(Continued from Part VII)

The day was perfect, she thought.

The rector stood before a young couple in the royal hall. Beyond them and lower, two families looked on, hopes for the couple and the future of their kingdom undisguised in their expressions. Two mothers sniffled in the front row. Two fathers comforted them, their faces glowing with pride. A glittering ring on the bride’s hand caught the torchlight, scattering a rainbow of reflections across her white dress. The deep voice of the rector reverberated through the nearly silent hall.

“I now pronounce you man and wife.”

The prince lifted his bride’s veil; her copper hair spilled over her shoulders as their lips met.

Yes, today is perfect.

* * *

The leader of the Huntresses broke the scroll’s waxen seal with a gloved finger and pulled it open. It was a letter from Her Majesty the Queen.

We need you to encamp close to Mackin Pass, as a troop from Calneh may seek to breach the border there.

Please report their numbers and movement so we can move dragoons to intercept if necessary.

You are welcome to visit at Yule. The children would love to see you again. Just send word if you can attend.

His Highness sends his love and, as always, his thanks.


Brita rolled it up and handed it back to a royal messenger who stood, confused, in the forest.

“Get that mess cleaned up,” she yelled. “Get those tents rolled. We’re moving out today.” Then jumping on her horse, she led a dozen green-clad women to their new camp, miles away.