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.


"Silva Feyim, daughter of Elwyn Elf-friend, prophetess for King Aldrik, come forward," the holy man says, calling her down the aisle.

Cultured gasps arise from the nobility when Silva appears in the simple bright red gown that had been her middle-class mother's. Or so I assume from her grin and wink towards we attendants who stand on her side of the dais as particular witnesses.

Lallie elbows me lightly, and we exchange smiles. I smooth my gown, a bland tan that she almost didn't let me order. She and Geddis wear the same color that I chose for myself for some reason of protocol. If I'd known that would be the case, I would've picked another color. Tan doesn't like Geddis.

The holy man turns to us. "Do you witness the presence of your sister and friend at this altar, free of duress, to wed the man her heart has chosen?"

"We do," Lallie and I say. Geddis only remembers to say it after I surreptitiously kick her. She gives me a quick, nervous smile of apology as she gives her own assent. She's surprisingly anxious for her sister's wedding. Lallie lightly cuffs Geddis's shoulder in a failed attempt to calm her.

Silva has come up the aisle, and she kneels before the holy man. The wreath of small red chrysanthemums droops in Silva's hair. I resist the urge to straighten it. Aidan, standing beside the holy man as representative for Salles, notices my lingering look at the wreath and grins at me. The grin gets smaller but doesn't vanish when I give him a sharp glance for his rudeness.

"Silva Feyim, you have chosen Faed Nirmoh as your husband."

"I have," she declares, facing the holy man.

"You are not your own woman. Has this choice the approval of your king?"

Prophets of the King have great power, true, but that does not free them from accountability. King Aldrik stands from his place the seated audience. "It does, and my son stands as witness."

The holy man nods sagely, his homespun grey robe looking shabby even compared to Silva's intentionally middle-class gown. "Silva Feyim, you give up much to marry. You will leave your friends, your family, your home to make your house with your husband. You know this."

She nods, making her wreath droop even more. "I do."

"Your husband is a faery, not even your own race. His language, his culture will be foreign to you—and faery blood can be treacherous, as you well know. If you have any doubt about this union, yield now, and do not vow this day."

"I vow freely and gladly. Regardless of where life might lead, as long as I have my right mind and life, I will love, cherish, and support to Faed Nirmoh." She turns her head so all can see her grin. "Even when I'm right."

The holy man smiles. "Indeed. Faed Nirmoh, come forward." The faery does swiftly, coming to stand on his side of the aisle. The holy man's smile falls, his expression grim. "Faed Nirmoh, you have chosen Silva Feyim as your bride. You know she is a Hearer."

"I do."

"You know that she will, in due time, lose her sanity. You will have to watch your beloved wife eventually lose her mind. Do you swear to keep and cherish your wife even then?"

"I do. Wherever my life may lead, 'til its end, I will love, cherish, support, and care for Silva Feyim."

I'm not the only one who notices that Faed Nirmoh has bypassed some of the holy man's words. A murmur arises from the audience.

"With the Creator as our witness, we will be faithful to and take proper care of each other, for the duration of our lives," bride and groom vow together, Silva easily accepting her groom's adjustment of the wedding.

"Does anyone have a reason why these two may not be joined? If yes, speak now, else hold your peace forevermore."

"The bride's grandmother was baseborn, the daughter of a whore and a whore herself," Essere Carraway speaks up, standing and offering Faed Nirmoh a slight bow. "Perhaps Faed Nirmoh would reconsider his choice of—"

"Grandmother was—" blurts Geddis, blushing.

"A courtesan," Silva quickly but smoothly interrupts as people stare at the family display. Her lazy tone suggests it's that time of month. Geddis's blush deepens into crimson at everyone's shocked looks. Essere Carraway gapes with surprise. Even the holy man looks startled.

Faed Nirmoh smiles. "I am fully aware of the family into which I am marrying." He winks at Aidan. I draw a sharp breath, realizing that by this wedding, Aidan will have a faery as a cousin. Not that he'll ever likely admit it officially, of course. Children of the court don't get official recognition from their fathers and legitimate siblings. It's… basic etiquette.

Then why, I wonder yet again, why am I stuck with my father's throne and my half sister's betrothal?

I miss the wedding's close in my musings—the holy man lights that candle to indicate the birth of the wedding, and he gets out another. Someone else is evidently getting married, today. Silva hugs her sister first, then Lallie. She pulls me into a firm hug.

And doesn't let go. And moves.

I automatically resist, but then I feel Lallie and Geddis on my arms, also dragging me up—

Up the dais?!

"No!" I yell, digging my heels and weight against them—and slipping on the grass with my slippered feet and falling back into Elwyn Elf-friend's grip.

Now I know what they're trying to do! "Absolutely not!" I writhe, scratch, and yank every which way to try to get away from the dais. I'm not foolish enough to try calling magic to my aid with Faed Nirmoh, Elwyn Elf-friend, and the Prophetess of the King all present.

And then my faery godmother's undoubtedly in the audience, somewhere, as my witness. "By the Creator, I'm not marrying—"

"You are betrothed by treaty," the holy man says, with just enough calm for me to know that he was forewarned that I would be less than willing, and enough relief for me to suspect that he'd been warned that I might be unwilling enough to add a bit of fire to the celebrations. "Your willingness or lack thereof to marry Prince Aidan has no bearing on your wedding."

