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.


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.

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.


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.

A Winter’s Ball

I don’t think I’ve seen Annalise this happy in ages. She’s thrilled that Aaron’s back, but even more her giddiness at Mastero Anselm sitting beside her is infectious.

He keeps looking at Raymond like he has six heads, the poor thing, but Raymond is chattering at him quite a bit, and as an oft victim of Raymond’s chattering, I can see it getting a bit off putting, especially given his similar natural aura to Brayton.

I was enjoying the fruits of my labor fairly immensely, mostly happy to see Papa sitting in a chair nodding to the music, not hiding in his study. Countess Olivia said it would pass, and it seems to have.

But I sighed quietly watching the door. He still wasn’t here. Perhaps he’d gone. But Prince Eric was still there. Then it was like the crowd had disappeared. I inhaled as he walked into the room and went to him.

“I thought perhaps you’d stay away,” I said softly.

“No,” he said quietly, taking my hand and kissing it. “No, my love.” I wanted to kiss him, to throw myself into his arms. But something stopped me.

“I thought about what you said,” I said softly. “I still want you.” He smiled at that. “I disagree that you’ll leave me.” He laughed. “I understand why you think you will, but I’ve been told I’m the most beautiful woman alive. A goddess insisted that a man trade his soul for me.”

“I see,” he nodded. “And your thought is that I will be unable to resist you, then?” I nodded.

“Yes,” I said softly and took his arm. We walked and I glanced around the room, “so tonight, you will see to Eric, and I will see to Annalise.” He nodded.

“They are royal and useless and require assistance,” he grinned, “and with Count Aaron returned and Raymond beside himself at getting to speak with an actual Mastero, that just leaves us,” I nodded.

“And then you’ll come to see me,” I said and we found our way to an alcove. He pressed me against the wall.

“I’ll make you mine, then,” he said softly. I smiled.

“I’m already yours,” I said. He nodded.

“And there won’t be any further,” he looked down, “I mean, is there anything you need?” I blinked at him. “Marina.”

“Oh!” I laughed. “Oh that! No I take a potion for that.” He blinked at me again. “It’s quite simple, you see, there’s a property in whip willow bark that when isolated syncs with the tides so does a woman’s cycle and it prevents pregnancy.” He grinned and laughed. “What’s funny?”

“Nothing,” he said, “you’re brilliant, is all, and if you weren’t already the second richest woman in Cammadan, I’d guess you’d be about to be with discovering a potion like that.”

“Oh I didn’t discover it,” I rolled my eyes. “Common women have been using whip willow for ages, I just found a way to make it easier to take than boiling bark tea and choking it down.”

“Still,” he said. “You’re brilliant.” I laughed and kissed him. “Goddess, do we have to wait until the end of the night?” I giggled and slipped away from him. I found a pillar and leaned against it and exhaled.

I’d thought about this a thousand times. Not with Lefty, certainly, but with Tristan and with William, and even with horror, Brayton.

But I’d never imagined being so in love with someone I wanted so badly. And he loved me too.

“Well, hello,” Athena slid up to me. I looked at her. “So, purely out of curiosity and caring for your well being, and not because Elodie, Mercy and I have a bet, are you still a virgin?”

“Who bet that I wasn’t?” I asked.

“Mercy,” we said at the same time.

“I bet that you were until this afternoon, and Elodie said you most certainly still were,” she shrugged. “So?”

“A lady doesn’t speak about such things,” I straightened my skirt. She laughed. “When’s your wedding?”

“Fall,” she said happily. I looked at her. “Enroute back from Brightcoast we’re going to stop in Pantona. We’re doing it then.” I smiled. I glanced over and noticed Lefty talking to my father. “You won’t change his mind you know. Unless they get married, he’s going to leave.”

“I know,” I said softly, “but I have to try.” She nodded and squeezed my hand. “I love him.” She smiled.

“I know,” she said quietly. “You just have a tendency to get run over by love, my friend, and I don’t want to see it happen again.”

“It won’t,” I said taking her hands. I saw Aaron walking towards us. “You Grace.”

“Duchess,” he smirked. “I heard a rumor that this was meant to emulate our evenings in Pantona.” I nodded. “Our first winter ball was your idea?”

“Your father asked me what I thought would be fun,” I explained, “I came up with this. Also ice skating, and new dresses.” He laughed.

“Lisette had a new dress,” he said, “and there was in fact ice skating.” He turned to Athena. “A dance, Captain?”

“An honor,” Athena said and took his hand. I glanced about the room and saw Tristan in a corner, his arms crossed over his chest while Annalise sat at her table, laughing at something Eric said. I don’t know what understanding they’d come to, but I could tell he wasn’t happy. I walked over to him.

“Lady Marina,” he whispered.

“Sir Tristan,” I said, “you’ll go soon?” He nodded.

