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.


It takes barely a fortnight to prepare for the farce. I've… behaved normally, as best I can. Ygrain and a few others have asked me if I'm unwell, so I daresay my best is an ill job.

"William's making a cooking spoon for his bride!" hoot some of the other Runners and servants. If William were an elf, he'd be able to fry an egg on his skin, with how red his face is, right now.

Even I smile a little. For them. Some will feel guilty enough about my lot once I'm dead; I don't need to add to their pending burden.

Silva laughs with them and gets a few good-natured teases of her own. Everyone knows her wedding is some day in the next year, but I have yet to find someone who will admit when it is to be.

I can't bring myself to laugh with them. Things are going to get uncomfortable for me very quickly, very soon, and I'm not looking forward to seeing everyone's expressions when that happens.

A bottle shatters on the door's frame. The laughter stops as everyone turns. The room's tension catapults when Silva leaps to her feet in alarm. "Your Highness!"

The universal anxiety helps me act as if I don't know what's happening. I hope to the Creator this works. Carling detests physical violence.

The prince stumbles in as if drunk—and from the smell, I daresay he's at least partway there. "Can you not… shut your mouths?!" he grumbles, his glower focused on me.

Guilt and worry pierce me at Silva's frantic glance my way. Silva doesn't know?! "Your Highness—"

Aidan comes my way. Silva tries to interfere. He shoves her aside. I wince for Faed Nirmoh's sake, then realize that I should've said something, too.

That's when others start realizing what's happening. Cries of "Your Highness!" and "Get his father!" don't give him pause.

I cry out as he yanks me off my seat by the hair. He shakes me and shoves me down in time to deck Silva, again. "You little wench!"

I choke on tears. He yanks me up—I squawk from another strike. "Y—y—your H—highness, I—"

"Taking advantage of my father's good graces, threatening him with your faery godmother."

He grips me by the back of the neck and shakes me. "You made her up, didn't you?! You little baseborn—"

I think that if this weren't staged I'd already be screaming. "Your Highness!" I shriek, hoping I sound like I'm begging. "I—I don't know what you're talking about; she's not made up; she's…"

Another fist grabbing my hair to pull me up interrupts me; he wraps his arms around mine. I writhe and twist and squirm, to no avail. The only one older than the prince in this room is Silva, and she's groaning from I don't know what.

I'm shocked that she doesn't cast a spell, but maybe she doesn't know any defense ones that would work properly within a group of people. I realize that I should probably be pulling my magic, too.

He said he'd handle that, I remind myself without reassurance. I struggle to grab the magical threads with my mind while fighting physically. The purple magically-induced fire appears behind him, and I mentally jerk it towards his back—my magic hits something

I screech from the pain that explodes in my head. His arm moves downwards to get a firmer grip on me, around my waist. The half-drunk Prince Aidan drags me out of that room.

So that's why Silva was groaning. It takes me 'til halfway down the next hall to recover enough from the pain to continue my necessary fight and screams. And I'm used to pain.

I flinch at Prince Aidan's grunt when one of my flails strikes him. But he still holds me fast.

With a quick prayer to the Creator, I draw a breath. "Fael—"

His arm in my mouth halts my screech and he whisks me the rest of the way to his suite, aided by my reflexive curling up. I grimace the apology I can't say and chomp down on his arm.

"Curse you, wench!" He tosses me on the floor. I scramble to my feet, trying to look frightened and not relieved that he still blocks the doorway.

He's glaring at me. That, I do find frightening. I'm not acting when I try to flee around him when he steps towards me.

That just ends up with me in his steadfast grip, again. I squeal and struggle and strike him and start to fear that this might be getting too realistic.

"Highness! Highness, please!" I consider conjuring another fire for all of a second before deciding against it. The headache still lingers from last time.

I hear myself shrieking as he drags me through his suite. He flings me into his bedroom and slams the door closed behind me. I fling myself at it, but I fail to open it before he locks it. "Yie, no!" I cry. "Aidan!"

He leaves. I scream and pound the door. My hand bruises. The window's glass breaks easily, but it's too high up for me to climb. Blood pools from my hand and bare feet from the shards.

I whip around, scanning the room for another route to escape. The plants lining the walls don't help—I need to stay tense to keep up the pretense, not relax.

I pause upon noticing a full-length mirror beside his chiffonier, the carved and polished wooden frame matching the chest of drawers.

Why such a large mirror? Aidan isn't vain.

But that distraction helps me calm enough to remember the unlocking spell Faed Nirmoh taught me. And that this entire farce was planned.

I hear no one nearby; I can only suppose that Aidan locked the door to his suite, too. I lean against the door, away from the broken glass. I slide down the door to my knees, exhausted.

As sleep takes me, I realize Aidan's flight bodes poorly for our idea. He wasn't supposed to leave. If he didn't trust himself around me in that incident, how much worse will it be when we are stuck, together, for days on end?

I shiver. At least, whatever happens, I won't have to survive it for long. It'll soon be over. And I'll have the satisfaction of knowing that I've done whatever was possible to try to free him from Carling. At least.

No comments:

Post a Comment

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