Breslin has just lost everything she knew & must embark on a journey to find herself
Things were spiraling out of control much faster than I had anticipated.
The Mistral whooshed through the village, blowing ash and hot air into my throat and lungs. I coughed over the lump forming there.
That strange wind had shown up unexpectedly – strong, without warning, and at the wrong time of year. It had cut my trip up the coast short, and now it appeared to be changing my life forever.
It was true I was standing in a place I had a million times before, in my home village. But this time was incredibly different.
There was no laughter. No gossiping townsfolk or playing children.
Really, there weren’t even any houses left.
Just flames. Screams. Terror everywhere I looked.
People still ran by, if they could. But there was destruction all around.
My family’s front threshold still stood, the cloth door flapping almost comically in the wind. Flames still licked around our possessions scattered around my feet. I stepped forward into the rubble, both hopeful and terrified of what I may see. Not many steps in, I found my father’s arm, sticking out from under a pile of ash and identifiable only by the family ring on his finger.
Gritting my teeth, I closed my eyes and grabbed the ring. As oldest daughter, it now belonged to me.
I scanned the rest of the remains of the house quickly and half-heartedly. Without my father around, there was nothing in this pile of rubble that mattered to me. I didn’t see any signs of my younger sister, and that was fine by me. For all her talk about getting close through sisterly bonding, our relationship was rocky at best.
Judging from the size of destruction, the entire village had been taken by surprise. With everyone screaming and running in panic, it seemed to me that Coral could have escaped in time. I would be lying, however, if a part of me hoped she had not.
I’d stayed here too long. This was too coincidental, after what had happened on my trip. After the Mistral had moved in unexpectedly. I looked around, checking to see if anyone had noticed me. Luckily, everyone appeared to be too busy with their own affairs, allowing me to slip off into the forest bordering our house without being seen.
The cool green of the forest enveloped me, skating gently over my skin. I always felt more at home here. Not surprising, considering my father had, too. He had been a happy man, albeit poor. It was hard to make a living these days, especially when people were turning from the natural remedies he concocted in favor of magic and chemicals. Coral had always mocked him.
I allowed myself to shed a couple of tears at my recent loss. I am not a very emotional person, but I suddenly felt like my heart had been ripped from my chest.
As I walked, I took stock of the situation, something I always did as a way to calm myself and get some sense of order. A few days ago I had been on vacation. A simple trip up the coast to visit my mother’s grave. Then I had met that strange fellow on the boat – what was his name? And then that other guy…dark and mysterious, in all the wrong ways. I hadn’t caught his name, either, but I really hoped I’d never have reason to need it.
Judging from the cold that felt like it was seeping into my bones at the mere thought of him, though, my sixth sense was trying to tell me that most of my recent problems were stemming from this encounter.
So…what now? I had to tell someone the news I had learned on my trip. It was important, and the one person I trusted with the information had been taken from me. My father’s oldest friend lived near the castle. Philip certainly wasn’t my first choice, but I had always held a soft spot for his silly jokes, and I knew I could trust him. He was also one of the few people who had given my mother and father full support when they had fallen madly in love and decided to marry. It was decided. I’d head for the castle, to see Philip and unload my newly discovered secrets. He would know best how to proceed, and maybe be able to spare a little food for this now-homeless girl.
I shifted my pack to my other shoulder, and adjusted my path to match my new route. The Mistral blew my hair in a wild turret around my head.
For better or worse, my life had just been flipped upside-down.
The dew dripped off the leaves. To me, there is nothing more peaceful than waking up in the forest. For a minute, I just lay there, listening to nature: a nearby stream, rabbits scuffling in the brush, birds chirping in the morning air. And then my world crashes down on me again, every memory from the previous days pouring into my being like a rushing torrent. I become lost in the grief of losing everyone that I loved and held dear.
Before I lost all control, I took stock of the situation. A memory rises to the surface: my father teaching me to partition my feelings as he taught me to hunt the woods near our house. He explained that a well-organized mind was ideal for all situations, and sometimes it was necessary to push unwanted or undesired thoughts aside to accomplish a task at hand.
This is what I do now. I take a deep breath, and I slowly count to three. With each number, I push more thoughts aside, struggling to emerge past the grief. There is a time and a place for these feelings, and by the time I get to three, I have my breathing and thoughts under control.
