Chapter FourJonathon smote the garrison of the Philistines that was in Geba, and the Philistines heard of it. Then Saul blew the trumpet throughout the land, saying, “Let the Hebrews hear.”
1 Samuel 13:3
“The last letter from Earl Godwyn indicates he’s convinced the Prince of Pardiac to let him hire a hundred mounted men at arms. That brings his force up to more than four hundred.”
Cinhil rubbed his chin. “I’m sure Pardiac can raise more soldiers than that.”
“Godwyn believes at least as many have already been hired. He saw signs of barracks that were occupied all winter but vacated this spring. He doesn’t speculate who’s been hiring but there aren’t that many possibilities.”
“Jolyon of Meara, no doubt. Well we knew some of that was going to happen. Hopefully Godwyn’s efforts will raise us enough forces to at least counter those going north. We’ve deeper pockets than Prince Jolyon has, after all.”
“So does Torenth unfortunately.” Vasco folded the letter and started for the chest where the Prince’s correspondence was stored, only to pause as a shout went up from outside.
“Find out what that is, Vasco.”
The knight barely had to step outside before he saw one of the royal squires leaping down from a horse that looked almost spent. The boy – he looked barely old enough to have been promoted from page – had his despatch case open by the time Vasco reached him. “Sir Vasco, I’ve an urgent message for Prince Cinhil!”
“He’s right here in his tent, so don’t panic. Is there a verbal message too?”
The boy nodded and Vasco took his shoulder. “Come along then.” He glanced around at the eager looking men drawn by the commotion. “Take care of the horse. He seems to have been ridden hard.”
Inside the tent Cinhil looked up and his eyes went immediately to the dispatch case. “News from the court?” he asked, wiping dry the nib of the quill he’d been writing with.
“Yes Sire. Duke Tambert gave me this, sealed. He said he’d sent pigeons to Valoret and Coroth to spread the news but I should.”
Cinhil accepted the parchment and broke the wax seal. His lips tightened as he read the contents and then he nodded. “Good lad. You didn’t spare your horse, I’m guessing.”
“The Duke said it was important.”
“He was right. Get some food in you lad and we’ll get you a fresh horse. You’ll take my reply back to Rhemuth as soon as I’ve penned it.”
Vasco waited until the boy had left. “It’s happened then?”
“An army under Festil’s banners marched through the Dunadall pass two days ago and stormed Rengarth. They didn’t have the garrison to hold them back but one man got away. The banners indicate Marek and both his sons were there and perhaps three thousand men.”
“Only three thousand? We were expecting more.”
“That could just be a vanguard, or possibly Kyprian is moving to take the other high passes as well. Either way it’s more than Euan Cynfyn can handle on his own. He’s planning to fall back gradually towards his own lands and if need be into the mountain passes towards Dhassa or Caerrorie.”
“He should have enough men to hold those passes against three thousand.”
“Yes,” the prince agreed. “But Marek’s no fool. I’ll have to send reinforcements east now.” He pulled a fresh sheet of parchment before him and dipped his quill in the ink again. “Baron Gillis has twelve hundred infantry waiting around Rhemuth. If he marches…” He looked out of the tent flap at the afternoon light. “Tomorrow is as early as possible really. A week to reach the Lendour Mountains if he follows the Molling River. By then we’ll have more news.”
“Weren’t those going to be the reserve for Duke Jernian if Marek strikes south at Corwin? The Festils have historically been more than a little vengeful towards those they see as traitors to their cause.”
“Unfortunately we don’t know if he is a traitor to their cause. If Marek does turn south, Jernian should be able to hold out against three thousand long enough Earl Euan and Baron Gillis to march south, join forces with the ecclesiastical levies mustering near Dhassa and relieve him. And if Kyprian throws his main forces across the Western River into Corwin then any reinforcements I send will be far too little and too late.”
“So that’s what we know at the moment,” Donal concluded. There were bags under the knight’s eyes and he was unshaven. The sudden orders to put the Baron of Danoc’s army on the march had required herculean efforts from dusk the previous day until almost as late the next day as the last of Danoc’s supply wagons left the city. Only once that was done had Donal managed to find a moment to slip away to the rest of the council. A fatigue banishing spell let him continue for now but that was strictly a temporary solution. “Do you have any more recent information, Walther?”
