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A hush falls over the court as we begin to walk down the flowered forest path.
Like it’s a realm’s damned wedding.
I tighten my fingers around my father’s wrist, taking in the myriad styles of court gowns, coiffed hair, jewels, and enhancing glamours. Outside of this forest bower, the Faronne and Montagne districts are awash in blood, but you wouldn’t know it from the gilded courtiers or from our warriors, their evening armor as glittering as their false smiles. Faronne guards, Numair and my cousin Juliette, flank my father and I—merely for our honor, of course.
No, these Everenne courtiers are safe in the bosom of the Prince’s court, where they can eye my human father and I like the rapacious vultures they are.
My infantile power shifts a little, yawns, then settles back into restless sleep. There is no bloodshed to be had, so it won’t bestir itself to actually wake, much less grow. Not that there is much of it to wake, but at my age I’d appreciate a little cooperation. My mother’s ancient bloodline is enough to eclipse whatever weakness crept in with my father’s human genetics, but it seems I will always be weak, mundane.
I’ve spent my life making up for my lack, and I resent the necessity.
“Breathe,” Baba murmurs without moving his lips. He has to say it twice.
His posture is perfect, carriage upright, expression stern without being cruel. He wears the deep sapphire and vermilion colors of our House, bringing out the blue undertones in his night-deep skin, and his calm inky eyes stare straight ahead, faint lines of age and laughter betraying his mortality though he is as beautiful as any Fae. He’s aged since my mother’s death, but his broad shoulders carry the weight of our grief with grace and dignity. The Fae wonder how House Faronne can bend the knee to a human Lord, but the answer is simple. He is beloved. Fear and power are not the only tools by which one might rule.
“Tell them to fucking breathe,” I mutter back.
The Fae courtiers are still, so still they might as well be statues. Though at least actual statues are useful.
Finally, because I can’t put it off any longer, I focus my gaze on the Prince.
Realms, I can’t stop the rush of hatred that envelops me. My fingers itch to grab the iron dagger strapped under my gown. No one would be expecting it. One breath, two, and it would fly, embedding itself in his eye so quickly my family thinks my skill with a blade is almost a Skill. I could easily evade a retaliatory attack. I am hard to kill. But my father would be cut down a second later. If it were just my life on the line. . .
It would almost be worth it.
Baba doesn’t know about the little vow hanging over my neck. The vow I made to Renaud’s face to kill him or die trying. Looking at the Prince, I wonder if he remembers. Or was he too out of it that day?
I take another deep breath, exhale. No, it wouldn’t be worth it. I glance at my father. He’s worth more than every polished pigeon in this court, and we must hold the House until my brother returns and takes up the mantle.