Gwynneth had joined Braeden and Devyn in the study while they waited for the outcome of Trisa’s surgery. She could tell by the look on Braeden’s face he wasn’t optimistic, but she said nothing, not wanting to upset Devyn any more than he already was.
Princess Galena had sent food and drink, but no one had any appetite. While they picked at their food, Gwynneth tried to think of some other subject to discuss. She couldn’t find a pleasant topic, so she filled Devyn in on what had happened in Terragand.
His noisy indignation helped distract her, and she caught an amused glint in Braeden’s eye.
“We’ll likely need to wait for Lennart before barging in there,” Braeden said. “Though we ought to consider that not all of the aristocracy will support Balduin. I imagine a fair number will remain loyal to Edric Maximus.”
“You might be right.” Gwynneth crumbled a hunk of cheese onto her plate. “But how will we find out who’s on our side?”
“Start with the ones we’re sure of,” Braeden said, “like Duke Orland.”
Gwynneth struggled to keep her face impassive when she heard the name. “Why are you sure of him?”
“His troops were meant to protect Kendryk in Isenwald after his own guards had been attacked. Duke Orland helped him regroup and offered him a large number of troops. In fact, he insisted on it when Kendryk decided to visit Princess Viviane.”
Gwynneth frowned. “How did you learn this? It never occurred to me that Kendryk brought anyone but his own guards.” She’d spent countless hours ruminating, wondering what any of them might have done differently to prevent Kendryk’s death. It was the only way to stop blaming herself, since she’d been the one to encourage him to start the war in the first place. By concentrating on superficial matters, she hoped to keep the weight of her guilt from crushing her.
“He told me,” Braeden said. “I wandered into a huge camp on Princess Viviane’s parade ground and found it strange that the Orland standard flew all around Kendryk’s.”
“I wonder what happened to all of those guards?” Gwynneth didn’t like the idea of throwing herself on the mercy of any Orland, but she had to at least consider it.
“Dead, probably.” Braeden reached for a slice of bread, then spread a thick layer of butter on it. “We’d brought thirty guards along into the palace, and I heard all of them being killed, right after …” He trailed off when he met Devyn’s wide, shocked eyes.
Gwynneth hadn’t told him all the details of his father’s murder, finding it nearly impossible to speak about.
Braeden looked down. “I imagine those troops on the parade ground met the same fate.”
“You’re probably right.” Gwynneth took a deep breath, avoiding Devyn’s gaze. “Trisa herself told me everyone who’d come with you was hunted down after. She and her little squadron barely escaped.”
“I was so relieved when I saw she’d made it,” Braeden said, his eyes soft. “She’s a scrappy little thing; knows how to get herself out of a tight spot.” He stopped speaking rather abruptly.
Gwynneth didn’t want to think that the girl’s story might end here, after all she’d already survived. “How old is she?” she asked gently.
“Seventeen.” Braeden’s voice roughened. “She lied about her age so the Lanturan army would hire her. That’s where I found her after I’d changed sides. I remember the day she was born.”
“You know her parents?” Gwynneth didn’t want to have this conversation, but sensed Braeden wanted to talk about it right now.
“Her father was one of my best friends.” Braeden paused, and swallowed before managing a small chuckle. “He was mad because they’d already had two girls and he’d hoped for a boy, since the older two didn’t seem inclined to become fighters. But there was never any doubt as to what Trisa would be.”
“She’s certainly a fighter.” Gwynneth decided she wouldn’t give up hope just yet. “I’m sure that will help her now.”
Across the table, Devyn sniffled and dashed a hand at his eye.
Gwynneth met Braeden’s eyes. Awful as losing Trisa might be for Braeden, Devyn would take it harder. Though he’d lost his father and Florian, he wasn’t as accustomed to death. But he would have to become accustomed sooner or later.
In silence, they pretended to eat until the door opened. It was the doctor, looking gray and haggard.
Gwynneth jumped out of her chair. “Should we come?”
“Not yet.” The doctor gasped, mopping at the sweat on his face with a large handkerchief.
He looked rather wobbly, and Braeden hurried to pull out another chair for him.
After sitting down the doctor said. “She’s survived the surgery at least. I got the ball out, cleaned the wound and stitched it back up. It wasn’t deep, but it’s hard to say how much damage was done. We’ll know in the next few days.”
“I must see her,” Devyn said.
The doctor shook his head, then paused when he saw Devyn’s determined expression. “She must rest and have quiet.
My assistant is looking after her.”
“I’ll be quiet,” Devyn said, “I swear it.”
The doctor shrugged and looked at Gwynneth. “Will he be quiet? I will not have the young lady disturbed in any way.”
“He’ll be quiet,” Gwynneth said, giving Devyn a stern look. “You may sit by her bed, but you must not speak. At all. Can you do that?”
“I can,” Devyn said, then added, “I don’t talk all the time, you know.”
“I know.” Gwynneth reached over and patted his hand. “Why don’t I come with you?”
The doctor threw up his hands. “I can’t have the lot of you stomping about the room.”
“We’ll be quiet.” Gwynneth pushed a plate of cheese in the doctor’s direction and watched his eyes light up. No doubt he was hungry after his exertion.
“All right.” The doctor shrugged. “But I insist on complete silence.”
“Certainly.” Gwynneth stood, then led Braeden and Devyn out of the room and down the corridor to the surgery. She didn’t want to show it, but she was just as anxious as Devyn to see how Trisa was doing.