“Marina,” Annalise rode over to me. I looked at her and nodded. “Athena and Aaron shot some rabbits and ducks, they’re cleaning them for lunch, would you get a fire started.” She looked at Lefty and smiled. “You’re about to see something impressive, Lieutenant.”

“Am I?” He raised an eyebrow. I laughed and shook my head. He dismounted and offered me a hand.

“Perhaps a bit,” I said softly, attempting to dismount, and he quickly went to help me, “She could do it herself, to be perfectly honest.” I carefully dismounted, trying not to flush at his hands on my waist. I carefully hovered my hands, sending out a warm light, that burst into a flame which hovered in the air.

“Well the queen was right,” Lefty said, “I am impressed, neither Aimee nor Queen Elana have ever done anything like that.”

“Parlor tricks,” I smiled. “That’s what Lisette calls them.” He laughed.

“Oh good,” Athena bounced over, holding a cleaned rabbit, “Marina fire, it will cook quickly.” She glanced at Lefty. “Lieutenant, could you perhaps go to the stream and get us some water?”

“Happy to,” he smiled at her. “Your Grace,” he said and walked away. She smiled at me.

“You’re both making trouble,” I said. “I assume Tristan’s decision to see your grandfather has to do with your scheme from last night?” She nodded. “So he’s considering it?”

“I don’t know what he’s considering,” she shook her head. She glanced over at Annalise and Prince Eric. “They look well together.” I nodded.

“Would you be able to show me this?” Lord Raymond walked over, gazing at the fire. I smiled.

“Yes,” I said, “not here, but in a labratory or classroom, where there’s room for error.” He nodded. “Lord Raymond has magic, Lady Athena.”

“I see,” she nodded. “I suppose it runs in families, I’d heard that.” Lord Raymond nodded. “I’ve heard of Queen Elana’s power, but I doubt it compares with our Rina.”

“Athena,” I said softly. She shrugged. “She’s bragging. I wouldn’t dream of challenging your sister’s,”

“It’s alright,” he said, “my sister and I are both well trained, but our power is limited. I was hoping to spend some time with a mastero, but Countess Olivia told me the one who trained Queen Annalise isn’t in Dovetail.”

“I believe that Mastero Anselm’s exact words were, ‘if your majesty forces me to go back to that cess pool, I will never speak to you again,'” Athena said. “He’s an eccentric man. I very much look forward to being his lady.”

“He’s at Pantona then?” Raymond asked. Athena nodded. “Do you know if he’s considered reestablishing the order?”

“The Masteros?” I asked. “That’s of interest to you? How terribly un-Phanian!” He laughed.

“I suppose so,” he shrugged. “But I wasn’t accepted into the brotherhood four years ago, which limits my options for serving the gods, unless,”

“Unless,” Athena smiled. “It’s an admirable goal, serving the gods.  Why were you refused? Into the brotherhood?”

“The mothers don’t always disclose their reasoning,” He said. I looked at him, he sounded almost bitter.

“My father said there are very few brothers,” I said, “only a few every generation.” Raymond nodded. “Still, I know it can be difficult, for your life to go in a way you didn’t hope for.” He smiled.  I keep thinking about what Annalise said about him, about how his aura reminded her of Brayton, and I keep thinking about Brayton’s claim that he traded his soul to Amina after Marie chose another.

If even a small kindness could save Raymond from that level of despair, I’ll give him that. Lieutenant Lestoff came back with a pail of water, and I felt my heart skip when he smiled at me.

“Thank you Lieutenant,” Athena smiled at him.

“Happy to help, Captain,” he said softly. The Prince and Annalise bounced over and we all ate.

“Where did you learn this?” Lord Raymond asked me. I grinned. “Not from the sisters?”

“No,” I said, “I taught myself, from the library.”

“Rina’s very studious,” Annalise said. “I’ve been trying to emulate her but I get bored sitting all day.”

“How do you prefer to spend your time then?” The Prince asked, leaning back against his elbows. Aaron met me eyes and rolled his. I tried not to giggle.

“Lisette prefers anything active,” Aaron said, “our whole lives, you stick a book in her hand, she’d trade it for a sword.” She kicked him playfully. “Well, it was knives first, wasn’t it? What did Father said to you, Lisette, when you were six?”

“Surprise is your first weapon,” she grinned, “this is your second.” She pulled a small knife out of her boot. Aaron and Athena both smiled, and I realized I was too. I suddenly missed Count Caleb very much. Annalise took my hand and squeezed it.

