Chapter no 7 – Evangeline

A Curse for True Love

Evangeline liked having a plan. Her current plan was thin—in fact, it was more of a day trip than a plan. Evangeline wasn’t even sure it would take an entire day to visit Mr. Knightlinger. Still, she wanted to set out as early as possible.

It had been late in the afternoon when the tutor had left the day before. After an initial burst of excitement, Evangeline had lain down for quick nap, only to find herself waking up the following morning.

Although Evangeline still couldn’t find Mr. Knightlinger’s little red card, Martine had told her that the Daily Rumor offices were located in the Spires, a place the palace guards should easily be able to take Evangeline.

“You’ll just love the Spires! They have all kinds of adorable shops and dragon-roasted apples! And you’ll love the little dragons,” Martine exclaimed as she looked for a pair of gloves to match Evangeline’s dress.

Evangeline had chosen an off-the-shoulder violet day gown with a fitted bodice covered in iridescent pearls and gold-embroidered flowers that also dotted the hips of her flowing skirt.

“Here you go, Your Highness.” Martine handed Evangeline a pink cloak and a long pair of sheer violet gloves. The gloves wouldn’t do much against the chill, but they were very pretty. And Evangeline always felt a little happier wearing pretty things.

Four guards with neat mustaches, all dressed in polished bronze armor topped off with burgundy capes that flowed from their shoulders, waited on the other side of her door.

“Hello, I’m Evangeline,” she said cheerfully before asking for their names.

“I’m Yeats.” “Brixley.” “Quillborne.” “Rookwood.”

“It’s a pleasure to meet you all. I am hoping to visit the Spires today. Do you think one of you could arrange transportation?”

A beat of silence passed as three of the guards turned to the one who’d said his name was Yeats. He appeared to be the oldest, with a smooth-shaven head and a very impressive black mustache.

“I don’t think going to the Spires is a good idea, Your Highness. What if we gave you a tour of Wolf Hall instead?”

“Why don’t you think it’s a good idea? My maid told me they are mostly shops.”

“They are, but Prince Apollo asked us to make sure you stay on the castle grounds. It’s for your safety.”

“So are you saying that the four of you fine gentlemen aren’t strong enough to keep me safe if I leave the castle?” Evangeline needled shamelessly.

The younger guards responded exactly as she’d hoped.

They puffed out their chests and looked ready to prove her wrong.

But Yeats spoke up before they could say anything. “We are loyal to Prince Apollo’s wishes. Right now, his wish is that you remain here on castle grounds, where he knows you are at no risk of anything or anyone coming after you.”

Evangeline might have laughed if the guard hadn’t looked so serious. The way he spoke made it sound as if everything in the North might try to kill her. “Where exactly in Wolf Hall am I allowed to go?”

“Anywhere. As long as you don’t leave the premises.” “Is Prince Apollo currently in Wolf Hall?”

“Yes, Your Highness.”

“Excellent. Please take me to see him,” Evangeline said calmly, hopeful that this was simply a misunderstanding. Two nights ago, Apollo had said

she wasn’t a prisoner and he’d never lock her up. In fact, he’d looked deeply hurt when she’d mentioned it. Clearly, these guards were mistaken.

“I’m sorry,” said Yeats evenly, “but the prince is currently occupied.” “Doing what?” Evangeline asked.

Yeats’s mustache twitched in annoyance. “It isn’t our place to say,” he grunted. “What if we took you to one of the gardens instead?”

Evangeline finally let her smile fade. Until now she’d tried to be polite and pleasant, but these men clearly had no respect for her.

Maybe before she’d lost her memories, she would have been less troublesome. She might have been eager to simply wander the castle and the gardens and to be seen as an easy-to-please princess. But right now she really didn’t care about being a princess or being pleased or easy. She needed to remember. And that seemed unlikely to happen if she was confined to a fortified castle where people thought she was better off leaving the past forgotten.

“Did my husband tell you that he didn’t want to see me?” “No. But—”

“Mr. Yeats,” Evangeline interrupted, “I’d like to see my husband. And if you tell me no or suggest that I walk through another garden, I’m going to assume you believe either that my husband can be replaced by flowers or that you’re in a position to give me orders. Do you believe either of those things, Mr. Yeats?”

The guard gritted his teeth. Evangeline held her breath.

Finally Yeats answered, “No, Your Highness. I don’t think that.” Evangeline tried to hide her relief as she looked at the others and asked,

“What about the rest of you?”

“No, Your Highness,” they each muttered quickly. “Splendid! Let’s go see Apollo.”

The guards made no move to leave. “We won’t stop you from looking for him, but we won’t take you to him,” said Yeats.

Evangeline had never been much for cursing, but she wanted to do it just then.

