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       Slumber, p.3

         Part #1 of The Fade series by Samantha Young
 

  Dear havens, I had never heard the like. “Thieves? Gangs? A rookery? In Phaedra?” I was aghast. We al were. My eyes swung to Haydyn, questioning, pinning her to her seat.

  She squirmed uncomfortably, her emerald eyes fearful. “Don’t look at me like that, Rogan. I don’t know what to tel you, I don’t feel a change in my magic.” Jarvis coughed. “Lastly-”

  “There’s more?” I interrupted, in shock.

  This time he did throw me an admonishing look but I was too upset to apologise. “There’s more,” he acknowledged finaly. “Markiza Raven Rada has her guard dealing with gypsies-”

  “The Caels?” Haydyn interrupted frowning. “But the Caels have lived in Northern Javinia for decades. It’s their home.”

  “Not the Caels, Princezna. The Iavi. These Alvernian gypsies are not looking for peace. They’ve already begun taking land from the Caels, and now they’ve started in on the Javinians. It’s causing tension between Javinians and the Caels, who are being held as accountable as the Iavi.”

  “That’s not fair!” Haydyn cried. “The Caels are a peaceful clan.”

  “They are. Were. Nothing in Javinia is peaceful. The Javinian guards are busy dealing with disputes and protecting Markiza Raven in Novia. She cals for aid.” The magnitude of the news silenced both Haydyn and I. How quickly our beautiful world seemed to have turned in on itself.

  “You’re sure you’re wel, Princezna?” Ava queried again.

  “Positive,” Haydyn snapped, jolting out of her seat. I watched on, as wide-eyed as Jarvis and Ava. Haydyn never spoke harshly to anyone. “I wil not be questioned again.”

  “Of course, Princezna. We meant no disrespect.” Jarvis’ brow furrowed deeply. I imagined my brows were just as furrowed.

  Haydyn nodded, relaxing a little. “Now, what is to be done?”

  You tell them, Haydyn, I wanted to say. But I didn’t. She already looked so lost and afraid.

  Jarvis sighed wearily. “Wel, I think before we panic, we should discover the realities of the situation for ourselves. I say we send some of the Guard to Alvernia, Vasterya and Javinia to report back their findings, before we decide upon action.”

  Haydyn exhaled, seeming relieved by his suggestion. She turned to look at Matai, who stood on guard at the door. “Lord Matai, please have one of the footman fetch Captain Stovia.”

  I flinched at her command and bit my lip, my heart picking up speed at the thought of Wolfe. Captain Wolfe Stovia. Vikomt Wolfe Stovia, now that his father, Syracen, was dead. A few years my senior, Wolfe had proven himself steadfast, loyal, hardworking, and a strong soldier. He was one of the youngest Captains in the history of the Guard. And I didn’t trust him one iota.

  He wasn’t long in arriving. Wolfe strode into the room like his namesake. Sleek and watchful, wily and dangerous. As handsome as any man in Phaedra, the servant girls went into twittering spasms whenever he was near. It made me feel rather queasy, to be honest.

  His light blue eyes washed over the room, resting on me a moment, his expression inscrutable. I was so thankful he took his looks from his mother’s side of the family. I didn’t think I could have coped with a young version of Syracen stalking the palace hals. Wolfe bowed deeply and smiled at Haydyn, almost flirtatiously.

  “Princezna.”

  I roled my eyes as Haydyn smiled prettily back at him. She may as wel have batted her eye lashes invitingly the way her eyes looked him over. Strikingly tal, broad, a thick head of silky chestnut hair, olive skin and beautiful almond shaped eyes. His was a strong face, masculine, powerful. I disliked it greatly.

  “Captain,” Haydyn sighed at him. “I need you to send some of the Guard on an errand for me.” I watched as Wolfe listened carefuly to the news, his expression tightening as he learned of our situation. “I wil send nine of my best men out, your Highness. Three to each province.”

  “Thank you, Captain.” Jarvis got to his feet wearily, helping Ava out of hers. “We appreciate it.” As they were about to depart I cleared my throat, drawing their gaze as I stood. “May I suggest we keep this between us? And stress the importance of keeping this information confidential to your men… Captain,” I bit out the word.

