The Hollow Crown
Following the downfall of a tyrant, years have passed in prosperity for the kingdom of Ceredigion. Now, as the time comes to celebrate the new king’s nuptials, the specter of a new enemy emerges to destroy all that has been painstakingly built in those years.
Tryneowy Kiskaddon has grown up learning military and diplomatic strategy from her father, one of the king's closest advisors. She feels her destiny lies in defending the kingdom as a knight, not as a Wizr as her parents have decided, though no lady of the realm has taken up the sword in a century. As she seeks to understand her own Fountain-blessed powers, she studies in the tradition of her mother while training in secret and closely following the realm's politics, alarmed by her mother's vision of an impending clash and a devastating future.
But the pieces on fate's game board are in motion, and on the eve of battle, a threatening force irrevocably changes the future of the kingdom and her own. Does Trynne have what it takes to maneuver Ceredigion's key players into position and outsmart the kingdom's enemies—even those still concealed in shadow?
Release date: June 13, 2017
Print pages: 304
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The Hollow Crown
The Fall of Callait
Trynne stared fixedly at the Wizr board, sensing her father was about to defeat her but unsure of how. She glanced up from the beautiful pieces and saw his smug smile, which made her even more determined to prevent it. Her hand was poised over a knight, her favorite piece, but wouldn’t Father expect her to use her favorite? The Wizr set was a gift he had received from the old king Severn when her father was a child hostage at Kingfountain. Owen had been trained in the game by Ankarette Tryneowy, Trynne’s namesake and the woman who had saved her father’s life when he was a child. She loved hearing stories about her father’s past. She never grew tired of it.
She hated losing Wizr.
“I swear, Trynne,” Fallon said with an exaggerated yawn, “if it takes you any longer to move, the pieces will actually grow moss.” He was only three years older than her, but he acted as if he were a man grown. “Just move there and get it over with,” he added, pointing to one of the squares.
“Did I ask for your counsel, Fallon?” she said in frustration. She began grinding her teeth. “You can’t beat Father either.”
“But it’s taking so long.” Fallon sighed melodramatically. “Let’s go down to the city for a pie.”
“You just ate,” Trynne said, turning her gaze to him. The boy had inherited a full dose of his parents’ impetuosity, a roguish grin, and a twinkle in his gray-green eyes that she found fascinating—not that she would ever say so out loud. Their families had been friends for longer than she could remember. Her father and his mother had once intended to marry, but circumstances had thwarted their union. They remained close friends. Fallon had been sent to live with the Kiskaddons for several years so he could learn the skills of leadership and the ways of other lands—knowledge he would need before inheriting his titles.
“The sooner you move, the sooner Lord Owen will beat you. Then we can go somewhere more interesting,” he quipped.
“I’m not done with the game yet,” she said stubbornly. She enjoyed roaming Ploemeur with Fallon, but she also hated letting her father win Wizr without working for it. “Go fetch a pie, then. I don’t care.”
Fallon sighed and raked his fingers through his thick dark hair. He blew out his cheeks and started pacing again, giving her one of his impatient looks that said Hurry up, Trynne. Well, let him fuss. She didn’t want to be rushed. At seven years old, she could defeat almost everyone in the palace at Wizr except her own parents and the Wizr master they had hired to teach her. She pressed herself every day to get better, secretly hoping not just to defeat her father, but also to feel evidence that she was Fountain-blessed herself. Both of her parents had the gift, after all. Her father was a knight in service to King Drew, and her mother was one of two Wizrs who also served King Drew. Trynne hungered to follow in her father’s footsteps.
Of all the pieces on the Wizr board, it was the knight that intrigued her the most. Even though it was not the most powerful piece, it was the most capable of defeating the Wizr piece. Its hooklike pattern of movement allowed it to get places other pieces could not, and it could be used in sneak attacks. She loved the look of the piece so much that she would have preferred a horse’s head sigil to her father’s badge, the heads of three antlered bucks, or her mother’s, the Raven.
Suddenly, everything snapped into place in her mind, and Trynne recognized the move her father was about to make. She blinked in surprise. Why hadn’t she seen it before? She suddenly moved her hand away from the knight and then countered his upcoming move with her deconeus. Her eyes flashed with triumph as she looked up at him.