“I’ll take you to the prince,” called a new guard from a few feet away. Evangeline looked at this young man askew.

He wore the same guard’s uniform as the others, but his armor appeared more scratched, as if he’d actually seen battle. There were a few scars on

his face as well. “My name is Havelock, Your Highness.” He waited a beat.

Evangeline had the immediate sense that he was hoping she would remember him, which just added to her frustration when she didn’t feel so much as a glimmer of recognition.

“It’s all right,” Havelock said. Then he nodded toward the cloak draped over her arm. “You won’t be needing that. The prince is in his receiving room. The fireplace takes up an entire wall. No one needs a cloak in there.”

Havelock did not lie.

The receiving room looked like the sort of place where children might gather on the night before a holiday to listen to a grandparent tell tales before the fire. Rain fell on the other side of the room’s wall-to-wall windows.

When Evangeline arrived, she watched the rain pour down in silver curtains, soaking the dark green needle trees and hitting hard against the windows. Inside the room, the great fire crackled as logs broke, setting off a quick riot of sparks and filling the room with a new burst of heat.

Even though her shoulders were bare, she was suddenly warm.

Apollo stood with an unfamiliar figure near the far mantel. This person was as tall as the prince but was entirely concealed by a dark hood and a long, heavy cloak.

Evangeline felt a fresh flicker of unease as she recalled the words No one needs a cloak in there. They echoed in her head as she stepped deeper into the room. “I hope I’m not interrupting.”

Apollo’s eyes lit up as soon as he saw her. “No, you’re just in time, darling.”

The hooded figure continued to gaze into the fire.

Evangeline knew it was probably breaking some sort of rule to take a closer glance at the stranger beneath his hood, but she couldn’t help herself. Not that it did much good. She discovered that the person beneath the cloak was male, but little else. A thick beard concealed the bottom half of his face, while a black mask covered the upper half, leaving her to gaze at nothing but a pair of slightly narrowed eyes.

Apollo gestured toward the man. “Evangeline, I’d like to introduce you to Garrick of the Greenwood, leader of the Guild of Heroes.”

“It’s a pleasure to meet you, Your Highness.” Garrick’s voice was rasping and low, and did nothing to quell Evangeline’s growing sense of foreboding.

She’d never heard of Garrick or the Greenwood, but she had read about the Guild of Heroes yesterday morning.

Quickly she tried to remember what the scandal sheet had said. She thought it had started with something about the impostor heir who’d been on the throne when Apollo had been proclaimed dead. Apparently, this impostor was more concerned with parties and flirtations than with ruling the kingdom, and thus a band of warriors had taken it upon themselves to keep order in some areas of the North. They called themselves the Guild of Heroes. However, according to Mr. Knightlinger, it was debatable as to whether these warriors were heroes or mercenaries profiting off a series of unfortunate circumstances.

“Garrick is leading an effort that will take the hunt for Lord Jacks

outside of Valorfell,” said Apollo.

The hero cracked his knuckles and flashed a chilling smile at Evangeline. “My men and I are excellent hunters. Lord Jacks will be dead within a fortnight. Possibly sooner, if you’re willing to help us.”

“What could I possibly do to help you?” Evangeline asked. For a moment she had a flash of being tied to a tree and used as bait.

“Don’t be alarmed, sweetheart.” Apollo took her hand. “This will only hurt for a moment.”

“What will hurt?” She pulled her hand free and tripped on the full skirt of her dress.

“There’s nothing to be afraid of, Evangeline.” “Unless you don’t like blood,” muttered Garrick. Apollo glared at him. “You’re not helping.”

“Neither are you, Your Highness. Not to be rude,” Garrick said in a clearly rude tone. “But this will take an eternity if you mollycoddle her. Just tell her about the damn mark.”

“What mark?” Evangeline asked.

Apollo’s lips pressed into a tight line. Then his eyes dropped to her wrist. Evangeline didn’t even need to follow his gaze. As soon as he looked toward her sheer gloves, she could feel the broken heart scar on her wrist

begin to burn. Her heart started to race as well.

She remembered then the seamstress who’d covertly left the room after seeing the scar yesterday, and Evangeline had a terrible feeling that she now knew where the woman had gone. She’d left to see Apollo.

“Lord Jacks made that scar on your wrist. It’s his mark. It signifies a debt you owe him.”

“What kind of debt?” she asked.

“I don’t know what you owe,” Apollo said. “All we can do is try to stop him from collecting it.” He looked at her grimly now. His skin—normally a lovely olive—had gone a little gray.


“By finding him before he finds you. The mark he gave you links you to him, making it possible for Jacks to locate you anywhere.”

“But it can also help us find him,” Garrick added. “The same link that allows him to track you should allow us to hunt him. But we need your blood.”

