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they were continuing to negotiate behind our back. The Euskerri offered to betray us to Carthage in
exchange for sovereignty.
 Why do they want sovereignty so badly? I asked.
 They re an ancient folk, Sidonie said.  Like the Maghuin Dhonn in Alba, they were here long
before the Tiberians or the Carthaginians settled in Aragonia. They have their own language, their own
laws. For centuries, they had an agreement with the kings of Aragonia that they d be given the right to
govern themselves according to their own customs, but that was broken too many times for them to trust.
Now all they want is sovereignty at any cost.
It was my turn to stare at her.
 I sat in on the negotiations my mother oversaw, Sidonie reminded me.  Don t you remember
me asking what you knew about them the night . . .
Her voice trailed off.
 Oh! I was struck by the sudden, vivid image of Sidonie kneeling, naked and obedient, her
hands clasped behind her head. That was a conversation we hadn t ended up having.  Um. Yes.
 So Carthage wasn t willing to meet their terms? Sidonie inquired of Nicola.
Nicola shook her head.  No. No, Astegal was confident that once he had Aragonia under his
thumb, he could roll easily over the Euskerri. I suspect he underestimates them. There were a good many
skirmishes between us before Carthage invaded. The Euskerri won as many as they lost. They re not
terribly well organized, but they re fearless, stubborn fighters.
 Do you think the Euskerri s forces combined with Aragonia s would be able to defeat
Carthage? Sidonie asked.
 Possibly, Nicola allowed.  I m not a military strategist.
 What are you thinking? I asked Sidonie.
 They re not asking for much, she said slowly.  It s a very small territory. Part of it lies on
D Angeline soil, and my mother was willing to cede it. No deal was brokered because King Roderico s
ambassador refused to do the same, and the Euskerri refused to accept aught less. I m thinking Serafin is
a fool not to make the offer. Begging your forgiveness, my lady.
 No need. Nicola shrugged gracefully.  Men tend to be proud, stiff-necked, and impractical. I
agree. Unfortunately, my son is not as easily influenced as my husband.
 And more ambitious, I observed.
 Yes. She glanced sidelong at me.  That too. But I think he might be convinced to relent on this
point after what you ve told us. She was silent a moment.  My younger son, Raul, was in the City of
Elua that night, wasn t he?
 Oh, gods! I d forgotten.  Yes. I m sorry, my lady.
 I wondered why I d had no word from him for so many months, Nicola murmured.  So, yes. I
think it possible that Serafin might be convinced to make a treaty with the Euskerri once he s had time to
think on it. It won t sit lightly on him, thinking of his brother bound to Carthage s thrall.  Tis the others will
be harder to convince.
 Can you sway your husband? Sidonie inquired.
Nicola didn t mince words.  Yes.
 That s two votes, Sidonie mused.
 General Liberio s will depend on whether or not he believes we could defeat Carthage with the
Euskerri s aid, Nicola said.  If he doesn t, there s no chance the others will agree to it.
 And if he does? I asked.
 There s a chance they could be persuaded, she said.  Not a good one, but a chance.
Sidonie pushed herself back onto her elbows.  I d like to address them.
 Give me time to speak to Ramiro and Serafin, Nicola said to her.  Let them take Liberio s
measure, and we ll proceed from there. Prince Imriel is right; you re not to leave your bed today.
 You ll tell me as soon as you know anything? Sidonie pressed.
 Yes, your highness. Nicola smiled at her.  You have my word.
Sidonie nodded, the gravity of her expression almost sufficient to offset the distracting display of
cleavage.  And you my thanks. Terre d Ange is fortunate to have someone with your presence and wits
here in Amlcar.
 Rest. Nicola rose.  Terre d Ange is also fortunate to have an heir of such singular will and
determination, and I suspect they d wish to keep it that way. Of a surety, I have no wish to inform
Ysandre that her valiant daughter succumbed to an injury from a paring knife.
I laughed and Sidonie smiled reluctantly. I escorted Nicola to the door, pausing there in the
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