Tales of loathsome tyrants and prophesied saviors aren't nearly so appealing when you are a royal bastard with a prophecy hanging over your head.


I slipped away from Silva as soon as I could. I've taken only what I'm wearing, a rickety knife I overheard Lallie telling one of the Runners to get replaced, and a bit of old bread due for the compost heap. It's more than I had when I fled Father.

The skies were clear when I first let myself out the little north gate, creaky with disuse. Dark clouds fill the sky now.

My coughing will surely give me away if anyone gets close enough to hear it. But I've been splashing through mud and weeds and puddles for a while, now. I doubt anyone cares to waste an evening tracking down a runaway waif, particularly in weather like this. The cold makes my bones ache

"I can't stay with them. They'll give me back to Father," I tell Fael Honovi, but my faery godmother answers by sending sleet. I shake my head and grit my teeth against the cold and coughs. Prophecy or no prophecy, I won't go back to Father. I won't.

Power forgive me, but I don't want to face the prophecy. I don't want to fight and be killed by Father or one of my half-siblings. I'd rather live.

Before she died, Mother told me to flee Grehafen, following the river Nidar, and I'll resume that. First, though, I have to find it, again, and hope I don't learn the hard way why Prince Aidan called the northern foothills so dangerous.

If I can even find the Nidar again. I never should have let Prince Aidan find me. I should have fled when I heard those hunting dogs. I should…

My head's so heavy, and it's a fight to keep my eyes open…

I jolt awake.

The ghastly keening continues, echoing and reverberating as if in mountains despite the flat ground. Power have mercy, what is that? It's coming this way.

My teeth chatter; my body wracks with coughing. I have no idea where I am.

It's worse than that. I didn't mean to fall asleep, either. I'm so heavy and tired…

My blue-tinged hands pull me enough out of the lethargy for me to gasp and try to rub some warmth into them. I whimper for help to Fael Honovi, but I can tell she isn't here as I freeze and hope the approaching magical creature prefers its meat dead.

I pray to the Power to at least make it quick. Better to die here than to be tortured to death in one of Carling's experiments, Father's games, or Drake's—

Someone clicks his tongue behind me. I can't move to turn to see him.

"Kitra!" the man calls, and I recognize the voice. Silver Embroidery.

Not-princess Kitra's reply is quick and in a language that sounds like it must be her native one as she catches up to Silver Embroidery.

She turns me around to face him on his horse, so I see him wearily shake his head. He looks thinner than he did yesterday. Sallow, even. "Sprite," he says. "We need to go before this one finds us—she's hungry."

Kitra hoists me onto the horse in front of Silver Embroidery, so I get to see her scowl as she checks on the knives she wears at her sides and yanks herself onto her own mount. "Let her come."

"Not to argue your skill with a blade, Your Highness, but this is the wrong time of month for me to face something that wants to pluck my spirit from my body. We should go before anything else takes up on our trail."

"Like your mother?" Kitra's jibe makes Silver Embroidery restrain a tremor behind me. "Ever wonder which of the rumored hauntings out here is her?"

"Do you wonder which revenant in Skull Dune was your grandfather?" Silver Embroidery quietly replies.

Kitra catches herself mid-snarl, swallows, and shoots him a dark look. "Poor taste, Elwyn."

"You started it," I think I point out before the black overwhelms my senses.


  1. This may be a UK thing, but "I've been splashing through mud and weeds and puddles for awhile" sounds wrong to me. Should that be 'a while'?

  2. Hm… *parses sentence* for = preposition; awhile

    awhile(an adverb) = for a while


    Ooops. I knew that.

    Scylax: 5/7


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