The Amulet Saga, Volume Two:
Others in the series:
Tristyn winced at the sound of a shriek echoing down the hallway. A moment later, a herd of his little brothers thundered around the corner, racing toward the courtyard. Tristyn pressed against the wall and waited for them to pass. The nurse gave him an apologetic shrug as she righted a candelabra that the boys had sent teetering as they charged past.
“Make sure to have them clean and quiet in time for the wedding,” Tristyn instructed the nurse.
She curtsied. “Yes, Highness. That’s why I’m letting them run now.”
Tristyn nodded. He remembered tiring himself out beforehand so he could sit through many a dreary event when he was younger. He thought of the pretty chamber maid that cleaned his room and considered burning some energy of his own, but quickly thought better of it. His father would kill him if he didn’t answer his father’s summons immediately.
He waited until the boys were out of sight before continuing toward the hall. If his mother did one thing well, it was producing heirs. After making the mistake of birthing a girl first, she’d made up for it by bearing nine more, all boys. Now, Tristyn’s sister was performing the only function suitable for a noblewoman, even if she was the firstborn daughter of a king—an advantageous marriage.
Not that Tristyn had room to judge. As the fourth child, his destiny was not much better. Find a wife with as much rank, property, and political clout as possible. Strengthen his father’s—and ultimately his brother’s—reign. And, if he was lucky, live in comfort and relative happiness in the process.
Tristyn pushed open the door to the great hall. His father stood at the far end of the room, rubbing a tiny piece of paper between his fingers. He looked up when Tristyn entered. “Tris. Good. Tell me, what do you know of Legerdemain?”
Tristyn pulled a chair out from the long table and sat. “Not much. It’s a small kingdom, largely self-contained. It lies in the valley surrounded below the Soulless Mountains, and thus it is not really on the way to anywhere, so it’s not a hub for commerce or travel. They grow their own crops, manufacture a pretty significant portion of their own goods. Their biggest export is gemstones.”
“And therein lies the appeal,” the king said. “The kingdom itself will be easy to maintain, simply because it’s so small and inexperienced. But having access to those mines…”
“Rumor is that the mines are drying up.”
The king shook his head. “Just rumors. I have it on good authority that those mountains hold untold wealth. They just need someone who is willing to dig a little deeper.”
“Someone like you.”
The king smiled.
“What are you thinking” Tristyn asked. “And alliance? Gyntor is already betrothed to the princess of the Western Islands. We need her as queen to strengthen our trade routes. And I thought you were hoping for Ryfel to forge an alliance with the barbarians. You don’t mean me?”
The king nodded, a grin stretching over his face. “Yes, but not in the way you think. My spies report that Legerdemain is on the verge of collapse. I don’t want an alliance with Legerdemain. I want the whole country. And I want you to get it for me.”
Tristyn choked. “How?”
“Legerdemain is only a little further north than Cadalania. You will take a company of soldiers to escort your sister to her new home. You will use her hospitality to form your outpost, and from there, it is just a short trip to Legerdemain. With the civil unrest they’re already experiencing, securing the country should be an easy feat.”
Tristyn grunted. His idea of “easy” differed greatly from his father’s.
The king came close and put a hand on Tristyn’s shoulder. “I don’t care how you do it. If you choose to use force or endear yourself to the people by marrying a local—it doesn’t matter to me. But if you succeed in securing Legerdemain for Sunnland, I will make you regent, and your descendants will rule that land after you.”
Tristyn’s blood pounded through his veins. He’d imagined life as a nobleman. A dignitary in a foreign land. A diplomat, even, regarded by the king of some distant land as an ambassador, trusted to guide them through the intricacies of foreign politics. But a regent? Ruling a kingdom of his own and having a heritage to pass to his children? It was more than he’d ever dared hope for.
He stood and bowed before his father. “I will not fail you. Legerdemain will be ours.”