“Well done, Trynne,” he said approvingly. He was very patient with her, even though he was an inordinately busy man. His duties often called him away to Kingfountain or other portions of the expanding realm. He was the king’s most trusted emissary, and Trynne admired him for the way he honored that trust.
“That means this is going to take even longer, doesn’t it?” Fallon said, depressed.
“I’m afraid so,” Owen replied with an honest chuckle. “Unless you want to forfeit now?”
“Never,” Trynne said obstinately. “Go on and get your pie, Fallon. We’ll probably be done by the time you get back to the castle.”
He wore a dagger on his belt—he was ten after all—and closed his fist around it. “Do you want me to bring you one, Trynne?”
“Blueberry,” she answered, not taking her eyes off the board. She was calculating all the possible moves her father might make.
“I don’t like blueberries,” he said with a sniff.
“Get whatever berry you want, then,” she chided, watching eagerly to see what her father would do next.
“I like apples,” he said.
“They have apple tarts at Madame Fisk’s,” she said absently.
“Where is that?”
“Two streets past Grenuin,” she answered. She could walk Ploemeur blindfolded without losing her way.
“You wanted raspberry, right?”
“Fallon!” Trynne sighed with exasperation.
“He’s just goading you,” Owen said with a laugh. They could both hear Fallon chuckle as he sauntered away. Her father’s next move countered her threat with one of his own. She was about to respond quickly, but she paused again, tapping her finger on her lips, trying to see if there was another way. Her father was always adept at finding solutions no one else would consider—a quality she wished to share.
Not long afterward, Trynne’s mother, Sinia, came into the solar with a guest. Trynne glanced up and recognized the newcomer as Lord Amrein, master of the Espion. The game was halted immediately. Trynne’s eyes shot to the little white patch amidst her father’s dark hair, which she adored. It was the mark he had earned when Ankarette saved his life all those years ago.
“That you are even here does not bode well, Kevan,” Owen said simply as he rose from the stuffed chair opposite Trynne. His frown deepened the wrinkles around his eyes; he expected bad news. “I take it that Brugia has besieged Callait at long last.”
The master of the Espion smiled and shook his head. “It never ceases to amaze me how you know things before you’ve been told. Am I to assume that Lady Sinia had a vision?” He glanced at Trynne’s mother expectantly.
Sinia nodded, her gaze guarded and thoughtful. “The king sent you to bring Owen to Kingfountain.”
“Indeed, my lady. The matter is most urgent. King Maxwell has hit Callait with his largest force and blockaded the city with his fleet.”
“That’s bold of him,” Owen said flatly. He sounded neither surprised nor worried. Trynne knew that no man could best her father in battle. There was no doubt of what the outcome would be.
“Bold, stupid, call it what you will,” the Espion master said with a shrug. “The king would like you to advise him. I came by boat, which is the fastest transportation I can muster, but with your lady’s help, you can be at Kingfountain this evening.”
Owen glanced at his wife a moment. Her hand covered her swollen belly protectively. The two exchanged a glance that was private and serious. Trynne didn’t understand it, but she was excited by the prospect of war. Her father had managed to subdue all of King Drew’s enemies through his tactics and cleverness. Now, it would seem that it was King Maxwell’s turn to fall into line.
“Can I come with you, Father?” Trynne pleaded. She loved visiting Kingfountain.
He glanced down at her, his raised eyebrows showing he was surprised by her question, and perhaps a little annoyed. “No, Trynne. You’re only seven. You need to stay in Ploemeur.”
She understood why she had to stay, but it frustrated her. There was an ancient magic that held the Deep Fathoms at bay and kept them from sweeping over the duchy of Brythonica. The invocations needed to be renewed regularly, and by someone from Trynne’s lineage. Since Sinia and Owen didn’t know how long they’d be away, Trynne would have to stay behind to manage the defenses of the borders of Brythonica. It was an important job, but she chafed at the thought of being trapped in Ploemeur.
Trynne hungered to see the rest of the world, which she had only learned about by stories from her father. She wanted to see the giant waterfalls of Dundrennan. She longed to visit Fallon’s homeland, Atabyrion, and visit Wizr Falls. She’d been to Pree when the treaty was signed, but she could remember only snatches of the journey. Her mother’s magic as a Wizr made it possible to cross great distances. But that same magic bound her to Ploemeur so she could keep the boundaries that had been set by ancient Wizrs long dead and gone.
