Confession

Anselm went away for a bit, after I told him about my visitation with the goddess. He said he needed to speak to someone and that worries me. I’ve been journaling a lot, thinking about what she said, about tangled threads and being too long away from the sea.

But my days are as pleasant as they’ve ever been though. I get up at dawn with Athena and train, and then I study history or strategy, and then I have afternoons to myself, because I don’t have to study magic. This afternoon, I found my way to the orchard. I climbed up and pulled out a book. I started to read, lost in the same fairy tales I was that day nearly a month ago when then twins came.

I heard some whistling and glanced down seeing Tristan walking through. I grinned and grabbed a lemon and tossed it at him. He laughed and looked up at me.

“This feels familiar,” he said. I nodded and climbed down. It might be Athena’s influence, but I wouldn’t even dream of my leggings and baggy old shirts anymore. “Are you here being productive, or was your only mission to pelt me with citrus?”

“I was reading,” I said, and handed him the book. He flipped through it.

“Fairy tales?” He said. I nodded. He laughed and shook his head. “You never cease to surprise me, Princess.” His eyes were holding mine, and that tiny voice in the back of my head, the one I’d been pushing so hard to ignore for so long roared forward.

I love him. There’s no escaping it, anymore, no appeals to my duty as it might be. No distant princes I’ve never met and might never meet. There’s only him. He’s the sun.

“Lisette,” I said quietly, “please. Call me Lisette.” He swallowed.

“Gods,” he whispered, and moved away from me. “I can’t do that.” I stared at him.

“Why not?” I chased after him. We reached a hill, he looked at me. “Why can’t you call me by my name?”

“Because if I let a crack in the walls,” he exhaled, “if you’re not my princess, if I’m not serving you, protecting you,” I swallowed, suddenly I understood.

“Say it,” I whispered, “please, Tristan, please it might be easier if we just,” I went to take his hands and he stepped back. “I love you.” He stared at me. “I do, I don’t quite understand it, but I’ve never felt this way about anyone and,” he stopped and looked at me.

“I love you too,” he said, “but it’s impossible.” I swallowed and looked at him. “I’m not,” he looked down, “I’m supposed to protect you, I’m suppose to be lead your army, I’m not supposed to,” I laughed a little. “What’s funny?”

“You always do exactly what you’re supposed to do, don’t you?” I whispered. He smiled.

“I used to, yes,” he said. “But since I met you, well…” I nodded and we walked a little longer this time in silence.

“Can’t you do both?” I whispered. He looked oddly at me. “Can’t you protect me while loving me?” He sighed and touched my face.

“Princess,” he said softly.

“Lisette,” I corrected him. I felt like every hair on my body stand on end as he touched me.

“Lisette,” he whispered. “I don’t know if I can. I don’t think,” I looked at him. I swallowed.

“Pretend,” I said softly, “I’m not the princess.” He laughed. “Pretend I’m Lisette, I’m an orphan that Olivia and Caleb adopted on a whim. I’m who I say I am.” He nodded. “What then?”

“Then,” he whispered, “I’d tell you that you’re not like anyone I’ve ever met before. That I spend every morning, wondering when I’m going to see you, spend every night wondering what you’re thinking of and hoping that it’s me.” He pulled me close then and I swallowed, “and that all I want in the world right now is to kiss you.”

“So kiss me,” I whispered. He smiled.

“Is that an order?” He teased. I nodded. “But you’re an orphaned farmgirl I met by coincidence. I’m nearly a captain of the royal guard, you can’t give me orders.” I giggled and couldn’t stop myself then and kissed him.

I’ve only been kissed once before, by Aaron. I was twelve. It was uninvited and neither of us liked it much. (Well, him probably because it ended with me punching him and running away, but still…) This was different. Tristan wrapping his arms around me and kissing me back was everything.

“This is all just pretend, though,” I whispered. He looked down at me and shook his head.

“No,” he said, “no, it’s real.” We kissed again and I lost my breath.

What Is It?

That night I sat on my bed as Olivia combed out and braided my hair.

“The beef was good,” she said. I nodded. “Did you have a nice morning?”

“I think so,” I said, eyeing the violets now sitting on my vanity. She nodded. “The Dumanis train is in town.”

“Ah,” she said, “I imagine that diverted Tristan.” I twisted and looked at her. “Andrea or Brie?”

“Charlotte, Andrea’s daughter,” I said, “you know them?” I asked. She laughed.

“I was supposed to bring Charlotte out at court, if you can believe it,” she said, “of course things changed.” I nodded. “I would have asked about Trey but I know he’d never come here.”

“Anyway, then we went to the inn, and Tristan and William behaved very oddly,” I sighed as she turned my head back to continue braiding.

“I’d imagine they would,” she said, “William’s no fool, he can spot when he has a rival.” I looked at her. “Darling, you’re not that naive, you must have realized Tristan’s regard for you.”

“Well, I suppose,” I said, “but, William??” She laughed and turned my head again.

“He came to us last year and asked to marry you,” she said. I was speechless. “We obviously couldn’t say yes, but Caleb told him you were too young, and that we were certainly not going to make such a decision for you, and that he was free to continue your friendship and ask you in a few years.”

“William has been courting me?” I asked. She laughed. “He must think I’m dense.”

“I think he thinks you’re discreet,” she said, “and now I think he thinks that he has competition.” She finished my hair. “Besides which, it’s good practice for you. Once everything is settled you’ll only have more suitors, not fewer. Not to mention it can be fun.”

“It doesn’t seem fun,” I muttered. “I like William, we’re friends and Tristan,” I sighed. “How did you do it?”

“Rather poorly in retrospect but I thought I was brilliant,” she grinned. “You’ll do fine. You’ve never lead William on, and once he learns the truth he’ll back off.”

