mandag den 30. april 2012

So sorry!

Dear readers (all ten of you)

I'm afraid there's going to be a small delay. I have a lot of stuff that I had to do last week and this coming week, so there is no update today. I will try to get it out during the week, but if I don't succeed, at least there will be an update on the normal time next week. Sorry! At some point in the near future, I promise! I've reached a difficult place in the story, and writing the next chapter has turned out to be a challenge.

Sorry again.


søndag den 22. april 2012

Chapter 9, part 3

Keeping a slow pace was almost more than she could manage as the rider behind her came closer and closer. Only the thought of an arrow protruding from her back made her slow down.

Finally he reached her.

"Halt," he ordered in a strong accent.

She did not ask any questions but did as he said. He jumped off his horse and went to her, studying her face. He was tall and blonde, and looked weirdly appealing. His face was almost angelic. Catherine took a deep breath and greeted him.

"Can I help you, sir?"

"I am looking for someone," he said. His voice was harsher than she would have imagined.

"Not me, I assume?"

He narrowed his eyes.

"No. Not you. But it is very strange that you should be here. Who are you?"

"My name is Ca - Camille."

"Well, Camille. Why are you here at this time? What are you doing?"

"I don't see how that is any of you business," she said, fighting down her rising panic.

It was the wrong reaction. She was pulled off Pello with a scream of fear and found herself held close up between the sweating horse and the assassin.

"It IS my business."

"I'm just travelling. I'm staying in the woods. Please!"

"Alone and unharmed? I find that hard to believe. You are not a fighter, I can tell. If I wanted you right now, you would not be able to stop me." He grinned.

Something happened in Catherine at that. The panic disappeared like a thin fog. Without hesitation she used her free arm to drag her knife and push it towards the man's neck. He did not seem to be afraid when he saw what she had done. He grinned at her again then stepped back to allow her to breathe. She stared at him.

"You stay away from me."

"You're not the one I was looking for. Have you met any travellers?"

She shook her head.

"I've been going this way for most of the day and I have seen no one."

"He went back on his horse, nodded at her and went back the way he had come. Catherine watched him go, sheathed her knife and went to vomit in the grass. She sobbed again and tried to wipe herself clean. The feeling of the man on her was still there. It felt as if he was still looking at her.

She cried a little, then wiped her face and went to get Pello who had been wandering slowly down the road. She took off as well, this time daring to g a little faster. Her arm was no longer hurting as badly as before and she began hoping that it might not be broken at all. Perhaps it was just a bad bruise.

It took her a few hours to reach the river. When she did, she stopped. They had been travelling to the west of the city and their route today had been slightly to the right of the route from the previous days. She hoped she was correct in assuming that she had to go to the right in order to travel north. There were a few stars out, but she did not know which one to follow. taking a chance, she went to the right.

The water was very calm, and it proved to be no problem to go through the shallow water at one side of the river.

Less than 500 meters down the stream, there was a loud whistle. She went towards the sound. Prince Alexander came out to meet her on the uneven bank of the river.

He looked furious.


"Sir, I'm sorry for what I did. But it worked. He went back. I'm fine."

There was a pause.

"You will not disobey me again, girl!"

"No, sir."

He made a sign for her to follow him into the trees that were in front of them and she found his horse waiting there. She allowed Pello to grass next to it and turned towards prince Alexander who seemed to have something he wanted to say if his impatient stance was anything to go by.

"Did you really make him turn back?"

"Yes, sir."

"Well then... We cannot stay here either way. But I need to see something. We are leaving here in a moment, you might as well get ready."

Catherine followed his advice and went to have a drink of water. She washed her face as well and hurried to have a bite to eat. The small, fiery glows emitting from under the princes cloak where he was hiding on the ground made her uneasy, but she did not want to show it. She would need to get used to magic now. There was little doubt in her mind that the prince would somehow make sure that they survived. After all, he had fought a war. She could not imagine that assassins could get him. He would stop them.

More and more, she had come to think of him as a hero. He clearly had the best interest of the people on his mind, even if that meant not expending the lands further as long as that meant bloodshed. He got angry often and easily, but it was usually over quick. Sometimes, like tonight, he even had a quite good reason. Not that she appreciated the many outbursts at her inability to be something she was not.

With that in mind, she carefully stepped across the stones towards her horse. She moved with all the grace of a princess. She smiled in the middle of all the danger and haste. She knew how to do it now. And she had practised her hand writing. It was no longer ugly. She just needed to learn how to spell some more words.