I get up. Normally, I’d hunt now, as it is time for breakfast and sustenance is key for maintaining a sound mind and body, but today I am not hungry, and I pack up my things quietly and quickly instead. I am on a mission, and there will be time for eating later.
Usually a trip to the city is an occasion of festivities and joy, but now my happiness and excitement has been replaced with only a determined, somber mood.
The next few days pass slowly, all uneventful. I manage to choke down some rabbit that I kill and cook, but despair and desolation still cloud my every move, and I only taste dirt. I know I will reach the city tomorrow, so decisions must be made. Do I skirt the city, or should I go straight through to let people know of the untimely end my village met? Am I going straight to Uncle’s house or would it be better to stock up on provisions first?
In the end, I opt to enter the city to gather supplies, and decide that I will share news of my village if I am asked. With a heavy heart and the castle at city center lingering in the distance, I eat the last of my cold rabbit and bed down for the night.
When morning dawns, crisp and clear, I pack my things and somberly start my short trip to the city. I am feeling a little more upbeat this morning in anticipation of having some human company, but there is still no bounce in my step. The dusty path is well-worn, thanks to hundreds of travelers each day, but it is still early, and blessedly, there are no people out today. Although I am eager to be around humans again, I am also apprehensive of conversation. I have nothing prepared in the event that I am questioned by anyone.
I hear early morning activity in the city as I draw near, and my step quickens in anticipation of a warm, fresh meal.
I start to feel the hairs on the back of my neck prick up. Something is wrong. I pause, trying to decipher the eerie sense of foreboding that is washing over me.
I hear a wagon creaking; some voices and shouting in the distance. I am near enough to the city walls now that I should be hearing the loud clamoring of the marketplace, open for business. I should have seen packs of stray cats, other travelers. I scan the countryside around me, and realize: I am all alone.
Something is definitely wrong. I resume pace, as there isn't much else to do. I have already given away my presence, and being this close does not afford any places to hide. I figure I will just act like nothing is wrong, but my guard is up, at least.
I come to the city wall, and it is devoid of armed guards, as I had suspected. I slip the knife from the band around my right calf to the worn leather band I keep around my wrist for easier access. I leave the knife that is strapped around my left calf alone.
Inside the city wall, buildings are devoid of life. I step forward cautiously, trying to not be spooked by the tattered curtains flapping in the wind. The silence is nearly deafening. I hear low noise, far off and quiet, so I know I am not entirely alone, but there is no hustle and bustle around me. The dusty streets look like they recently took a trampling. Unlike in my town, however, there is no fire, no smoke to choke my lungs.
I hear clanging, suddenly, to my left. Despite my efforts to avoid confrontation, my curiosity gets the better of me and I find myself drawn to the building. It is dilapidated, the sign hanging from one hook eerily depicting a bed; it is an inn. The door is missing from the hinges, so I am able to step inside without struggle. My eyes take a minute to adjust to the dim light allotted inside the windows from the overcast skies. I hear scuffling upstairs, and know that is where I need to be.
I'm not sure what insanity is pulling me up the stairs. I am struck, suddenly, at how odd it is for me to be in this position. A month ago, before my trip, and before my news, I'd have been as far away from this situation as possible. Now, here I am, walking toward it, no fear to be found.
As I enter the hallway at the top of the staircase, I hear voices. One sounds young, panicked, and the other sounds tough, gravelly, and battle-worn. I immediately picture a large man, and I know which side I need to take.
“Listen, boy. I know Murphy liked you, but he's long gone, and this needs to stop.”
“You don't understand! Reinforcements are coming soon! He promised!”
“Tarquin, I don't care. We don't need more men, more mouths to feed. We need sustenance. We can't go on.” I hear the large man start to move. My pulse quickens.
Suddenly, I'm aware of a presence behind me. Thinking quickly, I pretend I am in the woods, sensing my next meal coming up from behind. I turn, and without stopping to aim or draw another breath, my knife is loosed from my wrist and lands right in the man’s throat. He staggers, and falls down the stairs.
My heart stops. The noise of the fall has stopped all movement and chatter in the next room. Before I can plot my next move, the large man has me pinned to the wall, hand clasped around my throat. Suddenly, I realize. This was a bad idea.
A quavering voice picks up from somewhere deeper in the inn. “Let her go, Gob.”