Market Day

I woke up in the morning and got dressed quickly, also grabbing a basket and a small pouch of coins. Most of the farmers and town shopkeepers bill us, but if any merchant carravans are passing it will be nice to be able to at least consider buying something.

I walked out the front door and saw Tristan jog up. He wasn’t wearing a shirt. I swallowed, trying not to stare.

I am not in love with him.

But I would also not be opposed to him just never wearing his shirt again. Because this is very nice. Can I make a law about that?

From here on out all guardsmen are forbidden from wearing shirts in her majesty’s presence. That could do the trick. Or I suppose that’s like when I used to order Aaron to give me his desert and he told me that he didn’t have to obey stupid orders like that.

Still, it’s a thought.

“You’re going out?” He said seeing me. I nodded.

“It’s market day,” I explained, “I told Athena.” He nodded. “Would you like to come? It’s not terribly exciting, but I shop and then I’m having tea at the inn.”

“Of course,” he smiled. “Give me a few moments to clean up, I’d be happy to join you.” I nodded as he walked inside and I swallowed, pacing back and forth, chewing my nails. He came back out dressed a little more cleanly.

“You were running?” I tried. He nodded. “Why?”

“It clears my mind,” he said. I looked at him. “It seems to need a lot of clearing these days.” I nodded. “And I like it here, it’s beautiful, peaceful, not like home.”

“Dovetail?” I said. He nodded. “I can’t wait to see it.”

“It’s special,” he grinned, “the way the palace and castle are built, they looked carved out of the mountain, the harbor is beautiful, placid and blue.” I nodded. “You don’t remember it at all?”

“The uprising was when I was one,” I said, “my parents were going from provenence to provenence after that, and I was settled here before I was three.” He nodded. “I see it in Dreams sometimes, but that’s not the same.”

“What are they like?” He asked. “The Dreams?”

“Disorienting,” I said, “vague, sometimes terrifying, other times comforting, always frustrating.” He laughed at that. “What’s funny?”

“You,” he said. “You’re so honest, it’s refreshing.” I nodded. “Back home everyone talks in circles, they have to, kind of, but it’s a nice change.” I nodded as we approached the village and saw a circle of wagons. “Oh no,” he muttered.

“What?” I laughed, “it’s only a merchant train. They might have something interesting.”

“Oh, it’ll be interesting for sure.” He sighed as we got closer. I noticed the flag flying over the train and realized why he might be tense.

“Tristan!” A girl’s voice called out, jumping from one of the wagons. “Gods, I didn’t expect to see yeh so far south!”

“Good Morning Charlotte,” he said, seeming to unclench a bit, “Lisette, please meet my cousin, Charlotte Dufrey, clearly heading this operation in front of you. Charlotte this is, um,” he stumbled, “Lisette, she’s Count Caleb’s ward.”

“Heavens,” Charlotte said, “I was going to ask how a Phanian girl came so far inland.” I smiled.

“My mother was Phanian, Mistress Dufrey,” I explained. She nodded. “Sir Tristan, I can leave you.”

“That’s alright,” he shook his head, “are yer parents here, Lotte?” The way he slipped into the Northern accent was strange but still so natural.

“Just me and Alexander,” she shrugged, “we’re here for at least a week, and if we don’t see you and Athena I will tell Grandfather, and General Martin will surely receive a strongly worded letter about your upbringing.” Tristan let out a bark of laughter that startled me. I’d barely seen him smile before.

“We’ll be by, I promise,” he kissed her on the cheek. “I’m sorry about that.”

“Your family is the Dumanis?” I asked. He nodded.

“On our mother’s side,” he explained. “She was Alexia Dumanis, youngest of the three jewels of the house, that’s what they called her and her sisters. Charlotte’s mother Andrea is the oldest, and then there’s Brie.” He stopped. “There’s a son too, Tristan, well, Trey, they call him Trey.” He looked sad. “We see them when they’re in Dovetail, but Grandfather’s main holdings are in Dorin.”

“I see,” I nodded. I could tell he was uncomfortable. We approached the main street and the farmers and shopkeepers haggle with one another. I’m greeted with a small bow and a “Lady Lisette,” by most of them, and Tristan seems more at home now. I purchase beef, and some rabbit, which Athena mentioned was her favorite before we reach the end of the street and the inn.

Pantona Inn is a small place, with about twelve rooms upstairs and a barroom and a private parlor downstairs. It’s owned by a knight named Kinney Santino, and run by his nephew William, who’s nineteen.

“Lisette!” William greeted me as we walked in, he stopped, seeing Tristan. “Oh I see.”

“Sir Tristan,” I said, “this is my very good friend William Santino. William, this is Sir Tristan Dugarry, who escorted Countess Olivia down from Dovetail.”

“I’d heard there were guests,” William smiled, “welcome to Pantona, Sir Tristan.”

“Thank you,” Tristan said shortly as we followed him into the parlor.

“Dugarry is a merchant name,” William said. Tristan nodded. “But you’re in the guard?”

“My father’s side joined the guard with my great grandfather,” Tristan explained. “We’ve been noble since then.” William nodded.

“William is from Dovetail as well,” I said, “he came here six years ago.”

“Lisette is enchanted with her ideas of the city,” William said, “I’ve never been able to impress upon her how much nicer things out here are.” Tristan nodded. I suddenly felt very uncomfortable. They were making direct eye contact with one another as if I wasn’t even there.

“I was saying the same on our walk over,” Tristan said, “though Dovetail has it’s appeal.” William nodded. “I know a Winston Santino.”

“My Uncle,” William nodded.

“Ah,” Tristan nodded. I squirmed in my seat, I felt suddenly like it didn’t matter if I was there or not. “Lisette, if you’ll excuse me, I should probably see my cousins.” He stood up. I was baffled. He’d been so friendly and engaged outside.