“Tomorrow,” he whispered, “if the my grandfather’s party is ready to that is.”

“I thought he left ages ago,” I said softly. He nodded.

“He always has people in Dovetail,” he pointed out. “It would be bad for business not to.” I nodded. “Am I to congratulate you?” He asked. I looked at him. “I noticed Lieutenant Lestoff speaking to Duke Lestat.”

“No,” I said softly, “no it isn’t that.” He nodded. “Brayton is going to be executed, and you’re going to find a bride, and Athena and Aaron are marrying and Annalise,” I exhaled, “tonight is the last night that things will be even a little bit like they once were.”

“My parents, teaching Athena and I chess,” he whispered, “you leading prayers.” I nodded.

“Dance with me,” I said and held my hand out. He smiled and took it. “It’s better now, isn’t it?” I whispered.

“Yes,” he said softly. “In some ways, in others, I’m never sure.” I looked at him. “I knew you then.”

“You still do,” I said softly. He smiled. “You’ll write?” I whispered as the music stopped.

“Don’t I always?” He said softly. I nodded and he let go of me. I glanced over to where Annalise was sitting, laughing at something that Eric was saying to her. This was all for the best. For the good of everything.

What Anselm had said earlier was sticking with me. The gods had sent Eric, as a way for Annalise to fulfill her mandate.

“I should,” I whispered, glancing across the room and seeing Lefty smile at a blonde girl in a guard uniform, and take her hand for the next dance. I wasn’t jealous, exactly, but I did wish it was me, “I should see to Papa,” I managed and Tristan nodded. “You know how he hates this sort of thing.”

“Of course,” he said softly. “I should,” he exhaled, “Athena,” I nodded and walked away, catching a wink from Lefty as he waltzed with the pretty guard girl. I realized how soon, he’d be mine and I almost swooned.


I walked into the Princess Tower, at Annalise’s request, and to greet the countess and was surprised by the man sitting at the tea table with them. I don’t know why, but I expected Mastero Benjamin Anselm to be a hunched bearded wizard of a fairy tale.

Instead, the man arguing animatedly with Annalise about the properties of riverdune (a sort of sea weed found in the harbor here) is a straight backed, clean shaven man in his late sixties. He was wearing robes I’ve never seen before, a deep green color, similar to the guard uniforms.

“This is her then?” He said, noticing me. Annalise sighed dramatically and nodded.

“Yes, Mastero,” she said. “This is my cousin, Duchess Marina of Brightcoast, Marina, meet Mastero Anselm, a righteous thorn in my side.”

“It’s my honor,” I said quietly. He nodded as I went and sat with them. “I’m glad to meet you finally.”

“If you’ve half your mother’s talent, you must do well enough,” he said, “always thought it a shame Anne was first born. She’d have been marvelous in the university.”

“That’s kind of you to say,” I smiled. Annalise winked at me. “I’m afraid I don’t have a lot of time.”

“Of course,” he said, “we need to discuss this nonsense with Brayton and The Dark Lady.” I nodded. “I’ve already told Her Majesty that if she’d told me earlier I would have come.”

“And as soon as it became clear even with the passing of the blessing that this was still a threat I told you,” she said, as if she’d said it a hundred times.

“What’s your proposal, Lady Marina?” He asked. He simply talks like a teacher, asking this as if it were an exercise or analysis of a legend. Because of that, I was able to think on this more clearly than I have for a while.

“I think he needs to be sentenced to death,” I said. “For his crimes against Cammadan, and the threat he poses. I have no doubt that this won’t stop Amina, only Rana and Cornan have that power, but she will have to find another vessel of appropriate power and proximity. That won’t be as easy.”

“And of course if you two would commit to your mandate rather than flitting about this palace,” he pointed out, “we’d all be in a more secure position.”

“I have responsibilities beyond my mandate,” Annalise said defensively, “and we haven’t been ‘flitting about.'”

“The gods sent you an explorer prince with a ship and orders to become your husband,” Anselm said. “Visions and dreams since you were a child, telling you what you need to do, what is expected when you claimed your crown. You were chosen to free them and end the threat of darkness to the world, you’ve been given the tools and opportunity to do so, and what is it you do when they are presented? You throw parties and share your bed with a merchant guard.” I swallowed and stared at Annalise. He’d said the thing we didn’t say. “You toss the man who murdered your parents and destroyed a carefully cultivated balance in a cell and look to him for answers on your calling.”

“Don’t lecture me,” she said, her eyes narrow.

“Someone needs to,” he snapped. “If what Aaron’s told me is true, since Caleb’s death you’ve been very foolish, Lisette.”

“You go too far,” she said, her voice calm and serious. He smiled and nodded. “I am Queen of Cammadan, I am The Sword, I will not be dictated to.”

