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.


Rain paints my hair to my face, and mud oozes between my bare toes. The sky was clear until I fled Aidan. I'd wanted to saddle my mare Rowan, but Fael Honovi was nearby and upset the horses too much.

She's still nearby, I wager, and I look at the sky. "Would you rather I be his mistress?" I ask Fael Honovi, and in reply she turns the rain cold. I shiver and glance around for something to burn.

The trees are gone, I abruptly realize, and I'm not sure when I left them behind.

Creator, please tell me I'm not in the marshes. I meant to go just enough north with my west to avoid the dwarven passes.

A wailing starts promptly after my quick prayer, and I groan. Yie. I'm barefoot and without a horse to flee a haint. Either I find my way to safety on foot through the marsh, or I have to stay up all night and use my magic to protect myself from possession. Fantastic.

I mentally grip the magic around me, but magic has been used far too much, too strongly here. The feedback from the latent magic forcibly tied into these marshes quickly gives me a headache. It's unpleasant, but at least I can defend myself.

I stumble in the mud, my usually uncanny night vision negatively affected by all the magic. Or maybe that's just a side effect the budding migraine.

Of course I fall on my face. I cough, spitting the mud from my mouth. And the rain had to stop now that it might've actually been useful. After digging my fingers into the cleanest part of my skirt, I wipe the dirt from my eyes and look up.

A whisp darts towards me from my left, and I yank the fire that dwells in my own magic to burn it. The flame's purple due to its purely magical fuel until it ignites the whisp and turns orange. The whisp promptly leaves.

Whisps are the appendages that sprites use to test their prey, so I don't apologize. I raise my chin and hike my skirts as I slowly circle, seeking the sprite that sent that whisp.

I whirl around as magic surges near me, and I smack into a faceful of water. I sputter and cough on it.

"How did I know I'd find you out here?" Aidan asks from astride Teivel. "Never mind." He clicks his tongue to Teivel to get him to kneel, and he offers his arm to help pull me up.

I look from Teivel to him. "That's your stallion." Aidan gives me an exasperated look. "You know what people will think if ride him!" I add hastily before he interrupts.

"Well, that'll certainly reduce the interest you get from anyone else if they think you my mistress, now won't it?" His tone bites with irritation. "You don't trust me; I've gathered that. Fine. You're the one who ran into the middle of nowhere where you're very likely to end up hurt as well as sick. Now get astride so I can get you home before something worse befalls you than that pneumonia."

I squint against the wet hair and water in my eyes. "I don't have pneumonia."

Aidan mutters something I can't hear, then sighs. "Just get up, will you? I know you can handle yourself, but I'd rather be gone before another sprite shows up."

"Then go." I take a few steps towards him, wagering that he came from the direction of castle. "I'll walk."

He mutters something else, loud enough that I can tell it's likely uncomplimentary even though I can't tell what he said. He hops off Teivel and leads him by the reins. "Come along, then."

I look away from him and squint out into the night. My head hurts. "No, thank you," I tell him. "I think I'll stay out here."

Aidan curses audibly, this time. "EvonalĂ©—" He stops himself and scowls at me. He then shakes his head and turns away. "Fine. Try not to get yourself killed." He mounts his stallion and doesn't look back.

I stare after him, surprised that he's giving up that easily. But I have little desire to kick a gift horse in the mouth, and I…

Notice just how many whisps are coming out to play. Yie! "Aidan?!"

He stops Teivel but doesn't turn. I splash and stumble through the mud to reach them. I keep myself from falling by grabbing Teivel's tail. He snorts and stomps his foot. "There weren't near that many whisps a moment ago."

He clicks at his stallion, and I don't protest this time but climb up behind him. He waits until I'm secure before he has Teivel get up. "The more magic you have, the more powerful a host body you'd give them," he says nonchalantly.

I pale and shiver and don't let myself freeze because that wouldn't be kind to the horse. "So using magic attracts them?"

He snorts as we head back towards the castle at a pace that's more leisurely than I'm comfortable with, with all the whisps, but I have to trust that Aidan knows what he's doing. He isn't stupid. At eighteen, he's been an adult for two years.

"Vicious cycle, that. The only way to counter them is with magic, but if they know you can use magic, they're more likely to target you. Some trackers swear by letting the creatures ride them until they get back home, trusting that they'll keep enough control to get there and the mages they have back home can handle whatever haints they pick up while out tracking."

I gulp. "I—I wouldn't do that."

Teivel pauses in one step as he seeks sure footing. Aidan leans away from his mount's motion, which pushes me the same way. "Me, neither," he says.

The castle appears on the horizon before I gather up the nerve to say "Thanks. Can you drop me off outside the wall?"

"I'm still escorting you in."

That will still give others the wrong idea, but not as much as me riding his stallion would. "Fine."


  1. Very beautifully written! Thanks for sharing.

    Alyssa Ast

  2. Why, thank you, Alyssa! I'm glad you're enjoying it!


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