“Unfortunately, yes.” Walther toyed with his signet ring. “Either by luck or planning, the Earls of Derry and Carcashale were both in Rengarth when it fell. With the smaller passes in their respective lands it’s likely they had some idea Tolan soldiers were in the area and wanted to compare notes, Rengarth’s well placed for both of them.”
“Were they killed?”
“No, but they’re dead now. Once Marek seized the fortress he decided it was the perfect place to declare himself rightful King of Gwynedd and demand the submission of the Earls.”
Anscom nodded. “It’s where Imre – his great-grandfather, not his father – died forty years ago. I take it the Earls weren’t inclined to be co-operative?”
“I presume not since Marek sent their heads to my cousin in care of a herald calling on him to make submission.”
“Somehow I can’t see your cousin being inclined to accept that offer.”
Walther shook his head. “No. Marek’s done us that favour at least. He’s made it clear what we’ll be dealing with if he does triumph: a king who brooks no dissent from his vassals. And Duke Tambert will be furious: the Earl of Derry was his cousin, which makes this a bloodfeud. The Cassani still take those seriously.”
“He was King Urien’s cousin too, through his mother,” Anscom added pedantically. “I don’t suppose he had anything more to say about the possibility of stepping forward as a Deryni?”
“He’s not in favour, Anscom. The Torenthi herald was Deryni and he had to argue very hard on the traditional immunity of heralds to persuade his vassals that they shouldn’t hand the man over to the Church for a trial and execution as a witch. He’s willing to offer the King his private assistance if it’s absolutely necessary but that’s as far as it goes.”
Anscom looked to Camille and she shook her head. “Jernian isn’t inclined either. It’s hard to say exactly what he has in mind, he’s excellent shields, but he indicated he’s already had to take extreme measures to hide the training he’s given his son and grandson. If anything that pressure may leave him inclined to turn, if not against Urien himself, then at least against Gwynedd’s Church. The prospect of attainder and being burned at the stake certainly hasn’t sweetened him towards them.”
“It’s hard to imagine that it could,” conceded Bethwyn. “Father Judicael, do you have any progress?”
“I have in fact.” Placing a bundle of parchment on the table; the knight of the Anvil, gestured over them. “It’s not precisely a full instruction but Father Joram did leave us some mention of how the powers were invested and how they manifested in all three of King Cinhil’s sons. It seems Cinhil set the potential in all three of them shortly before he died. He intended that only Alroy would then activate the potential, with his brothers essentially primed as back-up, but for whatever reason King Alroy never manifested any sign of Deryni powers before his death. Possibly for the best given how tightly he was under the control of his regents at the time. Both Javan and Rhys, however, had demonstrable shields even before Joram arranged ritual activation of their powers.”
“That sounds interesting,” Walther mused. “Have you noticed anything of the sort, Donal?”
“Not shields, but Urien and his sons don’t appear to have undergone the initial ritual so that might be asking too much. They seem to have a degree of sensitivity though – Prince Malcolm may have the same but he’s at Valoret’s seminary so if you don’t mind I’d rather not risk doing any testing on him.”
“That would be an unreasonable risk.” Judicael tapped the papers. “Does anyone else have any information that may apply? With Marek on the move we don’t have the luxury of further contemplation, we have to decide if we press on with this now.”
Camille nodded. “I’ve traced some record of similar empowerment rituals in the East. Predominantly they’re used to bring those with a thin Deryni bloodline to full operancy but the principles. From what I’ve found, it may be possible to carry out the ritual with only a single Deryni to oversee it. There would need to be at least one more assistant but that wouldn’t necessarily require power as such, it’s more a matter of logistics. That could certainly ease our exposure. It’s a daunting working though.”
Donal nodded. “You’re right about daunting, but bringing three more Deryni into the palace would have been something of a challenge. I’ve rarely been so glad to be wrong as I am about that requirement.”
No one else spoke up, so Judicael raised his staff and Camille mirrored him. “Firstly then, Anscom’s proposal to offer Urien the services of Deryni in return for his explicit protection of them and a relaxation of the civil provisions of the Statutes of Ramos.”
Bethwyn gave Anscom an apologetic look. “I’m sorry but no one who’s been to Gwynedd seems inclined to believe it would be accepted.”
The old priest nodded sadly and looked around the table. “Absent any support for the plan, I withdraw my proposal.”
“If I thought it might be accepted we might be able to revisit the idea. Let the current fears of Festil’s Deryni fade and perhaps royal patronage for a few Deryni might be possible,” Donal suggested diplomatically.