“My apologies,” he held up his hands, “indulge an old man who changed you as a baby. It’s hard to see you so grand.” She softened at that. “I worry that if you neglect this you’ll miss the rising tide. I don’t want to lose you as I did your father.”

“What if his death only enrages Amina?” Annalise asked. “Or trying to kill him only makes him stronger? We still don’t know how to harness that battle magic Marina used in the camp attack, a newly raised shadow army would not end well without it.”

“I can’t speak to military strategy,” I shrugged, “you know that, but I can heal shadow injuries, I know that much, I can teach the others.” Annalise nodded. “I disagree, Mastero, though, that Annalise should count on Prince Eric to aid in her search for the wheel. From everything Lieutenant Lestoff says, as King of Cammadan.”

“I never said I’d crown him king!” Annalise gasped.

“Lord Consort then,” I shrugged, as far as I know it’s a hypothetical, but she was agitated. “he’d probably have to relinquish The Prince’s Glory.” She nodded. “Not that you couldn’t find him another ship.”

“Your father says that marrying Eric would be playing too closely into Daniel’s hands,” she whispered. I nodded.

“That’s boyhood grudges coming to bare Lisette,” Anselm said, “I wouldn’t over invest in your uncle’s opinion of the king.” She nodded.

“I’ve missed you,” she said softly. He half smiled.

“I’ve missed you too child,” he said. “You’re right that I ought to have come much earlier.” I stood up. “You and I will speak soon, Duchess, I owe your mother that much.”

“I look forward to it, Mastero,” I inclined my head. I walked out and then to the maze, I needed to clear my head after that conversation. I sat at the salt pond meditating for a few minutes.

“Is it true?” My concentration was broken by Raymond. I sighed and opened one eye, seeing him standing over me.

“Is what true?” I asked.

“Is Mastero Anselm here?” He said. I sighed and stood up. “Marina, you know,” I needed to stop him before he started in on how he needed to train and learn from a master.

“Yes,” I said, “he’s here. Though I don’t know that he’s making it terribly public or how long he’s staying.” He nodded. “Raymond, don’t bother him, Annalise needs him right now.”

“You got to talk to him,” he pointed out.

“I’m Annalise’s advisor,” I said as he sat down, opposite me, I extended my hands and he took them, “you’re an honored guest, and chosen and a member of our family, but still a guest.” He sighed and inhaled with me.

“We don’t know that I’m chosen,” he said. I rolled my eyes. “You don’t know everything, Marina.”

“I know that,” I said softly. He sighed and we inhaled again. Slowly a ball of light rose in between us. This was something we’ve been working on. It’s not as strong as battle magic, but it shares the same properties.

We have to be ready. We don’t know what will happen if Brayton is allowed to live, or if he’s killed, when it comes to his shadows. Or if Amina finds another vessel and the shadows are upon us.


“No,” said Athena simply as I held up what felt like the fiftieth gown to wear that night. I frowned. I’m seventeen today. I should feel different. I don’t.

The others will be home tonight. Aaron. Countess Olivia. Papa.

I keep focusing on Papa. And Lefty. And what he’s going to say.

“No, it isn’t right,” I sighed and flopped on a chair. “I have nothing to wear.”

“You have plenty to wear,” Athena said simply, “if you’re going to the temple, or trying to make yourself invisible to Brayton, or remind my brother of that oh so innocent waif he was falling in love with,” I glared at her, “but there is sadly nothing in your wardrobe even remotely appropriate for seducing Phanian Naval lieutenants.”

“I’m not seducing him,” I said, “I’m fairly sure that would only take me saying, ‘Lefty would you care to come to my room?'” She laughed. “But tonight is special and I want to look,” I sat up, “I don’t want him to even think about anyone else.”

“Ah,” Athena nodded, “I’ve found that nothing does that spectacularly. Why didn’t you just buy something new?” I rolled my eyes. “Marina, what’s going to be different, tonight?” I bit my bottom lip.

“They’ll be home tonight,” I said. She nodded. “My father,” I said softly. Athena nodded and walked over to me. “If he’s completely in love with me, maybe my father.”

“I see,” she nodded. “You know that when I first asked Martin what he thought of me marrying Aaron, he said I was being foolish and that certainly Caleb and Olivia wouldn’t allow it.” I looked at her. “He came around, your father would too.” I nodded.

“Am I intruding?” I glanced over my shoulder at Aaron slouched against the door. “Gods bindings Marina to you have any other clothes?” Athena laughed and ran to him. “Hello my darling,” he said softly.

“Hello,” she said. “I missed you.” He nodded. “It went well?”

“It did,” he said. “Where’s Lisette?”

“Lisette is in meetings trying to make a decision regarding Brayton,” I said softly. He nodded. “I have been barred.”

