Slumber Page 74

Something happened to her as she stood before me. I saw her shoulders flick back, her spine lengthening, her chin jutting out. Her eyes were still kind, still loving, but they were determined. They were her own. “In sleep we don’t get the choice between dreams and nightmares. With my evocation, Phaedra sleeps peacefully. Without it… it could be a waking nightmare. And why should we worry about there being no evocation. That’s not going to happen. I won’t let it. You won’t.”

“I wouldn’t want anything to happen to you ever. And you’re right; I will do anything to make sure nothing ever happens to you again. But surely we should prepare for the worst when we’re talking about securing your people’s futures.”

“I am securing my people’s futures. I will marry. I will have children. I will teach those children to use the evocation. After everything you’ve gone through, how can you tell me the evocation isn’t worth it?”

I could feel myself losing my grip on this discussion, so I said the one thing I thought may penetrate, “It’s dangerous to rely on this, Haydyn. You can’t guarantee your children will be born with the evocation.”

Haydyn flinched. “The Dyzvati reign has not been broken in all these centuries. I doubt it’s going to end with me. But since you insist on being a pessimist, I’ll remind you that the contingency plan, as you suggest, is to enforce the evocation with proper legislation and closer involvement in each of the provinces.”

She was sure. There was no wavering self-doubt. This was a new Haydyn. She’d grown up. Finally.

I gave her a bittersweet smile. “I’m not going to convince you otherwise?”

My best friend shook her head firmly and then laughed softly at my expression, her eyes pleading with me to understand. “You wanted me to wake up, Rogan, and take control of my lands. Well this is what I see now that I’m awake.”

I sighed heavily. Haydyn was right of course. All these years all I had ever wanted was her to be the Princezna I knew she could be. I had just never realised that when she did, we’d see things differently from one another. Governing Phaedra, making the decisions for our people, had never been my journey. My journey had been saving the person who was destined for that… and in saving her, I saved myself.

I thought of Wolfe, the beginning of my new family, and it immediately made me think of Matai. “And Matai?” I asked, almost dreading her reply.

Sadness slid into Haydyn’s features easily, a bright sheen casting over her eyes. “An alliance with Alvernia would be advantageous for everyone. It’s difficult enough sticking my nose in on the Rada’s business, but as the wife of the son of the Rada of Alvernia, it would be in my rights to do what I could for the land and its people. I could bring so much to your friend L and her family’s life. But… if I marry Matai, a man of lower rank, then people will see it as a weakness. They’ll know I married for love. They might think me frail and too feminine to rule them. I cannot afford to be seen as weak right now.”

I felt a flush of anger, not only on Matai’s behalf, but because I was terrified Haydyn would make the wrong choice and spend her life miserable because of it. I knew what it was to love now, and I didn’t want her throwing that away. “I told you,” I argued, “You have all the power. They’re not going to object to anything you do.”

Haydyn sat down slowly, leaning over to take my hand in hers, her eyes begging me to understand. “I need time to think on it. I’m still holding the ball. I’ll make my decision then.”

I remembered Wolfe’s warning to me when I refused to marry him. “Matai won’t wait forever, Haydyn.”

She pulled back from me again, hurt in her beautiful and kind gaze. “You were the one who told me to make my own decisions. Now you’re angry because you don’t agree with them!”

I closed my eyes, my shoulders slumping in exasperation. Again… she was right. I glanced up at her through my lashes and nodded. “You are correct.” I tried to shrug off my misgivings. Haydyn wasn’t a little girl anymore. I had to let her make her own choices and believe she could cope with the consequences when they came. “I am glad you’re making your own decisions. Our opinions may differ but… all that matters,” I took her hand again, “Is I have faith in you. I went to the ends of the world because of that faith. I’m not going to give up on it now.”

She grinned back at me, relief thrumming visibly through her.

I squelched my fear at her glad smile. I’d just have to take every day as it came and hope the decisions she made were the kind that ended in her own happily ever after.

Epilogue

Although Haydyn’s happily ever after was uncertain, I knew I was as close to mine as I would ever be as I sat beside Wolfe on the cliffs outside Land’s End Cottage. After weeks of travelling, I wanted nothing more than a little bit of haven out here on the cliffs, away from everyone else. The quiet was wonderful. Back at the palace, Haydyn was arranging my wedding to Wolfe. It was to take place the first day of the Autumn Season and she was turning it into a lavish affair that made my head spin and my ears bleed. Wolfe had finally come to my rescue and absconded with me to the cliffs.

I sighed contentedly, snuggling into his side, loving the drizzle of sea spray that caught on the wind and kissed my cheeks. I knew I would have to deal with all the trappings that came with being a Vikomtesa; the large wedding, getting to know the dowager Vikomtesa. Wolfe’s mother was a bird of a woman, twittering at me nervously, her eyes asking how on earth the two of us had come to fall in love. She was gentle and kind but hated confrontation; I could see how easy it must have been for Syracen to hurt and abuse her. We were a different breed of woman, but for Wolfe’s sake I would try to be a good daughter to her, try to befriend her – even if that meant discussing dress fittings, menus, and sheet music. I’d have plenty of time in which to get to know her better, as Wolfe had agreed to move into the new palace in Vasterya so I could still be close to Haydyn, but only under the condition that we didn’t leave his mother behind in Silvera.

One bright spot in my busy social schedule was L. The two messengers I’d sent into the Alvernian Mountains (two of the Guard well equipped to deal with the harsh hills) had returned two days ago from their visit with the Moss family, with a message from L. They had agreed to come to the wedding and spend a month of the fall with me here in Silvera. I couldn’t believe it. I’d thought it would take blackmail to get L off that mountain of hers. I couldn’t wait for Haydyn to meet her. I wouldn’t push L to meet anyone else in society if she didn’t want to. I knew what their reaction to her rough speech and unladylike ways would be, and she was too good a person to be subjected to that. But, deep down, I secretly hoped that after travelling through the provinces (in style – I was sending a carriage for them that would meet them at the bottom of the mountains) L and her family may come to like my world, and perhaps think of making a new life in Vasterya with me and Wolfe and Haydyn. I smiled inwardly; it was a bit of a fairytale, I knew. But I could hope. And if L and her family did decide to return to the Alvernian Mountains, then I’d make sure they were sent supplies every month, and perhaps have a larger home constructed for them. Wolfe had already told me to rein in my plans for the Moss’ in case I overwhelmed them. But I wanted to overwhelm them. They’d saved my life.

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