The shout ripped her from her thoughts and she ran to the prince who had slumped against a tree trunk.

"You. You are incredible. Stupid, yes. But What you have done tonight..."


"You changed it. We're not in danger any more. Somehow you changed what ever magic or coincidence that was going to get me killed. I will not die if we go back to the city now."

søndag den 15. april 2012

Chapter 9, part 2

When they woke up the next morning, Catherine did not bother asking about anything else. She was angry, and she was not used to the feeling. She had no idea what to do with her anger. She just kept quiet.

When the prince suddenly came rushing towards her, she tried to walk away. He grabbed her arm.

"Girl, we need to leave right away! Something has gone wrong. Somehow one of the assassins has managed to gain almost two days on horseback on us. He will be at this place in a few hours."

She understood his worry and packed her things quickly. They rode away in silence, as quickly as the forest allowed.

Catherine followed the prince, trusting that he knew where they were going. The ride was more difficult than it had been the previous days, her muscles being stiff and her mind still on the calm camp site.

"I should not have used deer blood," the prince said. "It ruined everything. I should have known."

She did not answer. He did not seem to be conversing as much as just thinking aloud.

"It's unlikely that he finds the camp, but if he does, he will track us down. There is a river a day away from here. We will ride until we reach it. If he gets onto our tracks he will lose them there. I just hope that is enough."

She heard the edge of worry in his voice and understood that what he had seen had scared him. She very much did not want him to get murdered. The thought was scary. If he dies, would she be killed as well? Would the assassins let her go, and if they did, where would she go?

The hectic ride continued all day, except for two breaks where they had drinks of water and another where the prince checked their position. When he had done so, they sped up even more; the assassin had indeed found their camp site.

"He uses magic," said prince Alexander. "I am sure of it. He does not know where we are, but something is telling him where to look next. Now he is on our trail."

After that they did not stop. Catherine had scratches all over her face and limbs from riding full speed into small branches. She had no idea how she had managed to avoid larger branches or even falling off the horse. And still she kept up with the prince, driven forward by adrenaline. He was her future, even if she would have preferred something else. She had even come to like him, at times, over the past four days. She had not hated him before, but seeing him out of the castle had made him more human.

They came to a small road. Finally they could speed up. Suddenly Catherine had an idea.

"Sir, how long before the river?" she shouted.

The prince looked back at her, brows furrowed.

"Two or three more hours, are you tired?"

"No. What way will we be taking?"

"North, what is this?"

"Ride ahead, sir," she answered with conviction.

"I will not! Stop wasting your breath."

With strength she was not supposed to have, she shouted again.

"Ride ahead! He will never suspect that we are together, it might throw him off!"

"Catherine! I already did all I could to throw him off, I will not sacrifice a girl as well!"

"I'll be fine, ride ahead!"

Prince Alexander ignored her, but she would not let him decide her fate like that. If she was to be his property, she would at least make sure he knew to appreciate her. She forced Pello to turn around and went back the way they had come. Her heart was pounding in her chest. She heard the prince roaring her name, but she willed herself to continue. She would not let an assassin waste his life if she could stop it by simply being in the way. She pulled her cloak up and drew the hood down in front of her face.

Then it dawned on her. There was no way of knowing that the man following them would stop to check her identity before firing an arrow or something like it. She might get herself killed. She no longer knew why she had though this a good idea. Scared out of her mind she tried turning Pello around again. This time he must have felt her fear. He reared and threw her off.

She came to on the ground. She could not stop sobbing, the pain and fear was almost making her faint. The prince had not followed her back. She had to get up and continue. Somehow, she had to get back on her horse and flee the place she had so stupidly gotten herself into. Her pride had led her. It was a mistake she would be sure to to repeat.

Her arm felt as though it was broken again. The only thing that got her back into the saddle was the knowledge that she might die any moment. She threw back her hood and spent a few frantic seconds loosening her hair. Maybe if she did not look like a man on the run, she would safe her life. She forced herself to tide at a pace that did not make her look as though she was fleeing.

She hoped the man was still far enough behind them that she would reach the river before he found her. The prince had said that he was far behind. She might have gotten scared for no reason.