“I wish we could have met him,” Prince Eric said softly. I looked at him and nodded. The right thing to say.

“I think we should go back,” Annalise said standing up and walking over to her horse.

“See,” Aaron shrugged, brushing himself off. “Can’t sit still to save her life.”



I woke in the morning feeling better, still sad but better. I pulled my dressing gown on and walked into the sitting room to make sure breakfast was set. Annalise was already standing out on the balcony with a cup of coffee, which felt strange. It’s normally murder getting her out of bed.

She was even dressed! Not that I wasn’t aware of the fact that she could dress herself. It’s just since we came to Dovetail it’s been increasingly unusual.

“Good Morning,” she smiled.

“Good Morning,” I said and walked out. “You’re awake early.”

“Athena told you that we’re going riding?” She asked. I nodded. “I thought to the valley? It’s quite pretty and very Cammadie.”

“A good choice,” I nodded and laughed. “I’m sorry for fleeing last night, I wasn’t feeling well, and I think saying goodbye to William drained me more than I thought it would.”

“You’re entitled,” she said softly. “I’m going to miss him, not as much as you, I’m sure, but still. I know Aaron and Olivia have to go back to Pantona soon too, and it will be at least a year before I can go. My childhood followed me to Dovetail but I know it can’t stay.”

“What do you think of the Prince?” I asked. She smiled at that. “You like him?”

“I do,” she said, “he as very frank last night, he said he had instructions to stay at least year and that his brother is very eager for our marriage.”

“His brother?” I smirked. “Not himself.”

“I doubt he’d mind,” Annalise shrugged. “I’ve been thinking that I might not marry at all. Anessa didn’t.”

“Anessa had a companion who had children,” I pointed out. “She didn’t marry because she didn’t like men, and found heirs in another fashion. I don’t think it would work that way for you.” She frowned.

“You could be my heir,” she said, “or Athena and Aaron’s children.”

“If you think not marrying will solve your problem with Tristan I don’t think it will be that simple,” I said. She laughed. “Annalise, I feel like I need to tell you,” she shook her head.

“It doesn’t matter,” she said. I swallowed. “Marina, I mean it. We decided ages ago that we wouldn’t let this get in between us, right?” I nodded. “He mentioned something, after I told him,” she sighed, “if something happened I can’t blame you. Or him, really, it’s all such a mess. The only thing I can do is move forward with Eric or see if I want to.”

“Alright,” I said. “Athena seems to think I’ve been going around making conquests, or that I should.” Annalise laughed.

“Athena needs to learn that not everything is a battle,” she shrugged. “If it makes you feel more comfortable, I think that Lieutenant Lestoff and Lord Raymond are simply homesick, and you’re as Phanian as you are Cammadie. Or at least that’s how the Prince explained it to me.”

“That makes more sense,” I said. “I have to dress.” She nodded.

“Marina,” she said. “If it would make you happy, don’t let me stop you.” I smiled.

“I know,” I said, “I don’t know what will make me happy at this point.” I stopped. “Have you been Dreaming?”

“Not lately,” she admitted, “but I’ve been expending so much energy on learning battle magic, I thought that was merely it. Have you?”

“No,” I shook my head, “it’s odd. Not since we came to Dovetail. I’ve never gone this long without one, it’s worrying.” She nodded. “I thought perhaps after going to the temple yesterday.”

“I’ll write to Anselm,” she said, “perhaps he’ll finally come.” I nodded. I went inside and dressed quickly. I picked a red riding dress that Athena had given me as a birthday gift. I didn’t wear the color much, which is I think why she’d chosen it. We walked out to the front and saw the horses waiting. And the twins, and Aaron.

“Good morning,” Annalise smiled.

“Good morning Lisette,” Aaron said, “Duchess.”

“Count,” I said walking over to my horse. Papa gave me Rosemary a few years ago. I lifted to mount and Tristan came beside me to help. “Thank you.”

“Anytime,” he said. Annalise was looking away pointedly. “Could we talk later?”

“I don’t think there’s anything left to say,” I said softly. The Phanians walked out then. I glanced at Annalise as the prince walked to her and took her hand and kissed it. She was blushing.

“If you’ll excuse me,” Tristan said, “Your Majesty, may I be excused from this morning’s excercises? My grandfather has asked to see me before he returns to Dorin.”

“Of course,” Annalise said, “but Tristan, I,” he bowed and left. We rode out through the back gardens and into the valley behind the castle. The ride was pleasant, and the valley is beautiful, especially as the fall colors were changing.

