Prince, 108

“We will go back home, I think,” Cordelia said, looking at Isabella, who nodded. “Not right away.”

“No,” Isabella agreed. “But since the crown has unfrozen our assets and we’re not in danger anymore, it doesn’t make sense for us to stay in Dolovai. I hope that’s not a problem, my king.”

“No,” said Franz, who would be a little upset to lose them even if he’d known this would happen. “Now that Kyaine is safe again, you should go home. It’s where you belong.”

“It is,” Cordelia said, sighing deeply. “We are going to miss you, Franz.”

Prince, 104

Dominic had either been lying or wrong. Gerard’s assassins weren’t coming in a week. They’d come a few hours after he’d left, and now it was too late.

It was too late for Helena Quate and Franz’s uncle Hans, too. All three of them had been killed in the same night and Franz simply didn’t understand why.

“It just doesn’t make any sense,” Dahlia said, shaking her head. “If the Empire wanted to destabilize us, that’s one thing. But am I really to believe that their information network is so shoddy they didn’t realize Hans wasn’t in charge in Kyaine anymore?”

Franz nodded, looking down at his uncle’s body. It was being prepared for transport back to Kyaine so his funeral could be held there. Franz would go, except he couldn’t, because Gerard was dead and that meant his wife was about to be crowned queen of Dolovai.

Franz had known he’d be king someday. He hadn’t thought it would be two weeks after his wedding.

Prince, 102

“So, you’re the little shit who married my sister, huh?” Franz asked, crossing his arms at Giacomo DiSheere.

Well, he was going by Giacomo DiGorre, now. But he hadn’t yet convinced Franz that he deserved to. He smiled at Franz, playing with a lock of his hair. “Is that what that ceremony was? I’m so used to priests telling me off that I just tuned her out, honestly.”

Dahlia slapped his arm. “Don’t be cute, Franz doesn’t like it when boys are cute.”

Prince, 100

It was a good day to get married.

The weather was nice, everyone looked perfect, the church was packed, and Franz’s sister had gotten here just an hour ago.

“We can talk more about me later,” Dahlia told Franz, helping him fix his makeup. “It’s literally your wedding day, stop asking how I am.”

Noble, 33

Geoffrey held Javier’s hand as four young guards with DiGorre crests on their breasts lead them to the throne room. They stood outside the open doors while someone shouted that they were here to appear before the queen.

“It’ll be okay,” Geoffrey told Javier quietly.

“I know. That doesn’t mean I’m excited to see it.”

Geoffrey nodded. He wasn’t particularly excited to be spanked in front of the court either, but it was a small thing and then they could go home. It was just a game. “It’ll be ten minutes and then this is all over,” he said.

Another guard came out. “The queen will see the traitor,” he said to the others.

Noble, 32

The door banging open dragged Geoffrey from a nap, though he hadn’t been deeply enough asleep for it to matter. “What?” he asked, as some guards came into the room.

“Stay right there,” one of them told him. They were both wearing House DiGorre’s crest on their brightly polished breastplates, and started looking around the room.

“What are you looking for?” Javier asked them, from his place near the window. He was writing.

“Weapons. Hand the quill over.”

“Weapons?” Javier asked, looking at his quill. He handed it to the guard, who inspected it.

“It’s okay, Javier,” Geoffrey told him. There was only one reason they’d suddenly be inspecting the room. “Just let them look around. The queen is coming to see us.” The king wouldn’t have bothered with all this.

Noble, 20

Geoffrey woke up vaguely sure he’d had a nightmare but unable to remember what it was.

It didn’t really matter, he thought after a second or two of being awake. The nightmare he’d woken to was worse than whatever his imagination had ever conjured for him. Giacomo was still gone. He was still…

Well, Geoffrey wasn’t alone, that wasn’t fair. He was in Giacomo’s bed with Javier and Alfie and Aleksander, who’d joined them because he couldn’t sleep alone. He and Alfie were cuddled up beside Geoffrey, and Javier’s head was on Geoffrey’s shoulder. Dahlia had taken up residence in Geoffrey’s bedroom, so Geoffrey and the others were all sleeping in Giacomo’s, making it impossible not to notice his absence no matter how full the bed was. The sheets smelled like him. His collection of little animal carvings was on the bedside table. His coat was on the back of the door.

Noble, 19

“Hans’s forces hold about a third of the city,” Bernd said, gesturing to the map, which very clearly showed that Hans’s forces held about a third of the city, a semicircle around the palace. “He can’t advance much away from the castle or his forces will be drawn too thin.”

“But we can’t do anything about it, because our forces are in the same position,” Dahlia said, arms crossed as she glared down at the map. “And there have been no answers from the nobility?”

“No,” Geoffrey said. “Letters from Hans claiming I abducted you and am holding you captive are making it hard for people to believe letters from you claiming that Hans has usurped you and is staging a coup.” Geoffrey had to hand it to Hans—the misinformation campaign had gone out quickly and efficiently and now nobody knew what to believe, and none of them would accept Geoffrey’s invitations to come over to his house and see the truth for themselves. Most of the nobility was sitting in their houses waiting to see what would happen next.

It was never too late to join the winning side, but nobody wanted to pick a loser if they could avoid it.