“I’m sorry,” I said to William, who shrugged and sipped on his drink. “How are you?”

“Good,” He nodded, “do you like them? Your guests?”

“They’re the Countess’s guests,” I said simply, “and Aaron’s I suppose.” He nodded again.

“He came here with you though,” he said.

“Well, he wanted to see market day,” I explained. He smiled.

“Of course,” he said, “a royal guard from Dovetail wanted to see Pantona’s market day.” I nodded and we finished in silence.

“I should go,” I said softly. I walked back outside and saw Tristan talking to a vendor over some flowers. I walked over. “I suppose we should get back.”

“If you like,” he said.

“Lady Lisette,” the vendor, Wyatt Sampson, said, “your young man was asking which were your favorites.” I looked at him.

“Sir Tristan isn’t my young man,” I said, “but I prefer violets.” Tristan smiled and handed him a coin and then me the violets. I sniffed them before attaching them to my belt. We walked back to the manor quietly.

I’m not in love with him.

I’m not. 

Used To It

It’s been a week since the twins came, and we’ve grown used to them, I think. Well, I have, I wonder if Aaron will ever grow used to Lady Athena. He spends a great deal of time trying to get her attention, and she either ignores him or says something sarcastic to him.

It’s very amusing.

Tonight we are sitting in the large receiving room, I’m trying to learn the embroidery that Lady Athena was teaching me, but it isn’t going well.

“I’m pretty close to hopeless myself,” she admitted, “but I think it will help in Dovetail to know a little.” I smiled and nodded as we both struggled through it. “And it’s something to do.” I glanced up and noticed Sir Tristan writing a letter.

“Who are you writing to?” I asked. He looked at me.

“M-Lady Marina Sanpierre,” he said. Athena snorted. “I told her I would!”

“I’m sure you did,” Athena said, “she’ll probably drop dead of joy when she receives it.” Olivia glanced at her.

“Be kind, Athena,” she shook her head, “I’m sure Lady Marina is very lonely and very afraid at the moment. Hearing from a friend will likely do her good.”

“Why would she be afraid?” I asked. Athena shook her head.

“Because she’s always afraid,” Athena said. “It’s irritating. She’s a silly girl.”

“She isn’t,” Tristan cut her off. “Lady Marina is very powerful but has little understanding of her power, so she gets nervous. Also there’s that business with Brayton.”

“That isn’t what Lisette was asking,” Aaron said. Lady Athena stared at him.

“From everything I’ve gathered, Lisette can speak for herself,” she said simply, “however you continue to try to speak for her.”

“I surely wouldn’t be the first spokesperson for the royal family,” he grinned. “Not even the first of Pantona to fill the role. Like the Dugarry’s it’s our lot.”

“We’re not spokespeople,” she said through her gritted teeth. “We’re protectors.”

“Six of one, Lady Athena,” he shrugged. She stood up and marched out of the room. “Does your sister dislike men, Sir Tristan?” Tristan looked over at him and smirked.

“No Viscount,” he said standing up, “she dislikes you.” I giggled as he got to the door. “With your permission Princess?” I glanced at him.

“Huh?” I responded.

“He’s asking if he can leave, Lisette,” Olivia coaxed.

“Oh,” I said, “of course. Thank you, for a wonderful evening.” He bowed slightly and left.

“Mother,” Aaron said and leaned back, “I think Lisette has made a conquest.” I stared daggers at him and Olivia shook her head, laughing quietly. “He’s clearly in love with you.”

“That’s ridiculous,” I said softly and blushed.

“It would be an impressive one,” Olivia said with a gentle laugh. “Tristan is very focused, and quite popular. Lady Marina is just one of his admirers. If you’ve turned his head it is quite exciting.”

“I don’t think he is,” I said quickly. “Not that it matters, I have other plans.”

“Oh, are we going to hear about Prince Eric again?” Aaron said. “Have you Seen him in your salt basin lately?”

“Don’t mock Lisette’s visions, Aaron,” Olivia said softly. “I know you have thoughts about Prince Eric, love, but life tends to laugh at such plans. If love adhered to them, I’d have been queen rather than your mother.” I smiled. I stood up and walked out to the terrace. Tristan was sitting looking at the mountain.

“It’s beautiful,” he whispered. I nodded. “Is there something I can help you with Princess?”

“No,” I said softly. “What’s she like? Is she wonderful?” He looked at me confused. “Lady Marina?” He smiled.

“She’s,” he whispered, “she’s not like anyone else. She’s very brave, and kind and wise.” I nodded.

“Is she beautiful?” I asked. He smiled.

“You look quite alike, actually,” he said. I cocked my head. “Your eyes are different, though, hers are dark.” I wanted to ask him which he preferred but that felt petty.

Besides I can’t fall in love with him. I really need to make sure I marry strategically, to strengthen Cammadan.

“You didn’t answer my question,” I said. He looked at me and then at the mountain.

“Yes, Princess,” he said softly. “Both you and your cousin are incredibly beautiful.”  He walked back into the house and I noticed the letter sitting on the table. It was mostly about me, well, about Lisette, who we say I am.

Will she know? I wonder sometimes, who knows and pretends they don’t.

“Lady Lisette?” Margie, one of the maids walked up to me. “I have a note for your.” I nodded and took it. I smiled seeing it.

Lisette,

As tomorrow is your usual market day, I was hoping to see you for tea. Your usual place will be set at the inn. I understand you have visitors at the manor and I’m eager to hear all about them.

Yours Always,

William Santino

I laughed. I hadn’t seen William in ages, and I am eager to catch up with him. I walked up to my room and Athena was sitting on my bed, sharpening a knife.

“Good evening?” I tried. She looked at me and nodded. “Why are you in here?”

“Because you have the good weapons,” she said. I laughed. “Is he always like that?”

