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       Slumber, p.4

         Part #1 of The Fade series by Samantha Young

  “Worth, Vincent, and Chaeron’s,” Wolfe replied through clenched teeth.

  Jarek nodded tightly and then threw me a grin, his eyes devouring me purposefuly. “I’l speak with you later, Rogan.”

  “Jarek.” I grinned back at him and watched him leave, biting my lip in thought as he swaggered out of the stable and into the next. Feeling Wolfe’s eyes on me I turned and met his sharp look with one of my own. “What?”

  “What?” He guffawed, eyeing me incredulously. “The Princezna has been unwel and everyone is agreeing to her outing to market, and you’re in here flirting with the stable boy.”

  “Stable Master!” I corrected, poking him in the chest with the word. “And don’t take that self-righteous tone with me as if I don’t care about Haydyn.” Wolfe snorted. “Do you care? You were supposed to come and inform me so I can protect you at market, and you’re in here with your legs practicaly wrapped around Jarek.”

  How dare he?! I sucked in a breath at the accusation. “You’re lucky I don’t slap you for that insinuation. Jarek is my friend. I was here asking him to prepare the horses and I was just about to come and find your sorry ass to let you know Haydyn required your company into market. Not that I should have to explain myself to you.”

  “Sorry ass.” Wolfe threw me a disdainful look. “Realy? That’s the language of the Handmaiden of Phaedra? Very refined.” Refined?! I’d give him refined. I’d been around enough stable boys to know my share of curse words. “Screw you!” I spat and turned to march out of the stable.


  The city of Silvera grew quiet and parted as we moved through the crowds on the cobbled streets, the noise level hushing and then rising as the people gathered back together behind our entourage, like a wave crashing to shore behind us.

  I rode beside Haydyn on Midnight, she on Sundown. Matai rode on Haydyn’s other side and three of the Royal Guard rode at our backs. Wolfe rode in front of us, his eagle eyes watching the crowds as we made our way past taverns, apothecaries, inns, bakers and butchers and candlestick makers. The marketplace was in the massive Silvera Square, where people from the neighbouring provinces came to sel their wares. Haydyn always had a particular interest in the artists and craftsmen of Raphizya and the beautiful glass works of Vasterya.

  “I’ve decided to hold a bal.” Haydyn smiled at me after waving once more to Silverians who bowed and curtsied as we trotted past.

  I raised an eyebrow at the unexpected idea. “A bal?”

  “Hmm.” Haydyn grinned excitedly, seeming al her young seventeen years. “A bal. I’l invite al the Rada and al the noblemen and women of every province. A way of showing our solidarity in an unsettling time.”

  “A bal?” I stil wasn’t convinced.

  “I think it’s a fine idea, Princezna.” Matai smiled at her.

  I sighed. “No one asked you, Lord Matai.”

  “Rogan, be nice,” Haydyn tutted. “Anyway, Lord Matai is correct. It is a fine idea.” My heart jumped a little at the determination in her voice and I felt hope blooming in my chest. Perhaps Haydyn was finaly taking charge. And I might not like fancy bals but… it was a good idea. If only because it was her idea.

  Her face fel when I didn’t respond. “Don’t you think it’s a good idea, Rogan?” She looked so worried. I cursed inwardly. Why did everyone’s opinion matter so much to her? She was as smart and capable as any of us fools whose advice she solicited. I sighed inwardly, wishing she’d remember she was fair and just and royal -

  she should not concern herself with my opinion, or anyone else’s for that matter.

  Instead I gave her a soft smile. “Lord Matai’s right. It’s a fine idea.”

  Moment of anxiety over, Haydyn grinned cheerfuly as we entered the marketplace. Again al went quiet at the sight of us, but gradualy, as we trotted over to the stables, the noise level rose again.

  “I want you to seek out the finest fabric for me, for my new bal gown, as wel as the finest for yourself,” Haydyn commanded gently as Matai helped her dismount. I was so shocked by the request I dismounted without help, forgetting I wasn’t supposed to do that in public. But Haydyn very rarely used my magic and never for something as frivolous as fabric shopping.

  Already my body was crackling inside, drawing me towards a fabric stal deep in the crowds of the square. “Fabric?” I queried softly.

  “Hmm.” Haydyn nodded, smiling prettily at me. “We want to look our best for such an important event.”

