CHAPTER 1 - 01
Inside the honor hall, Bevenlee sat with her family in the fifth pew from the front. Silence hung in the air like the last of
the season’s chill. People all around coughed, sniffled. Boots scuffed the floor planks. Pews creaked as congregants shifted on the cold uncomfortable wood. The wind moaned behind closed shutters.
Flames atop the candles on the chandeliers sputtered, but none went out. Then the large side door to the king’s hall opened and the royal family filed in, last to enter as always.
She gasped and pointed. “Poppa, who’s that?”
Her poppa pulled down her arm. “Bev, shush now. And it’s not polite to point,” he whispered. “But who do you
“Her. In the middle.”
“That’s Princess Ukee. Remember? You’ve met her,” he said, voice still low, almost so she couldn’t hear though she was right
beside him. “She’s the king’s youngest daughter. Like you’re mine.” He hugged her waist.
Bevenlee cocked her head, waiting for him to continue. Certainly he noticed the candle flame-like glow around Princess Ukee,
flickering as it did like one of the bright, tiny flames above. Maybe he’d explain what it was–she’d certainly never seen anything like that before. Not on people, anyway. When he didn’t, and the
royal family settled in their pew, she scooted forward and asked, “Why’s she glowing?”
“Bevenlee!” Her mother’s whisper was harsh. “Shush!” She pulled Bevenlee back. “Shush!”
The priest took his place at the altar and started the honor chant. The congregnts bowed their heads. Bevenlee pretended to
as well, but kept staring at the flickering candlelight enveloping Princess Ukee.
How could anyone else not see it? The two older, taller boys on either side–probably Ukee’s brothers–didn’t seem to. The
priest’s gaze moved over the congregation, his face visible in Ukee’s light–he sure hadn’t noticed. She frowned. Couldn’t anyone else see the glow?
When she finally looked away from the shiny princess–the honor over halfway done at that point–she caught people sneaking
glances her way. Whispers floated in the quiet between chants. Her parents shifted about, leaning forward, over, back, as though to shield her from all the looks. Eventually Poppa put his big arm
over her shoulders and held her close. Momma squeezed against her from the other side.
She got warm and tried to squirm away. Fortunately the honor ended. As silently as they’d entered, the royal family stood to
depart. Bevenlee peered harder. Princess Ukee wore fabrics over her entire head so only her face was visible, and her gaze fell to the planks. She seemed so... sad. And was she
At the homestead, her mother sent Bevenlee to her room, while her brother and two sisters tended to their chores. She sat on
the bed she shared with her sisters. Pounce, one of the homestead’s cats, lay curled on the blankets, and purred as she stroked his fur.
The look on Ukee’s face stuck in her thoughts. The princess hadn’t looked happy, not at all. And not only that... Bevenlee
frowned. Something else...
Then she realized Princess Ukee hadn’t any eyebrows! Her shine had been bright enough to reveal that. No eyebrows, and the
more Bevenlee thought, the more she didn’t remember any eyelashes either!
First the glow, then no hair? No wonder she was so sad! Was that why she’d worn all those scarves over her head, even as it
warmed up there in the honor hall?
She left her room to ask Momma about it.
Her mother was busy in the kitchen with two of the homestead’s other mothers. They gave Bevenlee curious glances before
quickly shuffling out.
Wiping her hands on her apron, her mother snapped, “I told you to stay in your room!”
“I know, but–”
“No buts!” She pointed. “Back to your room!”
Bevenlee stopped breathing. Why was Momma so mad all the sudden? Because she’d asked about the glow around Ukee? What was
wrong with that? “But the princess–”
“No, Bevenlee! I’ll not hear another word about the princess!”
She took a step back. Maybe if she’d brought Pounce to hold... Then she smelled the aromas in the air. Oh! The mid-day
meal on Honor Day. I should be here helping. So much to do! And Momma always appreciated the help. “Can I–”
“No, Bevenlee! Please! Go to your room. Please.” Now her mother sounded worried. “Do it for me?”
Since it would please her mother, she returned to her bedroom, this time lying down with Pounce. The tip of his tail tapped
the blanket. The sense something was wrong crept through her. But try as she might, she couldn’t imagine what she’d done. Did it have something to do with the glow? Probably. But that had been
Ukee’s glow, not hers!
She fell asleep.
Pounce was gone when she woke to the sound of her parents arguing in their bedroom next door, audile through the wood and
plaster walls. She sat on the edge of her bed and rubbed her eyes. Her stomach gurgled and she had to pee. She opened her bedroom door.
“...called it a glow!” Momma sounded angry again. “A glow!”
“I know,” Poppa replied, voice low. “I heard.”
“So did everyone else! Did you see they were all looking? Oh, this is terrible! Terrible!”
“Dear, calm down. Please.”
“Calm down? How can I calm down? You know what she saw! Oh!”
Her father said something too low for Bevenlee to hear. They exchanged more words.
Then Momma made a noise, like a laugh but not a laugh. “We’ll just say she was playing. She heard someone else talk about
auras. Her imagination took over. You know how children get. Besides, Princess Ukee can’t be pregnant. She’s a princess. The king’s daughter!”
“You know that won’t stand.” Poppa sounded tired. “Too many heard. The call will go out. If they come and take a look, we’ll
just have to accept it. She’s a Sister. Meant for a life at the Tower.”
“No! Not my baby! Not my Bevenlee!”
A hand fell on Bevenlee’s shoulder. She flinched, her whole bosy twisting around, but somehow managed not to
“What are you doing?” Sedge, her brother, whispered. “Get back to your room.”
Without arguing, she scurried to her room. As she closed the door, she glanced back. Sedge stood with an ear to the door, a
grim look on his face. Their parents continued to argue. He caught her staring. His frown deepened.
Smells wafted through the open door. Her stomach gurgled again. She remembered she had to pee, and crossed her legs at her
Sedge noticed. “Stay there,” he said, voice low, like Poppa’s. He shut her door, returned a moment later with a chamber pot.
She took the pot. “I’m hungry.”
He came back with a plate of food and a mug of water. “Here. Keep the pot. I’ll bring a clean one tomorrow.”
“I have to eat in here?”
“Momma said. I don’t think she wants anyone to see you.” He scowled at her. “What happened in the honor hall? What did you
“I–” She suddenly wasn’t sure she should tell. Maybe if he hadn’t heard, neither had anyone else. She looked down at her
Sedge waited, then shrugged. “Well, eat up. Stay here until Momma says otherwise, okay?”
She didn’t like the idea of eating alone in her bedroom. This was mid-day meal on Honor Day! What if she made a mess on the
blankets? “Where’s Teress and Jundy?”
“Momma sent them to the Cooper’s homestead. You’ll be sleeping alone tonight. Enjoy it, eh?” He closed the
She stayed in her room the rest of the day and into the night. Her father’s words echoed. She’s a Sister, meant for a
life at the Tower...
Tower? What tower?
Later, she woke to more arguing. Momma kept insisting of Poppa, “Take it back! Take it back! Not my Bevenlee! Not my baby!”
She broke down sobbing.
Lying alone in the dark, Bevenlee stopped breathing. Her sense of unease deepened to full-blown dread. Her mother hardly ever
cried! Something bad was happening, she was sure. And it had to do with Princess Ukee’s glow. She was sure of that too.
Her father mumbled something. Still holding her breath, she frowned, pretty sure he’d mentioned the tower
She found out the next morning when a knight from the king’s hall came calling.
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