The man starts to laugh. It is a low rumble at first, and it rises from his belly, gathering power and maliciousness as it comes. “Boy, I told you. I am done. You are nothing, and it is time you realize that. I'll let her go, because she can't get far. Her knife is gone, she's weighed down with a pack. I'll kill you first, and then go after her.”
Gob throws me to the ground, hard. Tarquin’s eyes go wide, and he jumps to the side. I see him reach for his side, and hear that awful laugh start in Gob’s belly again, and I know that Tarquin is missing his weapon and stands no chance.
When Gob turns his back to me, I reach low, as slowly as possible, and clench my fingers around the knife strapped to my ankle. I'm relieved I thought to leave it there, thrilled I wasn't searched prior to being heaved to the ground. I flip the knife so the point is between my thumb and forefinger, just as my father showed me, many years ago. I release the breath I'm holding, and the knife finds its target, deep in Gob’s back.
I see Tarquin’s eyes grow large again as Gob stumbles and falls back against the wall. I don't miss a beat this time; my mistake on the staircase very nearly cost me my life.
“Are there any more?” I implore. Tarquin, eyes still big, quickly shakes his head to confirm we are alone.
“No. There are maybe twenty more men, staggered throughout the city, but they are all near the marketplace, still scrounging for food.” I help Tarquin to his feet and nod.
“Let's go.” I don't turn to see if he followed. Unarmed against the enemy, he would be stupid if he didn't come. I pull the knife from Gob, and wipe it clean against my thigh. When I reach the bottom of the stairs, I repeat the action with my other knife. Remembering how things just panned out, I replace this knife in my wristband.
I took a deep breath, and stepped back out into the street. I squinted as my eyes again adjusted to the dull gray light. I took a deep breath, filled with a certainty that a great journey had just begun.
I looked at Tarquin, and he averted his eyes, looking vulnerable and defenseless. “Thanks, um…”
“Breslin,” I said. And we were off.
Now the game had suddenly changed. No longer was on my own turf, my own rules. Now I was just trying to get out of the city alive.
I didn't turn around to check if the boy was still following me. I could hear his footsteps scuffle in the dirt every so often, and that was enough to know that I was not alone – in a reassuring way, and also in a frightening way simultaneously. He had already come close to being killed once, for whatever it was that he had done to irritate the invaders. Beyond that, I wasn't even sure if he had any fighting skills – his one opportunity to display them had ended with me murdering two large men in cold blood.
Suddenly, the enormity of the present situation struck me like I’d walked into a brick wall. What had I done? Those men might have had families; I might have taken the wrong side. Again I was struck by a terrifying thought: who was this fellow trailing me? Friend or foe?
I pushed the thoughts aside. As long as I kept the idea in the back of my mind that Tarquin wasn't necessarily a friend, I could remain aware of his presence and be prepared for any type of attack that might come from behind.
The streets still seemed deserted. Although my gut instinct was to exit the city, unseen, as quickly as possible, something was tugging at me inside that I couldn't ignore. I veered off the main road to the side streets, to come up to the castle from the side, instead.
The large gray building loomed in the distance, but it was deceptively near to our current location. I could see the turrets set against the overcast sky, and again I was struck at how oddly quiet and empty the entire area was. It should have seemed peaceful; instead it was almost frightening.
I wandered around the side of the castle. I wasn't sure why I was trying so carefully to remain inconspicuous; there was clearly no human life for miles. Still, I knew that I wouldn't be allowed to get this close to the castle if the circumstances were different, and therefore I kept creeping through the gardens.
The topiaries loomed in the gloomy gray light, and when I caught glimpses of them in my peripheral vision, I thought they were guards. I resolved to not let this startle me in front of my newfound comrade. I might not yet know what I was working with, but I was not about to show weakness.
The second floor window was open above me, glass panes pushed out to let the light breeze in and cool the desolate rooms within the walls. I turned to Tarquin.
“Give me a leg up.” He grimaced, but obeyed, dropping to one knee and cupping his hands together to give me a foothold. I stepped in without hesitation and he launched me high into the air, demonstrating an uncanny strength that surprised me for the first time since I'd met him.
The window was high, but I was propelled upward with enough momentum to grasp the windowsill. With a little struggle, I was able to pull myself up into the room.
I'm not sure what I expected. I was in an elaborately decorated bedroom. Empty, of course. It looked like the maids had yet to get to making the bed, and there were some clothes sitting around the room in disarray. I crossed the room to the door at the other side and entered a hallway.