“The next question then is if we go ahead and support Urien Haldane in assuming the Haldane potential. Assuming we’re able to, that is. Even if he only developed shields, that would still leave him some defence against Marek of Festil.”
“I believe you know where I stand,” Donal answered.
To his surprise Anscom nodded too. “I agree. Absent direct Deryni support he’ll need this.”
“It’s a risk that he may alienate his lords and bishops,” cautioned Bethwyn. “Do you have a plan for handling that, Donal? And for keeping the Council at a safe remove from this?”
“I don’t think it’ll be necessary to tell Urien about the Council at all.” Donal looked at Anscom. “I think the simplest way would be to bring you in as a correspondent, Anscom.”
“What do you have in mind?”
“I don’t think we need to reveal your true identity but it’d be perfectly true to say you’re a great-great-grandson of Saint Camber and offering assistance out of respect for your forefather’s support of the Cinhil Haldane…”
“Hm.” The priest sat back. “So you want me to devise this ritual for Urien then?”
“Devise it and help me carry it out, if possible. Let’s be honest, I’ve probably the least experience of any of us in these workings. Your experience would be invaluable.”
“Well I said I’d visit Gwynedd myself if need be for my own plan. I can hardly offer less now, can I.” Anscom crossed himself. “God watch over us. Bethwyn’s right, if Urien’s found to be ‘dabbling with witchcraft’, the Curia will probably denounce him outright.”
“The possibility’s been raised. It’s one reason Prince Cinhil’s been careful to stay out of Rhemuth while we work on this. In the worst case scenario, he can plausibly deny all knowledge. He’s not exactly happy with the idea but Urien gave him a royal command to denounce him if the worst comes to the worst. It’ll be damaging but as long as he can’t be connected to this, he can take the throne himself. Without a son of his own, Prince Malcolm would be heir and he’s even safer – the clerical supervision of the last two years will prove absolutely that he hasn’t been involved with Deryni.”
“I hope you have a less drastic notion. Even under those circumstances, the Haldane’s position would be direly weakened if Cinhil’s forced to usurp the throne from his own father. And he’d hardly be pleased if we cause that with some blunder.”
“Assuming that the ritual succeeds, all we’ll need to cover for is anything Urien displays publically and barring an outright duel arcane or use in battle, we should be able to avoid that.”
“Those could be damning enough.”
“Not necessarily.” Donal smirked. “For once the Church’s fear of Deryni will work in our favour. The church have been formally asked to invoke God’s aid. Specifically to ask that he be ‘Shield and Sword to our goodly King Urien against the sorcery of the Festil Pretender’. Bishop Jashan’s already made it the central theme of prayers in his diocese. By the end of May, every priest in Gwynedd will be leading their flocks in prayers to that effect.”
“That seems a little cynical,” Judicael observed reluctantly. “But I see where you’re going with that. If… no, let’s be honest. When Urien has to use magic in battle it’ll be seen as God’s favour.”
“Torenthi Deryni will recognise the truth of course, but they won’t have any credibility in Gwynedd, which is what we’re primarily concerned about. The Curia may suspect, but how can they challenge what’s evidently exactly the miracle they’ve been praying for?”
“That is clever. You may have forgotten one thing though. Duke Jernian will recognise it too and he might see it as license to use his powers openly as well. If Urien lets him get away with it, it’s almost inevitable the Church will react.” Camille shook her head. “If Jernian acts and the Church compare what he does to Urien’s actions this could still end very badly.”
“Do you see any other way?” Donal asked impatiently. “Anscom’s plan is the only other way and we’ve agreed the time isn’t right for that.”
“Peace, Donal.” Judicael glared at the younger man he subsided. “We agree it’s the only feasible plan. Seeing these problems is the first step to working out how to counter them. Could we confide in the Duke perhaps?”
Walther shook his head. “His Grace the Duke of Corwyn is an enigma. There are days I think even he isn’t sure where his allegiances lie.”
Hundreds of miles to the south, that very enigma was confounding his son and heir.
“It’s too early to commit our forces,” Jernian de Corwyn insisted as he and Stiofan stood atop one of the great towers of Coroth Castle and watched their levies adding to the constant bustle of the Castle’s day to day business. “How many of our scouts have come back from scouting the east bank of the Western River? Not one. Kyprian could have another army the size of the one hounding Euan of Lendour, just waiting for us to leave the path open. The first we’d know of it would be his vanguard reaching the river.”