  “Not the key to world peace? Not the answer to shutting down a rookery or controling rogue gypsies? Fabric?” Haydyn sighed wearily. “Must I repeat it, Rogan, when we both know you’re being facetious?” I shrugged. “Wel, I just had no idea that the form of our fashion was so incredibly important to settling Phaedrian disputes.”

  “More facetiousness. Lovely.”

  I roled my eyes. “Fine. Away I go to seek and order the fabric.” I glanced between Matai and her. “What are you going to do?” Haydyn gazed a little too adoringly at Matai. “Lord Matai’s going to escort me around the market while I choose some gifts to present to our guests at the bal.” I threw Matai a mock horrified look. “Lord Matai, may I say now how much I’ve enjoyed knowing you, for I fear it wil be the last time I look upon you. Death by boredom.” I winced.

  He grinned at me. “I’m sure I’l survive.”

  “Wel you don’t have to sound so put upon,” Haydyn sniffed.

  I laughed, thinking about her wel known generosity. “And just where are al these gifts going? We didn’t bring a cart?”

  “I’l borrow one. Or buy one. I am the Princezna.”

  I almost roled my eyes. She asserts her authority when shopping. Wonderful.

  “Wel, don’t let me keep you. Off I go. Shan’t be long.” I moved as fast as I could away from them and into the crowds before Haydyn demanded I take an escort.

  I breathed deeply of the thick smels of the market. It was a strange mixture of pungent sheep’s wool, beats, chocolate, oil, sweet meats, bread, perfume, paint… oh it was a fragrance of al the variety of the market. Usualy, I hated the crowds, preferring my escape to be down at the cliffs some miles from the palace. I loved the peace and quiet of watching the surf of the Silver Sea crash against the cliff wals. For some reason it reminded me I was alive. But never alone. No. There was always a guard with me some way in the distance. Today, as I swept past people, some who recognised me, some who didn’t – caling out to me to buy their wares, desperate for what they assumed was a noblewoman to purchase something expensive from them – I loved the market in that moment. Because I was alone. Al alone. Free.

  I was quick on my feet, dodging persistent selers, and hopefuly any of the Guard who may have folowed me. In no time at al I found the stal with the fabric that caled to my magic. I saw it right away. Velvet, the colour of lapis lazuli, made from the finest silk in the textile factories in Ryl. Haydyn would look wonderful in it. I reached out to stroke the beautiful fabric when a hand clamped around my wrist.

  “No, no, miss.” I looked up into the ruddy face of the market seler. “Not the right colour for you, miss. Come see some of my silks.” He tried to pul me towards the more expensive material. I tugged at his grip but he was determined.

  I grew irritated by his persistence. “Sir-”

  “With a face and figure like yours, you shouldn’t hide behind the heavy textures. Fine silks, miss, fine silks for you.” I tugged again. Oh yes. This was why I hated the marketplace.

  A large hand came down on top of the selers, ripping it from my own and holding it tight. Both the seler and I looked up into the intimidating and angry face of Wolfe Stovia.

  “You dare to lay your hands on the Princezna’s Handmaiden?” Wolfe growled at the man.

  The seler blanched as he looked at me, recognition finaly dawning. “Oh my Lady, I meant no disrespect.” Wolfe grunted and shoved the man away a little. “Lady or servant, I see you trying to forcefuly coerce a woman again and you and I wil have words.” I
d never seen anyone look so il, so green. “Apologies, my Lord. I was over excited. It won’t happen again. Apologies, my Lady.” His head bobbed up and down at me.

  Oh for havens sake. “I’m not a lady,” I snapped, furious at Wolfe for drawing attention to the situation and blowing it out of proportion. The overbearing lout. I glared at him. “You, sir, are a buly.”

  Wolfe merely frowned at me. “And you, girl, are the Handmaiden of Phaedra and as such a lady. You are not to alow strange men to touch you.” I curled my lip disdainfuly. “I’l alow a mountain man of Alvernia to touch me before I take advice from you, Stovia.” Dismissing him, agitated by his presence, his ruination of my pretence at freedom, I turned back to the seler. “I want three bolts of the lapis lazuli velvet and one bolt of the emerald silk chiffon.” I relaxed a little at having completed my task for Haydyn, but then my body hummed with energy again and I turned without thinking toward a stal some quarter of the way back into the middle of the market. The fabric that would suit me most was in there somewhere. Damn Haydyn. Damn being an Azyl.