Turning right, I entered another room. This one looked like a bedroom again, but it was also equipped with a table, fully laden with a breakfast feast. The plates were full and the forks were dirty, as though whomever had been here eating had been rudely interrupted mid-meal.
I had seen enough. I didn't know what had happened here, but I had a feeling that part of my answer was waiting in the castle garden for me to return.
I turned and went back the way I had come, wondering wildly about the mysterious emptiness I had encountered in the city. It was similar to the desolation I'd seen in my village, but there, there was death and destruction. Here, it looked like no struggle had taken place, but it was empty and ruined, just the same.
I was glad we hadn't run into anymore of those giant-sized cronies. I reached the windowsill and swung my legs over the edge, pausing to let them dangle and take in the scenery. I hefted myself into the air and dropped to the ground near Tarquin.
“I don't get it,” I wondered aloud. “What happened to all the people?” My question was met with silence. For a minute, I thought Tarquin had fallen asleep on me, rather than keep watch while I explored the castle.
I looked over at him, and saw he was studying my face. I couldn't help myself; I blushed. He looked so serious that I decided he might not know. For that matter, I wasn't sure what his story was – was he a citizen left over from the mysterious disappearance? Or was he a part of the enemy team? I decided it wasn't worth my time to consider it.
I shrugged. “Whatever. If you've forgotten how to speak, that's fine by me. I don't really care. I have other stuff on my mind that is more important to me at the moment.”
It was long past time I head out of the city and make it to Uncle Philip’s place. Whether Tarquin joined me or not was not really a concern to me. For that matter, I didn't really even need him to talk. I had enough to think about – recent events and the past, as well as the bewildering news I'd received on my trip up the coast. Mom’s grave was fresh; she hadn't died long ago. However, it had been a long time since I'd seen her, and it was with deep regret and serious grief that I'd visited.
And now I was left with a lot of questions, and no one left to help me answer them. Except, perhaps, Philip. He might not be blood, but he was family, and suddenly, he had become the key to everything that I’d encountered.
I shifted my pack, and put the mid-morning sun at my back. I didn't turn to see if Tarquin followed as I regained my pace, but after a few moments, I heard him shuffle across the ground and start walking behind me.
The Mistral had picked up again by the time we reached the city wall. I had approached the city this morning wary of the uneasy silence; now I was leaving much quicker, knowing full well that there were no guards up on the ramparts to challenge my existence. We scaled the wall, making sure to stay away from the gates to ensure we weren't seen by whomever Tarquin had said were on their way earlier.
I melted into the forest. Tarquin followed, a clamoring, lumbering mess that tore through the brush and snapped twigs off the trees. I smirked. Clearly, no one had spent time in the woods with this fool. If he decided to stick around, it was obvious that he wasn't going to be keeping our location a secret, or catching any food.
Philip’s home wasn't too far from where we were, maybe half a day from the castle we had just left. Considering I was now traveling with an unskilled hiker, we probably wouldn't reach his place until dark. That was fine with me; I hadn't decided yet how I was going to approach any of the news I’d received in the last couple of weeks.
Tarquin still hadn't said anything, besides thanking me for saving his life. I was starting to feel like he had been in the wrong place at the wrong time – maybe a city-dweller who hadn't been able to escape in time. He wasn't a hunter, that much was markedly obvious. He didn't seem like a fighter. He didn't have any weapons, and nothing about him looked out of the ordinary at all.
I decided he was a coward, until further notice. Not to mention, I really didn’t care. I wasn’t planning on having company, and therefore it made no difference to me if he tagged along or went away. I hoped Philip wouldn’t mind having a stranger for company.
The woods got darker, the deeper we went. The trees were so thick, no sunlight reached the ground, so the leaves underfoot smelled of rot and decomposition. It made the trek a little quieter, albeit a little wetter.
A small brook to our right broke the silence, and was enough of a welcome to give us pause. We halted and I threw my pack down on the forest floor. I knelt with Tarquin next to me, cupping my hands to drink the cool, refreshing water. I leaned back on the balls of my feet to take in my new companion.
“What’s your game?” I tried to sound as nonchalant as possible, but my voice came out strangled and high-pitched.
Tarquin didn’t even turn his head my way.
“Where are you from?” I tried again. I was met with silence, not even a nod to acknowledge the fact that I was speaking. I shrugged.