She started sobbing again as the movements of the horse made all of her new injuries hurt. It felt as is she had a bad scratch on her cheek as well. Apparently there was no limit to how often she would present herself to her future king looking like a savage. Not only that but she must have made him more than furious by running away from him and into the path of a murderer.

The sound of another rider behind her made her heart freeze. 

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mandag den 9. april 2012

Chapter 9, part 1

They spent a few hours in silence. Catherine regretted having reminded the prince about his spell. She could understand his problem. Even his anger. He had taken a giant risk in order to have a chance of getting the throne, and now he was likely to get it simply by inheritance. He was still magically bound to a group of women and he was still forced to marry one of them. Now there was the added difficulty of convincing them to come back. Of course, he was almost done with his decision as it was, so he would most likely just send a proposal.

She hoped he would chose well. Maybe princess Lily Maria. She had seemed to like Catherine, and it might mean that she would be able to stay. Princess Iris did not trust her even a little, but maybe if the prince told her why she had been acting as she had, she would still have a chance. Lady Corinna was a more cold person, and she was unlikely to care at all what happened to Catherine. That is, unless Catherine had a chance to talk to her and convince her of her usefulness.

Their food was done. The prince handed her some of the meat and smiled at her again. She felt better. Maybe he was forgetting her comment and they could go back to the easy companionship they had been enjoying.

"I'm glad we have time for sitting still," she said.

The prince nodded.

"I'm glad you took over the cooking," he answered.

They went to bed early, but the silence was gone.

In the morning the prince checked their position again. He did not seem happy, but he did not tell her to hurry up either. She asked him what he had seen, but he just shook his head. She kept her mouth shut after that.

They stayed in their camp site for the day, which Catherine took to mean that the assassins were not closing in on them after all. She spent several hours cutting up the deer while the prince cooked the pieces. They packed the cooked meat into an extra bag. They cooked more than they could pack in order to have enough for the rest of the day and the prince buried the rest of the carcass.

"One important thing when you're out here is to try and avoid attracting predators. Either way you do not want maggots crawling across you bed at night. Bury what you cannot eat. It is better that way. But try not to kill unless you are also able to use the animal. It is just a waste."

Catherine nodded and tried to pay attention.

"I understand that you are still quite interested in outdoor living," he said.

"Yes, sir," she answered.

"Well, I doubt you are going to ever need any of this knowledge, but there is no harm in telling you."

"Why not, sir?"

"Well, what are you expecting? That I let you go live in the forest like a wild beast whenever you feel like it?"

"No, sir, but I thought I might as well be prepared."

"I doubt you will need it, my sweet. The castle is not usually attacked. And once the king's army is mine, most of our enemies will think twice before they go anywhere near our borders. Besides, I am not planning to keep this ridiculous ban on magic. That is yet another advantage. Once the wizards are loyal to us again, we will be very strong indeed."

"I understand that, sir, but do you mean that I will stay at the castle?"

He turned around to look at her, one eyebrow raised.

"Why would you even ask that? Were you doubting that?"

"Well, yes, sir. I wasn't sure."

He laughed.

"Did you think I was just going to let you go after the spell pointed you out as a person why would be of great benefit to me? Girl, where is your head? Just because I did not plan on marrying you does not mean that I am going to let you go to waste."

Catherine did not know what to say. She had been so afraid of her future and then it turned out that she did not even have a choice. It was all planned for her.

"I see," she said.

She went to sit at the fire. The flames were pale against the daylight, but the heat was a comfort to her aching body. She should be relieved. she knew that. She was supposed to be overjoyed. A life at court awaited her. A life of helping out the king himself. Important decisions would be made, and she would be a part of it. But she would not be asked. She would not be in control of her own life. There were so many questions.

She sat at the fire the rest of the day. She did not know what other jobs there were to do, and the prince did not ask her for help with gathering firewood. She supposed he did not mind allowing her a few hours to let the news sink in.

When he came to join her and they had eaten their dinner, she decided to ask the most pressing questions.

"Sir, what if I ever want to live anywhere else?"

He frowned.

"Where else would you want to live? There are several places you could go for vacations, if you want. I'm sure we can come to some sort of agreement on that."

"But if I wanted to live outside of all of that?"

"I'm going to keep you around. That is that."
"And if I ever want to get married?"

"Who do you want to get married to?"
"I don't. But what if I did? And if I wanted a family like everyone else?"

"I can't allow you to be loyal to anyone else, surely you can see that? I need you - your kingdom needs you. It's your destiny."

