’m exhausted.”

“It’s a long ride,” I said, “I couldn’t sit properly for days after we arrived.” She laughed. “If you’re feeling up to it I’m sure my father would like it if you ate with us tonight.”

“I’d like that,” she said and took both of my hands, we’d reached the tent where the Count and Countess were staying, and I assumed, Princess Annalise as well. “We’re family, I hope we’ll be friends too.” I nodded and walked back to the tent. Papa was sitting pouring over a book.

“I invited the princess to eat with us,” I said.

“Oh she’s come then,” he said. I nodded. “Are you alright?” I nodded again and the tent flap parted. Sir Tristan was standing there. “Oh, Sir Tristan, it’s nice to see you.”

“It’s nice to see you Duke Lestat,” he said. He smiled at me. “I thought you might like to go for a walk.”

“I would.” I said and we went out. It was quiet, but he’s always quiet.

“I feel like I should thank you,” he said, “for taking care of General Martin.” I nodded. “He wrote us. Athena is yelling at him now.” I smiled.

“It wasn’t anything really,” I shook my head. He nodded. “I’m glad you’re back. I,” I swallowed. “I missed you.” He smiled at me and hugged me close.

“I missed you,” he said softly. “A lot changed over the past few months.” I smiled.

“I can’t wait to hear about it,” I said, “but I should get to the medical tent, I have patients.” He nodded. “Come to dinner, tonight. I’m sure The Princess won’t mind.” I smiled the whole walk to the tent.

He missed me. I could live on it.

Fever Dreams

I didn’t sleep much, but I did find plenty to do, not much of it good. I decided to go to the medical tent when I first woke up. It was a bustling place that smelled oddly good, like sweet things boiling.

“Lady Marina,” Elodie walked over, “can I help you?”

“I,” I swallowed, “I wanted to see if anyone needed any help.” She smiled.

“Of course,” she said, “I have to go to patrol, and Master Walker has finally gone to sleep, but someone needs to look after The General.”

“Is he alright?” I asked. She frowned. “He’s not still bleeding?”

“No, the bleeding stopped, thank the gods,” she mumbled, “but he has a fever.” She walked me over to a cot. General Martin was asleep on it. “I think the wound is infected, I can’t do much about that until the fever passes though.”

“I can watch him,” I said softly, “I sat with Sister Mara while shew as ill. I can tend to it.” I was only eight then, I think I can do even better now. She nodded and left the tent. There was a basin with cool water and some cloths. I knew it wouldn’t take more.

I decided to write to Mercy Williams, figuring this would keep up the ruse that I was in Brightcoast. I haven’t been there since I was six, but she’s never been there, so as long as I describe the beach with some accuracy, it should be fine. I barely made a beginning though when the General began to mumble.

I dipped one of the rags in the basin and placed in against his forehead. He thrashed a bit and then grabbed my wrist and opened his eyes.

“Marie,” he whispered, “they’re coming you have to hide.” I swallowed. This I was ready for, Sister Mara used to call me “Majesty” often when she was ill.

“I’m not Queen Marie, General,” I said softly, “please try to sleep.” He blinked at me.

“I’m sorry,” he said. “I was seeing,” he shuddered. “You look so much like her.” I nodded. “I should get to my tent. I need to write to Athena.”

“You need to rest,” I said softly, but firmly. He scoffed and went to stand up, but faltered. “See?” He smiled lightly and lay down again. “I could bring you something to write to Lady Athena with.”

“I’ll sleep a bit more,” he said softly. I nodded and put my hand to his forehead. He was still burning up. I closed my eyes and focused. I’d read about people soothing fevered minds with magic, maybe that was something I could do.

I was suddenly no longer in the tent. I was in a large hall, not unlike the one where I’d seen Brayton pledge himself to Queen Amina, but rather than darkness, this one shone with light.

Standing at the front were a man dressed in armor, was addressing a young man, I realized, that this was General Martin, but he looked younger, maybe about twenty.

“You failed,” the man’s voice was booming and my heart skipped a beat. Martin was downcast. “You were chosen as my and your kings champion not for show Thomas.”

“Please my Lord Cornan,” he was pleading, “I tried, I did, the Princess lives though! The sword!”

I was in the presence of a god again, I realized. Cornan, the god of land and warriors. Cornan flicked his hand and Martin tumbled backwards into darkness. I was jolted out of the dream. He opened his eyes.

“I’m sorry,” I whispered jumping back. He nodded.

“As am I,” he said. “No one should have to know the pain of losing the blessing.”