“That’s fine. To be honest, I really don’t care. I just like to talk, and I thought time might pass quicker if we were amicable.” I got up and swung my pack onto my shoulders. “Let’s go. I don’t have time for this.”
Up over the slippery, moss-covered rocks, then through a tangle of trees, and Philip’s house came into view. He might not be my favorite person in the world, but he was practically family, and his house always felt like home. Unknowingly, my step quickened.
All of a sudden, the skin on the back of my neck prickled. I stopped and tilted my head, trying to listen harder and pick up any noise.
“What is that?” The voice beside me scared me to death. I jumped and my heart rate skyrocketed, leaving me to struggle to get my breathing under control. I realized my hand was hovering near my knife, and I stretched it to keep it relaxed and ready.
“What is what?” I hissed. “You picked a great time to begin talking, Tarquin. You must really not be very bright.” In his defense, he had the decency to blush.
“Sorry.” He mumbled. “I heard steps toward the left. I was just trying to point them out.” His eyes flashed down to the knife at my wrist, and I could tell he was replaying the murder scene in his mind. He swallowed and averted his eyes. I kept my stone-cold stare.
A twig snapped behind me, and I whipped around, expecting to see someone standing there. Instead I was met with darkness. Night was coming quick.
I turned back around, planning to continue toward Philip’s with my guard up. I came face-to-face with a wily man, boisterous, big, and with an enormous grin. I smiled back, relieved that our intruder was just Uncle Philip.
Movement in my peripheral startled me back to the present. I didn’t know when Tarquin grabbed a long, club-like stick, but now he was brandishing it against Philip. I rolled my eyes.
Philip let out his big, bellowing laugh. He guffawed so loud that Tarquin jumped, startled at both the noise and at the response.
“I don't know what is funnier – you thinking you're going to hurt me with that thing, boy, or the face you just made, Princess B.” At the sound of my childhood nickname, Tarquin visibly relaxed, dropping his horrible, homemade weapon.
He looked stung. “You could have told me we were looking for a person,” he mumbled.
“I tried! I tried a hundred times to tell you anything, and you decided to pretend like I didn't exist.” I gave an exasperated sigh.
Philip chuckled again. “Come on, Princess B. Let's get you in and fed. You know I like my babies nice and fat. Fat means happy.” He started in the direction we had been headed, and Tarquin and I fell in line behind him. I adjusted the pack on my shoulder.
Tarquin let Philip get ahead of us, then looked at me with a smirk. “Princess B?”
I shoved him, hard. He hit the ground, and I put my hand down to help him up. “Uncle Philip is the ONLY one allowed to call me that, do you understand?” He nodded, looking sulky again.
Philip’s house came into view, almost small and rickety enough to be considered a shack, but with enough homey charm to make it feel comfortable and warm.
At last, I let myself relax. I had a lot of unanswered questions, but I finally felt like I was on the right track. Everything was going to be okay.
Philip stoked the fire while we took off our outer-clothes and packs. I savored the silence, knowing that Uncle Philip was not one to stay quiet long. The way he made furtive glances at me on our walk over led me to believe he had several questions, and I wasn't sure I wanted to give up the answers yet.
I took my knives out of their worn leather bands. Memories of their usage washed over me: the summer I learned to use them with my dad, the first rabbit I'd killed with them, scaring Coral with their accuracy. I smirked. When the memory of their most recent kill surfaced, my face turned sour, and I took to scouring any hidden blood off of the blades.
“So, Princess B! I guess I will get the hard stuff out of the way first; my condolences on the loss of your beautiful mother.” Philip looked genuinely sad, and I knew suddenly that I had made the right choice to come here. I nodded, too worked up with emotion to speak.
“And now, the question I've been puzzling over since I plucked you out of the forest with this goofy fellow, rather than someone I expected: where is your father?”
My heart dropped into my stomach. “He, uh, he didn't make it.” I realized that sounded idiotic, and I started again. “I got back from my trip up the coast, and the village was in ruins. Dad was –“ I stopped, angry at the tears welling up in my eyes. “I have his ring.”
It took Philip two swift steps to cross the room and wrap me in a bear hug. I finally let all of the emotion pour out of me, sobbing uncontrollably while he patted my back. If anyone had known how much my father had meant to me, it had been Philip. It felt good to let everything go and begin to relax. To let someone else take control.
“Ah, Princess B. I am so sorry. He was a great man. And Coral?”
