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.



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 dislikes it 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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