“As have I,” Athena said, “apparently our suggestions of ‘kill the bastard dead,’ were ‘not constructive or appreciated.'”

“Wyatt?” He said. I nodded. “I’m sorry Rina, it must be difficult for you.” I nodded. “This might cheer you up.” He handed me a letter.

“William?” I asked. He nodded. I opened it. “He’s getting married.” Aaron nodded and I sat down on the couch. “Heavens, that was fast.”

“I said the same,” he admitted.

“Who?” Athena asked snatching the letter from my hand, “Kathy Sampson?” She scrunched her face.

“You met her?” I asked. Athena nodded. “And?”

“Well, whoever it was would never compare to you, obviously, but Kathy is,” she paused, “can we raise their taxes?” Aaron laughed.

“I missed you so much,” he said and kissed her. “She’s a farmer’s daughter we grew up with. She’s very nice.” Athena snorted. “Athena doesn’t like her.”

“Obviously,” I said. “I should go see my father. Is he better?” Aaron frowned. “Worse?”

“No,” he said, “better, certainly, thought I’d use the word determined.” I nodded and walked quickly to my father’s apartment, where books were already strewn everywhere.

“Papa,” I called softly. He walked out of his study. “You’re back.”

“Yes,” he said. He walked over and kissed my forehead. “You’ve grown.” I laughed at the old joke. “And you’re safe.”

“Yes,” I said. “What are you working on?” I glanced at the papers. “The translation for Annalise?”

“No,” He said. “It’s something else she asked me for.” I nodded.

“About Brayton?” I said. He nodded. “You agree with her? Keeping him alive even though we know he’s lost the blessing of Amina?”

“I haven’t decided,” he said softly and put his hands on my arms. “And it isn’t my decision anyhow, nor is it yours.” I nodded.

“You’re worried about my safety,” I whispered, “for picnicking with new friends but the man who would imprison me and marry me against my will and destroy me can be killed and you haven’t decided how you feel yet?” He sighed.

“Rina, this isn’t that,” he said. “I want Brayton dead, for his threat to you, for killing my sister, for everything. But, it isn’t up to us. It shouldn’t even be up to Annalise, justice is for the gods.” I nodded and sat down. “I’m glad we made it back in time for this festival of yours.” I smiled.

“It’s for Caleb,” I said softly. “He asked me about it once, a long time ago.” He smiled. “I want you to speak to Lieutenant Lestoff today.”

“Marina,” he said softly and shook his head.

“Papa,” I said. “This is important to me.” He nodded. “He’s not like anyone I’ve ever known.” He snorted.

“I’d imagine not,” he muttered. I looked at him. “I have a sudden surge of affection for your grandfather.” I smiled and kissed him on the cheek. “I will try, I doubt we’ll have much to say to one another, even when I was his age, I had little in common with the naval men.”

“I would appreciate the effort,” I said. “I have work to do, but I am glad you’re home.” He nodded. I was headed to the ballroom to make sure everything was set, when I felt his hands slide around my waist. I giggled and turned.

“Hello,” Lefty whispered.

“Hello,” I smiled. “I’ve just been to see my father.” He nodded. “I think he’ll be nice to you, but,” he kissed me.

“How precisely,” he whispered, “was I supposed to concentrate on anything you were saying without kissing you.” I giggled. “I’m sorry, your father?” I nodded.

“But how am I supposed to concentrate when you’re kissing me?” I asked. He laughed. “Tonight, I mean, after,” I swallowed, “I think I’m doing this wrong.”

“Marina,” he whispered, “I’m in love with you, but you know this.” I nodded, “but you need things, that I’m not sure I can give you.” I swallowed. “I’m not respectable, for all that Eric’s tried to prop me up as so.”

“So you won’t come?” I said softly. “Even if I said I didn’t care?” He kissed me again.

“I’m not quite that strong,” he said. “I’m only saying think on it. I can’t marry you, I mean, I would, but I doubt we’d be allowed.”

“You’d be amazed what I’m allowed,” I whispered, “Annalise, after all, is going to,” I stopped and swallowed, I was about to say the thing we didn’t say. He smiled.

“Ah, and there’s the rub, isn’t it?” He said sadly, “If Annalise does as she will, I have to return to Phania, or to wherever it is Daniel sees fit to fling Eric next.”

“You’ll have to?” I whispered. He nodded. “Why?”

“You’re chosen,” he said. I nodded, “you have a divine mandate of some kind?”

“To aid Annalise in her reign,” I said, “and in her ultimate quest to free the god and goddess from their bindings.” He nodded.

“I’m not chosen,” he said softly, “but to stand by my brother, that is my divine mandate, to protect him.” I hugged myself close to him. “I wouldn’t refuse a night with you if I didn’t know I’d have to break both our hearts when this is all over.” He couldn’t know that by refusing me he was already breaking my heart.