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.


The palace is very quiet at midnight, enough days later that others have laxed their guard enough for me to escape my room again.

I'm quiet, too—silent, almost—as I pick my way through the halls, wrapped in a brown shawl Lallie gave me this afternoon when she brought me supper. My eyesight isn't quite as keen as Mother's was, but it's good enough that I can get to the cow pasture north of the east garden, despite the slight moon. I think it's close enough to a wood and a stream that linashor might grow there on Solstice and Equinox. I'm doing better after the stair incident, but Healer Ygraine still won't hear of me working.

The night is cold enough to make me miss the wardings Mother used to embroider in my sleeves. Even if I knew how to use magic, I'm probably too human to do that.

My stomach twinges. Mother took me with her last year to do this, despite Father's ban on harvesting linashor. She'd known Father wouldn't keep her around much longer, I think. Even Gaylen had come, giving me some freshly carved knitting needles at dawn as a birthday present.

I shiver. Grandmother's prophet Gaylen hadn't survived to see the next full moon. And Drake had burned the needles to ash by the end of the month.

The fence isn't much shorter than I am. I let myself in through the gate, sparing my still-injured head the risk of another fall.

In the pasture, a flickering light catches my eye. A firefly.

I crouch, the better to see them when they light up above me. I wait. Cold seeps into my flesh.

There! I catch it and move my hand so it always keeps trying to climb up without getting there. I cup my hands around it and watch the glow.

The glow reminds me of the shiny herb that brought me here. Linashor glitters silver.

"Let me see the little tendrils; wafts lit by moonlit night. Let grow now here sweet linashor; let it reflect the moon bright!" Not that linashor tastes sweet, but I didn't design the formal petition.

It will be harder to see under the sliver of a moon that is here, but linashor can only be harvested near solstice and equinox, when the boundaries between its realm and this one have weakened. I'll feel much safer once I have some. Linashor, a powerful and well-guarded plant of a faery realm, negates active magic. A curse can be destroyed by it, and a cup of linashor tea will counter the otherwise-lethal Shadow, an illness that's controlled by magic.

I flinch, instinct anticipating a blow for that heretical thought. The Shadow is lethal. Nothing can cure it.

Or so Father likes having others believe. I'd rather not know how he found the crypt that contained it. When I was two years old, I foolishly gave a family 'guest' who suffered from the Plague a mug of linashor tea. He, a vassal who Father had intentionally struck with it, recovered from the so-called 'incurable' illness. Mother's screams that night still haunt my nightmares.

A slight glint catches my eye in the dim moonlight: a benefit of having an ornery old faery as a godmother. The faeries who tend the linashor are renowned for denying requests. I suppose that Mother was Queen Yuoleen's daughter might also influence the faeries' unusual compliance with my petition.

I shiver as I remove my shawl. Despite the cold, I need a basket for harvesting the linashor, and the shawl does that well. Those delicate silver filaments the faeries let me see, I readily untangle from the grass with my little fingers.

I almost smile while plucking it. I can harvest this here, without fear of attack or execution. Even if a gryphon finds me, it can't burn me alive; Mother ensured I'd be spared that threat. That was why Father killed her. But gryphons have other spells for killing.

It's cold.

I may be safe as far as Prince Aidan's concerned, but I suspect Her Majesty and Cook would be too willing to give me to Father if he asked; not that anyone could keep me from him if he had a mind to seek me here. Which is why, even with the linashor, I must avoid gryphons. Entirely. Without letting anyone realize I know what I do.

Ignorance is safe to admit to owning. Knowledge is not. What you know can betray you, for you always learned it somewhere. Carling's torture taught me that. She always made sure she could justify my torment when she tested her magery on me. She's particularly vile when playing "healer."


  1. I'm being picky again: "I readily untangle from the grass with from my little fingers." But this is gripping, and I love all the colour imagery :)

  2. I like picky! Nice catch, ty. :)

    Scylax tally: 2/7

  3. P.S. Thank you for the compliment! :) Evonalé's such an artist.


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