  Haydyn’s eyes widened. “Of course, Rogan is right. We don’t want to cause panic until we have al the facts.” Wolfe nodded, but he never took his eyes from me as he smiled sardonicaly. “Of course, Princezna.” I glared at him as he took his leave, folowed by Jarvis and Ava.

  Solemnly, Haydyn and I walked back to her suite, Matai close on our heels. I was afraid to mention what had just been discussed.

  “I keep waiting for you to stop being unpleasant to Captain Wolfe.” Haydyn threw me a reproving look.

  I snorted. “You’l be waiting a loooong time then.”

  “Rogan, realy,” she clucked. “He’s not his father, you know.”

  I shrugged. I knew Haydyn thought it was unfair of me to treat Wolfe badly but I couldn’t help it. He was a Stovia. No matter how much he ingratiated himself to Haydyn or into the Rada’s trust, he would always be my enemy. His father had taken my family and I had destroyed his in return. I was suspicious of his loyalty to Haydyn, when any normal man would have wanted vengeance for his father’s death.

  Haydyn did not share the suspicion. She sighed dreamily. “I don’t understand how you can be so mean to him. He’s so handsome and strong.” I laughed softly at Matai’s choked grunt behind us and Haydyn threw him a teasing look over her shoulder. He would take his revenge for that. We stopped at her suite and I checked the halways both ways. It was clear. I nodded at them and Haydyn grabbed Matai’s hand, disappearing into her suite with him. I stood guard.

  Protecting Haydyn as always. Protecting her secrets. Protecting her love for Lord Matai. I felt a twinge of unfamiliar longing at the sound of her and Matai’s intimate laughter beyond the door. Haydyn was akin to my younger sister, and yet she knew more of that mysterious intimacy between man and woman than I did. Al I ever wanted was to be a source of wisdom and support for Haydyn. How could I be when she was more worldly than I? I was nineteen and un-kissed, never mind…

  I ducked my head, feeling sily and adolescent. I did not seek love; I’d never wanted it… but romance… perhaps. I shook my head. I had no time for romance. I was far too busy facilitating Haydyn with hers.

  Chapter Three

  “Mm,” I moaned, the sweet chocolate and fresh cream cake making my eyes flutter shut in rapture. “Cook, you’ve surpassed yourself,” I mumbled through my bites.

  Cook grinned broadly, roling out pastry as servants bustled around us in the massive kitchen. Valena giggled from her seat across from me, cream sticking to the corner of her mouth. “I swear, Rogan, the sweetest expression you ever have on your face is when you’re eating Cook’s desserts.” I raised an eyebrow teasingly at her cheekiness and reached across to swipe the last of the cakes from her plate.

  “Hey!” She leapt forward to grab it back from me but I held it out of her reach. If we had been standing face to face rather than sitting across a long table, she would have taken it easily. Valena may only be fourteen but she was extremely tal. At least five foot ten, a good three inches taler than me. “Oh don’t, Rogan.” Valena’s eyes widened as I pretended to pop the cake into my mouth. “Cook’s only made a few today.” Cook shook her head at my teasing. “I swear it could be eight years ago with the way you act, Miss Rogan.”

  “Wel I wouldn’t have to act that way if you made more than just a few cakes.” I shoved the cake back to Valena, my eyes greedily watching as she scoffed it down in seconds. “Oh, you didn’t even take time to enjoy that. Sacrilege. I should have eaten it.”

  “But it was mine.” Valena grinned through a mouthful. “You’re too honourable to have taken what was mine.” I laughed at the manipulative twinkle in her eye. “Where is she getting this from?” I asked Cook, shaking my head.

  Cook snorted. “You!”

  Valena burst out laughing and I was truly thankful she had finished eating
the cake.

  “Valena!”

  We al spun around at the sound of Raj’s frantic voice, the kitchen coming to a standstil as he fel into the room. Faling into a room was something Raj never did and we al stared at him wide-eyed as he shrugged himself back into order. But my heart was thumping as Raj smoothed back his white blonde hair and straightened his waistcoat. “Valena,” he said more quietly now. “I need you.”

  Valena didn’t ask any questions. She jumped up from the table and made her way towards him. Raj shooed her in front of him and then turned his pale eyes on me.

  “You too, Rogan.”

  I shared a brief worried look with Cook and hurried after the healers.

  “What’s going on?” I asked.

  “I’ve been caled to the Princezna’s suite.”

