Chapter II

The Valentyne Manor, East Shroud, 1568

The ticking of the clock was the only sound in the parlor, save for the occasional shift of papers each time the teenage Vyne turned the page of the book she held above her face, reading sprawled out over the sofa. Her mother sat in the arm chair nearby, busy mending a busted seam in one of the girl’s gowns.

The older woman suddenly paused in her sewing, casting a glance toward her daughter before releasing her breath in a huff and continuing, though she spoke as she worked the threat through the delicate fabric. “You really need to be more careful, Vyne. I don’t know how you keep destroying these dresses.”

Vyne quirked one eyebrow, looking up from her book to peer toward her mother instead. “You and father keep telling me to work on my archery and conjury. I can’t do that cooped inside all day. I have to go outside and practice.”

“And you can’t have some more grace as you practice? Honestly, darling, you’re nearly sixteen years old. What gentleman will want a lady who can’t even keep her garments intact? In a few more years, you’ll be nearing the age that you will be no man’s prime choice.”

The girls’ nose wrinkled defensively. “Then I suppose its a good thing I haven’t found any gentleman who I would want in return. I’m not in a hurry. I couldn’t care less if I never marry,” she protested, burying her nose in her book once more as she resumed her reading.

A look of offense crossed her mother’s face, but before she could retort, the sound of approaching footsteps stole the attention from both women. Both straightened, Vyne quickly righting herself, sitting upright upon the couch. They turned their heads toward Vayl as he entered, shoving an envelope into the pocket of his coat.

“What do you think about the matter, dear?” His wife queried, hoping he had caught at least the end of their conversation.

“I think the issue of my daughter’s marriage does not concern me until she at least finds a potential suitor. There are more pressing matters at hand,” he replied, matter-of-fact. Vyne offered him an appreciative smile before his full attention fell upon his wife. “I need to run a quick errand to Aleport. I’ll be back before long.”

“Wait!” Vyne snapped her book shut without even bothering to mark her place, setting it upon the coffee table as she eagerly hopped to her feet. “Let me go. I’ll do it. I’m sure you have more important things to be doing. I want to get out of the house for a little while.”

Her mother scowled, answering before Vayl had the chance. “Absolutely not! It’s dangerous for you to travel so far alone. We’d have to send some of the servants with you, and that would be more of a hassle than your father going.”

The teen glowered at the woman. “I’ll take my bow. I’ve been studying. I can use my archery to keep myself safe, not that I likely have the need. I can’t just stay at home all day. I’ll grow up a hermit. You always say dad is busy. Let me do it for him.”

Vayl lifted his hand into the air, waving it dismissively to silence the two women and cease their bickering. “Let her go, Vyra. She’ll be fine on her own. She’s practically an adult. If she’s old enough to pawn off for marriage, she’s old enough to run a simple errand for me, yes?” He turned toward Vyne, pulling the envelope from his pocket and offering it to her. “It’s for Mister Dean, the Roegadyn fellow. You remember meeting him, hmm? Simply tell him its from me.”

Vyra had no desire to argue with that, and Vyne beamed victoriously.

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