Prince Eric & The Others

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

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

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

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

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

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

We approached them.

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

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

He was not doing it well.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Be Well Lady Marina,” she smiled.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

The Ship

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

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

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

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

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

“Is it him?” I asked.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Not the queen?” Athena asked.

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

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

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

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

“I’ll talk to him,” Athena said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Coronation Day

Everything in the past month happened so quickly, that I nearly forgotten it was coronation day when I woke up. I was still up ages before Annalise, though I’ll never beat Athena, who wakes up before the sun every day.

She says it’s from growing up with the General, I think she’s just showing off.

“Oh, good,” she said as I entered the sitting room, she was dressed in her guard uniform and had her gown for the ball hung up. I love that gown. It’s green, for Dovetail, but it’s embroidered with Pantona’s crest, it’s officially acknowledging her and Aaron’s engagement. “You’re awake, you can help.”

“Sure,” I said, “with what? We laid Annalise’s clothes out last night, and she’s still asleep so she couldn’t possibly need anything.”

need your help,” she sighed. “Aaron mentioned you were,” she sighed, “he said you’d been working on something.” I sighed.

“Fine,” I muttered and went back to my room. “I hadn’t planned on anyone using it yet, you should know.” I handed her a vial. She nodded. “It might not work.”

“It’s better than nothing,” she sighed. I looked at her. “I thought that I might be,” she sighed, “today though, well.”

“Oh,” I smiled. “Well, it should help, I suppose.” She smiled.

“Unless you want it for yourself,” she said. I shook my head. “No?”

“No,” I whispered and smoothed my own gown, taking it from where it was hanging. “I don’t think so. William is eager, but a little too eager, I think.” Athena nodded. “We barely know one another, and I don’t know if I love him, and I can’t think of that without loving someone.” I sat down miserably on the bed. Athena smiled and sat down and patted my hands.

“Well, good,” Athena said, “just because I made a horrible mistake the first time I went to bed with a man, doesn’t mean everyone should.”

“With Aaron?” I asked. She rolled her eyes. “Oh, Warren Davis, I didn’t know that you two had.” She shrugged.

“It was a non event,” she said waving her hand. I laughed. “Thank you.” I nodded. “I’ll help you dress.” I do love my gown, it’s pure light blue silk embroidered with small waves, the symbol of Brightcoast. Athena laced me into it and we went to wake Annalise.

When we walked into the bedroom, she was already awake and dressed. Not in either the gown we’d laid out for her, or a uniform, but a simple green dress, I smiled. It suited her.

“It’s wrong isn’t it?” She whispered. “I know I ought to wear the uniform or the gown which I will wear to the ball, but this,” she looked down.

“It’s perfect, Lisette,” Athena laughed going over and hugging her. “It’s important to remember that you’re not just The Girl Queen, you’re Lisette.” She looked at me. I nodded.

“Good,” she said, “go down and tell them we’ll be right there.” Athena and I turned. “Marina, wait.” Athena nodded and went. “Thank you.”

“For what?” I asked softly.

“For everything,” she shrugged, “I’m not sure I’d be here or feel even remotely calm about it.” I smiled and hugged her.

“Thank you,” I said softly. “I’m not alone anymore. And you’ll be amazing.” She nodded and we headed down together.

The coronation itself was quick and lovely. I’d seen the people gathered outside the palace before, but it was never like this, they cheered for their new queen.

“The dress was genius,” Dowager Countess Olivia said to me with a smile as we stood behind her. I grinned. “That was not Lisette.”

“She chose it,” I said simply, “I simply had it washed and laid with her other things.” The Countess nodded.

“You won’t be a Lady in Waiting long, Marina,” she said. I frowned. “She’ll find more for you to do with your talents.” I smiled.

“I hope so,” I said softly. “I was wondering if you’ve seen my father.” She looked at me and shook her head. “I don’t know how to help him through this.”

“You don’t need to,” she said softly. “When Marie died and then your mother, he did the same thing, he came back, and he will now. He and Caleb loved one another deeply.”

“Before he died, he said something to me,” I said, “about forgiving Annalise and Tristan.” She nodded. “He said that they never forgave him, and he mentioned my parents.”

“Not your parents, no,” she closed her eyes, “he meant Anton, and Thomas.” I looked at her. “It was all so long ago. But I was never supposed to marry Caleb, there were other plans.”  I looked at her and then at the General.

“He still loves you,” I said. She smiled.

“Perhaps,” she whispered. “Today isn’t for the past, however.” She nodded towards William. “With your father indisposed, may I offer you some parental advice about yours?” I swallowed. “He’s a good man, but not for you.” I nodded. “Not for any reason you might be thinking. I’ve never known William to make impractical decisions, and I’ve never known him to walk away from a chance to rise.” I nodded. “I don’t want to see you hurt, Marina.”

“He’s not near enough me to hurt me,” I whispered. She nodded. I knew this, this was why I’d kept him at arms length. It still hurts though.

We’re in Annalise’s sitting room now. Everyone is changing for the ball and I know I should be going to see William, but I don’t know how to tell him that I don’t want to see him anymore.

“Am I interrupting?” I looked up and saw Tristan. He was wearing a full dress uniform for the ball. Instead of the green tunic of the usual day uniform it was an embroidered green silk jacket, and straight black pants. Tristan was also wearing a blue sash because of his rank as Captain.

“No,” I said and stood up. “You’re here to escort the queen?” He nodded. “You look very handsome.”

“You look beautiful,” he said. “I hope that I can dance at least once with you. If William Santino can spare you.”

“You’re his commanding officer, I think that it’s up to you,” I pointed out. He laughed. Annalise walked out in her new gown. It was the same shade of green as the guard uniforms, embroidered with tiny blue swords.

“Hello,” she said softly.

“Your Majesty,” I curtesied, “if you’ll excuse me Captain Dugarry.” I stepped out of the room and headed towards the ballroom.

“There you are!” William walked up to me. I smiled softly at him. “I thought we were meeting before the ball.”

“I’m sorry,” I said, “The queen needed me.” He nodded. “I should get to the party.” He pulled me close. “William.”

“In a moment,” he said. “Did I upset you?”

“No,” I said softly, “it’s simply been a busy week.” He nodded. “I should go.”

“I wanted to speak to you,” he said softly, “I spoke to Lady Athena, and I’m going back to Pantona.” I swallowed.

“Truly,” I whispered. He nodded.

“Countess Olivia has decided to go, and that was why I joined the guard to begin with and The Captains have seen fit to send me,” he smiled and kissed me. “I will miss you.”

“I’ll write,” I said softly. He smiled. “And I’m sure we won’t be away from Pantona forever. If the Countess is there I know Annalise will want to visit.”

“True,” he said. “I was hoping to say goodbye properly.” I pulled away. “I didn’t mean.”

“You did,” I said softly, “I have to go.” I entered the ballroom and found Athena who was standing against a table, drinking a glass of sparkling wine. She was also in a dress uniform, though hers was styled as a gown. “William is going to Pantona?”

“Is he?” Athena said with a smirk. “You’re heartbroken of course.” I smiled. “I spoke to the countess as well, and you deserve better than a striver who can’t seem to keep his hands to himself.” Aaron walked up to us. “Count.”

“Captain,” he said and kissed her.

“I helped Marina,” she said.

“I heard,” he said. “You’ll excuse us.” I nodded as he swept her into the dancing. Perhaps I haven’t fallen in love, but I do have friends now. I’ll never be alone again.