The Southern Arm, Part 6

“Don’t you ever find it strange,” Aria said, passing her empty wine glass off to a waiter, “that we spend all this time dancing in ballrooms and eating feasts in preparation for war?” Liam didn’t look at her, as he was in the midst of making smoldering eye contact with Mischa, a few meters away;…

The Southern Arm, Part 5

“Lady Mischa to see you, my queen,” Aria’s lady’s maid said from the doorway. Aria glanced up from a thick volume on political theory, surprised. Afternoon sunlight poured through the windows and her balcony; Valtteri had taken his paramour for a ride through the city not thirty minutes prior. Mischa stepped into the room with…

The Southern Arm, Part 4

“Good morning, my queen,” Valtteri said when Aria met him outside the second floor dining room for breakfast. His admirer, Mischa, waited one step behind him, wringing her hands. “Good morning,” Aria said. Liam made a beeline through the doors for one of many bottles of spiced rum dotting the huge wooden dining table; he…

The Southern Arm, Part 3

“Mages,” Liam sighed, pouring himself a drink. He and Aria stood on a balcony overlooking the palace’s inner gardens; a cold, crisp breeze rustled snow from a weeping willow. One of Valtteri’s courtships and a few of her friends gathered conspiratorially around a frozen fountain at the center of the courtyard. “I like him,” Aria…

The Southern Arm, Part 2

“He’s courting,” Liam said, sidling up behind Aria with a drink in his hand. They stared in opposite directions, their lips barely moving as they spoke; around them, nobles alternated between watching Aria with curiosity and dancing, drinking, or gathering in groups to talk. Most of Valtteri’s court had so far shied from speaking with…

The Southern Arm, Part 1

Aria and Liam dismounted simultaneously, fur cloaks sweeping the snowy ground. Despite the dry flakes falling from the sky, Prince Valtteri of House Milanovic waited for them on the front steps; he descended to meet them in the center of the courtyard as soon as they began their approach. Most of his court remained on…

Valtteri, Part 5

Aria slithered between tents with her hood up and her hair tucked back. Light from a torch spilled into her path, but she shrank into the shadows until two patrolling soldiers had passed. Weston’s tent stood right next to his brother’s, and she bit her lip when she thought of getting inside undetected; someone was…

Valtteri, Part 4

Aria dismounted her horse beside Valtteri, who handed his reins off to a groom before striding forward to greet his younger brother. The camp around them bustled with activity, and Aria found her eyes drifting over the unfamiliar flora of her home when her gaze wasn’t drawn by a man tending a fire or a…

Valtteri, Part 3

“That’s where we send the second force?” Aria asked, tracing her hand over a map of the Spine of the Ice Realm. “We start with the small one—two or three hundred—and then wait until Alistair has recalled the bulk of his troops back to the guard post,” Valtteri said. “Then, we send three thousand down…

Valtteri, Part 2

“Tell me about Valtteri,” Sebastian said. He and Aria sat beside a merrily crackling fire in the parlor of his rooms. Rain pattered against the balcony, and the sheer curtains swayed in a breeze. Thunder clapped in the distance. “I hope you don’t mean to trap me into a fight,” Aria said. Sebastian laughed. “I’m…

Valtteri, Part 1

The city of Reziva, a shining beacon built into the mountains of the Southern Arm of the Ice Realm, glittered in the afternoon sun like a jewel in a crown; white marble stood out against the dark forest of mountains stretching east and west. The city had three levels, and the palace of the princedom…

A Subtle Shift

We’re reaching a convergence of alternate universe tracks I wanted to explore, in that if Sebastian won the bid for Aria’s virginity, freed her, and gave her an army to go home, I also think it likely that Aria would meet Valtteri before Casimir. I’ve always viewed Valtteri and Casimir as two sides of the…