Chapter 3

Jadreric sighed, he hated this place. A school for future Rulers. Why had his father sent him here, they weren't in line for the throne. Though they were cousins to the King, they were related through his mother not his father. And though they had other blood ties to the ruling family, they were too distant to put them in line. Most of the other Nobles had an equal blood tie to the ruling family. Princess Evi was the only one who would be the next ruler.

A cold chill ran through him as he thought about his fathers ambition, what if he planned to marry him to her. He liked her well enough, but she was a child. The last time he had seen her she had been nine. He had been twelve when his father had sent him here. Now that he thought about it his father had been hinting lately that he had plans for him.

He brooded, worrying about what his father planned to do, the cold chill wouldn't leave him. And he shivered.

Evangeline shivered in her sleep, a vague feeling of distant unease colored her dreams, blood and smoke veiled everything she could see. It kept the sight from her eyes. With a sharp cry, she sat up and open her eyes. What had happened? She looked around the room, but all was quiet and she could remember nothing of her dreams.

Only the unease remained. She hugged herself and tried to calm down. She remembered the plains chants she had found in the library, reciting she fell into a trance and calmed down, her eyes drooping before she lay back and drifted back into sleep.

The next morning she remembered nothing, of her night terrors, though a faint residue of her unease remained. The feeling never seemed to leave her and she had taken to hiding everything she valued in the hidden chamber. Something was going to happen, she just knew it. The thought haunted her.

Lord Damon watched the girl. She avoided him, he knew it and the fact amused him. It didn't matter, most days he knew exactly where she was, though there were troubling lapses in his surveillance.

She would disappear and show up in an entirely different section of the palace. If he didn't know better he would have thought she had picked up witchy abilities with her witchblood. But she had never shown any sign of such things, he had watched carefully.

His spies watched his cousin the King as well, he knew everything the man did and he carefully planned the campaign he had set in motion to discredit him with the other Nobles. Minor things so far, but he was laying out the groundwork, while making himself indispensable to his cousin.

The man passed on more of his power each day. Damon struggled to keep the contempt he felt off his face as he sat at the mornings meal. Fenris looked tired and haggard today, ever since the witch had visited, it seemed as if he had lost his will to live. Satisfaction washed through Damon, maybe the man would die and make things easy for him, it was a thought.

Evi glanced sharply at Lord Damon from under her lashes, she had felt a crack in his armor, a flash of oily satisfaction. About what she didn't know, but it was promising that she had felt it. And she planned to continue to feel for another crack. It was only a matter of time. She had been getting stronger.

Later that day, she sat at her fathers side. He had taken to bringing her to audiences and the council. He said he wanted her to learn the ways of rule. She sighed, most of these sessions were deadly dull, though it was fascinating to see the politics of the minor nobles and their squabbles.

With her new abilities, she had no trouble telling who was telling the truth, often she had to bite her lip to keep quiet, but it was amazing how often her father chose the correct course and even when he made a mistake, he did it in such a way as to leave no hard feelings behind.

She wished she had that ability, it made her appreciate his wisdom more and she wondered if when her time came, would she be half the ruler he was even with her gifts.

She sat up in her chair, the man who walked up to the throne was no noble or courier. He wore plain clothing and held lightly onto his sword. She felt for him, then pulled back in surprise. A shield of intense concentration, and an edge of determination kept her from his thoughts. She would have to wait and see, just like everyone else.

He bowed "Your Majesty."

"Yes, what is it you wish to speak of?" her fathers rote phrases washed over her almost unheard as she watched the man.

"I would speak of a band of outlaws, they prey upon the trade routes. They demand ransoms to return our kin to us, Thus far we have paid, but it is becoming too dear to continue this route" he stopped raising his eyes to her fathers, pride plain in every line of him.

She knew from his speech that he must be a trader and waited for her fathers response. He opened his mouth to speak and Lord Damons voice called out "What would you have of us? To pay your ransoms?" his voice had a mocking quality to it and Evi frowned.

It wasn't wise to alienate a potential ally, and the traders were no minor power, she had learned in her studies, in the past they had brought countries down to their knees when wronged. She shook her head in disgust, was he trying to ruin them.

She looked up to see the trader watching her carefully and she gave a tiny shrug and a shake of her head, to let him know she didn't feel the same way. She was rewarded with a faint smile, so quick and elusive that most missed it entirely. A cold feeling settled over her and she looked up to see Lord Damon frowning at her. She needed no powers to know he was displeased.

Lord Damon scowled, the girl was ruining everything, she kept the trader envoy from washing his hands of them. Something that would have been a blow to Fenris' rule. It was a fine line, alienating the man and then later mending fences and making him think that his previous attitude had been decreed by Fenris. It was something he had done many times, but she had ruined that.

He sighed and cleared his face of all expression, he had frightened her, something he was taking pains to avoid. She would be much easier to handle if she wasn't frightened. And a small grudging respect for her had started to grow, he would need to keep a close eye on her, she was smarter than he had realized.