Catherine did not reply, not wanting him to get angry again. Without knowing, she had entered into another prison. She had even spent several months worrying that she might be thrown out of it. The irony was bitter.

onsdag den 28. marts 2012

Chapter 8, part 5

Into the afternoon, they crossed an animal trail that prince Alexander felt was worth following. Catherine stayed far behind him while he slowly followed the trail on foot. After a while he stopped her.

"We're close enough. Wait here and be very quiet. Do not move about."

Catherine sat down on the ground, grateful for yet another break. Before long, though, the wait began seeming endless. Sitting still, watching Pello grassing behind her, observing the ants crawling across her leather boots. The silence reminded her of what her life would really be like if she were ever forced to travel the woods alone. It would become very lonely, she suddenly realised.

She already missed prince Alexander's company, and he was by far the scariest man she had ever met.

She waited for hours, if the feeling of it was anything to go by. Her legs cramped and her back hurt. Her hands had gotten filthy from resting on the ground. She thought she was dreaming when she heard the sound of something crashing through the branches further below. It was in fact the prince, using his poor horse to help drag a small deer towards her. She stood up, her legs spinning and burning from the lack of use.

"You got one," she shouted excitedly.

Prince Alexander grinned at her.

"I am not the worst hunter if I can say so myself," he answered. "In fact," he continued, "we will camp right here and celebrate! Do you know how to gut one of these?"

Catherine blanched. He laughed at her.

"Do stop fretting, my girl. I will do it. But you are going to have to gather some firewood in the meantime. I need to make sure that our enemies are not closing in on us. They were far away this morning, but we don't want them getting anywhere near us. Like I said, it looks like my death should one of them even learn of my position."

"I'll gather the wood, sir," she said, repressing a shudder. It was unnatural for a man to know about his own death like that. She did not like the fact that he was using magic so easily. He did not even seem repentant.

She gathered the wood, though it took her a lot longer than she had anticipated. The prince finished with his own smelly job before she was done. After disposing of the waste, he came to join her. The carefree smile on his face when she met his gaze surprised her. She had, yet again, expected him to get angry with her for not meeting his expectations.

He hurried past her with three times the amount of branches that she was carrying herself, and when she reached him, he had already lid a few small sticks. Before adding anything larger to the fire he drew out a small pouch from under his cloak and took out a bag that she had seen the evening before. He went to retrieve a small cup from where the carcass of the deer was hanging down from a large branch. Catherine drew back when she saw the blood it contained. He must have noticed. Grin still on his face and eyes fixed on the flames he started explaining.

"The blood makes the spell stronger and allows me to follow their movements a little while into the future as well. It is a strong spell, and it will let us know for how long we can safely stay here."

He sprinkled some small grains from the bag into the flames and then allowed the blood to drip into the sizzling branches. Catherine saw no difference, and had no idea what he was looking for. He was still smiling, however, and that made her feel safer.

When he did not move for a while, she had an idea. She unpacked her knife from one of the bags on his horse and went over to the deer. She kept the sheath of the knife tied to her belt. No need to have it lying in the bag in case something happened and she needed it.

His very poor job of cutting the bread had shown her that cooking was most likely not one of his strong sides. She was no cook herself, but she felt confident that she would be able to do a better job than him. She got her hands and sleeves bloody, and the result was far from pretty. At least the pieces of meat were relatively even and not just random chunks out of the animal.

She cut two branches and got them pointed enough that she could stick the meat unto them. Then she went back to the fire, where the prince had finished.

"Are they far?"

"At least two and a half days from where we are now and not really going our way at all. Most of them have gone to the east of the city, actually. I have a mansion there."

"I don't know how to do this," she said and waved the sticks at him. He smiled.

"Let me see," he said.

He placed the sticks so that the meat would cook, and they sat down. Catherine, no longer distracted by her various tasks, had to bite her tongue in order to keep in the whimpers of pain that wanted out from escaping her lips. Her legs were burning. In fact, her entire body felt like she had taken quite a beating.

The prince looked at her questioningly. Then he grinned.

"It takes a toll on you. You will get used to it. You might not even have to get used to it. With a little luck my men will have overtaken the castle by tomorrow, and the assassins will be gone."

"I hope so, sir."

He nodded.

"If they don't take over, what happens then?"

"Then I will wait for them here and gather them up for a second attack once they have regained their strength. We will not be defeated."