“Who?” I asked. “Aaron?” She nodded. “No, sometimes he’s worse.” She snorted. “He likes you, and he can tell that you do not like him, so he’s deflecting. He’ll move on in a week or so, he always does.”

“I don’t not like him,” she said, “he’s just so,” she frowned. “Forget it. Are we training tomorrow.”

“I’m going into town tomorrow,” I said, “it’s market day.” She blinked at me. “You understand that part of being here and being Lisette means I have to do the sort of things an orphan farm girl would do, yes? Go shopping, talk to the townsfolk, etc.”

“Hm,” she nodded, “I suppose. Still,” she grinned and tossed me the knife. “Wouldn’t you rather?” I laughed and she stood up. “Sleep well Princess.” I sighed and flopped on the bed.

I dreamt of a blue ship, crossing the sea. Standing at it’s bow was a boy my age, dark skin, and hair cut short. He smiled.

 

For Your Life

I eventually picked a simple blue dress. I didn’t know what we’d be doing all day and I did still have to go see Anselm at some point to talk about my dream. The dress was short, hitting around my ankles, but it would do. It had been the correct length when I last wore it six months ago.

I’ve always been small, so I’m happy to see I’m not finished growing yet.

“Good morning,” Olivia said walking in. I smiled at her and she sat on the bed, as I looked at myself in the mirror. “Goddess, Lisette, I think you’ve grown again.”

“Still too short,” I sighed, thinking of the tall willowy Lady Athena sitting downstairs. I sat with her. She picked up a comb from the nightstand and began slowly untangling my hair and arranging it into braids. My hair is dark, and curly, and often impossible to tame. I wish I had Olivia’s hair which is a soft silky texture and the most beautiful auburn color. “I’m sorry I wasn’t dressed, it didn’t occur to me you’d be with other people.”

“Hmm,” she nodded, “I know. Honestly, if Tristan hadn’t gotten separated, well, I think this whole day would be a bit different.” She stopped for a moment. “What did you think of him?” I sighed.

“He seems very nice,” I said, “a little serious, I suppose.” She nodded. “He’s quite handsome.”

“Yes,” she laughed, “he is that.” She finished my hair. “There, much better.” I smiled. “I explained the situation to them now. They know who you are.”

“Oh,” I said softly. “Were they shocked?” She laughed.

“No, pet, I think they were relieved,” she said, “they both had their suspicions when Caleb and General Martin ordered them to escort me.” I nodded.

“Where is Caleb?” I asked. She frowned.

“He stayed in Dovetail for bit,” she said softly, “Your cousin, Lady Marina needs to be moved from the Capital and it needs to be done carefully.” I nodded, thinking of my dream, and Marina, so cold and cruel and adoring of Brayton. Was that why they needed to be careful? “He’s fine, worry wart,” she teased. Suddenly something dawned on me.

“If you’re here,” I said, panic in my voice, “is Aaron sitting with the twins, alone?” She laughed.

“I suppose we should save them, shouldn’t we?” She said standing up and we walked out of the room and down to the main parlor. Aaron was sitting opposite Lady Athena who was glaring daggers at him. I wonder what he said? Sir Tristan was standing, leaning again a window frame, his golden hair looking almost shimmery in the sunlight. Olivia cleared her throat and all three of them looked at us.

“Hello, Mother,” Aaron said brightly and jumped up and kissed her on the cheek. “How was your journey?”

“The journey was fine,” she said. “Lady Athena, Sir Tristan, this is Annalise, Princess of Cammadan.”

“Princess,” Tristan walked and knelt in front of me. My face turned bright red, his eyes looked so big and green and he looked deadly sincere. “I pledge my life and my sword to you.” I swallowed. I wanted to cry. What an awful thought!

“Oh for heaven’s sake Tristan,” Athena said and walked over, “stand up, you’re making everyone uncomfortable.” She smiled at me. “You look more like a Princess now than you did outside.” Tristan had stood up now, and was still looking very intensely at me. “Countess, I think we should have tea. Tea always makes this kind of thing much less awkward, don’t you think?”

“Whiskey can help too,” Aaron pointed out. I giggled. I also dreaded the next time Aaron and I were alone. He’s never going stop teasing me about a knight pledging his life to me in the parlor.

“I think just the tea for now,” I said softly and sat down next to him. “You’ll have to excuse me, I’m a little caught off guard.”

“You’re caught of guard?” Lady Athena laughed. “Gods, I’ve thought you were dead for a decade!”

“Athena had little faith in your return,” Sir Tristan said softly, his eyes never leaving mine. “I always knew you’d be back.” Can he see me blushing? I hope not. She shrugged. I liked her almost immediately. I liked her honesty. We all sat quietly for a while until a page came in and handed a note to Olivia.

“Lisette,” she said, “were you supposed to be somewhere today?” I gasped.

“Goddess,” I said and ran out the door. I quickly padded into the woods, down a well cleared path. I reached a small hut in a clearing.

“Late as usual, Lisette,” an older man in a green robe was sitting with his legs crossed levitating slightly. Mastero Benjamin Anselm has been teaching me magic for as long as I can remember.

“I apologize, Mastero, it couldn’t be helped,” I said, he opened his eyes and leveled back onto the ground landing with a thud. “You see, Olivia came back today, and she brought Sir Tristan and Lady Athena Dugarry with her, and I had to get changed and then we had tea and you see,”

“You forgot,” he raised an eyebrow. I smiled at him. “You’re worse than even your father was. He thought charm and excuses would get him through his responsibilities as well.” I nodded.

“I am sorry,” I said. But I can’t help feeling proud when Anselm compares me to my father.

“So the twins have come then,” he said. I nodded. “I liked their mother. Alexia was a fine woman.” I nodded. “You’ll be going to Dovetail.”