“He could, yes.” Forty years old this spring, Stiofan had had cause over the years to wonder if Prince Cinhil ever felt as impatient with the King as he sometimes felt towards his father. “Or he could have them all striking into Eastmarch and our levies are frozen uselessly in place for fear of something that isn’t there. For God’s sake, father, even if he had six thousand men hidden in Fathane, Coroth Castle’s never fallen to siege and it can be supplied by sea indefinitely.”
“I’m sure that would be a great consolation to the folk of the city,” his father shot back. “Not to mention the towns and villages in their path. I’ve not kept the peace in Corwyn all these years to leave them at Festil’s questionable mercy.”
Stiofan leant against one of the crenulations that ringed the tower. “That peace is as much Urien Haldane’s work as anyone else’s. Without a stable Gwynedd we’d be open to all the petty squabbles that’ve bled the states of the Southern Sea for as long as anyone can remember.”
“You might think that, but I don’t recall that being the case when I was a boy and Corwyn was a free and independent duchy.”
“I don’t know whose childhood you’re remember father, but even then wasn’t it the case that we had Gwynedd’s protection? No one could attack us from the north and west without the Haldane’s consent and if we were ever threatened out of the east or south then Gwynedd would defend us rather than see a hostile power on their doorstep. So much for our independence!”
“We were independent, son. Free of benighted Church that hates and fears you and I for what we are. Free of being Urien Haldane’s lapdogs. If he thinks he can save his kingdom by abandoning Corwyn then do you think he’d hesitate?”
“He’s certainly no cause to show us loyalty if we show him none. You know what they whisper about us already. If we refuse to march our levies to join him he’d have the perfect excuse to attaint our House and then where would we be?”
“Oh I doubt he could afford to do that. Not when he has to fight Torenth already. He’d need to raise another army against us when he’s already stretched. No. He’ll wait, and so will I. And when I have to move in – don’t worry, son, I know I can’t wait forever – then the King of Gwynedd will know he owes me his throne.”
Stiofan turned and looked at his father. “Which King will that be, father?”
He saw surprise on the old man’s face and then approval. “Ah, you grown sharper, Stiofan. That’s the question, isn’t it?”
Lowering his voice, Stiofan hissed: “You’re discussing treason.”
“Treason to whom? There are two men declaring themselves rightful Kings and only God knows which will end up on top.” Jernian smiled thinly. “There’s no use jumping too soon and risk making a mistake.”
“You’ve taken oaths to Urien. I’ve taken oaths to him too.”
“And on balance, I think he’s been a better king than Marek would be,” the Duke conceded. “Don’t look so surprised. It was his father that forced me to become a vassal to the Haldanes. I’m not so mean-spirited as to blame him for his father’s deed.”
“Then why are you even considering siding with Marek?”
“Because he isn’t proposing to be my King.”
Stiofan jerked. “You’ve been in communication with him!”
“I can hardly stop the man sending me letters, now can I? Thus far he’s indicated that he’d accept our former independence, which isn’t too generous of him since it would require no effort at all. Then again, all he’s asking for for in exchange is that I do nothing. I have to wonder what he might offer me when he wants my active support? Carthmoor perhaps? Add those lands to Corwyn and to all practical purposes I’d be ruling the full extent of what was once the Kingdom of Mooryn.”
“Please tell me you haven’t suggested that to him,” Stiofan exclaimed.
“And give him a letter so incriminating to use against me? My dear boy, did I drop you on your head as a child?”
Stiofan shook his head and turned his head south, looking across harbour and out over the sea. “No, but you did tell me that straddling a fence could get uncomfortable in a hurry.”
“The art there, Stiofan, is knowing when it’s wise to get off.” Jernian walked across and put his hand on Stiofan’s shoulder. “I know it’s frustrating, waiting for me to act. Waiting for me to stand aside and let you rule too, for that matter.”
“Father!” Stiofan froze, shocked. “I’d never…”
“Of course you thought that. It’s only natural. A man your age, raised to rule but not given the chance to. Imagine how poor Richard MacInnis’ sons must have felt before he went and outlived them all? Not that I think I’ll last as long as he did. But I’ve not spent all these years having the Haldane Court sneer and whisper at my back to let a chance like this pass. I’ll give you a Corwyn free of them for good or a Corwyn so high in their esteem that no one dares look at you sideways, the way they have me.”
It hadn’t occurred to Roisian before but for all the politics that swept through the great hall of Laas, she’d been sheltered from the consequences until now. Cor Culdi, ancient seat of the Earldom of Culdi, had been taken by storm and while the men who’d fallen within and without its walls had been removed for proper burial the stains of the short and savage battle lingered.
