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.


Year 250 of the Bynding

En Route to
the Kingdom of Grehafen

Early Summer

Spells leave traces behind, prints. A practiced mage can easily identify when magic has been used.

No matter how carefully a spell is worked, how well it is hidden, it can still be found.

Magic is never anonymous.


"Ulk." I swipe chunks of mud from my face and clothing. Silva wasn't kidding when she called kobolds 'nimble', and nimble I most definitely am not. Silva's faster and more sure-footed than I am, and she's easily twice my size.

The kobolds might not be sentient, but they do have a knack for realizing who in our threesome is the easiest to unfoot. The little pink critters have tripped me up many times, with their pointed ears up and stick-tails crooked in mischief. Mud seeps and rocks tear through veils with depressing ease.

On the bright side, individuals aren't smart enough to realize that I've caught each of their brethren magically after that. Each time I use my magic to catch a kobold, I lower my ability to catch one with my hands, but I never had much chance of pulling that off, anyway.

I pick my way carefully over to Aidan and Silva. Aidan holds this last kobold hostage by pinning it to the ground by a knife through the ear while Silva pries the naril earring from the little four-fingered hands. The kobold alternates between squealing at Aidan and chittering at her.

Silva finally gets the earring and straightens, one hand on her back. "Last one," she says with a grim smile and a wince. "Only took what, a month?"

"Near enough. At least we had the coachman to alert my dear fiancée that we'd be late." Aidan sounds flippant, but I notice him glance over me to ensure my veil's secure.

Father sent one gryphon to check on us that he noticed; I haven't told him about the others. Even Silva neglects to mention the magical tension and feeling of being watched when they come. I doubt Aidan is keen enough in magic to recognize the sensation as any more than a chill.

Aidan frees the kobold, which immediately takes off. He cleans his knife and sticks it back in his sleeve.

"Boot would be more comfortable," I mutter.

He glances at me. "Sleeve is easier to reach without raising suspicions," he replies in a similar tone. "Besides, you're hardly an expert in knives."

I ignore that point. "What are you going to do, kill Father with it? It's hardly—"

"We should return to Master Oscar," Silva interrupts.

More lessons. Wonderful. I yawn. As if learning to burn spells like I can physical things hasn't been exhausting enough every evening; now he wants to teach me how to examine a static spell.

"Static spells are a lot easier to identify than dynamic ones." It's not that time of month for Silva; I've just grumbled overmuch. Her hearing isn't as bad as she sometimes wishes it were; a detail I've picked up from her own grumbling.

I scowl and snap my jaw shut against a yawn. "You don't need to know what something is to burn it; you just need to know the type, intensity, and trajectory."

Silva won't let it rest. "A technique that would be difficult enough against one hostile opponent, much less three." Interesting how contagious depression and pessimism can be.

Aidan ignores my dark look. "As I've been saying."

"Can we discuss something other than our pending deaths for daring to withstand three powerful mages?" Silva asks mildly.

Aidan immediately starts a monologue on his most recent batch of pups and which stud he told the servants to pair with each bitch in his absence.

I dig some mud out from behind my ear and flick it at him. "Oh, shut up."

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