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.


Year 242 of the Bynding

The Kingdom of Salles


before Solstice

"There is but one kind, my daughter. One kind, altered by magic. Magic created us, Evonalé, just as magic now binds us. Over time, your father and his scions could even become us.

"Remember this."


Cold sears my body, except for my numb feet. Those sank into the mud awhile ago. The dirt pastes my tattered dress to my scraped skin. Hunger shreds my insides.

Yowling dogs draw closer. Maybe they'll find me; maybe they won't. I shiver and lean into the rough bark of the tree propping me up. Nobody likes finding whelps like me.

The howling draws nearer. A doe darts through the underbrush past me. I jerk away, to get out of the dogs' path, but my numb feet can't support me. I tumble into the mud. My lungs burn with coughing.

The dogs follow the doe's path, but stop when they smell me. Yips, whines, and whimpers enter their noise. My arms tremble as I prop myself up.

The lead dog crawls closer to me, sniffing inquiry. He'd be bigger than me even without the thick fur that stands on edge, his ears flat against his head.

"Pups! Fall off!" comes a lad's clear voice. "That's a girl, not the doe!" The dark-haired boy's chestnut steed—a neutered he, I can tell from my angle—shies away from me. He croons to it.

The boy's mahogany hunting tunic is dirty but not filthy, and the fine fabric marks him as highborn. He's at least a few years older than me, perhaps even fourteen and a subadult.

He dismounts easily and tsks to the dogs. "Hush, Plun," he tells the leading dog, rubbing his fur. I've never seen that messy a hodgepodge of colors in someone's lead dog.

I cough. The bad muscle in my back pulls. I bite back a whimper.

The boy's attention snaps to me at the sound. He studies me with brown eyes more bright than dark. Mine can pass for black in poor light. His can't.

He moves cautiously, slowly, approaching me sidelong while keeping far enough away so he doesn't threaten me. "Plun's short for Plunder," he offers as if I'm some shy filly to be coaxed into a bridle. "Grandfather gave her to me shortly before he died." She, then; not he. "I was eight."

How old am I, that story asks. I close my eyes. The ground vibrates as other horses near us.

The vibrations' smooth cadence roughens as the horses near me. My godmother's here, then. That's not reassuring. She's the only faery that might help me, and she won't even save me from pneumonia.

"Aidan, stop riding off without your guards!" The man's voice is firmly commanding without being agitated. "What if an assassin were here?"

The lad's clothes rustle as he turns. "It's just a girl, Father."

"And little girls can't kill anyone?" If I didn't know any better, I'd have thought his tone amused. Somebody snorts.

I sense a horse's movement through the ground; feel that it reluctantly sidles forward to stop in front of me. I open my eyes to see a nobleman's frown, the man himself in a mahogany hunting tunic, his brown hair just long enough that he ties it back. He studies me with hazel eyes, and his strong jaw and nose match the boy's.

The golden circlet on the man's brow reveals that he isn't merely nobility, but a king. The highborn boy is then a prince, undoubtedly intrigued by the novelty of finding a waif in the middle of nowhere.

Highborn folk don't dirty their hands with waifs. I let my eyes close again. The numbness is climbing up my legs and will take me, soon enough. Maybe that'll fulfill the prophecy, somehow: me freezing to death, although Father's a fire mage who could save me.

Some of the people here murmur, and one voice sounds female. Something brushes my arm. I flinch, triggering another coughing fit, but I don't open my eyes.

"Kitra, the poor girl's frozen through," says the king. "Do you have something to wrap her in?"

I hear someone fumble with saddlebags. "Mayhaps a shawl or chemise." Definitely a woman's voice.

Someone else touches me. I recoil away, shuddering and coughing and whimpering with the pain spearing me with every gasp. Tears burn my eyes, forcing me to open them.

