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.


My birthday's tomorrow, on Solstice. Prince Aidan's Scoreyear ball will be a month after that. He's called it in honor of his late sister and others who fell prey to the now-gone Shadow. His Subyear ball honored his mother.

I've overheard the servants of visiting princes and rulers murmur about his unusual faithfulness to the dead. Some think it a good thing, a sign that he'll respect old ways and traditions when he becomes king; others think it foolish, or worry that it could lead to an interest in dark magics or necromancy. (Though any sage knows that necromancy rivals alchemy in its ineffectiveness.)

My gown is all but finished—a few places like the hips and bust have been left unsewn, that I may finish them to fit once my form matures.

I will be sixteen tomorrow.

I've been granted the day off. To rest because I've been working too hard, Silva says, but it's a shallow cover. Everyone at least suspects me of being elfin; any normal girl would have matured some by now. I haven't. But after tomorrow, when I leave my rooms a woman and no longer a girl… They'll know.

I don't want to grow up. I don't want to be hurt as Mother was.

Silva sent me to bed hours ago, but I can't sleep. I'll sleep tomorrow, as my body changes in a day like the other races do over years. That day's slumber will be dreamless, Mother warned me. Warned—for it is through dreams that elves are made aware of what goes on around us while I sleep.

Mother never knew I'm not elfin enough for that.

My dreams are human: memories and fears given life. The nightmares of being a queenhis queen—are the most disconcerting. That isn't possible.

A faint glow comes from the mild moonlight. I stand in it, comforted. I look up at the moon's crescent and know instinctively it is nigh midnight. Soon we will have a new moon. I'll harvest linashor while I can, tonight; when I'm a woman, the faeries will heed my request far less often. Fael Honovi will not have any legal leverage to coax the linashor tenders to give me their crops.

This morning I noticed that an apple tree sits close to my tall narrow window. Well, I've noticed it before; but only now that I dare try it.

I use my bed to step onto the windowsill. I'm small enough to fit without stooping or squeezing too much. I look more like I am eleven than fifteen.

I turn slightly, careful with my footing, bracing myself against the windowsill. I stare at the ground, which looks so high up from here. I can barely walk down steps—and here I am trying to climb out a window! I'm a fool!

But when I look a few windows over, I can see the glimmer of light from Prince Aidan's lamp, from where he awaits me in the hall. I cannot go out the other way, not without him noticing.

I don't want to face him, tonight.

I'm slow, careful as I crouch and grab the apple tree's branch. I grip the branch tightly—too tightly, I realize when my white-knuckled grip gives out.

I bite back a cry and land hard on the cobblestones; they bite my skin. But scrapes won't kill me. I scramble behind the apple tree's trunk, to hide myself.

The window creaks open. Light pours into the courtyard from his window. It moves, looking for me.

I hold my breath as it illuminates the tree. Can he see my silhouette in the lamp's light?

After a few seconds that take forever to pass, the light is dimmed, and the window whines shut.

I let out a heavy sigh. He knows I'm out. He must. I can only hope he'll respect my obvious desire to be left alone.

I hurry out to the field where I usually harvest linashor. I scramble over the fence and focus on plucking linashor.

"May I join you?"

I look up sharply. Prince Aidan stands, silhouetted in the moonlight. I hide my frown. I didn't want his company tonight, not the night before I'll become a woman, not with what people already think he does to me.

When I don't reply, the prince assists me with the search for the filaments. There is very little out tonight. I must…

Dizziness overwhelms me. I sway and drop forward on my knees. Mother never told me I was born at night!

He catches my arm. "Evonalé?"

Everything fades to black.

I am now sixteen.

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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.)