“You were Chosen,” I said. He nodded. “You were supposed to protect them? My Aunt and King Anton?”

“Anton was my closest friend,” he whispered, “I would have died for him, I should have died for him, but I,” he shook his head. “It isn’t important, and is not yours to bear.” I touched my hand to his forehead.

“Your fever broke,” I said. He smiled at me. “I apologize, for invading, if that’s what I did.” I stood up and left behind the pen and paper, he looked at me quizzically. “You said you wanted to write to Lady Athena.”

“Did I?” He laughed. “She’d be a state now, I can tell you. No, I’d only worry her.” I nodded and left him.

I felt both exhilarated and terrified. I’d never done anything like that before and the fact that I can, is a little bit amazing.

Attack

We were standing in the trees when two black guards came upon our small camp site. Elodie, who a few minutes before had seemed like simply a perky country girl jumped, quickly dodging a blow from the first guard. She swung her sword back at him and sliced his legs.

The second guard was engaged with The General and The Count, which seemed unfair, and almost certainly was. They fought like lightening, that was until the guard manage to land a blow on the General. Although it didn’t take long for the Count to then behead the guard.

“It’s safe,” he called out and we ran to them. “Martin, are you alright?”

“I will be,” the general stood up. He didn’t look alright.

“You’re bleeding,” Elodie said softly. “We have to get you back to camp.”

“Are they?” I swallowed, staring at the sprawled bodies of the guards.

“Dead?” Elodie said. I nodded. “As close to it as they get. They aren’t alive to begin with so whether than can be dead or not, well, it’s a question of semantics really.” I blinked at her again. “She doesn’t know.”

“No,” The General said, “she does not.”

“They’re shadows,” I said. “They were once men, but they aren’t any more. They’re shadows, now, they serve Queen Amina.” The Count and General looked at my father. “He didn’t tell me anything, I,” I swallowed, “about a year ago I had a dream, where Brayton pledged himself to Amina. I never told anyone, it was too frightening.”

“I have to get to Pantona,” Caleb said and shook his head, “I have to talk to Anselm about it. We suspected, but,” he inhaled. “He actually pledged himself to Queen Amina?” I nodded.

“You can’t go to Pantona now,” Father shook his head. “You’re supposed to be at Brightcoast.”

“Gods,” The Count muttered. “Fine.”

“I don’t mean to break this up,” Elodie was kneeling, hovering her hands over The General’s side. “But he is losing a lot of blood, if we ride hard we can get to the camp by nightfall.”

“Is he alright to ride?” Papa asked.

“Stop talking about me like I’m not here,” the general grumbled and we got onto our horses. I winced and we all started riding through the woods again, moving too fast for conversation. We arrived at a large encampment, I exhaled.

“It’s beautiful,” I said softly.

“Aye, it is,” Elodie smiled. “Busy place, full of folk who want to help your cousin rise to her proper place.”

“Why did you join the resistance?” I asked. She smiled.

“There wasn’t really any other place for me to go,” she shrugged, “my parents owned a tavern in Dorin, but they refused to pay the local merchant family, The Dumanis protection money. It was burned to the ground, and they died.”

“I’m sorry,” I said. She nodded.

“Lady Athena found me making my way south and brought me here,” she explained. “She feels responsible, as Carland Dumanis is her grandfather. Lord Brayton isn’t the only evil in Cammadan, Lady Marina, and if Princess Annalise returns I expect much justice to be done in her name.”

“You know Lady Athena and Sir Tristan then?” I whispered. Elodie nodded. “Their grandfather had your parents killed?”

“They don’t like to talk about it much,” Elodie shrugged, “but aye, their mother’s father.” I was quiet as we rode into the camp itself.

I used to go to the market, in Dovetail and the camp reminded me of that. People shouting to one another, children laughing and playing, the kind of busy organized chaos that is deeply comforting in a lot of ways.

“Marina,” Papa said, as we reached a large purple tent. “This is us.” I nodded to him and then to Elodie who smiled.

“I hope to see you soon, My Lady,” she said. She handed me a leather pouch. “For your discomfort. Rub it on your sore muscles, it will help.”

“Thank you, Mistress Elodie,” I said, dismounting and entering the tent. There was a small couch and I flopped on it. Papa smiled. “I like her.”

“I thought you might,” he said. “I know none of this is easy for you.” I nodded. That was an understatement, but at least he was admitting it.

“Papa,” I asked softly. He looked at me. “Count Caleb mentioned, after we talked about the Shadows that he needed to go to Pantona to speak with someone.”

