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.


The colorless haze, again—this time without walls. The fog is the walls; the rope whip snapping towards me is the fog, insubstantial yet solid. My cry is soundless when it slices my side.

I panic at the injury to my stomach. I curl up to protect it as best I can. But much of it remains uncovered; too much. Its bloated size hinders my feeble attempts to shield it.

Thump-thump! I hear faintly, beneath the sounds of my own panicked heartbeat and ragged breathing. Thump-thump!

I can't escape the fog, but I scramble onto my feet and stumble away, fleeing the whip. Fog-ropes lash out and bind me, trapping me. I writhe uselessly against the bonds, a whimpering cry for help all that passes my lips. Anything else I try to say doesn't make a sound.

In the same moment that my unborn child kicks my insides, I hear him calling for me.

I jerk awake and automatically lurch away from Aidan, who whispers in my ear. His quick, firm grasp of my arms keeps me from landing on Silva, who sleeps across the aisle on the other bench. The carriage sways as it travels over the stone road, already starting its incline to cross the Dwaline Mountains.

"EvonalĂ©," he whispers again. His fingers brush a lank bit of hair from my forehead, and I realize my damp chill. "Are you all right? It sounded like a—"

"Elves don't have nightmares," I interrupt. I hate these dreams—one more evidence that I'm Father's daughter, not Mother's.

Even the faint moonlight is enough for me to see his slight smile. "We do."

"I'm not a human."

"You're not elfin, not really," he unfortunately has enough sense at this late hour to be able to notice and point out. How, I don't know. "If not human, what are you?"

I flush, grateful that his eyesight isn't nearly as good as mine in the dark, though irritated by his alertness. "I never said I wasn't human. I said I'm not a human."

"But you're not an elf."

"No," I agree.

"So my question remains, 'My beloved daughter.' If not a human, if not an elf, what are you?"

That's a question I have to think about before answering. "Both. Neither. Not either."

"Oh, that makes it a lot clearer."

"Call me a sorceress, then!" I snap. He's far more awake than anyone should be who hasn't slept in twenty hours. I'm worse off, and I've caught a short nap. "Though summoning a simple inn to sleep in is beyond me."

Aidan leans back carefully, as far away from me as he decently can considering the confines of this carriage bench. "I'd rather not submit one of my subjects to our… situation."

"No, leave that to another king to deal with."

He shrugs. "Another king's subjects would be expected to come up with silly rumors about a traveling prince and how little or much he likes his mistress. My subjects, however, know me well enough by reputation that I'd rather not submit our little play to their observational skills or gossip."

I stare blankly at him for several seconds while my tired brain sluggishly untangles the sentence. He actually gives his subjects credit for brains. "Oh."

Aidan settles himself into sleep. "Let me know if you need anything—some water, a snack, a—" He frowns in irritation. "Oh, you know me well enough to know to ask." He puts his head down.

He's too intelligent, I realize, feeling sick. Too observant. Carling wouldn't dare risk letting him live, not long, maybe not even as long as she'll let me.

That danger gives me even more reason to break him out of this mess.

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