The apartments that had been made available to the women of the royal household had been spared that at least. The Earl of Culdi had elected to enter the Church and though he retained the title for life, a bequest from his uncle the late King Jasher, Jashan Haldane had never had a wife to bring here. The rooms for a Countess and her attendants were instead held ready for guests and being empty no one had bothered to defend them.
“Look at these hangings,” Annalind cried out, running one finger down the rich tapestry. “This Earl must have lived like a king to have rooms like this only for his guests.”
“They’re beautiful,” Roisian agreed with barely a glance, instead moving towards the window. This castle might not be equal in size to the palace at Laas but it compared well to many of the castles they’d stayed in as they swept north, one lord after another joining her father’s host until at last they crossed the border into Gwynedd. If this was residence of only one of Gwynedd’s great lords, did that mean they were all this wealthy?
“Girls.” Urracca clapped her hands as she entered the chamber.
“Mama, look at this tapestry, isn’t it grand?” Annalind took her mother by the hand and drew her to it. “May I take it home to Laas? It’s father’s now, isn’t it?”
“Silly girl. Don’t you remember that you’ll be marrying a prince? You’ll be able to take it with you as part of your dowry when you go to live with him.”
“Whichever prince it might be,” Roisian murmured.
Annalind shot her a pained look. The death of Prince Adolphus at the hands of a Haldane assassin had left her temporarily adrift, with no fiancée until one of the Torenthi ambassadors, having communicated somehow with his master through a trance-sleep, had proposed moving the engagement to the Prince’s nephew Marek, second son of King Marek. The sudden change had left Annalind weeping for days.
Urracca seized her firstborn daughter by the arm. “That was uncalled for, Roisian. Apologise to your sister immediately.”
Roisian ducked her head. “I’m sorry,” she whispered.”
“I didn’t hear that.”
“I’m sorry Annalind. It’s just, Prince Marek must be on the march now with his father’s army and soon Prince Nikola will join him and what if they come to harm?”
The Princess sighed and drew both girls against her. “Alas, I can’t promise you that it couldn’t happen. Men die at war and it’s a woman’s lot to wait and pray that it isn’t her man that perishes. But we’re far more fortunate than most – our men are princes, well-armed and surrounded by their faithful soldiers. So we cannot show our fears or the wives of those at far greater hazard will also despair and that would never do.”
Briskly she stepped back and looked them over. “I’m glad to see you’re both still presentable.”
“We’re not little girls anymore, mother,” Annalind assured her.
“You’ll always be my little girls. Now then, the lords have almost all assembled down in great hall so we should go down to join your father.”
The three of them descended a side stair that had a discreet door leading into the Earl’s chamber behind the Great Hall. Not all order had been restored here, but the broken chairs had been removed and since seeing the room on arrival Roisian noted that the writing desk and the empty chests that once held the estate’s valuables had been moved aside.
Standing in the open space left behind, squarely on a rug that Roisian thought might have been woven in Kheldour and now covered up unsightly bloodstains, Jolyon turned and beamed at their arrival. He wore his armour, which had been cleaned and polished since the previous day’s battle (even if the floor hadn’t been) but no helm and rather than the mace he’d carried in battle earlier in the day the state sword of Meara, hilt studded with amber and a great emerald stone in the hilt, at his side.
“My lady,” he greeted Urracca, taking her hand and kissing it. She accepted it regally, as she did the salutes of the Prince’s companions.
The Earls of Kildaren and Cloome had long been Jolyon’s staunchest supporters and Roisian knew – though she’d always been careful to hide her knowledge – that at one time Lere Ramsay of Cloome had been a strong candidate for her hand. Though it hadn’t in the end been the match agreed upon, she felt on this occasion that he might need reminding of that fact for he gave her an admiring and perhaps even possessive look as he saluted her in turn after her mother.
“Two of the fairest flowers of Meara, am I not right gentlemen?” asked Jolyon fondly. “Come, let us join the feasting and remind my other loyal lords for what we fight.”
He took their mother’s arm and Loren Kincaid took Annalind’s, leaving Roisian no choice but to enter the hall upon the arm of Lere Ramsay. Within the hall, two long tables held what seemed to be almost every Baron and Earl in Meara, while at the head table her father’s own officials left room only for the four royals. Roisian was relieved when, having seated her, Ramsay had no choice but to move down to his place at the near end of one of the long tables, with Kincaid heading the other.