The adults were talking again, not including her, and Trynne wished she had gone with Fallon to fetch treats from the city. But while she wouldn’t be able to finish the game anyway, at least she’d be able to see her parents off. Within the hour, she followed them to the bubbling fountain inside the chapel of the palace. From that fountain, Sinia could transport them to any of the major fountains along the linked paths binding the kingdoms’ cities together. She listened in on their adult conversation for a while, grew bored, and then walked around the edge of the fountain, running her hand along the smooth stone. There were flecks of wetness from the constant splashes of the waters. Her father had donned his hauberk and war tunic. He’d strapped his sword over both, and she noticed the raven-marked scabbard that was so special to him. A relic of the Fountain, it healed the wearer, and her father claimed it had saved his life more than once. She was relieved to see him wearing it. Her parents clasped hands and gestured for her to come.
“Try not to argue too much with Fallon,” Sinia said gently.
“I’ll try, but he really can be difficult sometimes,” she said sincerely, making both of her parents laugh for reasons she couldn’t understand.
Her father ran his fingers through her dark, curly hair. Trynne liked her hair color, even though its mouse-brown tint wasn’t as fashionable as her mother’s golden locks. She rarely fussed over her hair as girls were supposed to, but she privately enjoyed the way it linked her to the Kiskaddons. For while the people of Ploemeur doted on her, which she enjoyed, it was her father’s approval she sought most. He teased some of her curls, then knelt down and kissed her cheek. She kissed his cheek in return, the stubble tickling her lips.
“I’ll miss you, Papa,” she said, squeezing him tightly. Her mother bent more awkwardly with her swollen abdomen, and pressed a kiss into her hair.
“Will you stay long, Maman?” Trynne asked, hugging her in return.
“I don’t think so. You will be in charge while we are gone.”
Trynne beamed. It was disappointing they were leaving without her, but it was heartening to know they trusted her. A mist rose up from the water, and when it receded, they both were gone.
Trynne went back to the solar to search for Fallon, but he wasn’t back yet. Lord Amrein had taken a seat at the table and was savoring a meal one of the servants had brought him in her absence. She studied the Wizr board for a while, thought about a move that would counter her father’s, and then shifted the piece. They’d have to wait until he returned to continue the game.
Feeling restless, she went back to her room to read while awaiting word of Fallon’s return. The corridor was empty and had a strange, lonely feel to it, like the loss of candles in a dimly lit room. It was because her parents were both gone. She brushed her hand along the wainscoting, trying to decide on which book she wanted to read. It was nearly sunset and the servants were starting to light the torches set in the wall sconces.
She opened the handle to her room and walked inside. Her enormous bed with the large wooden posts draped with silky cream-colored curtains greeted her. There was a fire in the hearth, and she savored its warmth as she walked to the balcony ledge and stared down at Ploemeur, wondering where Fallon was at that moment.
A strange, queer feeling bubbled up inside her chest. Wind from outside tousled her hair, bringing in the beautiful scent of flowers from the planter box beneath her window. It was a long way down the cliffside. A shudder went through her. Something felt . . . wrong.
Trynne listened carefully, trying to understand what she was feeling. The dread made her want to move away from the window, and so she did. There was a shuddering feeling in her heart, a pulsing, agitated sensation that made her fretful and worried. What was this feeling? She stared at the room and saw the thickening shadows of evening. She was alone, but it didn’t feel like she was alone. Trynne took a few steps toward the door, searching one way and then another. Was someone hiding in there?
With both of her parents gone, a slice of fear ran down her stomach to her toes. Her parents had gone to Kingfountain together before. Yes, it did feel awkward and strange when they left without her, but it had never felt like this before. It was probably her imagination, but she couldn’t shake the sensation that she was in danger.
Trynne decided to go back to the solar, feeling a little silly and foolish, but walking helped calm her heart. She was acting, moving. Was this sensation what the Fountain magic felt like?
That was the last thought she had before pain exploded blindingly on her face.
* * *
When Trynne awoke, there were faces hovering over her. She was lying on her bed, head propped up with pillows, and her nose and her upper lip were throbbing and swollen. After blinking a few times, she could see better.
