Gwynneth wrote so fast that her hand cramped up. But she needed to tell Lennart everything that had happened in Isenwald. He had to be prepared for Teodora moving on Terragand as well. There is no doubt in my mind she will throw all of her support behind Duke Balduin, she wrote. She refused to refer to him as prince. That might be his official title, but Devyn was the rightful heir to Terragand. She’d see him put in his place, and Balduin too. Now she wished the wretch had died in the Birkenfels dungeon. She’d been too kind, making sure he was kept in decent conditions. It wouldn’t happen again.
She finished the letter just as Devyn walked into Princess Galena’s library, where she’d been writing at a table near the window. He clearly wanted to talk. “Not now,” Gwynneth said, hurrying past him. “This letter must go out immediately.”
Devyn turned and followed her down the corridor. “Is something wrong?”
“Yes,” Gwynneth said, not slowing down. “I’ll tell you in a moment.” She hurried to the courtyard, hoping Princess Galena already had a messenger waiting.
When she reached the courtyard, it swarmed with troops. Although she saw no messenger, Gwynneth’s face broke into a smile when she recognized the tabards and a ragged Aquianus standard.
“Is Colonel Destler here?” she asked the nearest officer.
The man’s haggard face lit up. “Thank the gods you’re safe, Your Grace.” He nodded to his right. “The colonel is right over there.”
Gwynneth shoved the message in her pocket when she saw Destler dismounting. “You made it!”
He turned to face her. “Your Grace, I’m so terribly sorry I failed you.”
“Stop that right now,” Gwynneth said, taking him by the elbow. His face was so waxy she worried he might fall over. She remembered he’d been hurt during the fight when the peasants had captured her. “You must come inside and rest,” she insisted, steering him toward the door and a competent-looking footman.
Destler sputtered something about troop numbers and survivors, but Gwynneth ignored him. She’d get that information later. Once she’d unloaded him onto the footman, she remembered she needed to find the messenger. So she returned to the courtyard. The snow was melting under a weak sun, and the dozens of horses hoofs and booted feet had turned the ground into a sea of mud.
She scanned the courtyard, hoping to see someone who didn’t look like they’d been riding all night, but then startled at Devyn’s shout.
“Help me, Mother!”
Gwynneth followed the sound, then gasped and broke into a run when she saw why he’d called.
Devyn was struggling to get Trisa Torresia down from her weary horse. Blood ran over Devyn’s shoulder and Gwynneth’s first thought was that they’d both been shot. But when she pulled herself together and looked more closely, it was just Trisa who was pale and bleeding.
“Gods, what happened?” Gwynneth hurried to support Trisa’s legs, hanging from one side of the saddle. Devyn was trying to lift her down without hurting her, but that appeared to be impossible.
“Moraltans,” Trisa hissed through gritted teeth, then shrieked as Devyn pulled her down.
Gwynneth held on, and helped him lower her into the mud, grateful that Trisa was so skinny. “Run and get a doctor,” she told Devyn, scanning Trisa to see where the wound was. The mud and blood made it impossible to tell.
“I’m not leaving her.” Devyn scowled. “I’m not losing another friend.”
Gwynneth opened her mouth to argue, then changed her mind upon seeing the fear in Devyn’s eyes. “I’ll get the doctor,” she said, patting Devyn on the shoulder.
She shoved her way through the crowd in the courtyard, though the soldiers made way as soon as they saw who she was. Gwynneth waved at the nearest servant. “Get a doctor as fast as you can,” she called, pointing toward where Trisa lay.
The servant disappeared and Gwynneth breathed in, looking around. Nothing she could do for Trisa right now, and the message still needed to go out. Fortunately, the crowd cleared up a bit as soldiers went inside and horses were led to the stable. She knew Princess Galena would take care of everyone. She finally spotted the messenger, recognizing him by his fresh horse and clean clothes. They’d be mud-spattered within the hour.
She pulled the letter out of her pocket and handed it to him. “Put this in a waterproof pouch and deliver it to King Lennart personally. Tell him it’s from Princess Gwynneth and that he must come without delay.”
The messenger nodded at her, his mouth open as he fumbled for a pouch.
As soon as the paper disappeared into it, Gwynneth swatted his horse’s rump and said, “Go!”
Once he’d galloped through the open gate, she went back to Trisa. The doctor, a tall, heavy man had just reached her, huffing and puffing.
Devyn reluctantly made way, and Gwynneth hurried to his side, taking him by his bloody hand. “It’ll be all right,” she said, though judging by the doctor’s worried look it very well might not be.
“Braeden needs to see her,” Devyn said, sounding strained. “It’s bad, and she might not make it. He needs to see her before it’s too late.”
A lump rose in Gwynneth’s throat, and she could only nod, squeeze Devyn’s hand, then go in search of Braeden.by