After waking up and lining up our ducks. (I sent Marina and Aaron to greet them. They’re good at people and manners and I need to catch my breath.) Olivia was helping me dress. Marina had chosen the clothes, a green uniform dress and the crown of the goddess. I was supposed to look splendid and terrible. I mostly felt ridiculous.
He looks different than my visions, but I knew him immediately. And I felt at ease. Eric. Prince Eric, My Eric, I probably shouldn’t drop the title. But it was like everything felt easy, when he took my hand.
Marina is sitting studying in the parlor now. I walked out and sighed loudly and flopped on an armchair.
“Can I help you?” She asked not even looking up from her books.
“What time do I have to change tonight?” I asked.
“Around 7 I suppose,” she said. I frowned. “You could try taking a nap.” I wrinkled my nose. “Annalise, I can either keep working and unlock the battle magic secret or entertain you this afternoon.” I laughed. “Go bother Aaron, I’m sure he’s plenty bored too.” I stood up and kissed her on the cheek.
“I am sorry for bothering you,” I said and she swatted at me and giggled. She’s changed so much in the past few months, and it’s a good change. I walked out into the gardens, wondering who if anyone I’ll come upon. I want to spend more time with the courtiers, but I think they all think I’m odd.
“Lisette,” Prince Harran called to me from across the lawn, he was standing with Tristan. I wanted to be furious with him after this morning, but seeing him, “That is, Your Majesty. Did I tell you, Captain Dugarry about my great shame when I first met our queen.”
“My great triumph,” I said straightening my shoulders. Tristan raised his eyebrows. “Prince Harran came to Pantona, when I was fourteen, with some very potent whiskey.”
“Ah,” Tristan nodded, “And Queen Annalise, or Lady Lisette as she was then,” he looked at me, that melancholy way of his, “drank most of it.”
“Here was this little girl, charming of course, and very beautiful,” Harran said, “and she sat down with me in Pantona’s study as I opened the bottle and asked for some. And then, I think it may have been at the Viscount’s urging, we wound up in a contest, and I found myself unable to stand while Lisette continued to pour herself drinks.” I giggled.
“it was not ladylike, but I was proud of myself,” I said. “I’m glad you’ve come.”
“The Chieftans insisted, my brothers were put out,” he said. “They want to court you,” I laughed. “Harran’s already had his chance at Pantona! I said they can line up behind half the men in Cammadan and most in Rastan and Phania.” I smiled.
“It’s a lot to handle,” I said, seeing Tristan’s face darken. “Which is why familiar faces and old friends can be helpful.” He nodded and bowed. “You’re still angry.”
“I’m frustrated,” he said. “Harran’s right by the way and it’s been hell.” I took his hands and lead him away from the crowd. We kissed then. “Last night, I thought we could change all that.”
“I want to,” I said, “Tristan I do, really.”
“So marry me,” he spit out. I kissed him. “I’m serious.”
“I can’t,” I said, “you know why I can’t, we’ve talked about it!” He frowned.
“Because the court wouldn’t like me, and Rastan and Phania’s honor must be served,” he frowned. “You sent away all the Provenance heirs, except Aaron, obviously.” I sighed. “Lisette, don’t argue with me, just,” I closed my eyes.
“Tristan, I can’t marry you,” I said, “I thought I’d always made that clear,” I wanted to cry, I might have been crying, come to think of it. “I love you, only you but, I can’t,” he nodded.
“Fine,” he whispered and kissed me again and then walked away. I feel like my heart is torn in two. I ran inside and luckily Marina had left. I walked into my room flopped on the bed and kept crying. I didn’t hear the door open, but then I heard Athena’s voice as she sat down and stroked my hair.
“That idiotic boy,” she muttered, “I’d strangle him if I could bring myself to.” I sat up and looked at her. “Honestly, I know he’s my brother, but he doesn’t deserve you and you don’t deserve any of this.” I smiled.
“Did they send you to fetch me?” I said. “I have a lot to do, I know, but I just,” she shrugged.
“It’s alright, we’ve told everyone you’re worn out,” she shrugged. “I don’t think it’s untrue, but you still need to make an appearance tonight.” I wiped my eyes. “What do you think of him?” I looked at her.
“I don’t know yet,” I said softly. “I was so surprised this morning, I thought I had more time.” She nodded. “Athena,” I whispered, “don’t tell anyone, about what Tristan asked. Not Aaron or Martin, please, I couldn’t take it.” She pressed her lips into her mouth.
“Alright,” she said. “What about Marina?” I sighed. Marina and I were at an understanding about Tristan finally, this morning not withstanding, but this was different.
“I’ll talk to Marina,” I said softly, “eventually.” She nodded.