There was Lord Amrein, looking sick with worry, and Fallon, watching her with scrunched-up eyebrows and his mouth twisted into a wince. The palace surgeon was waving something sharp-scented under her nose. She jerked her head, and her nose ached even more. Trynne’s maid, Yvette, was wringing her hands.
“Tryneowy?” the surgeon asked. “Can you hear me?”
“Of course I can,” Trynne said, but her voice sounded wrong in her ears. Her nose was so swollen and puffy, but when she reached to touch her face, the surgeon caught her hand. “What happened?”
“We were hoping you would tell us,” Lord Amrein said gravely. “Who did this to you? Did you fall?”
Trynne blinked. “I don’t . . . remember,” she said, feeling suddenly nervous. “Are my parents still gone?”
The surgeon nodded. “Yes. They left earlier this evening. Your mother may not be back until morning. You say you can’t . . . remember?”
“No,” Trynne said, growing more worried by the moment. “It hurts.”
“I’m sure it does,” he said. “I can give you some herbs for the pain.”
Trynne nodded, but the motion made her head hurt even worse. “Did you bring me the pie?” she asked Fallon, smiling broadly. Her mouth felt distorted. “I should have gone with you.”
The look on Fallon’s face startled her. His eyes were wide with . . . was that fright?
“What’s wrong, Fallon?” she asked.
The boy looked at the doctor in obvious confusion. “What’s wrong with her?”
“I don’t know, lad,” the surgeon said.
“What do you mean? It hurts, but I’ll be all right,” Trynne said. She tried to sit up, but the doctor pushed her back down.
Fallon was still staring at her worriedly. “Your mouth isn’t moving. On that side,” he said, pointing at the left side of her face.
Her left eye also hurt a lot, and she realized that she hadn’t blinked once since awakening.
“Her smile . . . it’s gone,” Fallon whispered, still pointing.
In that moment, Tryneowy Kiskaddon realized that something truly terrible had happened to her.
* * *
Life teaches us through contradictions. If you don’t get what you want, you whine; if you get what you don’t want, you suffer; even when you do indeed get what you want, you grieve because you cannot hold on to it. The mind wants to be free of change, free of pain, free of the obligations of life and of death. But change is law and no amount of pretending will alter that reality. Change is the great teacher. Pethets refuse to be taught.
* * *
The Royal Wedding
Trynne stared at herself in the mirror, tortured by what she saw there. No amount of healing, no amount of magic, not even her father’s prized scabbard had been able to restore the smile she had lost. In the six years that had passed since that night in Ploemeur, her smile had never fully returned. And she had never felt the loss so keenly as she did on the day of Genevieve Llewellyn’s wedding, standing in the dressing room of the beautiful woman who was to become the Queen of Ceredigion that very afternoon.
She did not often gaze at her own reflection. There were no mirrors in her room because she didn’t wish for the constant reminder. Staring at herself now, she tried to focus on her other features—the blue-green eyes that were more her mother’s, and the chestnut curls that favored her father. Still, there was no denying that at thirteen, she was short, thin as a rail, and decidedly unbeautiful. At least that was how she saw herself.
“Trynne?” Genevieve asked, snapping her attention back to the moment. The queen-to-be’s mother, Queen Elysabeth Victoria Mortimer Llewellyn—called Lady Evie by the Kiskaddon family—was also standing behind the princess’s chair, scrunching up her face at the handful of hair she was working into intricate braids. That critical function would not be trusted to servants, not on such an occasion.
“Yes, my lady?” Trynne asked.
Genevieve smiled prettily at her. “Don’t be so formal. We’ve known each other far too long. You must still call me Genny, even after the coronation.” She reached over her shoulder to clasp Trynne’s hand. “Your mother isn’t coming to the wedding, correct?”
Trynne nodded. “My little brother is still rather sickly,” Trynne said, thinking of the coughing six-year-old she’d left behind several days ago. “She didn’t want to leave him with our grandparents. If he rests and starts to feel better, she will try to come for the ceremony at Our Lady.”
Genevieve smiled again. “I’ll not forget the first time I went to Our Lady,” she said with a sigh. “I fell in the river and Lord Owen saved my life. I still shudder to think of it.” There was a slight tremor at her words, and Trynne could not resist the urge to smile. It was such a natural thing, so normal for most people. Her eyes darted to the mirror again, and she saw the right side of her lips had quirked up, revealing her teeth. But the left side was flat, unresponsive, giving her a mischievous look. Her heart throbbed with anguish at what had been stolen from her.