"Shh," the woman, Kitra, croons. She smiles, her white teeth a harsh contrast to her dark golden skin. Her attire announces her foreign origins as much as her deep tan does. The short sheaths on her thighs look well worn with use. I stare at them. A woman fighter? Joining a king on a hunt?

Her black hair, hacked at her chin, could suit either male or female, and her tall slim body could pass for a man's if she tried. But she's indisputably female, as revealed by her current bland ensemble of a leather jerkin—no undershirt—and belted trousers, livened by her bracelet and necklace, a matching set made from something's teeth or claws.

Kitra offers me the chemise she evidently forgot to wear under her jerkin so the lacings wouldn't reveal her navel and the crease between her breasts. "Here, kitten. Wrap yourself up."

I shake my head and scoot back. I'm not stupid. I'm not giving them fodder to call me a thief.

His Majesty eyes me thoughtfully as he remounts his own dappled mare. He moves over beside another hunter, one whose worn green tunic is a coarser weave, though silver embroidery cuffs it. It's unusual, but interesting: a demonstration of wealth added the sturdy garb of someone who actually works for his living.

Silver Embroidery studies me himself with enough interest that he must be a good friend of the king, so His Majesty doesn't mind him having opinions of his own. "Do you have a shawl, Your Highness?"

I recoil with the realization that this woman offering me her chemise is a princess, albeit a foreign one.

Princess Kitra frowns and steps over to her palomino mare. She checks her saddlebag. "Scarf…?" And evidently scarf means something else where she's from, because what she holds up looks more like a courtesan's veil.

Prince Aidan takes it from her and grabs my shoulder to yank me forward and deposit the 'scarf' around me before I can dodge him. I cough hard, but he holds me up and doesn't let me fall.

Fear makes sand of my muscles. He's old enough to be picking women he wants to give the veil.

"Oh, my," Silver Embroidery says quietly, expression pained. "Aldrik." He gives a small nod my way. Ice crawls beneath my skin. His Majesty nods in return, acknowledgement that he noticed the gesture.

I'm swung in the air and set on a steed. Princess Kitra's careful, though, and ensures that I stay where she puts me. Prince Aidan murmurs something about Hind being such a good gelding. I cling to the chestnut gelding's white mane with my fingers, struggling not to fall off.

"Mount Hind and keep her astride," the king directs his juvenile son, a miniature version of himself though darker of eye and hair. He lowers his tone to speak to Silver Embroidery, but I hear him. "I might've thought her an elf-child but for her clumsiness."

'…an elf-child…' I stare at the king with widened eyes. Do I really look elfin?


  1. This is Kefari/Cherokee Scot from FP. :)

    I remember reading this several years ago, and although I was intrigued by the story, I was profoundly confused by the end of this bit. However, you have greatly improved in your writing and storytelling ability since then. I am SO glad that you are rewriting this, and I look forward to reading even more. I may not be able to get to it today, but I will definitely be reading the rest quite soon.

  2. I'm glad to see you! Good thing you're glad about the revision. I also have 3 related books in the works: Endellion's story (that was Evonalé's mother), and two other stories whose narrator I can't reveal without spoilers for this revised version. ^_^

    When you say you're "profoundly confused by the end of this bit", do you mean you were confused by the original version, or that you were confused just now while reading this version?


  3. Oop! I definitely meant that I was confused by the original version. XD

  4. Good. Well, good that it wasn't this version that confused you. Not good that you'd gotten confused. :D

    Notice the contest going on, right now: the first person to point out 7 typos gets to influence a side story!

  5. Very interesting. I like the details. I only found 3 errors though, but then it is after midnight. One was the extra the in "He's the obviously the boy's father..." and the other two were than should've been that and there should be an a in front of while in "...ensures than I stay where she puts me while."

  6. Wow, good catches, Steph! Thanks! Took me a moment to realize who you were. ^_^

    Actually, that "while" should've been deleted, but thanks for pointing that out. Edits made, thank you.

    So, StephanieU: 3/7

    Just from one post, too. Yikes!


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