Noble, 49

“Are we going to get there in time?” Geoffrey asked Cliff, sitting at his table in the inn. They’d been forced to stop early two days in a row by snowstorms, and now they were late getting to the Dolovin capital. The wedding was tomorrow.

Cliff nodded. “The weather is hard to control but not impossible. If the snow hasn’t let up by an hour before sunrise, Master Gaston and Antoine and I will do a spell.”

Geoffrey nodded. The inn was warm, but the snow outside made it feel cold. He was glad he didn’t live in the north. “How hard will that be for you?”

“Doesn’t matter.” Cliff smiled. “We’ll get you there no matter what.”

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, 18

Geoffrey pitched back and forth with the carriage as they rode. He should have stayed home. Javier had asked him to stay home. The storm was only getting worse.

Geoffrey wasn’t going to stay home. His brother had gone missing from the castle, so that was where the answers had to be. Geoffrey was going to find out what had happened if he had to kill someone. Probably Hans DiFueure.

Javier held his hand, worried. “Sorry,” Geoffrey said to him.

“No,” Javier said, holding Alfie’s hand in his other. “Don’t, it’s not your fault.”

Villain, 64

“Dear Henry,” Henry read to Sam. “Good news. You’ll be delighted to know that Lord Hans has convinced the queen of the need to pursue an aggressive agenda to reintegrate Ech’kent into the greater body of Kyaine, and is working out a plan to kill the Sorcerer King once and for all. It is my hope that soon we can be reunited. Love, Geoffrey.”

Sam listened to the letter. He’d heard enough letters from Henry’s idiot cousin to be able to parse what this one meant. “So Hans has betrayed us.”

“Sounds like,” Henry agreed.

Sam thought about that. And about what he was going to do about it. “Okay.”

Noble, 15

Geoffrey’s plan may have been to have Jorge slowly kill himself with his own stupidity, but it irked him that the wizard was still alive. He kept thinking Jorge had already died, and then he’d come to the castle and here he was, frustratingly not a corpse.

He should have just let Giacomo stab him.

Fortunately, however, he was currently wasting Janus’s air and not Geoffrey’s. And as much as Geoffrey was sympathetic to his would-be fiance, he was not about to step in and rescue him at the expense of himself having to talk to Jorge instead. It wasn’t worth it and that was the level of self-interest Janus was going to have to get used to anyway..

Giacomo thought that him marrying Janus was a good idea, though he’d only admitted it grudgingly after a very vigorous session of sex to remind Geoffrey who he really wanted to spend his life with. Geoffrey still wasn’t entirely convinced, but he hadn’t said no.

Noble, 11

“You know what I liked about Francesca?” Giacomo asked, idly pulling at the strings on his coat.

“Nothing? You didn’t know her.”

Giacomo shrugged. “I liked that she didn’t hold court every fucking week. Why does Hans keep making us come here and stand around for hours so that he can tell us nothing about anything? What’s the point of it?”

Geoffrey rubbed Giacomo’s back, feeling that way himself. “You know what the point of it is.”

“That doesn’t make it any less stupid,” Giacomo grumbled, waving at Uri as the Elderbynes took their places nearby. Uri smiled shyly and waved back. “We already know he’s in charge. Reminding us of it all the time just reminds us that we don’t like him.”

Noble, 7

“You’re out of time, Jorge.”

Jorge looked up from the scroll he was fighting with, frightened. The council meeting hadn’t yet started, and people were mostly mingling. Nobody wanted to mingle with Geoffrey, which gave him a chance to take the seat on Hans’s right hand before anyone else could sit down. Jorge had sat down opposite him, apparently not noticing that Geoffrey was there. “Excuse me?”

“You heard me. Today’s your last day to get that apology to Giacomo.”

Looking around to make sure nobody else had heard, Jorge leaned in. “Tomorrow is the last day, not today.”

He’d have been much better off to pretend he’d forgotten about it. “So you’re planning to do it, then? Giacomo would prefer it in person, but in writing will be fine as long as you sign it.”

Noble, 5

“You’re a difficult person to get an audience with, my regent,” Geoffrey said, bowing before Hans DiFueure. He sat regally on the throne, where, apparently, he nearly always took in people who wanted to see him. Francesca and Geoffrey’s father had often met in a sitting room. Geoffrey had used to meet Stephan in hallways, or in his bedroom.

Of course, Francesca and Gerhard had been friends, and Stephan and Geoffrey had been fucking. Still, Geoffrey couldn’t help but note the difference in tone.

“My apologies, Geoffrey,” Hans said, inclining his head to show Geoffrey how deep and sincere his apologies were. “I’ve been very busy, as I’m sure you can understand.”

“Of course. I know how time-consuming running the kingdom can be. I only require a few minutes of your time today.”

Belonging to A Noble House Means Putting Loyalty to Your Family above All Else

“Your family was always steadfastly loyal to my dear departed sister and to House DiGorre,” the king said. “And given your exceptional service, I see no reason to believe that isn’t still true.”

“Thank you, my king,” Giacomo said, bowing, Geoffrey watched him, watched him hold himself with all the poise he could muster, and wondered how that was his little brother.

“Please, only regent,” Hans DiFueure said, holding up a hand. He was a squat, rectangular man with a haggard face and eyes that made him look tired. “There does remain the issue that your brother was an advisor to the usurper.”

Geoffrey didn’t speak. He was the older, and the head of the house. But Hans was speaking to Giacomo.

“Only as a ruse to gain his trust, my regent,” Giacomo said with a small smile. “Our family was in a bad position and were the only ones to remain loyal to House DiGorre. Geoffrey and I decided it was the only way.”

Giacomo had kicked Geoffrey in the balls when Geoffrey had told him what he planned to do.

Villain, 42

“So I need merely swallow this?” Hans asked, holding in his hand the egg Sam had given him. “What is it?”

“A token,” Sam lied, sitting in an armchair, bored. “It will connect you to my power, allow me to help you from afar. Don’t chew it, just swallow. Give one to your wizard and whichever of your lieutenants you trust enough with it.”

“I see,” Hans said, still not putting it in his mouth. “And with this, I shall have power sufficient to avenge my brother’s family and take the throne?”

“That’s right.” Sam paused. “Don’t misunderstand. It’s not going to give you magic powers. But it will allow me to help you in your conquest. You have my word that you’ll be king of Kyaine once you get to Hawk’s Roost.”