“Not until my birthday,” I said. “Caleb promised.” He smirked.

“Your trust in The Count’s promises is a credit to you,” he snorted. “You asked to see me, before you forgot.”

“I had a Dream,” I whispered, “the same as it usually is, but my cousin Marina was with Brayton.” He nodded. “She was his queen, I think, and then she tried to kill me.”

“How?” He asked. I moved my hand to my throat. “She choked you?”

“Yes, but she wasn’t physically doing it,” I said softly.

“Well, I knew the girl has the sight, but I don’t know more,” he shook his head. “But we’d best teach you to block psychic attacks physically.” I nodded and followed him into the hut.

“Mastero,” I said softly, “the dreams, can’t we stop them?” He looked at me.

“Stop them?” He asked. I nodded. “Whatever for?” I sighed. “They may provide vital information, Lisette.”

“They’re so miserable though,” I said, “and when I have one I can’t ever get back to sleep again.” He nodded.

“Anton hated the dreams too,” he sighed, “there was a drought I used to mix him, when he was very small, I’ll see if I can scrounge up the ingredients.” I nodded, “You don’t have a lesson in you today, do you?”

“I can try,” I said. He smiled.

“Off with you,” he said, “give the countess my best. Tell her I’d like to inspect the twins if it’ll be convenient.” I nodded and headed back to the manor.

The Twins

It was early when I headed out to the orchard. I knew I should either stay in the manor and make sure things were set for Olivia, or go to see Mastero Anselm, but I really didn’t care to do either. So instead I went to the lemon orchard with a book.

Being a princess means I get to be selfish that way sometimes.

I found my favorite tree and climbed up. I opened the book and started reading a fairytale about a princess who was hidden away to live with fairies until she turns sixteen, when she’s supposed to be returned to the world but then gets put under a sleeping curse for one hundred years until a prince comes and kisses her.

Wasn’t she the lucky one? I bet her parents weren’t even murdered by her psychopathic relatives or anything and all she had to do was be kissed and she got her place in the world back. I’m going to have to lead an army, and master magic and avenge my parents, if I don’t want to be haunted by my father’s spirit for all of my days.

I heard a rustling in the trees and peaked out from my branch. There was a boy riding through the orchard. He had light blonde hair and was dressed in a green tunic and leggings, which I recognized as a palace guard uniform, which meant one of two things. Either Brayton’s spies had found me at long last, or, he’d come with Olivia.

I felt the knife I’d kept in my boot since I was six and Caleb told me the truth about who I was. I could fight if I needed to. I grabbed a lemon and lobbed it at the guard. He paused and turned his horse as I jumped down from the tree.

“Boy!” He said. I blinked at him, and considered how I was dressed. I suppose I did look like a boy. My hair tied back, and I was wearing leggings and a loose fitting old shirt of Caleb’s. I smiled. “Did you throw that?” He was confused.

“Yes sir,” I said. He stopped.

“Not a boy then,” he said. I shook my head. “I apologize, Mistress,” he stopped. I frowned. I wasn’t used to this. Pantona’s a small place, I’m Lady Lisette to just about everyone who sees me. I shrugged. “I came down with Countess Olivia, but seem to have gotten lost. Do you know the way to the manor?”

“I do,” I said. “Is the Countess returned?” He nodded. “I’m called Lisette, by the way.”

“Tristan Dugarry,” he said, dismounting. “This is Elian.” I smiled and patted the horse’s neck.

“You’re a beautiful boy, Elian,” I cooed. Tristan preened a bit. It suited him. We began walking, him leading Elian by the reigns.

Goddess, something stirred in me, but he’s beautiful. I couldn’t think of another word for it. I dearly hoped he wasn’t a spy. It would be a terrible shame to chop that lovely head off his shoulders.

“Do you work at the manor?” He asked. I narrowed my eyes. We’d never had guards before, but beside Caleb, Olivia, Aaron and Anselm, no one knows who I really am. Without checking with Caleb, I don’t know if I’m supposed to trust this Tristan.

“No,” I shook my head, “I live there though. The Count and Countess took me when I was just a baby and parents died in the uprising.” He stopped and looked at me.

“I’m sorry,” he said, “My parents survived the uprising, but I lost them later.” I nodded and we arrived at the house.

Waiting out front with Olivia was a girl who looked almost exactly the same as Tristan, the same blonde hair, and green eyes and beautiful face. Olivia smiled at me, her long auburn hair tied into a braid as it always was when she traveled. I went to ask her a question, but she raised her eyebrows and telegraphed to me that we would speak later.

“Lisette,” Olivia smiled, “you found Sir Tristan. Good, we were worried about him.” I glanced at Tristan who had straightened up a bit. The girl smirked and walked over. “May I present Lady Athena Dugarry, Lady Athena, this is our Lisette.”

“It’s nice to meet you, Lady Athena,” I said and dipped into a curtsy as best I could in my pants. A sister, that explained the resemblence.

“Thank you for retrieving my twin,” she grinned, “honestly, if I don’t watch him constantly, he’ll just drift off.” Twins, then, and both guards, based on what she was wearing. Which was a simple green riding dress.

You were the one who raced ahead,” Tristan objected. She shrugged. I tried not to giggle.

“Your Grace,” I said turning to Olivia, “I’m glad you’re home.”

“I’m glad to be home,” she said and enveloped me in a hug, “I didn’t expect you to meet him before I could explain things, Little One,” she whispered in me ear. I nodded my understanding.

“I’ll go change,” I said softly, going up to my bedroom.

“Lisette,” Aaron hissed from the door of his room, I sighed and walked in. “Did you see them?”

“Yes,” I said, “I met him properly, he got lost and found me in the orchard.” He nodded. “It’s strange that they came though?”

