“What happens to all soldiers, in the end? They find a battle they can’t win.”
Bethilie of Ambion is sick to death of soldiers. Her grandmother started a war, and the other side finished it, even if her elder brother won’t accept that. Bethilie knows, though. Her kingsblood– the mark of God’s favour towards those destined to rule– lies silent in her veins, and there is no clearer sign than that.
When the Duke who has given them shelter in their exile invites Bethilie, her brother, and their three rambunctious younger siblings, to celebrate Christmas in his glittering court, it’s an invitation they can’t turn down. Bethilie’s main hope for the season is that they leave with the resources they started off with.
Lel Tass is a mercenary. He’s only in Briège because his best friend wants someone to stand between her and her obnoxious ducal relatives, and he’s nothing better to do until the campaigning season starts. He hasn’t seen his family– or his native land– in ten years, and he doesn’t really want to. He also doesn’t want to run into Bethilie of Ambion– the woman who turned down his proposal of marriage the previous year.
Bethilie doesn’t want to run into Lel either. But when she comes across a ghost below the Duke’s palace, a boy in need of rest, she can’t refuse to help him, even if her kingsblood will no longer help her, and she can’t refuse Lel’s assistance either.
A prequel to The Duke is Dead, set some 20 years previously.