"So if they overtake the castle now, does that make you the king, then?"

"Indeed, that would mean that I would be king. after the crowning ceremonies."

"Then you don't have to marry after all," she said, thinking out loud.

The prince's expression soured. He was quiet for a second.

"You forget that I already cast a spell that is apparently useless," he growled.

torsdag den 22. marts 2012

Chapter 8, part 4

Before evening came, they stopped in a small clearing to camp for the night. The prince jumped smartly off his horse and onto the ground, where he immediately began offloading the saddlebags. Catherine looked at him for a moment, then swung her leg across the horse and fell to the ground. Prince Alexander ran towards her looking worried. She grabbed her arm where she had hurt it on a rock and sat up. Prince Alexander stopped rushing and started smiling amusedly at her instead. She did not find it funny. Her arm hurt so bad that she was afraid she might start crying.

"I'm so sorry," said he, when he saw her face. "Are you hurt? I forget that you are not used to riding."

"I'm fine," she growled.

He looked at her for a little while, but she refused to meet his gaze. He went pack to unpacking. When she was sure that he was no longer looking at her, she got to her feet. Slowly. Her legs felt as if they were on fire. Her arm might bruise, but it was nothing compared to what was happening to her thighs. She limped carefully to a patch of soft looking grass and sat down. Slowly.

The prince finished with his own horse, then turned around and stared at her. She noticed the anger on his face for a moment, then something that might be pity. At least he went to Pello, her horse, and started taking off the saddle. She was grateful that he did not make her get back up.

In the end he surprised her again when he built a fireplace in a comfortable length from where she had sat down. He did not mock her for having sore legs, which she had feared he might do. She blushed anyway since it was obvious why she was acting the way she was.

"Thank you," she said, and nodded in the general direction of the fire and the horses.

"you will get used to it," was all he said. "Are you hungry?"

"Yes, sir, I'm starving."

"We have a bit of bread here. Starting tomorrow we might have to hunt. I hope you are able to stand the sight of blood for the sake of dinner?"

Catherine nodded. She had often imagined what it would be like to kill something. For the sake of dinner. A small part of her was thrilled at this whole new adventure, despite the bruises and the pain. It was almost like she had dreamed it would be; the forest, the fire, the horse. The only thing out of place was Prince Alexander, who was chopping large chunks off of a small loaf of bread. He did the same to the cheese, handed her a few bits and then took a long drink from a water skin. That he proceeded to hand to her.

Catherine drew back a little.

"No thank you sir," she said, not wanting to put her mouth where his had just been.

The prince looked at her, then smiled.

"Oh, are you afraid? We are in a forest, Catherine, no one is going to care if we drink from the same cup."

"That is not a cup, and I care."

"Are you telling me you have never shared anything more filthy than this wine with anyone, ever? I did not know the water was so clean in your father's part of town."

Catherine huffed. Then paused.

"That's wine?"

He nodded. She took the skin from him and took a sip. It was worth it. It even made the terrible-looking chunks of food go down easier. Not that her hunger would have allowed her a moment's hesitation either way. They ate in silence for a while.

"We will need to be at least two days away from the city. Maybe three. Not more than that, though. That way I can keep up with anyone following us and still make sure that we get back once this is all over."

The last part of his sentence was growled. He clearly did not enjoy staying away from a fight. Maybe it was even the fight itself he missed.

Prince Alexander handed her a large blanket and took one for himself. He went to lie down on the other side of the fire. Catherine was happy that it was still relatively warm out.

When she was woken up in the grey dawn, everything was damp, and the fire had died out. Somehow the prince managed to get it back to life while she got up. Her entire body hurt. The process of having a quick breakfast consisting of the remaining bread and a sip of wine, and getting back on the horse, seemed tedious.

Suddenly the life out doors was not as much fun as it had been in her dreams. She forced herself to focus on the fresh air and the fact that she could do anything she wanted in order to save her good mood. It helped.

The horses were clearly feeling much better. They were impatient and did not need many moments before they sped off. In a very short time their little camp site was gone. In front of them was the thick, green forest. Prince Alexander grinned at her as he sped past. She could not help herself but smiled and tried to catch up. Pello was a fine horse, as she had not had to worry about the price, but he could not keep up with the stallion the prince was riding on. Apparently that was just one more perk to being royal.

