Slumber Page 6

“As well as can be, Princezna. We do not have good news, I’m afraid.”

Haydyn and I shared a worried look and I followed her as she took her seat at the head of long Chambers table. I sat on her left, facing Ava. Jarvis took the seat next to the Grofka.

“What’s wrong?” Haydyn asked quietly, afraid of the answer. I watched that gloom creep into her eyes again, and I could have sworn she swayed in her chair. I was just about to reach out for her when she seemed to shake herself awake. I withdrew my hand.

Jarvis cleared his throat, his expression grave. “I must ask first of all, Princezna, whether you are feeling well? Are you in good health?”

Like Haydyn, I was surprised by his question, and as she stammered out, “Of course.” I could have sworn she was lying.

“Why?” I asked, even though I shouldn’t. Admonishment wasn’t likely, however. Everyone was used to me.

Ava’s eyes were wide with anxiety. “Because it seems as if the evocation may be weakened somehow.”

Haydyn gasped, “Weakened? Weakened how? It can’t be. I’m projecting the evocation at full, as always.”

“We’ve been receiving reports over the last few weeks from the rest of the Rada. The most anxious of them being Vojvoda Andrei Rada, Keeper of Alvernia. The province is worsening; the uncivilised loutish behaviour of the mountain people grows steadily closer to his city in the south. He fears the people of Arrana may become contaminated by the aggression of the northerners and grows agitated by Silvera’s ‘negligence’, as he calls it.”

Haydyn threw me a concerned look. “I had no idea things were so bad.”

“There is more,” Ava told her.

“Yes,” Jarvis continued. “I’ve had word from Pharya. A rookery has sprung up on the border of Vasterya in the towns near the glass works. Gangs of thieves and smugglers are disrupting import and exportation.”

Dear havens, I had never heard the like. “Thieves? Gangs? A rookery? In Phaedra?” I was aghast. We all 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 tell 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 finally. “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 Iavii. 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 Iavii.”

“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 calls 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 well, 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 will 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. “Well, 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 halls. Wolfe bowed deeply and smiled at Haydyn, almost flirtatiously. “Princezna.”

I rolled my eyes as Haydyn smiled prettily back at him. She may as well have batted her eye lashes invitingly the way her eyes looked him over. Strikingly tall, 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 carefully to the news, his expression tightening as he learned of our situation. “I will 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 all the facts.”

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