“I guess,” he said, “Mother’s not going to be happy that they saw you like, well, this.” I rolled my eyes and kicked his door closed. He was right though. Olivia despaired making a lady out of me. She said it came from Caleb indulging me too much, and Mastero Anselm’s disinterest in anything but the most straightforward education. I went into my bedroom and pulled out a simple blue dress. The very fancy things that Olivia sometimes brought back from Dovetail were folded between pieces of tissue, to be worn only once things were settled. I did look at them sometimes. I imagined the life I’ll have when I wear them sometimes. I suddenly had a picture in my mind of Tristan Dugarry dancing with me while I wore something very fine.

I immediately blushed, because what an embarrassing thought!

 

The Princess’s Dream

I hate the dreams. I’ve always hated them, they’re disorienting and I never know what they mean, and they’re always the worst at this time of year. Of all the powers the goddess and god could have given me, they chose prophetic dreams.

It’s not terribly useful.

This one, the one I’ve had again and again, at least ended differently this time. I was walking through a city, Dovetail, probably, though I haven’t been there since I was a baby, so who knows to a large palace. I enter the palace and see the bodies. Sometimes I can make out the faces, sometimes I can’t. When I can, I see Olivia, and Caleb and Aaron. Our friends, Kathy and William sometimes too. This time, it’s all of Pantona Village. I swallow, gripping the sword, my father’s sword, at my belt and walk into the large throne room. Seated at the end is him. Brayton, dark hair, pale skin and a satisfied smirk on his face.

It usually ends when I see him. But this time is different. He isn’t alone, sitting beside him is a girl. She looks a lot like me actually, the same light brown skin and curly brown hair. She is smiling adoringly at him, dressed in white.

“Darling,” he addresses her, “welcome our cousin properly.” She turns at looks at me, smiles softly and lifts her hands, I feel myself choke.

“Happy Birthday, Cousin,” she says softly. I woke up with a start. I’d never dreamed that before. I’d never seen my cousin Marina before, beside him. My hand caught on my throat as I caught my breath. I wasn’t choking, I was safe, in my bedroom in Pantona.

It’s not even my birthday! That’s not for three more months. I’ll be seventeen. Which means I can be crowned. What a horrible and wonderful thought that is.

I keep thinking about Marina. Lady Marina, my cousin, who I’ve never seen. Brayton’s my cousin too, and they’re so far from me, a breath away from my throne, both of them, connected by magic and yet in a completely different world.

I won’t be sleeping more tonight, so I got up and got dressed. I walked down to the kitchen and went to the fire and began boiling water. I didn’t want to wake any of the servants. I gathered some tea leaves and placed them in a cup and waited for the water to boil. Then the door clicked open and closed.

I shook my head as Aaron walked in.

“You’re up early,” he noted.

“You too,” I said. He grinned.

“Didn’t sleep,” he grabbed a cup of his own. I rolled my eyes. “Gods, Kathy is vocal.” I made a gagging noise. “You’ll understand someday, Lisette.”

“Aaron,” I laid my hand on his, “I assure you, I will never understand your need to run out to the woods with village girls, who, when you inevitably end things badly, take it out on me.” He laughed. “I had a Dream.”

“Bad?” He asked. I nodded. “What happened?”

“Oh, I saw your dead body, and then my cousin tried to kill me,” I shrugged.

“Well, that’s the usual thing right?” He asked. “He always tries to kill you.”

“Not him,” I whispered. “Lady Marina was with him.” He stopped. “I know.” I rubbed my hands against my face. “Trust me, I know.”

“She wouldn’t join him,” he shook his head, “Father trusts her. The vision could be wrong.”

“Maybe,” I mumbled. “I wish I knew her, you know? It would make it easier to judge.” He nodded. “She’s very powerful, I know that much.”

“So are you,”  he whispered. “And you’re the princess, you could always order her head chopped off or whatever.” I laughed.

“I don’t think it works that way,” I said, “but thank you.”

“It’s what I’m here for,” he said. “A messenger came last night. Mother’s on her way back, she was at Waythorn yesterday.”

“Just Olivia,” I said. He nodded. “Do you think Caleb is alright?”

“I’m sure he’s fine,” he said. “Probably busy, after all, we’re only a few more months from,” I nodded. “Everything’s going to be fine, Lisette.” I swallowed. I wanted to cry. Everything wasn’t going to be fine. I wasn’t even going to be Lisette anymore. I was going to be Annalise Dovetail, Queen of Cammadan, and I don’t know who she is, and that terrifies me.

Author’s Note: A Shift In Perspective

Hi Everyone!

So, here’s the deal. I’ve reached kind of a plot standstill, and while I try to journal, look through old journals and saved documents, and untangle the bit of a knot I’ve tied, I didn’t want to stop playing in Cammadan and sharing it with you.

I have been here since I was 15, I do know all of the beginning and end points, I know where this is going, it’s the road along the way where I get fuzzy, and sometimes things take on their own life. For a clear example based on today’s post, Marina and Lefty were supposed to flirt a bunch to make Tristan jealous, but once I put them together they fell stubbornly and frustratingly in love.

Marina’s always had a way of not doing what I want her to do. Seriously, she began life as a vaguely sci-fi psychic character in a space opera (Think River Tam, or a Jedi feeling the force), but then she popped up with a massive crush on Tristan and an inferiority complex as big as all get out, and I knew where she finally belonged.  But, now there’s this mess, and I need to get it sorted because seriously, these two were not supposed to be together. For someone so mild mannered and passive Marina can be awfully frustrating.

ANYWAY, it did seem that Marina and Lefty sleeping together, Tristan leaving and Aaron and Athena setting a date was a logical breaking point, so, we’re going to do an experiment for the summer.