The Queen of Atabyrion’s hands were working feverishly at the braids, but she had glanced up and seen the darkness fall on Trynne’s countenance. “I understand from Owen that they never discovered for certain who attacked you,” she said with compassion in her voice.
Trynne shook her head. “Everyone believes it was a thief named Dragan. Lord Amrein found a note that had been tucked into his luggage after he’d arrived in Ploemeur. ‘A daughter for a daughter’ was all it said.” She smoothed the beautiful fabric of Genevieve’s dress, feeling the ripples of tiny seed pearls and the smooth, elegant brocade. Dragan’s own daughter, Etayne, had been the king’s poisoner years before. Trynne didn’t know all the details, only that the woman had died saving Owen’s life.
“And he’s your father’s sworn enemy,” Lady Evie said with a serious tone. “I know the Espion have been hunting him for years. It’s difficult finding a man who can become invisible.”
“Indeed it is,” Trynne said. “We don’t know for certain, of course. I never saw anyone, but I felt something was wrong. The Espion and I are good friends now,” Trynne said with another half smile.
The queen’s eyebrows lifted in curiosity.
“She’s accompanied by them day and night,” Genevieve explained. “Who is your favorite? I love Clark the best. He’s quiet and unassuming, but he’s quite funny.”
“Funny?” the queen said with a short laugh. “He hardly says two words together.”
“Only because you never stop talking, Mother,” Genevieve teased.
“Don’t be impudent, dearest,” said Lady Evie with a laugh. “Even though you will outrank me after today, it doesn’t give you liberty to be rude to your mother.”
“I would never dream of it,” Genevieve said with a laugh.
A question bubbled out of Trynne’s mouth before she could stop it. “Do you love him, Genny?”
The princess’s smile shone with a radiance too great for words, and her eyes sparkled with warmth and excitement. There was no doubt in the world how the girl felt. Oh, to smile . . .
“I do, Trynne,” Genevieve said with a sigh. “And not just because he’s a king.”
“The most powerful king in all the lands,” Lady Evie added wryly.
“He is that too,” Genevieve said, laughing. “We’ve known each other since we were children, Trynne. I was half in love with him when I was practically a baby. We didn’t rush things, and some people gossiped that he was biding his time for a political match. With Atabyrion already as an ally, he could have looked farther afield. Some whispered that perhaps the Brugian king would sire a daughter, or that Drew could marry another lady from that kingdom.”
“Do you know how it happened that he chose you?” Lady Evie asked. “Did you know of Myrddin’s role?”
“No,” Genevieve said. “That man completely fascinates me. Doesn’t he fascinate you as well, Trynne? What did he say, Mother? Tell me if you please.”
“If you please, there we go. Much better than a command from Your Highness.” Having finished the braiding, the older woman set her hands on her daughter’s shoulders. “I heard this from Trynne’s father, of course. When the king was almost eighteen, he asked his Wizr and Lord Owen for advice on whom he should marry. He said he knew his heart, but would be guided by their counsel. Not many a young man would take such a risk. But he trusted Lord Owen’s knowledge of the foreign courts and the impact his marriage would have. And he knew Myrddin was very wise. He’s traveled to other worlds, you know. There are distant realms where water comes gushing from stones. Places where men can fly by only taking a breath. Myrddin has traveled far and has many tales.”
“But what did he tell Drew?” Genevieve pressed.
“I was getting to it. Be patient.” She smoothed the fabric along her daughter’s shoulders. “Myrddin said”—and she changed her voice to match the Wizr’s interesting accent—“‘Well lad, if you are asking for my advice, I will tell you. You should—’”
Another voice broke in at just that moment, a young man’s voice that was also mimicking Myrddin’s tone. It was Fallon. “‘—marry Tryneowy Kiskaddon, that strange pethet from Brythonica. Bah, you can even call her “my queen” so you won’t have to pronounce her awful name! I hate speaking this language. It makes my tongue all itchy.’”
Everyone was shocked by his sudden arrival through one of the Espion doors. He was three years older than Trynne, and it showed. He had sprouted into a man since their younger days, and when she’d first seen him on arriving at Kingfountain, she had almost mistaken him for one of the palace knights. His dark hair and mocking eyes appeared from the doorway, and he was grinning in his dangerous way.