“I was disappointed last night,” Lieutenant Lestoff said, coming beside me. “I was hoping for a dance.” I smiled at him.

“I’m afraid I’m not much of a dancer,” I explained, “however, last night especially I wasn’t feeling up to it.” He nodded ahead to where Annalise and Eric were talking. I noticed her laughing.

“He likes her,” he said.

“Good,” I nodded, “she likes him.” He nodded. “He called you something yesterday. Not your name.”

“Lefty?” He tried. I nodded. “Before I was his lieutenant he was my step brother, it’s an old childhood nickname, I use my left hand for most things, and my surname.” I nodded. “Still, I can’t help but be jealous, I understand you spoke of the Goddess with Raymond.”

“Only incidentally,” I said. “And if you’re to stay a year, I imagine there will be plenty of chances for dancing.” He nodded. “What do you think of our valley?”

“In general, I’ve always enjoyed Cammadan,” he said, “we never spent much time here, but Dorin’s a favorite, and we’ve sailed by your home often.”

“Dovetail is my home,” I said, “but I suppose you mean Brightcoast?” He nodded. “I’ve not been there since I was very small.”

“We’re always happy to see it,” he said, “where we grew up, Eric and I, Brinecliff, you can see it from certain heights and in the right weather. It means we’re close to home.” I smiled at that.

“He’s your step brother?” I said. “He was fostered with you? Like Annalise was at Pantona?”

“No,” he said, “when King Philip died, Queen Aimee married my father. We have a sister in common, Katrin. She’s not yet twelve and is quite insistent that I tell her everything about Annalise.” I laughed. “What she wears and eats mostly.”

“Perhaps next summer when we move court to Brightcoast you could send for her,” I suggested, “if Brinecliff is so close.”

“She’s no longer in Brinecliff,” he said. “At ten, Phanian girls are presented to the sisters in Vacana and then either taken to convent to begin training or given to Queen Elana and Princess Karina to be trained as ladies of court.” I nodded. “Katrin had no desire to become a sister, so she lives at the palace now. My father and Aimee are back in the city as well. We were on our way there when we received notice of the coronation and changed course to Dovetail instead.”

“I’m glad you did,” I said. He smiled. “For the queen’s sake, that is. She was anxious to meet the prince.”

“Of course,” he said. “For the queen’s sake.” He spurred his horse on. I smiled. I feel silly, I was moments away from Tristan being my lover just last night, and before that William.

But there’s something different about Lieutenant Damian Lestoff.

Everything I’ve Ever Wanted

I lay on my bed half dressed, Tristan on top of me, kissing me, stroking me, whispering over and over that he loved me.

I don’t know if he was drunk, or upset, and in that moment, I didn’t care, which I think makes me awful, but I didn’t care about that either. I had Tristan, he was saying the things I’d always wanted him to. He went to unlace himself, and I stopped him.

“It’s alright, love,” he said.

“No,” I whispered, “I love you, but not that, not like this, not when she,” he nodded and rolled off of me. “Besides which, I’m not ready.” He nodded.

“Alright,” he mumbled, and we kissed again.

“Tell me again,” I whispered.

“I love you,” he said. We kissed deeply. “I love you.” He drew back and placed his hands on my hips. I spread my legs, and there was a knock on the door.

“Marina?” The voice on the other end was Athena’s. “Are you in there? We saw you leave.”

“I’m here, give me a few moments.” I said. Tristan looked at me. I pulled my dressing gown on. I went to the door and cracked it open.

“Are you feeling well?” Athena asked. “You left so suddenly.”

“I’m alright,” I said, “just, it’s been a trying day.” Athena nodded. “Does Annalise need me?”

“No,” Athena said, “she’s with The Prince. She wants to go riding all together tomorrow though. Will you be up for  it?”

“Of course,” I said. “I’ll see that her things are set.” Athena nodded. “Anything else?”

“Have a lovely evening Tristan,” she called, pushing the door open. He was on his back with his hands against his forehead. “I suggest you go back to your own rooms. You’ll both think better of this in the morning.”

I looked back at him.

“How did she know?” I asked. He sighed.

“Because she’s Athena, and she knows me,” he said. “Marina,” he said as I sat down. He kissed my shoulder. “How I feel about you isn’t new. When we were younger I didn’t know how to love you.” He kissed me. “I’ve learned.”