“Mastero Anselm,” he said. I frowned. There were no more Masteros, Brayton had them killed because they wouldn’t recognize him as king. “He went into hiding with Anton and Marie, and he’s supervised Annalise’s magical education.”

“Oh,” I said softly. “I feel like there’s so much I don’t know.” I leaned back against the chair.

“It hurt me to keep secrets from you,” he said softly, “truly, my darling.” I nodded again. “You kept secrets too it seems.”

“I know,” I whispered, “but it was terrifying.”

Something New

I haven’t written lately, because I hate riding in the open countryside. I was surprised when Papa said we weren’t taking a coach, though I’m not sure why. He said we’d move faster this way and also because we sent our coach to Brightcoast to throw off Brayton.

This all makes sense, but it does not make a week on horseback any more fun. We’re a days ride away from the camp now. Papa, me, and Count Caleb. We’ve met up with General Martin now as well, and another royal guard named Elodie Wills.

“You aren’t used to this,” Elodie said as we settled in to eat. I nodded. “It’s better at camp, I promise, nothing like the palace, I’m sure, but better than this.”

“Why are we doing this?” I asked. She smiled.

“Camp’s place is secret,” she shrugged, and pulled out a cloth to clean her sword, “we had to make sure you weren’t followed.” I nodded. “Are you really a psychic? We have healer magicians at camp, I can heal a little, but nothing like that. No high magic.” I blinked at her. She was speaking so quickly.

I was so used to court life, I hadn’t thought about the distinction between high and low magic in a long time. Not since Sister Mara, who’d come to Cammadan with my aunt and father from their homeland Phania, had taught me when I was very small. She’d always said it was a petty distinction, usually used to make the work of women and uneducated folk seem unimportant.

“I well,” I said softly, “I have Dreams sometimes, and then things happen.” She nodded. “I suppose it’s high magic, but I’ve never thought of it as such. It’s mostly useless and kind of a nuisance.” She smiled. “You can heal?”

“A bit,” Elodie said, “if you have any magic at all you could probably learn.” I looked at her.

“That sounds like a very good idea,” Papa said settling in with us. I looked at him. “It would give you something to do, rather than just wait. Sister Mara said you had gifts, Marina, this might be one of them.”

“I suppose so,” I said, but something felt warm in me, right. I did like the idea of healing and having something to do.

“Elodie,” General Martin shouted, she snapped to attention, holding her sword out. “Someone’s coming.” I stared wide eyed. “Les,” my father looked at him, “can you get Marina to safety?” He nodded. Count Caleb nodded at Him. “Your Grace.”

“General,” he said, grabbing an axe and swinging it. I swallowed and took my father’s hand, running into the trees.

Lord Brayton: King Of Shadows

I walked into the large throne room and held my breath and counted to ten. I don’t like being in here. The great throne sits behind the large chair that Brayton has had made for himself.

After the summer. After Annalise is seventeen he can probably claim the throne and crown. Flanked at both his sides are his black guards, not proper royal protectors, like Sir Tristan and Lady Athena, but tall, large terrifying men dressed all in black, walk with him everywhere.

Also in the room are a few courtiers. Mercy Williams’s father, Lord Carver, who is so far up Lord Brayton’s, well, a lady shouldn’t say where, but he’s one of them. And as a surprise, Count Caleb is here. He’s my father’s closest friend, and I know now more than ever that he’s on Annalise’s side, but it’s always been a little off putting how good he is at acting like he doesn’t care one way or the other.

“Ah,” Brayton smiles from the chair, I try not to shiver. “Lady Marina, so nice of you to join us.”

“I over slept, My Lord,” I said and sank into a low curtsey. “I hope I can be forgiven.” He laughed.

“Of course,” he said. “Your father has requested that the two of you be allowed to spend the summer at Brightcoast.”

“Yes,” I mumbled, I hated the way he was staring at me. It’s not as though I’m dense, he’s not the only man to look at me. But it’s the way he does, and that one Dream. The one of him with her that I find it terrifying. “If it’s alright.”

“I had many good days myself at Brightcoast,” he said. I nodded. “I’ve not thought it appropriate to move the court there in summer, not without our dear cousin.” I nodded.

“Of course,” I said softly, “I pray for the princess’s return each morning, as I know you do as well.” He nodded.

“You’ll be missed of course,” he said, “but of course I cannot deny you the right to know your home.”

