Rainhart moved neatly through the figures. His honey brown hair curled around the high collar of his doublet. Philomena was drawn to the way the gestures made his clothes bunch and tighten, outlining long limbs and lean muscles. She thought again of the loinclothed acrobat from earlier. Was Rainhart that strong and lithe under his clothes?


(Settle down, young lady!)

“So instead of accepting defeat and resigning yourself to a life in exile, you wish to make a quixotic gesture and strike to reclaim the crown.” She smiled. “Well and good; we like quixotic gestures, don’t we Lord Valentin?”

Valentin, who had been crippled during a quixotic gesture three years ago, gave a pained smile. “Quite,” he said.


(The Empress is the only one having any fun in this scene.)

It was just around the next bend, just beyond the edge of his perception. A hope, nothing more. Rainhart stopped in a clearing and closed his eyes, feeling sun on his face although the day was cloudy. He should bring the others here. The lost king, the golden-haired girl, and the little sparrow.

But how would he convince them to come?

He would convince them. All would be well.

Rainhart smiled, an expression that seemed to scoop up his heart and lift it into the trees.

Her clothes still weren’t dry, but the night was warm, and they stood a better chance of drying on her body, so she bunched up her chaperon into a pillow and rolled onto her side, tucking her legs close to her belly. The grass was soft enough to make a serviceable bed. She wondered what their highnesses would make of sleeping rough. With her eyes closed, she laid a little curse, that Rainhart would manage to sleep on a stone and wake with a crick in his neck. Silly superstition, but for a moment, Philomena thought the forest might be listening.


(This another of my lowkey fav moments.)

Philomena was fumbling with her oilskin. Rainhart took the folded leather and shook it out so he could settle it on her shoulders. She smiled up at him, crinkling the corners of her eyes, rain running in rivulets down her face. He pulled her hood up. “Come on,” he said, taking her hand.


(Of course, it is two steps forward, one step back with this pair. *G*)

I understand that information brings with it power. I am never closed to new information: most people find that I am a very good listener.


(That isn’t sinister at all, Lord Valentin. Not. at. all.)

“You need to stop speaking to me as if I am your inferior, Prince Rainhart,” she said, drawing herself up to her full height. “I am–I belong to House Sylvana, one of the most powerful families in the world. We have an empire that spans continents. You, for the time being, have nothing.”

She left Rainhart staring after her, speechless.


(My sense from the comments is that this ranks #2 on the list of readers’ favourite moments. *G*)

It was nice to be among the men of Mullrose and Reuz, whom Rainhart had grown up with. He fit in well with fighting men and their leaders: they were the same sort of folk as he was, who thought in terms of provisions and tactics and horses and dogs. Knocking a man to the ground and then offering him your hand.

But there was something different, too. Growing up at Mullrose he had believed the world was a simple place where actions had predictable consequences and life proceeded in an orderly way. He knew now that wasn’t true. Actions had consequences, not just for him, but for others. And not just at that moment, but for the times that followed. He couldn’t just knock people down and expect that they would accept an outstretched hand and thank him for it.

His father was dead, and Milos was dead, and Tancred was locked in a fight for his life and his throne. If they lost, history would remember them as cowards and regicides. If they won, Rainhart was going to live the foreseeable future as a foreigner in Jovan. Philomena was never going to stop thinking he wished her ill. Actions and consequences.


(Probably the most significant bit of character growth for Rainhart in the whole story.)

Behind her, the chair scraped back as he stood. “When the Empress of Jovan was in the straits I am in, she plucked an Alysine orphan out of obscurity and made her a princess,” he said hoarsely. “The fighting on Traumwald field was theatre. An afternoon’s diversion. The real battle is happening now, and I am fighting for my life.” His voice broke. “I am trying to steer my country whole and strong through a maelstrom.”

The brothers sized each other up. Rainhart was taller and a little broader than Maldwyn these days, although the court ladies would no doubt prefer Maldwyn’s bright hair, soft nails and smooth manners to Rainhart’s gruff marcher ways. After a moment, Maldwyn smiled, revealing two gold teeth. “Brother, embrace me,” he said. “It has been too long.”


(Oh Rainhart. Don’t pretend you don’t think your gruff marcher ways are charming.)