The High Clerics waited at the gate to see them off on their journey to the capital.
Each of the five High Clerics bowed to Anne as she and Eva passed them. Anne hadn't exchanged a single word with any of them since being reborn in this world. She wasn't even sure she knew any of their names.
Janet? Was one of them named Janet?
Eva helped Anne up into the carriage and said, "Just a moment, dear Saintess," before turning back to exchange words with the High Clerics. Eva seemed to speak with them fairly often, despite being an ordinary low-ranking cleric. Perhaps because she was one of the leaders of the rebellion? After all, the rebellion did have church backing.
Eva joined Anne in the carriage, sitting opposite from her, and signaled the driver to set off.
"What were you speaking to the High Clerics about?" Anne asked.
Eva smiled. "They just wanted to make sure we remembered to be good ambassadors for the Church of Coris. Under the current emperor, the church has lost a lot of power and your fame offers them the best chance they've had in years to regain some amount of influence."
Eva turned towards the window before continuing. "They claim that they support the rebellion because they care about the common people, but no matter how many euphemisms they hide it under, it's clear that what they really care about is their own power."
Eva turned back towards Anne and reached forward to pat her reassuringly on the leg. "But not to worry," she said. "I'm here to be a shield between you and anyone who wants to use you for their own ends."
Anne nodded noncommittally.
In The Foundling's Wings, Eva had been a really minor background character, mostly there to support Anne. When she first read the book Eva hadn't stood out to her at all, but now that Anne was actually living the life of the Saintess it was beginning to dawn on her just how many aspects of Anne's life Eva controlled. Anne wasn't sure how to feel about this, but also there wasn't much she could do about it at the moment, so she filed that thought away under To Deal With Later.
They settled in for the long trip to the capital. At first, Anne thought the rolling countryside was beautiful, but after a while it all started to blend together. One barn looked much like another.
With nothing else to do, Anne tried to practice her meditation techniques. She thought, maybe, if she got it right, she might be able to trigger a minor miracle and get a better handle on how her powers worked. But no matter how long she managed to clear her mind for, nothing seemed to happen. Eva was asleep in the other seat.
They stopped for lunch around midday. Just some simple bread and cheese. When they set off again, Eva insisted on riding up top with the driver.
"It's a lovely day," she said. "I could do with some fresh air."
"Can I have a turn riding on top later?" asked Anne, thinking it might at least relieve some of her boredom.
"Absolutely not," said Eva. "It's far too dangerous."
"But it's not dangerous for you?" asked Anne.
"It doesn't matter if it's dangerous for me. But we can't afford to risk your life."
Anne sighed and got back in the carriage.
She was just managing to doze off when there was a sudden thud against the side of the carriage. Anne's hands went out to either side to grip the seat while the carriage began to sway back and forth wildly. The door was rattling. Then the door was flung open and Agis threw himself inside, reaching out to pull the door closed behind him. The carriage never even slowed down.
"What the hell was that!?" asked Anne.
"I'm coming with you to the capital," said Agis.
"I can see that, but why didn't you just join us back at the church?"
"Because," said Agis, in a bitter tone, "the precious Saintess of Coris couldn't possibly be seen entering a carriage with a wicked commander of the Elven army."
"Okay, I see your point, but then why didn't you just join us when we were stopped for lunch? Why jump on a moving carriage? And how did you catch up with us anyway?"
"I rode upon my swift, noble steed Iramis," said Agis. "He's faster than any carriage. And my impeccable balance means that making the jump from his back to the carriage was easy!"
"And you just abandoned your horse on the side of the road?"
"He's very smart. He'll find his way back to the Sacred Forest on his own and wait for my return."
Anne decided to change tactics. "Okay, well, why are you coming with us to the capital anyway? Shouldn't you be keeping an eye on the rebel forces or something? You're supposed to be in charge, aren't you?"
"I've left the rebel army in the care of my very capable second in command, Ylyndar Runethorn. And it's far too dangerous for you and Eva to travel on your own. What if someone tries to assassinate you? You're a very important person, you know. You have to be careful."
Anne gave up. "Fine. Whatever. Welcome aboard."
Agis shrugged. He removed his bow and quiver and placed them on the seat next to him. He folded his arms and slouched down in his seat. The identical farmlands continued to rattle on by. Agis began bouncing his leg.
"Ugh, this is boring," he said. "I hate carriages. I knew I should have just ridden Iramis the whole way."
"Why didn't you?" asked Anne.
"Sister Eva said it wouldn't be good for an elven prince to be seen riding openly into the capital with a weapon strapped onto his back."
"I supposed that's reasonable."
"Speaking of," said Agis, gesturing towards his own pointed ears. "You might want to readjust your hair a bit, your shameful pointed ears are peaking through."
"Would you just shut up about my hair!?" said Anne. "It's not like I keep it this way just to hide my ears. I could hide them with a hood or something if that was all that mattered."
"Then why do you keep your hair that way?" asked Agis.
This gave Anne pause. "I don't know. I guess this is just the sort of hairstyle that Saintesses have..."
"That's a dumb reason," said Agis.
"Oh, yeah? And why do you do your hair the way you do it? All short and spiky and messy and all over the place? It doesn't seem very princely."
Agis shrugged. "I like the way it looks."
Anne had to admit that was a pretty good reason.
"Whatever," said Anne.
The two stared out the window for a while.
"I swear we passed that exact same cow before," said Agis.
"Wanna play a game?" asked Anne.
Agis shot up in his seat. "Please!"
"Have you ever heard of rock-paper-scissors?"
Lady Corvina sat quietly in the green sitting room of the Imperial Palace of Wyernwolf. She sat with her hands placed neatly on her lap, staring into the middle distance. Her maid, Helen, stood at attention behind her, and a cup of tea sat growing cold on the table in front of her. She didn't touch it. An intricate grandfather clock ticking and tocking away in the corner was the only sound.
They were waiting for the guest of honor.
Finally, Emperor Richard Wyernwolf strode into the room, flanked by royal guards. He was a tall, broad shouldered man, with slicked-back golden hair and golden eyes to match. His face was lined with age, but he smiled generously and with a youthful vigor.
When you had as much power as Richard Wyernwolf, you could afford to be generous with your smile.
"My beautiful daughter!" said the Emperor. "It's wonderful to see you. You're always so pleasant to look at. Just like your dearly departed mother was, back in her day."
Lady Corvina stood in greeting. "Father," she said, with a smile and a deep curtsy.
The Emperor sat down hard on the couch opposite Corvina. "Well?" he said, gesturing for Corvina to sit. "I'm eager to hear your report."