Somewhere in the room, a bird cawed, loud and unnerving as Garrick flashed his teeth. Bloodthirsty was the word that came to mind.

Evangeline didn’t like the idea that she owed Jacks a debt, but she also didn’t want to give this stranger her blood. In fact, she had a powerful urge to run from the room and keep running until her legs gave out. But she had the impression that Garrick of the Greenwood was the sort of man who would chase anything that fled him.

“May I think about this?” she asked. “Of course I want you to find Lord Jacks, but this bit about the blood makes me rather uncomfortable.”

“Very well then.” Garrick snapped his tattooed fingers twice. “Argos, it’s time to go.”

A bird that looked like a raven swooped down from one of the beams above. It flew toward Garrick in an elegant arc of blue-black wings. Evangeline felt one of its feathers brush her face and—

“Ouch!” she yelped as the bird bit her shoulder. Two sharp pecks left two brilliant wells of blood. She tried to stop the bleeding with her hand, but Garrick moved faster. He moved nearly as fast as his bird as he clapped a cloth over the wound, quickly collecting her blood.

“Sorry, Highness, but there’s really not time for you to think, and we’ve already done that bit for you.” Garrick pulled the bloody cloth away and strode toward the door, whistling as his raven perched on his shoulder.

Evangeline seethed as she continued to bleed. She wasn’t sure who she was more upset with: the mercenary who’d just attacked her with his pet bird, or her husband.

Two evenings before, that night at the tower, Apollo had been so sweet. He’d been caring, he’d been thoughtful. But today, between what she’d watched happen with Garrick and Apollo’s instructions for her guards, the prince felt like another person. And Evangeline didn’t know him well enough to know which version was really him. Earlier she’d thought what had happened with her guards was merely a misunderstanding, but now she wasn’t so sure.

“Did you know Garrick was going to do that? That he was going to take my blood regardless of whether I gave my permission?”

Apollo worked his jaw. “I don’t think you understand how much of a threat Jacks is.”

“You’re right. You keep saying Jacks is the villain. Yet you just let a man attack me with his pet bird in order to hunt another man down and kill him. You also told my guards—who aren’t very nice, by the way—not to let me leave the castle, despite promising me you’d never lock me up. So, no, I don’t know how much of a threat Lord Jacks is, but I’m starting to see you as one.”

Apollo’s eyes flashed. “Do you think I want to do any of this?” “I think you’re a prince and you do whatever you want.”

“Wrong, Evangeline.” His voice shook as he spoke. “None of this is what I want, but it’s not just Jacks I’m trying to protect you from. There are people in this castle, people on my council, who believe I shouldn’t trust you. They believe you worked with Jacks to assassinate me. And if these people believe my judgment is compromised and that you’re still working with him, then even I won’t be able to save you.”

“But Jacks took all my memories,” Evangeline argued. “How could anyone still think I was working with him?”

Apollo’s frightened gaze darted back to her wrist, the one with the broken heart scar. “The current theory is that Jacks took your memories so that you couldn’t betray him.”

“Is this what you believe?” Evangeline asked.

For a long moment, Apollo just looked at her. His gaze was no longer fearful or angry, but it wasn’t the warm, adoring gaze she’d grown used to. It was cold and distant, and for a second, she felt a tremor of fear. Apollo

was the only ally she had in the Magnificent North. If it wasn’t for him, she’d have nothing, no one, and nowhere to go.

“I’m not working with Jacks,” Evangeline said finally. “I might not remember anything, but I know that I’m not that kind of person. I have no plans to meet with him or to betray you or anyone else in this castle. But if you treat me like a captive or a pawn or if you let anyone else attack me with their pet bird, I will refuse to behave. But it’s not because I’m not loyal.”

Apollo took a deep breath and the cold left his eyes. “I know, Evangeline. I believe you. But my thoughts aren’t the only ones that matter.” He reached down and stroked a finger along her jaw. His eyes lowered, and she knew that he was going to kiss her. He was going to finish this argument with his lips on hers—and part of her wanted to let him. She couldn’t risk losing him. He was all she had in this new reality.

But just because he was all she had didn’t mean that she needed to give him all the power. “I’m still mad at you.”

Apollo slowly moved his hand from her jaw into her hair. “Do you think you can forgive me? I’m sorry about the blood, and I’m sorry about your guards. I’ll assign you new ones. But I need you to trust me and to be careful.”

Evangeline raised her chin defiantly. “You mean you need me to stay in Wolf Hall?”

“Just until we find Lord Jacks.” “But—”

Before he could finish, the door to the receiving room swung open and the same guard who’d brought Evangeline there announced, “Lord Slaughterwood is here to meet with you. He says he has information about Lord Jacks.”

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