I’m going back to Year 1, but we’re seeing things from Annalise’s POV this time. This is in some ways easier (I know everything that happens! I wrote it already!) and harder (Marina’s a lot more like me, personally, than Annalise, so it’s tougher to get into her head!) so it should be a fun challenge. We’ll start by covering a time period I’ve always called “The Golden Summer,” that is, the months that the twins spend at Pantona.

I’m excited for y’all to get to know Lisette and Aaron a bit better, to take a slightly kinder view of Tristan (he’s still TOTALLY the worst, but he’s way LESS the worst to Lisette than he is to Marina) and just to have a ton of time to hang out with Athena.

See you next week!

What If?

I woke seeing Damian sitting up. I looked at him then noticed it was still dark out.

“Where are you going?” I asked. He laughed and kissed me.

“I didn’t want to wake you,” he whispered. I nodded. “But I probably shouldn’t be found here either.” I nodded. “I will see you in the morning.”

“No,” I whispered and took his hand, “stay a little longer.” He laughed and kissed my hand.

“No,” he said. “I’ll come again tomorrow night, if you’d like.” I nodded. “Sleep well, my love.” I fell back against the pillows and exhaled. I wasn’t going to be able to sleep anymore no matter how hard I tried. I wrapped myself in a cloak and walked to my maze. I reached the center and found Tristan at the fountain.

“Hello,” I said softly. He looked at me.

“Hello,” he smiled. “I can’t sleep.” I nodded.

“Me neither,” I said and took his hand. “Do you know her name?” He looked at me. “This girl you’re going to marry?”

“Carolina DuKarras,” he said softly, “nothing is decided or final, of course, but that’s who Grandfather and Uncle Geno have in mind. Alexander, my cousin, said she’s pretty at least, and she’s rich.” He skipped a rock against the pond. “She’s a good candidate for me because her father’s main territory is the midlands.”

“Ah,” I whispered softly, “so with Athena being married to Aaron.” He nodded. “I slept with Lefty last night.” He looked at me. “I’m so in love with him, Tristan, I sometimes can’t breathe.” He nodded.

“You’re frightened?” He asked. I nodded. “Of him?”

“No,” I sighed, “no, it’s just, before him, there’s was only you, and we,” I looked down, “we knew everything about each other.”

“And he’s a stranger?” He said. I nodded. “I’m tying my future to a girl I’ve never seen, and you had a stranger in your bed. I feel the two very serious children who sat in Brayton’s dining room would disapprove heartily of us.” I giggled and he laughed too. “I’ll miss you.” I slid my hand into his. “I still have that handkerchief, you know,” I blushed. “The one you gave me when I went to Pantona.”

“I remember,” I said softly. “That feels so long ago.” He nodded and leaned down and kissed me softly.

“I thought it was my turn this time,” he whispered and slipped a simple gold bangle into my hand. I saw the small AD engraved into it.

“Tristan,” I whispered.

“It was my mother’s,” he said. I nodded and he slipped it over my hand onto my wrist. “Don’t tell Athena. I think it’s technically supposed to be a part of her dowry but I doubt Aaron would miss it.” I laughed but I realized I was also crying.

“I hope she deserves you,” I said softly.

“I hope he does,” he said. “I need you to watch out for Athena,” he said softly. I looked at him.

“She has Aaron,” I said. He nodded.

“Aaron is in love with her,” he said, “he doesn’t see when she loses control,” he exhaled. “Sometimes she needs someone to pull her back.” I nodded understanding.

“And who will pull you back?” I whispered. He laughed and kissed my hand again.

“I’ll have to rely on my memories of you and Athena for that,” he said softly. I nodded.

“Have you seen Lisette?” I asked. He shook his head. “Tristan!”

“I can’t, Rina,” he exhaled. “If I stop to say goodbye to her, I won’t go.” I nodded and kissed him on the cheek going back to the palace and then to our apartments. Annalise was standing on the balcony looking out as we watched his horse exit through the gates. She was crying and I slipped my arm around her.

“Can I not be the queen?” She asked softly. I looked at her. “Aaron and I used to play a game, you see,” she exhaled. “What if I was Lisette? What if Annalise was someone else, another girl, hidden somewhere else. What if I was really just Lisette, a the daughter of a barmaid and a Phanian sailor who died or abandoned her? What if one day a travelling soldier came to Pantona, and I loved him?” She was sobbing now. “So you see if I wasn’t the queen, I could be married to Tristan. If I was Lisette, I’d be training to be in the guard now, because his wife will be expected to,” she exhaled, “I’ll have to smile at her, and call her Lady Dugarry and induct her and it’s going to be the worst thing I have to do.”

“I’m glad that you’re you,” I said softly. She looked at me. “I understand what you’re saying,” I looked down, “but this other Annalise, I don’t know who she would be.” She smiled. “And you can’t not be queen, because then have to be and I don’t see that going terribly well.” She laughed.

“I suppose not,” she said and blinked at me. “I think Mercy owes me money.” I blinked at her.

“You bet on tonight?” I sighed. She nodded. “Goddess, that’s dignified behavior.” She giggled. “I don’t want him to go.” She smiled.

“I am trying,” she said softly, “not just for your sake, I promise, I really do care for Eric, it’s just he’s not,” I nodded. “It’ll be easier now, I think.”

“I hope so,” I whispered. “And there’s still the other thing.” She nodded. “He can’t come to Brightcoast, Annalise, I feel that, so deeply, it’s,” she swallowed.

“I know,” she said. “He’ll stay here, Anselm is going to as well.” I nodded. “If I haven’t killed him by then.”

“Anselm, or Brayton?” I smirked. She laughed.

“Both,” she said, “or either.” She hugged me. “I’m so glad I’m not alone.” She whispered, I understood her completely.

Afterglow

Lefty...Damian…is asleep now. I can’t sleep, I’m too happy.