  I spun back on the seler. “Have the fabric delivered to the palace and ask for Seamstress Rowan. You’l be paid wel for your troubles.” He nodded, doing this obscene half bow/curtsey thing that made me throw a growl in Wolfe’s direction. Turning sharply from them both to make my way to the fabric stal my magic was caled to, I drew in a breath at the pleasant sandalwood scent of Wolfe as he fel into step beside me.

  I stopped abruptly. “What are you doing?” I snapped.

  Wolfe shrugged, refusing to look at me, refusing to leave. “Just one of the more unpleasant jobs of being Captain of the Guard. Protecting you.” Puling a face, I began walking again. “We are drol aren’t we?”

  “Some people think I’m charming.” He grinned flirtatiously and executed a graceful half bow to a passing tavern girl, who eyed him seductively over her bare shoulder.

  “Some people don’t know any better.” I huffed and tried to move away from him.

  “Ooh is that judgement I hear in the voice of the lady who was flirting with a mere stable boy this morning.” I gritted my teeth. “Stable Master.”

  Wolfe raised one annoying eyebrow. “As if that makes it any more palatable. You know he’s bedded every girl in the palace, you’re not special.” I could feel my blood boiling under my skin, as it did whenever I was forced to be in the same presence as this man. I tried to take deep, calming breaths. I did. I realy, realy did. It didn’t work. “Who I choose to converse with is of no consequence to you, Captain Stovia. And may I remind you to whom you are speaking?” So, I was being a little snooty. He deserved it!

  He gave me disgusted look. “So there is a snob buried under al that ‘I’m not a lady, I’m not a lady, I’m just like everyone else,’ piffle?” He mocked.

  “For one, I don’t talk like that. And two… I am just like everyone else. Except,” I spat, “When it comes to you. You wil talk to me like I’m royalty, Captain. As in… don’t speak to me at al!”

  The usual cool and colected Wolfe stiffened at my insults, his face taut with anger. Our dislike was definitely, definitely mutual. “If you want to get snooty, Rogan-” I flinched at his use of my given name. He’d never caled me Rogan before. Not to my face anyway. It had always been my Lady, despite my lack of nobility.

  “-May I remind you that I’m the one with Lord before my name. Don’t speak to me like I’m dirt beneath your shoe.” Arrogant beast, I shook my head. Just like his demon father. I laughed humourlessly, a cold, brittle laugh that caused him to wince. “You don’t need to remind me who you are, Vikomt Stovia.” With that I veered from him, pushing my way through the crowds to escape him. I looked back to make sure he did not folow. He didn’t, but I watched him nod at someone and then glance at me. Within seconds, Lieutenant Chaeron had pushed his way through the crowds to walk by my side, his hand on the hilt of his sword. I wanted to be annoyed at the immediate sense of suffocation his presence caused me, but then I recaled Jarvis’ words of warning and relaxed. There was a reason behind Haydyn’s idea for a bal. Quite suddenly I was glad for our trained Guard. We had never needed them before.

  But then there had never been crime before.

  Chapter Four

  “What about Matai, Haydyn?!” I hissed, knowing he stood outside her bedroom suite. She glanced worriedly at the door, before pinning me to the wal with a hurt look.

  “Please, keep your voice down, Rogan.”

  I tried. I shuddered, trying to take deep breaths. But I was so mad at her. I wanted her to wake up! My head swam with al Ava and Jarvis had told us.

  That morning, Haydyn had been caled to the Chambers to speak with Jarvis and Ava. Last night, Wolfe’s men had returned… and they hadn’t returned bearing good news.

  “So… it’s al true?” Haydyn had asked, as she sat, clutching my hand tight in hers. I ignored the pricking, wincing pain of her long nails digging into my skin and tried to squeeze her hand in reassurance.

  Jarvis nodded, looking years older since the last we had seen him only a few weeks before. “Al three complaints prove true. Javinia is in unrest and it seems rumour of the unrest is spreading through Sabithia. Alvernia is worsening; even the Valey grows more uncivilised. Apparently Arrana is the only civilised city in the province.

  And as for the rookery in Vasterya… wel it exists.”