  I forgot al ladylike manners and lifted my dress, running as fast as I could through the palace hals to Haydyn’s apartments. Servants gaped at me as I blurred by them and I wanted desperately to shout back at Raj to hurry up. But if he did that, if he ran with me, then everyone would know something was wrong with Haydyn.

  What was wrong?! I knew something was wrong?! I cursed myself for not pressing her further, but ever since Jarvis and Ava had imparted the news of the hostility in Phaedra a few weeks ago, I was afraid to burden Haydyn further.

  Inside her suite, I found Matai. No other servant. Only Matai, hovering worriedly over Haydyn who lay colapsed on the floor. “What happened?” I rushed towards her, throwing myself down beside her. Her skin, usualy alabaster, was deathly pale, her hand limp in mine.

  Matai met my gaze with dark, fierce eyes. “I don’t know,” he whispered to me. “We were only talking… and then she… she just colapsed on the floor. I was afraid to move her. I’ve caled for Raj… I didn’t want anyone else to know…” he trailed off as Raj and Valena came into the room, Valena shutting the door behind her.

  Raj shoved me out of the way but I didn’t mind.

  “What’s wrong with her?” I demanded.

  “Give me a minute, Rogan, for havens sake,” Raj replied through gritted teeth.

  My heart stopped as Haydyn groaned, her eyes fluttering open. As they focused, they widened in panic. “What happened?” she asked hoarsely.

  “You colapsed,” I bit out, as if it was her fault somehow.

  Her eyes found Raj. “Why?”

  Raj shook his head. “Lord Matai, help me move the Princezna to the bed.”

  I stood back, and Valena gripped my hand reassuringly. I squeezed back. I knew something was wrong with Haydyn. I knew it.

  “Lord Matai, Rogan, please leave Valena and I alone with the Princezna.”

  I objected immediately, “No. I’m staying right here.”

  “Rogan.” Matai grabbed my arm. “For once do as you’re told.” I wasn’t even given a chance to struggle. Not that I could. Matai was as big as Wolfe. He thrust me outside the suite and shut the door behind us, his large body blocking my way in.

  “I need to be in there with her.” I stamped my foot like a petulant child.

  “No. You want to be, there’s a difference.”

  “Matai.”

  “Stop it, Rogan,” he hissed, a flash of sharpness in his eyes revealing his concern. “For once… just stop it.” I slumped at his tone, my heart pounding so hard I felt sick with it. “What’s wrong with her, Matai? She won’t tel me.”

  “I know.” He grimaced, crossing his arms over his chest and leaning back against the door. “She’s been over tired lately. I’ve tried to talk to her about it but…”

  “She keeps saying nothing is the matter,” I finished.

  “Yes.”

  Our gazes met and stuck. We both knew something was definitely the matter.

  It seemed forever before Raj beckoned us back into the suite. It had probably only been fifteen minutes. Matai struggled to keep me back at a distance to give Haydyn room. Determined to be at her bed side, and smaler and spryer than he, I ducked under his arm and raced to her.

  “What’s the matter?” I grasped Haydyn’s hand. She was sitting up in bed now, colour back in her cheeks. She smiled so brightly I was taken aback.

  Matai stood hovering at the end of the bed. He threw Raj a beligerent look. “Wel, man, what the hel is going on?” I roled my eyes. Matai realy needed to do a better job at hiding his feelings for Haydyn.

  Raj smiled indulgently, glancing from Haydyn to Valena. “Both Valena and I have checked the Princezna over. We could only feel the darkness of exhaustion. We took it away. As you can see, the Princezna is feeling much better.” He strode towards her now. “As for this not sleeping, I’m going to get one of the servants to bring one of my tonics up from my stores. It should help greatly, Princezna.”

  “Thank you, Raj.” Haydyn nodded, her eyes twinkling gratefuly. She never treated anyone in the Palace indifferently or as if they should be grateful to be in her presence like some of the nobility half her rank did. It was no wonder we al loved her. “I appreciate your help.” I puled away from her now, angry at the fright she had given me. “Next time maybe you’l do as I ask and see Raj before you colapse on the floor,” I snapped.

  The others looked a little shocked at my attitude. Not Haydyn. She looked remorseful. I hated that she knew me so wel. “I’m sorry, Rogan. I promise not to frighten you again.”

