Lord Brayton: King Of Shadows

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Letter!

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

I can’t believe that he actually wrote!

Lady Marina,

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

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

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

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

Your Friend,

Sir Tristan Dugarry

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

Sir Tristan,

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

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

Yours,

Lady Marina Sanpierre

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

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

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

A New Dream

I woke up this morning, covered in sweat. When the maid (another new one. I don’t know her name yet. She’s very quiet. My maids keep getting replaced. I think Lord Brayton is the cause, though I can’t be sure.) came in she wasn’t surprised. I suppose someone told her about my dreams.

This was a new one and it was terrifying. My True Dreams are always disconcerting. Whatever god or demon decided that seeing the future was in my fate also decided that I was not ever to see nice things, or things that made any kind of linear sense.

Instead I saw The Girl On The Horse, who I suppose I might as well call Princess Annalise now, we were no longer on the hill overlooking the city, now we were in the city, or what was once the city, it was engulfed in flames. Annalise was walking towards the palace, unafraid of the fire. I followed her, I didn’t have much of a choice, really, I go where the dream takes me, and she entered the grand hall of Dovetail palace. This was when I noticed that she wasn’t crowned as she’d been on the hill, she was still wearing that green velvet dress though, and she was still carrying the sword.

At the end of the great hall, Lord Brayton was sitting on the great throne, something, for all of his boldness, he’s not yet dared.

“Come to me, darling cousin,” he said. Brayton is also Annalise’s cousin, on her father’s side, “I’ve much to show you.” Then she made eye contact with me and smiled.

“I am coming,” she said, “you could tell him if you like.” That smile scares me almost as much as the burning city does. Like she’s looking forward to this fight, to any fight.

That was when I woke up, and the new maid helped me dress and then I walked out into the sitting room, where Papa was sitting.

“How did you sleep, love?” He asked. I sat down next to him, still glancing at the maid.

“Not as well as I’d like,” I said. He nodded. “I thought I might go to the market to see if I could find some herbs to make a sleeping tea.” He nodded, he dismissed the girl, which was nice.

“The same?” He asked me.

“No,” I shook my head, “no it was new.” When I told him about the dream he nodded. “Is that my fate, to be the go between?”

“I don’t think so,” he said, “but that’s part of why we want you to get away from here. The Sisters say that it’s possible Brayton’s energy is effecting your visions.” I nodded. “How would you feel about going to the resistance camp?”

“Won’t that draw suspicion?” I asked.

“If we told the truth, I suppose so,” he nodded. “I just assumed that we would lie.”

“Oh,” I nodded. “Well, yes, that would work. I suppose we could say I was going back to Brightcoast?”

“Just the thing,” Papa nodded. I smiled and spread my jam. “Perhaps next week?” I stopped.

“So soon?” I whispered. But I knew why. I’d grown thin, and I knew I looked pale. He nodded. “I suppose so.”

The Secret, The Truth

I don’t even know where to begin.

The twins have not even been gone six hours and it seems as though everything in my life has changed. First was dinner, which was awful, as usual, especially without Tristan there, because Lord Brayton was watching me.

Again.

It feels like he always is, and it gives me the shivers. Mercy Williams says that I should be flattered. Flattered? That he feels the need to undress me with his eyes every time I see him. Plus I’ve Seen the things he does. He’s done.

If my cousin is dead, it’s because of him.

If she’s alive, it’s likely she’ll have to fight him.

I don’t know which is worse.

After that, Papa said that he wanted to talk to me in his study. This is strange, normally after dinner, Papa and I sit in the parlor and I work on my embroidery, while he writes letters to home.

Our home is Brightcoast, it’s the largest Provenance in Cammadan. Well, technically, it’s mine, since it’s my mother’s family, and Papa isn’t even from Cammadan, but I’m only fifteen and legally can’t control the seat yet.

But tonight I went to his study, I was still wearing my navy blue dinner gown, with the green wheels embroidered on the hem. It was to represent my hope that Annalise would come back. Green is the color of the royal family and The Wheel is the symbol of the Goddess Rana, who they say Annalise is chosen by.

Papa wasn’t alone, which surprised me. He was with General Thomas Martin, the leader of the Resistance forces (The resistance fights Brayton’s secret army. I know very little about any of it), and Count Caleb of Pantona.

