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.


When Prince Aidan asks me to fetch Silva, I scurry to do so, glad to have an excuse to avoid having to teach Marigold how to thread a needle for the tenth time this week. I find Silva in the scullery with Lallie, and the chamber maid Reese is treating Silva to an earful.

"If I'd a cess for every waif that uncle o' yo' took in t' that school o' his, I be a queen. Mercy he c'n keep that school runnin', all them charity folk he got—makes it all the more 'spensive for we pay-folk. I've a mind to disown me brother as a charity—"


I sidestep out of the head matron's way as she comes to collect the wayward maid.

"The blue room, Reese—lay it out." Morgana glances at us audience to Reese's monologue and snaps, "Silva! Leaving your mother short of help in the kitchen, indeed! Lallie—" raises her cup of water, and thus escapes all but a glower.

"I've a new job in town," Lallie tells Morgana nicely, but something tells me that she knows full well that this information will only make Morgana more upset. "Cook said we could visit together before I move out of the castle."

Morgana scowls. I'm deemed worthy of naught but a sneer, but I curtsy anyway at the lady's attention. "Matron Morgana."

My acknowledgement only makes her sniff and flounce after Reese. The following silence doesn't last long before Lallie breaks it with a Reese mimickry: "I's can break more rules 'n the king tongue than yous can."

Silva hiccups on her cup of water and falls into a laughing fit. I don't see what was so funny.

With Silva still occupied by how funny she finds Lallie, I swallow and ask, "Why does the king use mountaineer as the tongue of the realm? Don't you do more trade by sea?"

Lallie shrugs. "No azzen me. I's juz a shop girl."

That sends Silva into another bout of laughter. Hiccups and incoherent something enter it, too. Lallie sips her water. When Silva keeps laughing, Lallie toes her with a booted foot. "You still together, Sil?"

I frown. Accusing a friend of insanity isn't nice. But before I can protest, Silva breaks into, "Ferrel-silly goes willy-nilly while sis goes dilly-dallying in brainland…"

What?! I gape at Silva's nonsense, but Lallie just frowns as she sips her water. She pauses and looks at her cup. She puts it down and takes up the water jug the two friends have been sharing.

Lallie sniffs it, then hands it to me. "This smell funny to you?"

…It's water. "Funny how?"

Lallie shrugs, still frowning at the giddy Silva. "Your nose be better than mine."

I grab Silva's cup and sip it, the fresh coolness soothing my tongue and throat it goes down. "It's good spring water," I tell her. "The honey's a nice touch."

"Honey." Lallie's completely still.

"…Don't you taste it?"

Smashing of the pottery cups answer me. I grab for the jug to save it from Lallie's abuse and miss. "It's good water!"

"Bespelled," Lallie mutters, with another frown at Silva. "Fetch Ygrain? There's a good gal."

I swallow. "His Highness wanted Silva…"

Lallie sighs. "Nothing for it, now. His Whimsicalness will have to wait."

I flinch at her flippant reference to Crown Prince Aidan. "But—"

Lallie looks at me. "Nallé, pickle, do it look like Sil's in a condition to humor our adolescent prince's whims?"

I swallow. "No." Tears enter Silva's laughter. And hiccups.

Lallie hikes her skirts and twists them so she can tuck them in the belt the matron and Cook always scold her for wearing, since she isn't a plains barbarian. "Ygrain? Now? Ambrosia's bad for anyone with faery blood."

Or with faery godmothers, for that matter, and I have the budding lightheadedness to prove it. I close my mouth firmly before I say as much. Bastards and commonfolk don't have faery godmothers.

Lallie steps around Silva and places a cool hand on my forehead. My disorientation lessens. She crouches by her prone friend with a nonchalance at her bared legs that I suspect she learned from Princess Kitra, who visits now and again. Lallie settles herself on the floor by Silva, holding her friend's head on her lap with one hand and using the other to support herself with the stone floor. "Quick, please. Silva ain't far from counting as a full."

I blink at Silva. "A full?" faery? Cook's daughter?

"Evonalé," Lallie repeats with a calmness that doesn't sound feigned. "Now."

I back out of the storeroom and hurry towards the healers' ward. I pause. If Lallie's right about Silva being part faery and reacting to ambrosia, she'll need a mage, not a sage, no matter how good of one Ygrain is.

And Ygrain is good, to have noticed the magic-induced scars and injuries my body bore from Carling's idea of fun. But even then, she must have used a mage to unravel the spells that blocked me from healing properly.

I doubt Ygrain keeps a mage on staff, and I know she isn't one, herself. People willing to risk insanity and actually use magic tend to have something… odd in their gazes.

The honey tingles on my tongue from the water. I can understand why Silva might've thought little of it—with the visiting nobles, many are contributing native delicacies for the feasts—but Lallie reacted as if she hadn't been able to taste it. Even an earth mage, naturally tolerant of poisons, can still taste them. Unless…

I stop, suddenly cold with goosebumps forming on my arms.

"Power that is," I say softly. If Lallie's powerful enough that her magic purges unnatural substances from her body by reflex

I shake myself and continue. King Aldrik isn't stupid, nor his son. They'd notice if gossip hinted at an earth mage in the castle—and hire her as such, no doubt. Lallie wasn't paying attention, or maybe she can't taste. That would explain her poor appetite. I'm too used to Grehafen, where father intentionally uses mages as his personal drudges to demonstrate how powerful a mage he is and discourage any would-be heroes from wanting to try to dethrone him.

I rub my face. And pray to the Power that Ygrain has a mage readily available.

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