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.


We make good time to Grehafen, since we can't put it off any longer. I spot the elf-small slaves first, tending the fields under gryphons' beady gaze. My mouth goes try.

"Try to calm down."

I start at Prince Aidan's voice. I turn towards him slightly, preferring to keep what little space we have between us in the carriage. "Your Highness?"

He raises his hand as if to pat my shoulder, but Silva glares at him. He lowers it. "You're on edge."

I set my jaw, not bothering to reply as the carriage clatters over the drawbridge. On the other side, male elves, slaves, pull up the bridge by rope, sweat pouring down them in the summer heat. Younger ones come to guide our horses to the stable. Father's deepened the moat since I fled.

Prince Aidan helps Silva step down from the carriage, then comes around to assist me. I keep my head bowed, despite my veil. Father and Carling greet us. I restrain myself from pondering what Drake is probably doing.

I keep a little behind His Highness, more out of fear than for respect of my supposed station. Aidan presents Silva first, letting her be ahead of him by right of her rank.

"You remember Silva Feyim, Prophetess of the King my father, of course." His smile's sweetness is false enough that I'm sure Father and Carling have noticed. He moves forward himself, offering to take Carling's arm.

Carling dodges it gracefully, waving towards me. "What of Lady…?" she asks, obviously knowing full well that I'm no lady, but as obviously wanting me to not be exempt from the political maneuvering.

Aidan frowns, confused for a moment. "Lady—" He glances at me, realizes what Carling's doing, and immediately turns his voice frank. He laughs a little, nervously. "That's not a lady."

"And she would be?"

"My… girl."

Carling smiles. "At least you had something to enjoy in your delay."

Aidan's frozen smile lasts a few seconds as he wonders how he's supposed to respond to that. Then he spots Drake squinting out the massive oak door that someone's holding open for us. "Drake! You remember Nallé, of course?" he calls.

Introductions duly made, Aidan carelessly takes Carling's arm with his right, mine with his left and starts walking us towards the castle.

"You must be famished." Father completely ignores me. He doesn't comment on our lateness, either. "This way."

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