Home > The Rose Society (The Young Elites #2)(10)

The Rose Society (The Young Elites #2)(10)
Marie Lu

The other two Daggers finally come into view as they reach the top of the hill. Michel, the Architect, has traded in his Kenettran attire for thick Beldish furs that hide his neck from view. He talks in a low voice to the girl beside him—Gemma, the Star Thief, still dressed stubbornly in her favorite Kenettran dress. Even she has a Beldish cloak draped over herself, though, and trembles in the cold. They both look up from their conversation to greet Lucent and Raffaele.

Gemma’s gaze lingers the longest. Raffaele knows that she is still hoping to hear word about her father, that maybe Raffaele will bring news. But Raffaele just shakes his head at her. Baron Salvatore is another former Dagger patron who has not answered their doves. Gemma’s face falls as she looks away.

Raffaele shifts his attention to the others in the clearing. Inside a circle of soldiers lining the edges are a handful of noblemen—princes, judging from their dark blue sleeves—and an enormous white tiger with stripes of gold. Its tail swishes lazily through the grass, and its eyes are narrowed into sleepy slits. Everyone’s attention is fixed on two dueling opponents in the center of the clearing. One is a prince with light blond hair and a frown on his face. He stabs forward with his sword.

His opponent is a young woman—a girl, even—with furs lining her cloak. A fierce smear of gold decorates one of her cheeks, and her hair, half black and half gold, is tied up into an elaborate series of braids that resemble the hackles running down an angry wolf’s back. She easily dodges the stab, flashes a grin at the prince, and swings her own sword to clash with his. The blade glints in the light.

Michel steps closer to Raffaele. “She is queen now,” he murmurs. “Her mother died several weeks ago. I accidentally addressed her as Her Royal Highness—don’t do the same.”

Raffaele nods. “Thank you for the reminder.” Her Majesty Queen Maeve of Beldain. He frowns as she duels. There is an energy around her, the unusual threads that must belong to an Elite. No one had ever mentioned this about the Beldish princess—but the signs are all there, glittering in a sheet of moving strings around her. Does she even know? Why would she keep such a thing secret?

Raffaele’s attention then shifts to one of the princes watching. The youngest one. His frown deepens. There is an energy about this one too. But it is not like an Elite’s energy, threads of vigor, of the world that is alive. He blinks, confused. When he reaches out to touch this strange force, his own strength immediately recoils, as if burned by something cold as ice.

The clash of swords brings him back to watching the duel. Maeve swings again and again at her older brother. She pushes him to the edge of their circle, where the soldiers stand guard—and then, all of a sudden, her brother starts striking back viciously, forcing her into the center again. Raffaele watches them closely. Even though the prince is taller than Maeve by a good foot, she doesn’t seem intimidated. Instead, she calls out a taunt as she pushes against his blade, laughs again, and spins. She tries to catch her brother off guard, but he sees her move first. He suddenly crouches down, aiming for her legs. She catches her mistake too late—and falls.

The prince stands over her, his sword pointing at her chest. He shakes his head. “Better,” he says. “But you still strike too eagerly before you can tell exactly where my attack will go.” He gestures to his arm, then makes a slow, swinging motion. “See this? This is what you didn’t catch. Look for the angle before you choose to strike.”

“She caught it, Augustine,” one of the other princes chimes in. He winks at Maeve. “She just didn’t react fast enough.”

“I would’ve reacted fast enough to dodge your attacks,” Maeve calls backward, pointing her sword at her second brother. Several of the other princes chuckle at her answer. “And you’d be limping home by nightfall.” She sheathes her sword, walks over to rub the tiger behind his ears, and nods at Augustine. “I’ll do better, I promise. Let’s practice again in the afternoon.”

Raffaele looks on as the prince gives his little sister a smile and a bow. “As you wish,” he replies.

Then, at her brothers’ gesturing, she turns her attention to the Daggers. Michel and Gemma kneel immediately. Her eyes fall first on Lucent—a flash of recognition darts across her face—and her lighthearted mood instantly transforms into something serious. She says nothing. Instead, she waits while Lucent kneels and bows her head, her curls tumbling forward. Maeve watches her for a moment longer. Then her piercing stare darts to Raffaele, and he lowers his lashes. He follows Lucent’s lead.

“Your Majesty,” he says.

She leans one hand on her sword’s hilt. Her cheeks are still flushed with excitement. “Look at me,” she commands. When he does, she continues, “Are you Raffaele Laurent Bessette? The Messenger?”

“I am, Your Majesty.”

Maeve regards him for a moment. She seems to study the summer green of his left eye, then the honey gold of his right. Her teeth flash at him in a wild smile. “You’re as beautiful as they say. A lovely name, for a lovely face.”

Raffaele lets himself blush, tilting his head in the familiar, subtle way he always did to his clients. “You honor me, Your Majesty. I’m flattered that my reputation has traveled as far as Beldain.”

Maeve watches him thoughtfully. “You were Prince Enzo’s most trusted adviser. He spoke very fondly of you. And now I see you have taken his place as the leader of the Daggers. Congratulations.”

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