  “Oh no.” Haydyn grew limp beside me, her young eyes round and fearful. “What do we do?” Ava and Jarvis shared a look.

  I was immediately suspicious. “What?”

  “Wel,” Jarvis cleared his throat. “Of course we should send reinforcements into Javinia, and someone should speak with Markiz Solom Rada in Pharya – he needs to send his guard out to police the rookery. I don’t know why he hasn’t already.”

  “I do,” Ava murmured and I knew what she meant. Markiz Solom was my least favourite of the Rada. Spoiled, entitled, weak.

  “What about Alvernia?” I narrowed my eyes on them.

  Again they shared that nervous little look.

  “Wel.” Ava smiled at Haydyn brightly. “We have a wonderful suggestion.”

  My intuition told me it wasn’t that wonderful. “Suggest it then.”

  “Rogan,” Haydyn admonished. I merely shrugged.

  Seeming unconcerned with my attitude, Jarvis leaned forward across the table, his eyes al grandfatherly and wise as he focused his attention on Haydyn. “You are of an age now, Princezna, and it’s time to discuss the possibility of you marrying and carrying on the Dyzvati line.” I sucked in a breath, feeling Haydyn stiffen under my touch. “She’s not a broodmare,” I snapped.

  Jarvis flinched at my tone and narrowed his eyes on me. “I didn’t suggest she was, Rogan. Please disband with the attitude.”

  “Rogan, please.” Haydyn patted my hand. “His Grace is right. I am of age.”

  As I watched Ava and Jarvis share pleased looks, I just knew, knew deep in the pit of my stomach what they wanted of her. “You want a match with Alvernia.” They seemed shocked at my deduction and Jarvis shifted nervously for a moment. Vaguely, I noted Matai stiffen at the door.

  Jarvis found Haydyn’s eyes again, drawing her in to his soothing look, making me want to pul her away from him. “We think you might want to consider a betrothal between your Highness and Markiz Andrei of Alvernia – son of Vojvoda Andrei Rada. It would greatly improve relations between the two provinces and may be a briliant stepping stone towards civilising the north.”

  My mouth fel open as I watched Haydyn’s reaction. She was pale and stil, deliberately not looking at Matai. She glanced at me, winced at my expression. And then she straightened, her chin rising defiantly. “I think it’s a very good idea. And one we must consider. Vojvoda Andrei and his son are invited to the bal next month are they not?”

  “Yes,” Ava replied happily, relief sparking in her eyes, “They are Princezna. They’re staying at the palace with the rest of the Rada and their families. It wil be a wonderful opportunity to get
to know one another and further any plans for a betrothal.”

  “Splendid.” Jarvis clapped his hands together and Haydyn smiled, happy to have pleased them.

  The walk back to her suite had been ice cold, Matai refusing to look at either one of us, Haydyn trembling the whole way. Matai had opened the door for us and we went in. He shut it carefuly in our wake, not saying a word.

  “I just can’t believe you’re even considering marrying some stranger!” I snapped at her.

  Her cheeks grew pink with deep blush, and I knew she was growing equaly angry with me. “It may be for the best of Phaedra! I’m finaly doing something worthy of a leader and you’re angry at me?!”

  “You’re not doing something worthy of a leader! You’re doing what someone else wants you to do. As always!” She flinched, hurt widening her eyes. I immediately felt awful but words of apology stuck in my throat.

  “There was never a future for Matai and me,” she whispered sorrowfuly, pleading with me to agree with her. “He’s not of a high enough rank.” But I shook my head. “You can have any future you want, Haydyn. They need you!” I spat, pointing out the window. “Not the other way around! You can do what you like, love who you love, be who you want to be. And there is nothing that they can do about it, because they need you.” Haydyn trembled, clasping onto the post of her bed. “No.” She shook her head, growing more wan by the second. “Something’s wrong with Phaedra and I have to fix it. Jarvis knows how. The betrothal is a good idea,” she gasped, seeming out of breath.

  I was too angry to pay attention. I wanted to stamp my foot like a child, my head bursting with the pain of hitting the brick wal she insisted on putting up. “Haydyn, it’s a good idea. But not the best idea. Not the only idea. Surely we can come up with something else. You don’t-”


  “- know if Andrei of Alvernia is a despicable lout like the rest of the mountain people are supposed to-”


  “-be. He could be-”

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