Prince Eric & The Others

I’ll try my best to describe the three men who were standing in front of us.

Prince Eric was in the center. He’s dark skinned, darker even than my father, and smaller than I expected. He’s only an inch or two taller than myself! He has dark hair that’s cropped short against his head. He was wearing a uniform, I assumed from the Phanian Navy. It even featured wheel embroidery on it. He was smiling, though he looked a bit uneasy.

Next to him, on each side, were two other men.

The first was younger, maybe about my age. He looked a great deal like my father, brown skinned, with his head shaved and wide curious black eyes. I learned later that this was Queen Elana’s younger brother, Raymond, so my father’s cousin then. Something about Sir Raymond makes me feel uneasy, something I can’t quite name. It’s obvious he has magic, but it’s more than that.

The third, well, I don’t quite know how to describe him. He’s tall, and lanky, with lighter skin, and his hair is clearly curly when it’s allowed to be, but at that moment it was slicked back and tied into a bun at the bottom of his neck. He was smiling, whispered something to the prince that made him actually laugh.

This was Lieutenant Damian Lestoff. I don’t know a lot about him, truly. He’s the prince’s step brother, he’s also a sailor. He’s sixteen.

We approached them.

“Your Majesty,” The Prince bowed. Aaron sniffed, I could tell he was trying not to laugh.

“You’ve made a common mistake, your highness,” I smiled and dipped lightly, “I’m not Queen Annalise. My name is Marina Sanpierre, Duchess of Brightcoast. Welcome to Cammadan.” I glanced at Aaron, who had begun coughing, I knew he was trying to cover his laughter. “If we’d known you were coming, of course Queen Annalise would have greetted you herself.”

He was not doing it well.

“This is Count Aaron of Pantona,” I said, “The Queen’s Foster Brother.”

“A pleasure,” the Prince nodded. “May I present Lord Raymond Quents, brother to Queen Elana, and Lieutenant Damian Lestoff, my step brother and second in command.”

“Lord Raymond,” I smiled, “if you’re Queen Elana’s brother, I believe that makes us cousins.”

“So it does, Lady Marina,” he nodded. “My sister sends her regrets, and a letter for you, Queen Annalise and your father, who she has missed dearly.”

“I’m Queen Elana has no shortage of good feelings for her cousins,” Aaron said, “however, Queen Annalise is waiting for us back at the palace, if the three of you would like to come along.” The Prince nodded and followed him. I followed after them both. I swallowed as we walked through the market.

I glanced at the various merchants who’d arrived for the coronation. The largest camp belonged, shocking no one, to the Dumanis family.

“Lady Marina,” a woman called out. I turned and nodded to her. Her name was Andrea Dufrey. I’d met her the evening before at the ball. She’s Tristan and Athena’s aunt. “It’s early for you to be about.” She paused. “Oh, I see.”

“It was a surprise,” I said softly. “I have no doubt the twins will fill you in.” She nodded. “Will you be at the second ball tonight?”

“I believe so,” she said, “I was hoping to send a gift the queen. Would it be accepted? I know the family’s position is precarious.”

“Queen Annalise would be grateful for a gift from your family, and I’ll be sure she sees,” I said softly. She nodded. “Be well Madame DuFrey.”

“Be Well Lady Marina,” she smiled.

“Duchess?” Lieutenant Lestoff walked up to me. “The Count said we should retrieve you.”

“I apologize,” I said, “I ran into one of the prominent merchant families, I didn’t want to insult her.” He nodded. I felt my face flush. What is this?

“Lefty,” the prince called him. I cocked my head. “Stop lagging behind.” I smiled and followed him to the group. “I should apologize for him.”

“There’s no need,” I said. “Aaron, Madame DuFrey wishes to give the queen a gift. Perhaps when we’ve returned, you could send Athena and Tristan.”

“Send the twins?” Aaron said. “I don’t send them places.” I rolled my eyes.

“I’m curious to meet the Dugarrys,” Lord Raymond said. “Is it true that she’s the stronger fighter?” Aaron, who until that moment, had done a good job of not laughing, let out a good strong one.

“Athena will certainly want you to believe that she is the stronger of the two of them,” Aaron said. “And I would be a fool to disagree.”

“Yes, you would,” I smiled. Lieutenant Lestoff smiled at me. I felt the hair on my arms stand on end. He is handsome. Those eyes, they’re almost amber colored. But I’m not going to swirl down another hole like that. After all, even if we ended things, William isn’t gone yet. 

“It’s serious between them then?” He asked. I nodded. “A shame, I was hoping to spend my time in Cammadan wooing the great warrior Athena Dugarry, but if she’s spoken for.”

“Lady Athena speaks for herself,” I smirked, “however, you’re welcome to ask her.”

“You’ll have to excuse the Lieutenant,” the prince shook his head. “He has a picture in his head that Cammadie girls will be charmed by his exotic and well traveled ways.”

“We’ve assured him this will not be the case,” Lord Raymond said. I felt less chilled. Why couldn’t I place who he reminded me of? (Besides Papa.)

Maybe it’s myself. He’s younger than his companions, and they seem to take his presence for granted.

 

The Ship

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

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

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

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

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

“Is it him?” I asked.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Not the queen?” Athena asked.

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

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

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

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

“I’ll talk to him,” Athena said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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