“Thank you my lord,” I said softly, “if it pleases you, I’d like to keep packing.” He nodded and waved me away. I curtsied again and headed towards the door. I got outside and took a deep breath, pressing my back against the cool stone.

I was remembering the Dream. I’ve only had it once, and I never told anyone, not even my father. I was in a great hall, not the hall in Dovetail, it was even larger, and lit by candles, but the light they gave off was an eerie blue. Lord Brayton was kneeling before a throne, where a lady was seated. She was dressed entirely in black and her skin was ghostly pale. I knew her immediately, this was Amina, the Dark Lady, The Goddess of Hell.

“Rise, king of shadows,” she said, “rise and take the world above in my name.”

And then I woke up. It wasn’t long after that when Brayton began singling me out.

“You did well,” I opened my eyes to see Count Caleb standing in front of me.

“Thank you,” I said and we started walking. “I’m trying not to be afraid of him, but he’s so,” I shuddered. The Count laughed.

“Brayton has always been unsettling,” he said. “And you have more reason than most to be unsettled by him.” I looked at him. “He has hinted to your father that he’s going to ask for a betrothal.” I blinked at him. “He didn’t want to alarm you.”

“It would have,” I said. He nodded. “I won’t marry him.”

“No,” Caleb shook his head, “nor would anyone expect you to.” I looked at him. I noticed the way he looked at me for the first time.

“We look alike, don’t we?” I asked. He smiled. “An-Lisette, and I?” He nodded.

“It’s uncanny,” he said, “except for the eyes, of course. She has her father’s eyes, grey, like a storm. You look even more like Marie than she does, come to think of it.”

“My father says that too,” I said. He smiled. “What is she like?”

“You’ve Seen her, haven’t you?” He asked. I nodded. “But that isn’t the same is it? Your Aunt used to try to explain.” We were back at our rooms and in the parlor. “She’s bright, and funny. She talks too much. She can be impatient.” He was leaning back and smiling. He was thinking about his daughter, I realized. He’d raised my cousin since she was two years old.

“Can she fight?” I managed to whisper. He smiled and nodded.

“Better than any of Brayton’s black guards,” he said. “Better even than your Sir Tristan, I think.”

“He’s not my,” I blushed. He smiled and stood up, kissing me on the forehead.

“I won’t tell,” he said. “And you don’t have to marry Brayton.” I smiled.

“She can fight him?” I asked again. He looked seriously at me.

“Yes, Lady Marina,” he said, “if there is one thing that I’ve been sure of for a very long time, it is that Lisette is more than capable of fighting Brayton.”

A Letter!

I got a letter from Tristan (Sir Tristan) today! I’m supposed to leave for the resistance camp tomorrow, and I was packing, but then Carolina (the new maid. She’s quite nice. She still doesn’t talk much.) (I wonder if I’ll have a maid at the camp.) (Probably not.) brought the letter, I couldn’t finish.

I can’t believe that he actually wrote!

Lady Marina,

We’ve arrived in Pantona, and were quite surprised to learn that you were being told the same secret as we were. It’s astounding isn’t it? We also talked about how it might be true and how you would See her and now we know for sure.

Countess Olivia has told me I can’t say much more specific. But I think you will very much like our new friend, Lisette. She’s a farmer’s daughter who the Count and Countess adopted when her parents were killed during the rebellion. You also might like the Viscount Aaron. Athena doesn’t think much of him. 

The Countess says that we’re going to join you at the end of the summer, after Lisette’s birthday. She’ll be turning seventeen you see and many things are going to change.

I hope all is well and that you are able to write to me soon. Athena sends her best as well.

Your Friend,

Sir Tristan Dugarry

I had to paste it into the diary right away. Obviously, Lisette is my cousin, and I am happy to hear that they’re coming to the camp after Annalise turns seventeen. Anyway, I had to stop my packing to write back.

Sir Tristan,

I am eager to meet your friend Lisette, and I hope you tell her so! I will be quite happy to host you all at Brightcoast, where I am headed for the summer. My father thinks I will benefit from some time at home by the ocean. I haven’t been feeling terribly well, you see, because I haven’t be sleeping well.

Please send my best along to your sister and to the Countess and tell The Viscount that I look forward to making his acquaintance.

Yours,

Lady Marina Sanpierre

I feel so silly, but I’m just so grateful that he actually wrote. Carolina is back, and after taking the letter she’s said that Lord Brayton wishes to speak to me.

I don’t want to go, but I don’t think I can defy him completely.

I haven’t left yet. In my dreams, Annalise isn’t afraid of him or the fire. I shouldn’t be either.

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.”