"It would if Aidan'd just use his sense and agree with me!"

People gasp. Aidan makes a show of considering, then shakes his head with a grin. "No, I think I like this arrangement."

"You were trying so hard to break off the treaty's betrothal not all that long ago, yourself," I remind him as I make myself as hard to push up the dais as possible.

Aidan has apparently decided to take my stubbornness with good cheer. "Carling was a…" He glances at Geddis and the audience. "Well, I won't sully the children here. I'm sure you know more of your sister than I do."

"Half sister."

"Still. Marrying her would not have been very conducive to living to see my next birthday. Marrying you, on the other hand, adds a nice familial linkage to the Crystal-elves' royal line…"

I glare. He doesn't care about the politics. I know he doesn't—

Fine. He does care for the politics, but they're not his primary reasons. He'd insist on marrying me if half his noblemen would declare war on him for it. Not in such a public ceremony, of course, but he'd still yank me into it.

Actually, I know many of his nobles will declare war on him for this. Not with soldiers, but…

Is he really such a fool to think men like Essere Carraway will stand for a child of the court as queen?

I lose my struggle and am brought to the bride's place on the dais. "Halfwit," I mutter, letting my body fall limply to the ground. From the snort of quickly-muffled chuckles that produces, I think it's safe to guess that this will be one of the holy man's more memorable wedding ceremonies.

—No. I'm not marrying Aidan. No, no, no.

My lunge to get off the dais knocks Silva over and is stopped by an angry-looking Faed Nirmoh. "Excuse me, m'lord," I apologize, and try to slip out while I—


I fight and kick and struggle and do everything I can short of calling my fire magic on these people. Even the sight of the grass shriveling and dying around me didn't faze the holy man, though I think it does many of the noblewomen. Their screams and faints and fleeing—and their children and spouses' requisite ensuing flurries—make it one empty audience indeed when Faed Nirmoh intentionally tosses me over his shoulder like a bale of hay.

"Faed Nirmoh!" That insults me. I am a queen now, after all, albeit a less than willing one.

Then I notice, upside-down, Aidan's sad little smile. And the holy man lighting the marriage candle that will be kept burning all night as—

Faed Nirmoh flinches beneath me and curses quietly as I heat to a temperature that likely scalds him. "Fool," he whispers sharply. "Brat and fool!"

"I'm a—" I struggle "accursed royal bastard, you—"

"You are a queen who is about to be very, very foolish."

The rebuke stings, and I restrain from insulting the faery. I resent that accusation. Queen Yuoleen was 'very, very foolish.' I'm practical, not hamstrung by ideals of 'Oh, let's marry regardless of what the subjects will think just because he cares for' whoever is unlucky enough to get the bloodsucking fondness of someone more powerful than she is. Or someone who has allies more powerful than she is. I could take Aidan, were it merely my magic against his sword. I know I could!

By the Creator, I'd curse Aidan if there weren't at least three mages poised to stop whatever I try, all of them with more magical training than I have. See if he wouldn't immediately blow out that marriage candle and divorce me then.

Handmaids I don't recognize await me when Faed Nirmoh tosses me in my new antechambers. They don't comment, so they were warned, too. "Get out." I am not looking pretty for Aidan tonight.

I don't bother to bolt for the door as they leave. I know that at least Elwyn Elf-friend would be there stop me, if Fael Honovi isn't. I shiver, remembering the cold rain she brought on me that time I fled from Aidan—fled with reason.

Not that my knowledge has helped me escape this mess. I'm angrier at myself than any of them. I know them. I know Silva, know how devious she can be. This was indubitably her idea.

"It's called a betrothal. The marriage comes if you like it or not. I realize you've not had your life to get used to the idea, but I'd think that you'd be used to being stuck in circumstances you'd rather have nothing to do with, by now."

Aidan's dry voice startles me. I hadn't heard him enter by the door that links this room to our… shared… bedroom. "If you hate me so much, why go through with it?" I snap. I won't look at him! "Divorce me and have done with it!"

"Hate you?!" Aidan's laugh is forcibly cheery. "You foolish girl," he scoffs bitterly. "You young… foolish… girl."

That makes me look at him, eyes narrowed. His smile says he knows precisely how much he's insulting me with that.

He draws a deep breath and returns to his serious, reserved tone, the one he usually reserves for discussion. "You're alive, Evonalé. Your father and siblings are dead. Your mother's people are free."

His tone turns gentle. "You've spent your life refusing to wish for what could never be yours. Well, now you have them, Evonalé. You have a throne. You have a husband." He swallows. "When your hair's brown fades and your eyesight dims, is this really how you want to remember your wedding night?"

Minutes pass as I gape at him.

Minutes more pass before I can cool from my flaming embarrassment, and I think the fire's unnatural vigor has damaged the chimney.

I am a fool.


The sequel, A Fistful of Earth, has been released (see sidebar), and book three will come later this year!

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  1. On Amazon later this week.Loved the second half of this book! Will post full review

  2. Oh my! Phone messed that comment up.


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