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 jerk awake, tangling myself in my bushes, but feeling better for my short nap. I hastily free myself as my nurse hands me a piece of bread with butter. My clothing sticks to me from the cool damp air.


I take the meal and eat it quickly as she explains. King Aldrik demands my presence in the grand hall. Apprehension grips me. What can he want?

I hurry to my room—take care on the stairs—and hastily change into my court dress. I think Prince Aidan snuck Miss Trelanna extra instructions for this one; it's an unusually vivid green for a maid, and I distinctly recall requesting a more appropriate brownish. But the square neck and slight tailoring make it simple, at least. I neglected to add embroidery so it would stay that way.

As I head towards the grand hall, Geddis scurries past me with a bucket of hot suds. "Your tea, too!" she says quickly. She's fully human and needs no quarantine, unlike her sister. "His Majesty insists."

Oh. I thank her and fetch a teapot and set some water to boil. As I await the whistle, I wonder who's fallen prey to the Shadow, now.

It doesn't matter. I take the teapot as instructed. Geddis follows me with teacups, since I'm still not to be trusted with trays.

As we enter the grand hall, I see a man of King Aldrik's age on the center floor, his weatherworn clothing of richer quality than would be expected from its wear. Something strikes me as familiar about him, but I'm not sure if it's his style of clothing or the man himself. I walk carefully on the ramp that leads downwards, towards the man and the king. Aidan's there, too.

Movement catches my notice as the man unrolls the scroll he's showing the king and prince. I choke on a scream. The teapot shatters on the floor. Everyone looks at me by the time I've yanked off my shoe.

Not one of Father's minions! Not here! Not in here!

"Gryphon!" I shriek, flinging my shoe at the ledge just past the trader.

The ledge looks empty to sight, but my shoe hits the magically cloaked thing with a thud. I've already sent my other shoe after it, and when it hits the gryphon the creature reveals its grotesque self. It coughs, lifting itself from the ledge and lunging at me.

"Foolish child!" it cackles as it garners its magic to activate the main spell its master lets it use. "The fire on you!"

"The fire doesn't have me!" I retort—that's why Mother died—but this particular gryphon can siphon, too. I feel myself weakening as its magic grips mine and yanks.

I pull life from the plants that line the grand hall's walls; they wilt and die. There aren't enough of them for me to overpower the gryphon's spell; I stagger. "Fael Honovi!" I cry out. Don't let it call Father! He'll—

And a large stone falls from the ceiling and crushes the gryphon. One set of claws stretches towards me from underneath the stone, twitching and shimmering as it shifts into a human hand.

I'd wonder about that, if it weren't so hard to breathe. Life still drains from me, and the plants are gone. I fall to my knees, gasping.

Someone drops beside me. "Yie! A siphoning!"

'Yie'? I force my eyes to focus on the someone, the trader, who uses the elvish exclamation. His hand on my forehead is cool, and he meets my gaze directly.

"Release her," he whispers, and I feel outside magic attack, bind the spell that has webbed my life. Strength enters me, now, faster than it's drawn away. The siphoning weakens, fades…

The man, the trader, moves aside, but not before I notice the motif embroidered over his heart. "Elv'shutor…" I hear myself mutter. Elf-friend.

King Aldrik takes the man's place. He brushes my hair from my damp forehead. "Nallé?" he asks quietly. "Was that enough?"

I fall unconscious before I can answer my king.

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This web novel is listed in Web Fiction Guide and Muse's Success. (Both are directories of online novels, stories, etc.)