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.


My lungs feel much improved after two days of rest and bitter herb tea. I return to kitchen duty on the ordered morning, and a scowling Cook shoves a pail of seed into my hands and pushes me out the door to feed the chickens.

Why doesn't Cook have me whipped? I ruined her cake batter a few mornings ago—wrecked her kitchen, besides—and she's obviously still angry with me.

Awwk! A hen protests her loss of tail feathers when I step into the chicken pen.

The handle of the overlarge bucket of feed digs into my arm painfully. I'll be glad when it's empty. I don't like animals. The bucket's weight on my arm tugs a knot in my shoulder, too.

I toss a scoop of grain with a twinge in my bad shoulder; it patters against the coop while falling. The hen that's now short a few tail feathers quickly pecks up some food. Some of the other hens and the cockerel join her.

The clucking rises in pitch, and soon all the chickens are clustered together at the food. The cockerel rushes at me, wings open. He squawks, drawing back and bobbing forward again in mock-attack, coming closer each time.

'Animals don't like me' is probably more accurate.

Animals act strangely when I'm around. Then again, Fael Honovi does stay closer to me than they find comfortable. It's a rare creature that naturally accepts faeries; and now that no mage keeps her away, she can hinder me as much as she pleases.

The cockerel darts in for an actual attack. I backpedal away, awkwardly dumping the entire bucket of feed on the ground before he can slice me with his spurs. Two of the chickens rush me.

I scurry to the gate, hoisting my skirts to clamber over the rail so I don't let the chickens out. I trip, fall. Sharp pain in my neck greets my landing, first; other pains follow. The bucket crushes my ear—I yelp.

Biting my lip to keep from whimpering, I focus on ignoring the pain, the stabs and aches and throbs. They aren't bad. They aren't bad, I insist to myself. Carling has done worse to me—but that thought just makes those bad muscles decide to add to the injuries' song of pain.

Besides, now that she can, Fael Honovi will spare me anything serious… I think. She might've let me get too cold, but she won't let me get killed because of something that's her fault. She'd face trial from her own kind if she did that.

My head hurts. I struggle to touch the pain's source—yie, gently!—and find sticky wetness there and an explosion of pain. Tears escape me.

Between the dizziness and pain, I can't get up.

[***NEW POST***]


Lallie? A low moan escapes my throat. How do I speak?

"Nallé." Lallie's skirts brush me, and she kneels beside me. Nallé?

Oh, right. That's me. Queen Mataine even dislikes Nallé and insists on calling me Nellie. I'm not sure if she's so snappy because she's pregnant or just because she dislikes me.

And my head grows heavier the longer I lie here. The longer I lie, the heavier I feel, too. I couldn't get up when first hurt; I don't believe I can move, now. That's probably bad.

"Your head," Lallie says with merciful quietness. How can a wound to the head sharpen one's hearing?

'Is it bad?' I try to ask, but all I hear is another grunt. Fael Honovi won't save me from serious harm, then. Not reassuring.

Do you hate your foundling charge that much, Fael? 'Twasn't my fault Father sought Mother the way he did.

Mother. That pain distracts me from the current torment that is my head and body. I bite my lip to hinder the tears. I see the flames, eating her robe, tasting her flesh at their leisure.

And Father, so crimson with rage that he cared not that it is day in the castle garden, that all could see the disrobed shame of his own half-sister.

My eyes burn with tears I can't stop. Mother!

Summer this year was dry, breezy. The sky had rained her ashes as I fled.

"I'll fetch Ygraine." Who is that? "I'll be right back."

I hear a whimper answer Lallie. I can't bring myself to be surprised that it's me.

The tending of my wounds will make them hurt more before they can hurt less. I look forward to the distraction.

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