They retreat into the hills above the city; among the high places they will think on their sins. They do some training, but idly, idly; they eat and drink and talk about inconsequential things and build empty futures.
Frances drifts in and out of the woods, dissatisfied, unsettled. She sleeps poorly and dreams of politics and the sins of princes. At dinner she is moody and resolved; her learned father watches in pain as she blunts his words and turns them to false ends. She meets a minor functionary by the lake’s quiet side and falls into his low ways. He teaches her the hidden ways, the servant’s paths, and distrusts her.
Weeks pass. They amuse themselves with small plots, minor intrigue. Bedhopping as ritual bloodsport. Frances hides herself among the staff; grey and anonymous she steps in when the housekeeper falls victim to a woman’s plaint.
Her friend weighs her gravely as they leave the grand room. “Suitable,” he murmurs. “Well enough.”