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.


Aidan reclines on the couch. "Nice people, the elders of Dwaline-Het."

I fight the internal chill as I draw the water for Aidan's bath for him. It doesn't leave much energy for replying. "Mm."

He looks at me sharply. "EvonalĂ©, are you—" Aidan stops suddenly, comprehension flashing over his face, and he laughs long and hard. "Charla?" he asks, when he gathers the breath to manage it.

I frown, irritated that he couldn't have warned me if he already knew of this. I pour the water into the basin. "She speaks elvish."

"Constantly." He takes a few deep breaths. "She is elfin. Even felfin, I believe. Her father was a refugee who died back when the Shadow first broke out in Salles a few years ago. Her mother is a halfling, human and dwarf, so she's more elf than anything else and likes emphasizing that for certain visitors."

"Like you."

He shrugs. "Salles is notoriously accepting of other kinds." His eyes shine as he struggles not to smirk. "And she's made more likely to use it with… encouragement."

I stare at him, trying to figure out what he's not telling me. He pointedly winks.

I scowl at him, not that he can see it behind my veil. "Thanks." I take up my knitting.

"Where are you going?" he asks as I turn the door handle.

I curtsy with mock politeness. "I'll be sitting outside while you bathe, Your Highness."

He looks from me to the water and back. "Oh," he says. "I thought…" Aidan shakes his head and comes my way, not finishing that sentence. "You go ahead. I'll check the market; maybe they'll have something for sale that we can use."

"Me?" I ask with enough incredulity in my tone to remind him of my station. "You're—"

"Someone with skin a great deal less sensitive than yours. Use the cursed bath." He gives a quick, false smile, and goes around me, removes the door handle from my hand, and closes the door in my face before I can frame a coherent reply.

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