I shook my head. “There was no sign of her. I'd assume she's okay, but there's no telling with her, you know.” I caught sight of Tarquin. He was nervously fidgeting, and I could tell he felt out of place. I hadn't asked him to come along, and it wasn't my fault that he wasn't a part of this family business. He could stay uncomfortable, for now.
“Oh dear, my princess. Were there any clues? What happened?”
“Honestly, I don't know. The whole place was on fire, or smoldering ashes. People were running around; it was mayhem.”
“Very odd, indeed.” Philip started to hum. It was an awkward habit he had always displayed when thinking hard about something that puzzled him. I could tell now that he hadn't had a hand in this. He was too perplexed. I realized he probably didn't have a clue about the city, so near him.
“So then I started here, thinking it the only logical place to go,” I continued. “I got near the city and decided to stop in to get more supplies. Except…”
Uncle Philip's head snapped up, his eyes locking mine. “Except what? Him?” He jerked his thumb toward Tarquin, pointing forcefully and making the boy cower back.
“Eh, yes and no.” I was kind of enjoying this, talking about Tarquin as though he weren't in the room. “It was empty, practically. I only saw three people the whole time: this fellow and two huge men trying to kill him.”
Philip panicked. Quickly, he checked out the front window and then pulled the drapes shut when he concluded the coast was clear.
“Princess B! Oh my! Are you okay? You should have told me you were being followed!”
Tarquin started laughing. “Followed?! She killed both of them faster than I could blink. I have never seen anyone use a knife so well.” I blushed. Hearing my father say I was good was expected; having a stranger tell me I was great was not.
It was Philip's turn to finally look surprised. “You, Princess B? Wow, wow, wow. I always knew you were incredible, destined for great things, but a skilled hunter? That has your father written all over it.”
I smiled, and felt pride blossom within my chest. “You didn't think Dad would teach me to take care of myself?”
Philip guffawed and slapped his thigh, startling Tarquin, who had perched himself on the hearth, trying to get warm. “Oh, Princess B! I guess I should have given your old man some credit! I thought all he did was mix up drinks.”
The fire was warm, and it's golden-red glow was a welcome, friendly sight in the midst of all the despair I'd felt lately. Philip's place was small, but it felt homey, and it brought back childhood memories: carefree and joyful, playing with Coral in the mottled light from the sun falling through the forest canopy. There were tapestries from his travels covering the walls, each one with a story. That was what I liked about Philip - he may have had a boisterous personality that sometimes clashed with mine, but he had been all over the world. The pots near the hearth were from the mountains, the blankets covering his bed from near the sea. There was nothing that Uncle Philip had not seen.
Thinking of listening to Philip's stories as a child, surrounded by my family, led me to ponder the situation with Tarquin. I still didn't know what he had been doing in the city, and I didn't know why he was following me, except maybe to stay safe. Did he have family? He didn't look like he could be much older than me, but his behavior made him seem slightly younger, probably because he seemed surly and full of angst, even when I was saving his life. His dark, messy hair and dark gray eyes made him look spooky; coupled with his dark clothing, he looked almost menacing. I might believe he was dangerous, if he hadn't appeared so vulnerable in recent situations.
Feeling my eyes on him, Tarquin snapped his head up, fixing his gaze on mine. His stare was cold and dead, and with a shiver down my spine, I was reminded of my other reason for coming.
“Uncle Philip, when I went up the coast to visit my mother’s grave, I heard some strange whisperings, and met some strange people.”
“Eh, Princess B, not everyone is like you.” He gave his big, bellowing laugh, but I could see that it didn't touch his eyes. He looked like he was hiding something.
“Well, yeah, I know…” I started. “This was different, though. These guys gave me chills, really spooked me. And the stuff I heard…” My voice trailed off.
“Princess B, what is it that you heard?” Philip's entire demeanor had changed. He was quiet, calm, really focused.
I felt, deep in my bones, that my suspicions were true, but I couldn't help but continue my inquiry.
“There was talk of Mom and magic. Some said she was a witch. Some said she was evil. But most of the people there – and there were a lot – most said she was the best Queen they had ever had, and they hoped that her daughters arrived soon so that they wouldn't be without a ruler for long. I mean, I know Mom left when we were little, but a Queen?” I chuckled, but my nerves gave me away.
“Oh, my beautiful Princess B. Why did you think I have always called you a princess?”