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.


I don't wait for the prince before returning to the castle with the guard. I thank him and head to the small stable for the young ones. Rowan's not quite a yearling yet, but I like brushing her down.

Rowan snorts to see me. I filch a handful of oats from the treat bag. She eats them carefully out of my hand. "There's a good girl."

She snorts and looks up, nostrils flaring as she sniffs the air. Then she ignores my godmother and returns to the treat. "Good girl," I croon.

Rowan tosses her mane and lets me brush her down. I hear someone enter but don't turn around.

"Well?" Silva asks tartly.

I start, Rowan huffs, and I nearly topple us both over. "Silva?"

"What spell did I use on those two drunks?"

My mouth turns dry. I focus on Rowan's shiny brown coat to keep me calm. "I don't know."

"Guess." The prophetess's firm tone means she will harbor no alternative. "Begin with the possibilities that you know I didn't use. And tell me why you know I didn't use them."

"Magical persuasion," I instantly reply. The first spell most new mages think of to handle sticky situations, it's also one of the most foolish. "That would lower your ability to persuade people without using magic."

Many a rash mage has made himself require magic to convince anyone of anything. At least this particular spell doesn't drive the caster mad; more thoughtless alternatives cannot make the same claim.

Silva nods once, sharply. "Continue."

I think quickly. "Forcing the drunkards to hear you would have lowered your ability to be heard by people in general. Mental clarity for them would have negatively affected your own mental clarity…"

I feel like I'm rambling.

"Clearing their drunkenness would have made you more apt to become drunk, and they were still lurching when they left… And inserting the thought to leave into their minds would lower your own, um…"

"Charisma," supplies Silva.

I nod, pretending I know what that means. At least she's understanding me, I think. "Was it a memory impression?"

"A memory impression?"

"Did you press the memory of the meeting into their minds? It would just make you harder to remember."

An odd look twitches over Silva's face before she resumes her clear, amused smile. "Clever thought, but no." She waits a minute before asking, "Is that all?"

I nod, overwarm from the heat embarrassment brings. I've spent most of a year learning about magic, and I can't even figure out what spell Silva used to send those two sots away of their own accord.

Rowan sticks her nose on my neck. I jerk back and realize I must've felt too warm to her. "Oh! Sorry, girl!" She nuzzles me again. Maybe she's just making sure I'm okay.

Silva supplies, "You came close, but it was a bit more intricate than the options you were considering: momentary clarity of a drunken mind."

I frown. "But wouldn't that…?"

"Give my mind intermittent fogged moments when I'm drunk? Yes. But that would require me to get drunk. Which would require me to drink too much alcohol, and I don't drink it at all."

Oh. That's clever. By specifying such a precise spell, Silva gave herself a negative side effect that need never appear. Even if she someday decides to have some liquor, she'll just have to be even more careful than most people to make sure she doesn't drink overmuch. From what I've heard, drunkenness can lead even people without Silva's self-granted handicap to do some incredibly stupid things.

But… I turn to look at Silva. "Wasn't that a dangerous spell to make? What if you'd been distracted before weaving the drunken in; that would have been a regular momentary mental clarity spell, which would've messed up yours."

Silva smiles more widely, her eyes glinting pleasantly. "That is a risk," she admits, "and one inherent in any use of specific magic. Some mages prefer avoiding the danger altogether by limiting what they cast to their specific skills.

"A felf might limit his use of magic to using plant life to fuel the magic in, say, a spell to test the soil's fertility. A water mage might choose to use magic for nothing more than conjuring and controlling water."

"Most people avoid the mess altogether by refusing to practice magic, even if they know how to use it. Such sages are perfectly capable of casting spells and can teach others to do so; they merely choose to not use magic themselves for reasons of their own."

I nod slowly. That makes sense. People like safety.

"Back on-topic, some specific spells you can weave in a particular order to minimize the risk, though 'drunken mental' really isn't as fun as it sounds." Her expression suggests that she's encountered it, either through experience or observation. "It's a good idea to always use concentration aids whenever you work magic, to avoid a dangerous miscast due to distraction."

"You don't," I point out.

Her smile turns wry. "A bad habit on my part." She scratches her cheek. "Maybe laziness, too. Faeries as a whole have concentrated so much to be able to access their magic that it takes very little work for one to pull on his magic, today. I take after my father some in that."

I start at her mention of her father. For a moment, I try to respond as if I heard nothing, but then I realize that such a response will betray my knowledge of what Prince Aidan had so adamantly said I never heard. "Your father?"

"My faery blood comes from his side of the family." Silva's tone isn't dismissive, but it is direct and concise—a tone that says that I really don't need to know more.

"Where is he?"

Her look turns sharp, examining me for a long set of seconds. "…Somewhere." She looks away. "Somewhere else," she says quietly. "He'll be back in a few years."

What? I blink. "Why did he leave?" I realize how that question sounds and how Aidan reacted. "Is he coming back?" I ask to cover my first impulsive question that I don't want to know the answer to. He left when I came.

Silva meets my gaze then, and goosebumps form on my arms. Her eyes get a quality that's dreamy yet focused—prophets' eyes. I remember the last time I saw eyes like that.

'She is you, EvonalĂ©!' Gaylen had wheezed, fighting for breath through the Shadow that took his life only days later. 'The one I spoke of… who will free us… is you.'

"Someday," Silva says with her direct conciseness, and she then glances at Rowan behind me. "You'd better take care of Rowan before she gets offended." She leaves.

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