“I know,” I said and pulled away. “You learned by loving Annalise.” He exhaled. “Tristan, we can’t do this. Like I said earlier, it isn’t fair.”

“To Annalise,” he said standing up, “she’s abandoning me for him.”

“It isn’t fair to her, but it also isn’t fair to me!” I said. “Or you. It isn’t what any of us want.”

“I want you,” he said. We kissed again. I pulled away.

“Please go,” I whispered. “I won’t be able to say no again.” He nodded and left, silently. I’d only seen that look on his face a few times before, now it was worse, tempered by hurt and pain.

“I saw he left,” Athena said softly. I nodded. “You didn’t, it didn’t finish?” I shook my head. “She wouldn’t forgive you, you know.”

“I know,” I whispered. “I didn’t care. Tristan,” I sighed, “he said he loved me, I’ve waited half my life to hear him say it.”

“This afternoon, while you were studying,” she said, “he asked Annalise to marry him.” I swallowed and nodded. “She said no, obviously, I’m sorry, I know this hurts you, but he’s angry and confused and.”

“I should have known,” I said. “I mean, I did, I knew he wouldn’t have come to me if they hadn’t quarreled, but,” Athena hugged me close. “He’s given up on her.”

“For now,” she nodded, “but when Prince Eric leaves, and our Lisette is free to look at Tristan again,” she sighed, “I don’t want you to be left in the dust over it, that’s all.” I nodded.

“I appreciate it,” I said softly. “You won’t tell Annalise?”

“No,” Athena said softly. “I won’t. I might even have a solution, that would help Tristan and keep you from being hurt.” I looked at her. “My grandfather and aunt spoke to me tonight, they’re eager to reunite Tristan and I with The Dumanis.”

“A merchant marriage,” I whispered. “For Tristan?”

“For both of us, actually,” she said. “But I have Aaron, and no merchant in their right mind would want to alienate Pantona, it’s too much good territory.”

“Tristan would go to Dorin,” I whispered. She nodded. “Leaving Annalise free to pursue Eric without him looking over her shoulder and giving him a chance at something.” Athena nodded. “Have you mentioned this plan to him.”

“No,” she said, “I was going to find him, and here we are.” She stood up. “I’ll see to Annalise tonight. We are actually going riding in the morning, so be sure to dress up. Lieutenant Lestoff asked if you would be coming. Sir Raymond too, you’ve clearly made an impression.” I wrinkled my nose. “Being the belle of court is fun, Marina, I promise. I even thought it was fun under Brayton, with Annalise it will be an absolute scream.” I giggled. “Tristan does care for you, I think he always has he’s just abominably stupid.”

“I know,” I said. “You’re going to make a very good Countess of Pantona you know.” She laughed.

“Olivia has very large shoes to fill when it comes to providing comfort and counsel, but I’ll do my best,” she said softly. “If you’ll excuse me, I have a brother to go castigate.” She got up and bounced out.

I sighed and leaned back into bed, knowing that I was moments away from having the thing I’d dreamed of since I was twelve.

And knowing that it wasn’t the right thing anyway.

The Second Ball

There was already another coronation ball planned for tonight, but now it was also a welcoming ball for Prince Eric. I was sitting beside Annalise, The Prince on her other side.

I glanced across the room and caught William’s eye. He’s trying not to look angry at me, or look me at all, I think.

“You’re quarreling with a lover?” I glanced over my shoulder and saw Lieutenant Lestoff. I blushed. “That guard, he’s yours then?”

“No,” I said, “not anymore.” He smiled.

“A shame,” he said, “for him, I mean.” I nodded. “I want to apologize, I believe on our ride here, I startled you.”

“I think it’s worth saying that your presence in Cammadan startles me Lieutenant,” I answered. He nodded. “You mentioned offending me, by bringing up my Sight.”

“It isn’t polite to discuss magic back home,” he explained. “We tend speak frankly about it because of my step mother, and of course The Queen, but I didn’t know,” he shook his head. “I didn’t know if it was something you would be comfortable discussing with a strange man.”

“I don’t find you terribly strange, Lieutenant,” I smiled. He grinned. “If you’ll excuse me.” I stood up and walked out onto the balcony and exhaled. I’d never done anything like that before.

But there’s something about him.

“If you were hoping to make me jealous it worked,” William said walking out. I looked at him.

“I wasn’t,” I said. He nodded. “We were just talking. And I told you yesterday,” the words caught in my throat. He came close to me, “William,” I whispered.

