Alone and in hiding, the young widowed Queen takes on a new identity as she grieves the death of her husband and the loss of her newborn son, abandoned to the care of strangers for his own protection. Hatred for the man who ripped away all she held dear tempers her grief and haunts her nightmares as she relives his brutality, his betrayal. The support of her cousin and a new love do little to ease the pain of her emotional scars, until a face from the past finds her in Cape Carey with a revelation that sends her on a journey across the Kingdom, from the high mountains of the north to the rolling hills of the Estmarch, her birthplace. It is a mission to restore hope.
"Miss Shen, wait!" Baugaur caught up with the couple before they reached the Main Square. Shen looked at him sourly, but he didn't look like he'd be put off. "I need to speak with you . . . alone please," he said, throwing a meaningful glance at Callum.
"There's nothing you can say to Shen that can't be said in front of me," he said defensively. "I swore to protect her; I won't leave her alone."
"I'm more than capable of protecting myself against Baugaur."
Shen threw him an impatient glance. She'd not told him she had misplaced her knife. If she told him now, Callum would refuse to leave, and it was clear from Baugaur's face that he had something urgent to impart. "Callum, he's no fool. He's wise enough not to try anything. Wait on the Square; I'll be right with you."
He shook his head at her recklessness, but was not foolish enough to argue. Shen turned to Baugaur. "Make it quick," she said. "It's freezing out here." The wind from the North cut through her threadbare fur, sending snow flurrying in eddies around her booted feet.
Baugaur glanced around. "We're not overlooked here." He drew her into the guttering torchlight.
Shen felt a flicker of nervousness. "What do you want of me?" she said.
"I came to give this back to you." Baugaur drew the dagger from beneath his fur. "Perhaps you should be a bit more careful with it. It could easily fall into the wrong hands."
"Thank you." Shen took the knife and turned to go. "I'd hate to lose this. Maybe I'll see you later."
Baugaur's next comment stopped her like ice in her tracks. "I know, Shen. I know what your name means, and if you don't take more care where you wave your knife, other people will get to know too."
A bubble of sickness rose in her throat. "I don't know what you're talking about."
"Shenalah. Telesian for 'exile'. Doesn't take too much working out if you know what the knife means." He frowned. "My family hail from Hierath, and I'm no fool. You should take more care."
"Will you tell them?" Shen palmed the knife, wondering if she could take him in cold blood.
Baugaur shook his head and lowered his voice to a whisper. "I'm loyal to the true king," he hissed, "and I hate those Wolfpack scum as much as any man. But you watch yourself, Lady. There's those smarter than me whose loyalties lie elsewhere. If they find you out. . ." He made an unpleasant cutting gesture across his throat with a forefinger, then bent and swiftly kissed her hand. "Long live the Queen." Before she could say more, he slipped into the shadows.