I was surprised to see Count Caleb, as his wife had left with the twins earlier in the day, and the two of then rarely travel separately.

“Sit down, Marina,” Papa said gently. I did so, and looked a three men. General Martin was by the fireplace, he’s taller than Papa, with broad shoulders, and dark hair, cropped short. He was wearing his green uniform. Count Caleb is even taller than the General, but he’s thinner, with grey streaking his auburn hair. “We thought it was time to speak to you about a few things.”

“Have I done something wrong?” I asked. The General smiled at me.

“No, Lady Marina,” he said softly. “On the contrary, according to your father, you’ve done very well.”

I didn’t know what that meant, but it was reassuring. Especially from the General, who, if Tristan and Athena (Sir Tristan and Lady Athena) are to be believed he doesn’t give out praise much.

“We wanted to speak to you about Princess Annalise,” Papa said. His eyes met mine. “I’ve told General Martin and Count Caleb about your dreams, my dear, and they think it’s time you knew the truth.”

“She is dead then?” I whispered.

“No,” The Count said, he was smiling too, and laughing a little. “No Lady Marina, Princess Annalise is not dead, she is in fact quite alive, and safe. She’s lived at Pantona these past fourteen years.” I swallowed and nodded.

“She’s coming soon, isn’t she?” I asked. The three men nodded and I sat back in the chair.

“We’d like to take the capital before she turns seventeen,” General Martin explained.

“And before that we want to move you from the capital,” Papa said. “It won’t be safe once Annalise shows herself.”

“But in the meantime?” I asked. This time I looked to the Count. He smiled softly at me.

“In the meantime,” he said, “you are to go on as you were.” I nodded. But for some reason all I could think about was the fact that Tristan was heading towards my cousin Annalise.

And for some reason that gave me a knot in my stomach.

Goodbye, Perhaps Forever

I was glad that Papa told me Tristan, Sir Tristan, (I must remember that we aren’t children anymore.) was leaving. He couldn’t tell me where, but I did want to say goodbye. He looked at me strangely, as I handed him the handkerchief.

“Just, something to remember me by,” I said. “And for luck.”

“I see,” he said, he was smiling, but I think he thought I was being silly. I suppose that I was. In the books that I read, brave knights going on quests always take a favor from a lady with them. Of course in those books the brave knight and the lady are in love, and Tristan is not in love with me. “That’s very kind of you.”

I was blushing, but then he kissed my hand. Honestly! I think I could have swooned.

“Do you know how long you’ll be gone?” I asked.

“As long as Countess Olivia needs us,” he said simply. “We’re escorting her home and then she said she had work for us.” Us. Of course he wasn’t going alone, his sister, his twin, Lady Athena would be with him. I blinked at him. “Have you Seen anything?”

“No,” I said quickly. Not about him. Not lately. But I had been spending an awful lot of time trying not to think about him. I couldn’t tell him what I had Seen either. Papa forbade me from telling anyone whenever my Dreams were about my cousin. He says that it’s too dangerous.

He’s probably right, unfortunately, but I could barely think with Tristan holding my hand like this.

“Please try to stay safe though,” I whispered. He nodded. “And to Lady Athena, too.”

“Of course,” he said.

That’s when Lady Athena came in. The twins are tall, and they have identical blond hair, although Athena’s is long, and Tristan’s falls just into his eyes. Those perfect green eyes, that they both also have. She insisted that it was time for them to leave. I bid them both farewell, but I kept thinking about Tristan.

He hadn’t been in my dreams of late, certainly not any of the Seeing kinds. Those were just the same one over and over again.

It’s her, she looks a lot like me, actually, the same lightly curly dark hair, and same brown skin, but her eyes aren’t at all alike, hers are grey, like stormclouds. She is sitting on a horse, with a sword at her side. She’s wearing a crown, well not a crown, the crown. The Crown of The Goddess. The view from the hill is clearly of Dovetail, the capital city, where I am.

She looks at me and smiles. It’s not a friendly smile, it’s fierce, like she’s relishing something.

I told Papa and he said that it was my cousin, Annalise, the true queen of Cammadan. It makes sense, Annalise has been missing my entire life. But she’ll be turning seventeen soon and that’s when she’d be crowned, if she’s alive.

I don’t know if she is, although if I’m dreaming about her, she must be, and she must be coming!