“Iago Fallon Llewellyn!” Lady Evie scolded. “If you are not the rudest child a mother could ask for. How long have you been skulking behind that spy hole?”
He sauntered up to his mother, gripped her shoulders, and then stooped to plant a noisy kiss on her cheek. “Mother, all this fussing and primping is taking ages! Poor Drew is pacing at the sanctuary of Our Lady right now, wondering if his bride will ever show up. Sister, you look uncomfortable in that gown. How hard did they yank on the corset?” He bent down with an exaggerated flourish and kissed Genny on the cheek as well.
Trynne bared her teeth angrily at Fallon as he lifted up and gave her a sly wink. It did nothing to hide the fact that she’d blushed six degrees of scarlet.
“What, no kiss for you, Cousin Trynne?” he said mockingly.
Being with Fallon made her stomach feel akin to a rag being wrung out. He was probably the handsomest man in Atabyrion, a willful flirt, and tended to trample on other people’s feelings without care. He deliberately teased her about her affliction, even though she’d told him how much it hurt.
“I am not your cousin, Fallon,” she said.
“Well, it feels like it,” he said, beginning to wander the room, touching and poking at everything he saw. He lifted a bottle of his sister’s perfume, smelled it with an appreciative nod, and then set it down and folded his arms imperiously.
“Sister, you’re the ugliest wench I’ve ever seen,” he said with a sad shake of his head. “I don’t know what Drew sees in you. But alas, his blindness is your blessing. Can we all come along now? The poor chancellor is fidgeting outside, debating with himself about whether or not he should intrude. They were going to send for Father, but I volunteered. You should have named me Farrel instead of Fallon, Mother. I am rather brave.” He puffed out his chest and made a dashing pose.
“They should have named you Feckless,” Trynne countered, arching one eyebrow.
He gave her a wry look. “It was either Fallon, which means ruler, or Fionan, which means—”
“Dung shovel?” Trynne asked, fluttering her lashes.
“You two,” Lady Evie said with exasperation. “Why can’t there be some civility between you? Not so long ago, you were thick as thieves. Fallon, tell them she’s almost done. Trynne, if you’d fetch the crown? I want to make sure it will fit well on this heap of braids.”
Trynne went to obey, but Fallon darted impishly to the chest first, which made her anger flash to life. No doubt he planned to hold it over her head or something childish like that. She rushed over to the chest, her mind already conjuring a strategy to outwit him.
As their hands collided over the crown, Trynne stamped on his boot, distracting him with pain, and pulled out the crown first, watching as a look of wounded amusement spread across her adversary’s face.
“Trynne,” he complained. “I was just going to fetch it for you.”
“I’ll believe that when pigs fly, Fallon,” she countered. Then she handed the crown to Genevieve’s mother, who set it gently down on her daughter’s head. They all stared at the soon-to-be queen’s reflection in the mirror. Instead of opulent jewels, she had chosen a single gold-threaded necklace fixed with seven turquoise gems that Drew had given her for their engagement. The gems were symbolic of the Fountain and had been made by master craftsmen from Genevar.
The crown fit perfectly and Genevieve looked so happy and beautiful it made Trynne’s heart ache. She was exactly the sort of woman that a husband would want. She was kind but also quick to laugh; moreover, she invited confidences and made others feel comfortable. While Fallon had inherited a double portion of his parents’ impulsiveness, Genevieve’s experiences as a child hostage at Kingfountain had marked her differently. She was more sober-minded, much like her husband-to-be.
Fallon gave Trynne a curt look, still limping slightly, and then wrinkled his nose disapprovingly. “It’ll do, I suppose,” he drawled. “It’s probably too late to send for something better.”
“Thank you, Fallon. That’s the closest you’ll come to a compliment,” Genny replied with sisterly affection.
He clasped his hands behind his back. “Old king Severn was Fountain-blessed, they say, though he had a sarcastic mind and a barbed tongue. I treasure the thought that it will be my gift as well when the Fountain chooses me. It’s best to practice early.”
His mother sighed and shook her head. A tap landed on the door.
“Come in, we are ready at long last,” their mother said. Her eyes suddenly filled with tears and she bent over her daughter and kissed her fiercely.