Well, I mean, I am happy, but I’m also worried, and distracted and I’m not sure what else. After the ball wound down, I escorted Annalise back to her room. She was distracted, I can’t imagine what she’s feeling, with Tristan going away now. I hurried back to my room and undressed. I loved the gown that I had finally settled on, but I felt as though I ripped it off. I glanced at my normal night gowns and swallowed. I didn’t know if I should put one on, but before I had much time to think about it, there was a knock on the door and he walked in.

“Hello,” I managed to say, suddenly feeling quite shy. He smiled.

“Hello,” he said and kissed me softly. “You’re still sure?” I nodded and took his hand and we walked to the bed, still kissing I exhaled as we lay down and he straddled me. “I love you.”

“I love you,” I whispered and swallowed as he undressed me, “Lefty,” I whispered, as he used his hand inside of me. I knew I liked this, from William, obviously.

“Damian,” he whispered in my ear and kissed it. “If I’m your lover, Rina, I’d rather you called me by name.”

“Damian,” I exhaled, it felt right, he kissed me and well, the rest I can’t write down, but he made love to me. I think I said his name a hundred more times. Afterwards, he held me for a while and we were quiet.

“Are you alright?” He asked. I rested my chin on his chest. “Did I hurt you?” I smiled.

“A bit,” I mumbled and kissed him. He nodded. “But it was,” I tried to think of the right word, “nice.” He laughed.

“Nice?” He muttered. “I think I ought to be offended.” I giggled. “If you aren’t satisfied, Duchess,” he rolled over onto me again.

“No,” I giggled and kissed him, “no Lieutenant, I’m satisfied.” He grinned at me, his hair was curly and wild and perfect and Goddess, I wanted him so badly again. We kissed deeply. “Damian,” I muttered as he grew hard and then pushed into me again. This time was different. I thought I’d been satisfied the first time, but this time, we both felt more urgent and moved faster and I felt a wave of pleasure rush over me and I cried out, not able to think of his name, or anything but how amazing I felt. I fell away from him, panting. “Well,” I mumbled, “no wonder Annalise and Tristan won’t stop! That’s wonderful.” He laughed and began playing with my hair.

“I think you just told me something you weren’t supposed to,” he teased. I blushed. “I won’t tell,” he whispered, “I’d guessed a while ago though.” I nodded. “And what about you and the good Captain Dugarry?” I swallowed.

“That’s complicated,” I whispered. He nodded. “We grew up together, and I,” I sighed, “well, it never mattered because he didn’t feel the same way.” He kissed me again.

“I don’t understand that,” he whispered, “not loving you seems completely impossible.” I blushed.

“When did you know you loved me?” I asked. He laughed.

“When I saw you,” he said. I rolled my eyes. “Goddess, you think I’m corny. But it’s true. You and Count Aaron walked up and we thought you were the queen and you smiled, and corrected us and I was lost forever.”

“You know that if,” I sighed, “the council wants me to try to marry Eric if Annalise won’t.” He laughed. “It’s not funny! It would be awful!”

“No love,” he said, “it would never happen.” I blinked. “love you, I’ve loved you since the moment I saw you and Eric knows and honors that.” I looked at him.

“This has come up before,” I said. He smiled.

“Once or twice,” he said. I nodded. “It’s why we have rules. I imagine you and Annalise must have them around Sir Tristan as well.”

“We don’t talk about it,” I said, “that’s the only rule.” He nodded. “You said this afternoon that you weren’t respectable. What did you mean?” He smiled sadly.

“My mother,” he said softly. “She was,” he swallowed. “well, I don’t know precisely that she was a prostitute but she was a barmaid at the least. My father was a ferryman, a rich one, to be sure, but still. It wasn’t a scandal, and he married her.”

“But then he married a queen,” I whispered. He nodded. “How?”

“Aimee’s father wasn’t high ranking,” he said softly. “But she was pretty, and Chosen and young, so the old king married her, and then she had Eric and he sent her away. To where she grew up, to Brinecliff, and then he died.”

“And your mother?” I asked. He smiled.

“She died later, with my brother,” he explained. I kissed him. “Aimee and my father were childhood sweethearts, but their circumstances had prevented them from marrying. It was frankly a good scheme for Daniel and Elana who wanted Eric and Aimee out of the way.” I smiled and kissed him. “I got the brother I lost in the bargain, Papa got a title, and Aimee got as much peace as I imagine she’ll ever have.”

“Do you remember her?” I asked softly. “Your mother?” He nodded. “I wish I remembered my mother.” He kissed me again. “Was it hard, at court?” He shrugged.

“Not really,” he said, “my father is very popular at court, he gets along with everyone, and Aimee’s always been. If it weren’t for Katrin needing to come out though, I think they would have stayed happily at Brinecliff forever.” I smiled. “Our childhood was happy, simple.” I nodded. “Why do want to know all of this?” He asked lacing our fingers.

“I like hearing about other people’s family’s and childhoods,” I said, “mine was so odd. Papa and I shut up, alone with our books, the sisters running around like frightened cats. I was afraid of everything.”

“When did Brayton set his sights on you?” He asked. I swallowed.

“I was fourteen,” I mumbled. “It was awful.” He kissed me. “Tristan was always kind to me, you see, and his parents too.”

“Not Lady Athena?” He said. “You two are such good friends.”

“Yes, now,” I laughed. “But no, before, Lisette, we weren’t. She thought I was silly and I was afraid of her.” He laughed. “Did you really come here hoping to court her?”

“Yes,” he grinned, “I’ve never had a warrior woman.” I rolled my eyes. “Of course before tonight I’ve never had a witch or a duchess either.”

“I’m Chosen,” I said softly, feeling his breathing get deeper. “Not a witch.”

“Six of one,” he whispered, before falling asleep. He’s sleeping soundly, my lover. Damian. And I’m so frightened. I know so little about him.