“I told you I was leaving,” he said, “and I am. I don’t belong here, and Aaron has offered to make me his manager so that he doesn’t have to leave.” I nodded. “But you could have waiting until I was gone to start throwing yourself at Phanian Navel Lieutenants.”

“I wasn’t throwing myself at him,” I said, not making eye contact. He lifted my face, “I’m going to miss you,” I said softly. I meant it to. I am going to miss him.

“I could have loved you, if you’d have let me.” He whispered.

“William,” I mumbled and he pulled me close kissing me. I knew this was our real goodbye. I didn’t know when he’d leave but I knew that it would be soon. I wrapped my arms around his neck. I thought of Annalise and Tristan as I’d found them this morning.

It would be easy to go with William tonight, I wouldn’t even be missed, I don’t think anyone would even think of looking for me in the barracks. I doubt he’d say no.

There is life beyond Dugarry. Brayton’s mocking echoed in my ears. But it was shut out by the warm soft voice, from earlier, assuring me that no, I was fine as I was.

“Lady Marina, The Queen was looking for you,” Tristan stepped out onto the balcony, “Master Santino, The Countess wanted to speak to you before you left in the morning.” William nodded and walked away. Tristan smirked at me. “Revenge is sweet.”

“Don’t tease me,” I said. “Are you alright?” He sighed.

“I was,” he said, “I was beyond alright, last night. and then,” he sighed. We looked inside and saw Annalise dancing with Prince Eric. “He’s what I feared he’d be.”

“I’ll keep my promise, if you want it,” I said. He took my hand.

“No,” he said, “no, this is between Annalise and I,” he looked at me. “Are you alright?” I nodded. “Truly?”

“Yes,” I said, “we were saying goodbye.” I sighed. “We knew we would have to eventually.” I leaned against the railing. “I was thinking today, about this room,” he smiled.

“It’s better now,” he said, “but I do remember good times here before.” I nodded. “My parents, and you, always so pretty in the candle light, leading the prayers to the goddess.”

“Don’t do this,” I said softly, realizing that he was still holding my hand. “We agreed, we were friends, and you and Annalise, it would be worse now.”

“I’m sorry,” he said, “truly, I didn’t mean to,” he looked down.

“What do you think of me?” I asked stepping back. “I love her, I’m sworn to protect her, and so are you, last night you were in her bed, and now you expect me to,” I looked down.

“I don’t expect anything,” he said softly, “Marina, I care for you. I always have.”

“But it’s only when things are difficult that you come to me,” I said softly. “Only when we don’t know the outcome of the battle or she’s dancing with a Phanian prince. All those years, those nights in that ballroom when I lead prayers you didn’t say anything, when I all but told you I loved you before you left, you laughed at me.” He looked down. “It isn’t fair, Tristan, let me go, please!”

I walked down the stairs into the gardens and took a deep breath, seeing the moon full, but even more stranger, Sir Raymond was sitting by the salt pond.

“You’re praying?” I asked softly. He looked at me and nodded.

“I like to pray at the full moon,” he explained, “Rana controls the moon too, because of the tides.” I smiled. “I expected you to be dancing, not out here.”

“I needed air,” I said softly. “Surely your sister didn’t send you all the way to Cammadan to pray at a salt pond. Come inside, most of the girls are quite eager to meet The Queen of Phania’s brother.” He laughed.

“The girls inside are eager to meet Eric,” he said, “not me.” I smiled softly at him. “Captain Dugarry is the queen’s lover?” I blinked at him. “And yours too.”

“Do you See, Sir Raymond?” I said softly.

“Yes Cousin,” he smiled, “the Gift runs in our family. It isn’t as strong as my sister’s, or yours at that, but yes.”

“You won’t tell them?” I asked. He shook his head. “Why not?”

“Secrets are useful,” he said, “and my sister and brother in law wish for Eric to marry Annalise, I wouldn’t defy that wish for an audience with the Goddess herself.”

He scares me, he really does look so much like Papa, but his aura, and the way he speaks are so like Brayton. It’s chilling. I made my excuses and went to my rooms, but it wasn’t what I thought it would be. Tristan was waiting for me.

“I think you’re in the wrong room,” I whispered. He walked up and kissed me. I was pressed against the door. “Tristan,” I said softly.

“I’m sorry, Marina,” he said quietly. “I’m sorry, I love you.” I nodded and we kissed again. He kissed my neck softly.

“I love you too,” I mumbled. I couldn’t resist anymore. This was all I’d ever wanted.