“The siege has been broken!” Fallon said. He went to the door and opened it with a gallant bow.
It was a strange coincidence that Morwenna Argentine stood there, dressed in black and silver.
Trynne felt a shiver of worry go down her back. Had the girl overheard Fallon’s jibe about her father? Morwenna and Trynne were of the same age, both born within the same year, but they didn’t know each other and had never spoken. Morwenna was the only child born of the marriage of Severn and Lady Kathryn, King Drew’s mother. It made her a possible rival to her brother’s throne. She had the looks and coloring of the old king, paired with her mother’s beauty. Her hair was black and wavy and lusciously thick, and it was said that her smile could turn a boy’s head—if she ever flashed it. She was staring at Genevieve with a look that was difficult to describe. Could it be envy?
“My mother sent me,” Morwenna said with a bob of a curtsy. “The rest of the company has assembled in the courtyard of the palace for the escort to Our Lady. Shall I tell them you are ready, my lady?”
Trynne shot a quick glance at Fallon to see how he had reacted to the intrusion, but he was fiddling with flowers in a vase, not deigning to look at the girl at all.
“Yes, please,” Genevieve said, some of the brightness fading from her eyes. Morwenna was like a winter’s chill. Despite her beauty, coldness seemed to radiate from her eyes and skin like a blizzard. The effect rattled Trynne, who felt the icy tendrils try to wrap around her. The prickle of gooseflesh crept across Genevieve’s arms, and the soon-to-be queen unconsciously stroked them.
Trynne felt her own magic prickle in response. Just as she’d hoped as a young girl, Trynne had inherited her parents’ magic. The gifts of other Fountain-blessed could not affect her, or those near her, if she repulsed them. But the constraints were the same for her as for everyone with the power. Her reservoirs of magic had to be earned and stored, and she had found playing Wizr to be especially helpful in that regard. That and discussing politics with her father. As she stared at the other girl, Trynne exerted her influence on the room and suddenly the coldness sloughed away. The warmth from the braziers could be felt once again. The strange whispering feeling was silenced.
Morwenna’s eyebrows lifted just slightly and her gray eyes settled on Trynne. A small, curious smile stretched on her mouth.
“Thank you for fetching us, Morwenna,” Fallon said, starting to march toward the door. “Come along; you’re shamefully late, my sister. Come along, Cousin Trynne. Mother, can I take your arm and escort you? If I don’t, you’re likely to prattle on with half the castle staff.” He wagged his finger at her.
“You are incorrigible,” his mother said affectionately.
“Incorrigible, incomprehensible, infallible, impassible, and incontrovertible as well,” he added. “I’m sure you regret making me study so hard instead of spending all my time in the practice yard.”
“You forgot unintelligible,” Trynne muttered.
“Only because I ran out of breath,” he shot back. “Really, Trynne. You can be so childish sometimes. But then again, you are only twelve.”
His mistake was another deliberate insult, for he knew she was thirteen. She wanted to stomp on his foot again, but Genevieve caught her arm and interlocked it with hers. “Ignoring Fallon is difficult, Trynne, but it’s the only thing that truly works.” She gave her brother a sidelong look.
“Unignorable!” Fallon said with a disarming grin.
“That’s not a real word, dear,” Lady Evie said as they all proceeded to the door. “And it sounds too much like ignoble.” She gave Trynne a look. “I almost named him Iago Farren, which means ‘adventurous.’ Or Fane, which means ‘good-natured.’ Those are all Atabyrion names I thought might suit him. We realized soon enough that calling him by his middle name prevented much confusion. Besides, it fits his personality almost too well.” Then she shook her head. “But he’s his father’s heir, the future king of Atabyrion or duke of the North. I don’t think he’s decided yet which one he wants. To be a king or a duke.”
“Neither actually,” Fallon said, coming up alongside Trynne. “I just want to be a knight and serve my sister and brother-in-law. Being a ruler is boring. Have you seen the table that Myrddin conjured in the great hall?”
Trynne shook her head, wrinkling her brow.
“You won’t believe it,” he said with an excited laugh. When they reached the doorway, no one acknowledged Morwenna. Trynne met the girl’s gaze and saw an unreadable look there. The girl was quiet and cold, but there was a spark in her eyes.
“Inscrutable” was the word that popped into her mind.
The girl was also Fountain-blessed. Like her father.
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