  “Pfft.” I turned from her.

  “Rogan?”

  “If you’re al better, I have things to do.”

  I felt Matai and the healers glare at me but I shrugged it off.

  Haydyn narrowed her eyes on me. “Yes, you do have things to do.” She threw back the covers and got out of the bed with a surprising breeze of energy. “Tel Jarek to ready my horse and yours. We’re going to the marketplace.”

  I clenched my jaw and nodded tightly before striding across the room to the door. The marketplace! She knew I hated the marketplace. She was getting me back for my inability to admit I was frightened.

  “Oh, and Rogan.”

  I stiffened, not liking that sing-song tone of hers. It meant she was up to something. I turned slowly. “Yes, your Highness.” Haydyn smirked at me. “After you speak with Jarek, please find Captain Stovia. We’l need an escort.” I made a face at her and left, her sweet laughter trickling behind me. Despite the distasteful thought of being in Wolfe’s presence, I smiled softly at the sound of her laughter and shook my head at her mischief.

  ***

  “There you are,” I caled softly as I came upon Jarek in the Silver Stable. We had stables almost as large as the palace because half of the Royal Guard was cavalry.

  There were a number of stable boys, and Jarek, a lad my age with a quick wit and warm smile, had been a stable boy up until recently. The old Stable Master had passed away suddenly and I had suggested Jarek for the job. Yes, he was young, but we had been friends ever since my arrival at the palace and I had never met anyone with such an affinity for horses. There had been some upset at first when Haydyn made him Stable Master, people assuming he was too young, not responsible enough. But he had the stables in tip top shape in no time at al and now everyone could plainly see he was the best man for the job.

  Jarek looked up from checking a chestnut bay’s hooves. He grinned at me and stood up. “Where else would I be?”

  “I don’t know.” I shrugged playfuly, sauntering leisurely toward him. “The Jewel Stable. The White Stable. Or the kitchen. Cook made cakes today.” He sucked in a breath, his eyes wide with teasing upset. “And I missed them?”

  I snorted. “Jarek, you would have missed them even if you’d been there. Valena and I had devastated the plate within five seconds.”

  “Valena,” he clucked, “She’s getting to be too much like you.”

  “Everyone keeps saying that.” I frowned. “And what’s wrong with being like me?”

  Jarek stiled and cocked his head, his eyes bright as they washed over my face. “Nothing. Absolutely nothing.” Despite myself, I warmed at Jarek’s attention.
We had been friends for a long time but more and more lately our conversations had been taking a decidedly flirtatious turn. And he was extremely good-looking. That was the problem, however. I knew too many maids, and even a few noblewomen, who had shared Jarek’s bed.

  Despite that reckless little voice inside that was eager to uncover the mysteries of bedroom intimacy, I didn’t want to be just another girl he’d tumbled.

  I cleared my throat, “Haydyn wishes to go to the marketplace right away. Could you ready Midnight and Sundown?” Those were our horses.

  Jarek threw me a look for dismissing his flirting, but nodded. “Is the Guard going with you?” I grimaced. “Yes.”

  He laughed. “You don’t sound too excited about it. Here’s a thought.” He stepped close to me, so close I had to crane my neck to look up at him. My heart thudded in my chest. “Why don’t I be your guard for the day?” He bent down, his hot breath blowing across my ear as he whispered. I shivered. “I’d take good care of you.”

  “And Haydyn?” I murmured, my whole body vibrating with awareness of him.

  Jarek laughed softly. “She has Lord Matai.” He drew back only a little, our noses almost touching. “You can have me.”

  “Wel isn’t this cosy.”

  I closed my eyes at the voice of interruption. Arrggh, how I hated him! Jarek sighed and stood back from me and I turned to face Wolfe. He leaned against the stable wal glaring at us. “Apparently I’m escorting you to the marketplace. When was that message going to be delivered? A week, two…?” I glared at him. “Clearly it already has been.”

  Wolfe snapped up off the wal and strode towards me. Dear haven, he was tal. He towered over Jarek and I. “You,” he bit out at Jarek, “The horses. Now. Hers,” he flicked a distasteful look at me, “The Princezna’s, Lord Matai’s, my own, and three of my Guard.” Jarek crossed his arms over his chest defiantly, not in the least intimidated. I smiled at him. “Which three?”

 
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