Her father stood before his own seat, to her left and rather than sitting he placed the sword before him on the high table and reached for the goblet set before him. “Welcome my friends, to Culdi. Welcome to Meara, for truly we have restored this long lost land to our own people. I’m sure you’re all eager to taste the fruits of our first victory here so I’ll speak only briefly and then Bishop Stewart will lead us in prayer.”
Raising his cup, Jolyon sniffed and then smiled appreciatively. “I hope your cups are full with the bounties donated us by poor Jashan Haldane, driven off with his tail between his legs, because I’ll begin with a toast. You may have heard that my daughter Annalind’s betrothed, Adolphus of Eastmarch, has sadly perished before the two could be wed. It’s with great joy I can now share with you now that just as Adolphus’ nephew Marek has inherited his uncle’s birthright, he has also stepped up and pledged that he shall marry my fair daughter in all honour. Let us all drink to their future happiness!”
There were a chorus of cries of approval before the cups were gulped from eagerly by the men.
“Secondly,” Jolyon announced. “I know there’s been talk that this victory is the extent of our campaign, and that having taken it, we’re here only to loot it and ride home, like the brigands the Haldanes like to call us.”
This time the voices raised were not in approval and Jolyon waved his hand for silence. “Well it’s nonsense,” he declared once some semblance of peace had been restored. “A hundred years ago, my cousin Ambert Quinnell broke a solemn pact, sworn between the two branches of our house, that one day Meara would be reunited. Instead of honouring that agreement, he sold his patrimony to the Haldanes. I tell you now, we’re here to redeem that oath. Redeem it and more. So I swear, I Jolyon, Prince of Meara, Prince of Cassan and Lord of the Purple March!”
There was a stunned silence. Cassan had once been part of Meara, and the Earldoms of Culdi and Kierney once part of Cassan, so the claim there was expected. But the Purple March, stretching along the south of the Gulf of Kheldour?
Lere Ramsay raised his goblet. “Hail Jolyon, Prince of Meara and Cassan, Lord of the Purple March.”
“Hail Jolyon the Conqueror!” agreed his brother James from beside him and the other lords raised their own cups to add their own salutes and accolades the newly stated ambitions of Roisian’s father.
The feast that followed went on well into the night but Urracca gave Jolyon a pointed look and stated her intention to withdraw once the balance of the intake began to favour ale, wine and other contents of the fled Bishop’s cellars rather than food.
The Prince insisted on drinking one more toast, to the women of House Quinnell before they could leave the table but at last Urracca extracted her daughters and the three of them retreated to chamber behind the great hall. Roisian saw shadows dance as their torches only half-lit the room.
“I shouldn’t have let your father insist on bringing you with him,” the princess said with a scathing look back towards the hall. “An army is no place for maidens like yourselves. I believe I’ll sleep with the two of you tonight. There’s no knowing how late your father will come to bed.”
The maids they’d brought with them had laid a fire in the bedchamber and Urracca must have been weary herself not to complain at how sleepy the women were as they helped their mistresses into night gowns and ushered them beneath the sheets. In irony that only Roisian seemed to feel, the warm coverlet was crimson and embroidered along the hems with the Haldane lion.
She slept at one side, Annalind in the centre and her mother on the other side. Soon the even breathing from beyond Annalind showed that Urracca had surrendered to sleep. Annalind, however, retained a measure of excitement from the feast and was slow to settle down.
“What has you so lively?” Roisian whispered sleepily after Annalind’s tossing and turning pushed her close to the edge of the mattress.
“I’m marrying a handsome young prince now,” her twin reminded her. “Not one nearly twice our age.”
“Very good, well done.” Roisian yawned. “Is that all?”
“Well there is one more thing.”
Urracca snorted briefly and both girls froze before realising it wasn’t a sign they’d disturbed her.
“I’m sure you won’t go to sleep without telling me, so go ahead.”
Annalind moved to whisper directly into Roisian’s ear. “If anything happened to Prince Festil, I’ll be marrying the next King of Gwynedd!”
“God forbid that either of our betrothed loses their elder brother,” Roisian replied after considering that.
“What? It’s not as if I wish him misfortune but you heard what mother said. Men die at war.”
“Yes, but if Prince Nikola’s brother dies, then he’ll be King Kyprian’s heir so I’d have to live with him on Torenth rather than Laas.”Next Chapter