They made a few stops during the day, mainly for Catherine's sake. She stretched her sore legs a little and had a drink of water. The prince did not seem to need any rest, but he never got angry with her for her weakness. 

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onsdag den 14. marts 2012

Chapter 8, part 3

Early one morning Catherine was woken up by the prince. He looked terrible, face drawn in a snarl, hair spilling over his face. Her first thought was that the magic had taken hold of him again, and that she would spend another few hours clutched to his chest.

"We are leaving, get up now! Go and dress yourself in anything that you have"

The urgency in his voice made her obey him right away. Without stopping to see if he had turned away, she walked out of the room in her night gown and went to dress herself in something simple. She was glad that she had also kept a set of comfortable clothes made of sturdy materials ready for this day. She had not expected the prince to be with her, but she was prepared. She emerged and found him waiting for her.

"Do you still have all that gear of yours laying about?"

She nodded.

"Good. We'll need to use that for a few days. I can't let anyone know that were are going."

He handed her a heavy cloak that he had brought with him. She noticed that he was wearing one himself. He took her hand. They ran to the stables, leaving Catherine a mess, struggling to breathe. She had not had much exercise in the past three months. The prince found a stable boy that he seemed to know well and helped him get their horses ready. Catherine was glad that she had had clothes ready for this occasion. She could have been looking forward to a very uncomfortable ride indeed. He had not even mentioned that they would in fact be riding.

She told him where to find her things, still wondering why he had never mentioned them to her before, since he obviously knew about them, and mounted her horse. That at least she now knew how to do.

The prince joined her and led the way out of the castle grounds. It was still early enough that not too many guards saw them. The ones that did were paid handsomely to keep quiet for at least a few days.

As soon as the reached the city, they sped up and rushed down the empty streets. Catherine had to concentrate to keep up, and was terrified that she might fall off. She hoped that all the riding she had done would be enough for her to stay alive on this sudden journey.

They went out of the city and into the fields that surrounded it. An hour after she had been woken up, they were already quite far away from the castle. Two hours later they entered the forest that lay to the west of the city and the prince finally slowed down. After a short while he came to a full stop and went down on the ground. He drew a few lines in the dirt and started blowing a black powder from his pocket onto them. She watched as the powder glowed where it hit the ground and then faded to a dull grey.

The prince looked up at her.

"This is going to divert them if they follow us."

"Who, sir?"

He must have forgotten that she still had no idea what was happening. He made a strange face, then mounted his horse and made a sign for her to continue riding next to him. They rode slowly and he started telling her.

"I am afraid the king is dead," he began. Catherine wanted to express her sympathy, but he waved her off. "It is for the best. I have been waiting for that my entire life. We were not exactly close. What I did not expect was my cousin travelling towards us with an army. I have given orders for my own troops to fight, but I happen to know that his assassins will succeed in killing me if they find me. So until further notice, I am running away like a coward, letting my men do the fighting for me."

"You're not a coward, sir," Catherine said. "It cost you a lot of pride to do what is best for the country and stay out of the reach of these men. That isn't cowardly."

He looked at her and smiled bitterly.

"Thank you, little one. I am afraid it is not that pretty, but I appreciate your trying. Anyway, I have made sure that my prospective brides have all been sent towards their homes. It would not do for them to be found here. No need to have them be used as weapons against me."

"When will they arrive at the castle, sir?"

"About an hour after sunrise. Early enough that they might have caught us all off guard and killed everyone important right away."

"Good thing that you did not sleep. Why didn’t you sleep, sir?"

He looked at her again, a warning on his face. After a long silence he answered her anyway.

"I've been too uncomfortable to sleep for a while now. I did not think it appropriate to take measures to relieve my distress, and so I have spent my nights looking after all sorts of things. Both out of boredom and out of hope that I would stumble across the right answer."

Catherine had no answer. For a while she thought about how grateful she was that he had not come to sleep next to her again. He easily could have done as she had very few real rights. No one would have cared if he had done so. Honour must have kept him in his own rooms, she thought.

"Sir, have you been getting any closer to the answer, then?"

"To be honest, I probably had it down to either Lily Maria, Iris or Corinna," he said, confiding in her as he had been doing ever since she stopped making mistakes. "They would all make rather good queens, and I have found nothing to discredit either of them. I was very close to just picking one, actually. I am still not sure which one I would have gone with, but one of the three to be sure."

They rode on in silence as the forest grew darker and wilder around them. 

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