“You may not see us, but we are there; watching you, protecting you, and fighting the demons who want your soul.”
From my prison, I looked out to the dark world that stretched for miles below.
The White Tower had been home for ten years, and each year I had beheld the same landscape.
Snow. Ice. Darkness.
Sometimes the wind would howl so loudly that the echo on the stone walls would keep me awake for hours. Not even the fire could warm me, and so I was used to being cold. To being alone.
Mother had always told me that one day life would change—that I would be free.
Maybe even more than free.
That was before the humans had taken her and father away and burned them at the stake—before my grandmother convinced King Aerion to imprison me instead of executing me. No one found it particularly becoming of a man to kill a little girl, especially when she had yet to display any signs that she’d inherited the stain of magic.
He had agreed. But, the fear of death hovered above me like a black cloud.
Even as I finished hanging my washing above the fire, I wasn’t sure what to expect when the sound of horses broke me from my daydream. The heat of the fire warmed my face as I dried my wet hands on my apron.
For years, I had watched the world below churn with snow and darkness. But, that night, there was light.
I pushed open the window and shivered at the bitter wind as it swept in and lifted my golden hair. To my relief, it wasn’t the king’s soldiers.
It was a carriage of black and gold.
I leaned out the window, gawking at how the gold embellishments glittered beneath the bright moon.
“You don’t see one of those everyday,” I muttered.
“Aye,” Kala, my white dire wolf agreed. “Not in the Outlands of Pythra, anyway.”
In the midst of a snow storm, a beautiful woman stepped from the covered carriage in a gray fur cloak with a wolf’s head that reached the ankles of her black boots. She didn’t walk to the entrance of the White Tower. She flew. Her long hair cascaded down her back in red waves, and her green eyes glittered beneath her lashes. Even in the dark, I could see them, for they glowed. “A fairy,” I said, eyes wide with awe. “Someone will surely kill her for showing off her magic in such a way. How is this possible?”
“We will have to see,” Kala said.
“I can’t believe it,” I said, closing the window against the cold. I leaned back against the wall, wondering if this was a dream. “A real fairy.”
“You’re a real fairy,” Kala said, glancing up at me with ice-blue eyes that glittered in the dim candlelight. “Perhaps,” I said, taking off my apron and hanging it on a hook behind the door. “I may have a bit of fairy blood, but, not enough to fly.”
“We don’t know that,” she whispered.
With raised brows, I snorted. “Oh, but we do. I’ve tried.” I rubbed my elbow, remembering the pain of my countless failed attempts. With my ear pressed to the door, I tried to listen in on what she said to the warden. It was fruitless. I was high up in the tower and the door was made of thick stone.
I jumped when it was unlocked for the first time in years, and two guards awaited outside.
Frozen, my eyes darted from one armored guard to the next. With their swords pointed my way, and shields held out to block whatever they feared I would do to them, I realized they were afraid of me.
That was odd. Why would anyone fear me? A more pressing question came to me as the guards made a passage in between them. “Come, girl,” one of them demanded.
Could it truly be the day I had dreamed of? Was I to be set free?
Still, I couldn’t move. All I could do was look to my right and my left at the place I’d called home since I was five years old. My grandmother had visited often. She’d brought me books, and furs, and knitted blankets. She’d tried her best to give me the comforts I needed to keep my sanity.
Nothing she sent was as valuable as Kala. She was my greatest treasure—my only treasure.
My only friend.
Kala stood beside me. While I tried to keep my fear at bay, there was strength and courage in her eyes.
“Is it time?”
Licking my cracked lips, I nodded despite the pain of the sting I’d awakened. “I think so.”
I mustered my courage and stepped from my tiny prison. The cold followed me outside into the corridor as we walked along the narrow hall to the staircase that led to the bottom of the tower.
There she was. The fairy. My heart skipped a beat as I remembered her face from long ago. The memory of her having tea with mother and father just the night before their arrest returned to me.
“My goodness,” she said. “What a lovely little lady you’ve grown up to be.”
Nervous and tense, I almost smiled at the compliment. But, the truth was, I wasn’t sure how to feel.
“Do you remember me? I am Queen Sorcha of Faedryn.” “I do.” How could I forget?
She’d taken a sample of my blood with the tip of her enchanted dagger. A little girl would never forget such a thing, no matter how much time had passed. “The war is over, and you are free to leave.” My knees buckled and with widened eyes, my breaths quickened. “Are you certain?”
“I am,” she said, stepping closer and taking my hands into hers. She stared down at them, stroking my rough skin with her thumbs. “I am sorry for how you’ve been mistreated for so long. But, your people have fought long and hard with the Pythrans. And, we’ve won.”
Picturing armies of magic-born fighting against humans left my stomach in knots. “They fought…for me?”
“Of course, they did. And now, I will take you to where you belong. To Allandria.” When I noticed that the warden and the guards were nowhere to be seen, I knew it to be true. Despite my wariness, I nodded and was spirited away out into the cold. I did not ask questions, or delay my escape.
No. I was ready.
Whatever was before me would be better than a life of imprisonment. With Kala by my side, I climbed into the carriage and was wrapped in a heavy fur cloak.
If I was dreaming, I did not want to wake up ever again. I was free for the first time since I was a child.
A cold night with snow falling in torrents was the setting for my journey into the darkness of my fated future. My destiny. It was the day of my fifteenth birthday that night when the beautiful fairy took me away from the White Tower. My heart continued to race, and my muscles remained tense even as Kala snuggled close and kept me warm—even as we said goodbye to Pythra.
The humans were never my tribe, and each day on their soil was one day closer to my death.
No, I wasn’t born to die such an uneventful death.
I was Princess Celeste Delacord of the kingdom of Mordigan.
The first ever with the power to walk in the world of the living, and the dead.