And then they weren’t.
Sweat coated my palms, my hold on Wen’s reins slipping, as Kash let it fall.
With a gleam in his eye, he reclined back over the rock, his voice riddled with indifference. “A race who continues to sully themselves with humans, diluting your precious royal blood so that high royals can continue to hold their precious positions of power. Power you should not have. Power you abuse appallingly at that.”
Still staring at the now unveiled, severe arch to his ears, I could hear myself swallow. “This cannot be true.” But he could not lie. “We have our own history, and it has nothing to do with yours.”
A history I’d never been sure I believed.
“It has everything to do with ours. We just wanted nothing to do with you,” he said so plainly. “Think about it, I dare you.”
My eyes thinned, my heartbeat a storm brewing in my ears. With a shake of my head, I readjusted my hold on the reins.
I froze when he kept talking, unable to help it. “No royal should possess the type of power you and Raiden do. That your lineage does. It was not a gift bestowed by some so-called goddess or two but an accident made by a long dead faerie queen who fell in love with a mortal.”
“No…” But looking at his features, feeling his words resonate, I knew. I knew it was true. “You’re saying our history is a lie?”
“What history?” he said, a little exasperated now. “You’ve been told minor fables about goddesses who do not exist. They never have. Rosinthe is but a sliver of land that used to belong to Faerie until there became too many of you, and the queen’s brother soon ended our shared existence.” He wore a grim tilt to his lips. “And also her existence. For when she intended to place her human plaything upon the throne beside her, our people fought back. A line was drawn, homes were lost to the ocean as Beldine cleaved a portion of the continent and forbade half breeds and humans from ever returning again.”
“When?” I asked. Feeling my unease, Wen shuffled beneath me, huffing.
Kash rolled his eyes. “Some millennia ago.” He came to his feet. “And without the pure source of magic given from the royal bloodline of Beldine, that they share with the land and the land with them, the many creatures, plants, and ancient trees of Rosinthe have perished. The ones that remain are all… replicas. Evolution, if you will.”
I thought of the blithes, of the tisks, and of the furbanes. The fact that we were the half breeds, the mixed, was a startling point not lost on me.
Nor was the way Zad had not been entered into the equation of too much power. “What of Zad?”
With another smirk, he climbed his mount. “Death and life himself?” Noticing my frown, he continued. “Zadicus is many things, but he is not like us, and he is not like you and Raiden. And before you ask, of course, he is very much aware of all this.” I was trying to make sense of that when he gripped the reins, and said, “So, half breed, what are you to do with this knowledge?”
“Nothing,” I said, already imagining the possible ramifications, the upheaval, the fear, and the unrest. My words were too thin, too low, a croaked rasp. “Nothing at all.”
Sitting straight, Kash regarded me with too dark eyes. “Very well. I suppose it would not behoove you royals,” he said the word as though it shouldn’t exist, and perhaps he’d be right, “to make yourselves seem… less than, now would it?”
I balked, uncaring as I blinked. “As opposed to?”
Kash laughed, and the sound was shocking in its sharp, musical quality. “Oh, you have no idea.” He adjusted his tweed jacket and neck scarf, and clicked his tongue.
So many questions raced through my mind, and I found it terrifying that I was able to match each one with the shocking explanations Kash had thrown at my feet.
My lips parted, then closed a dozen times. I bit them shut. I was burning with intrigue—with the need to know more, to ask more—but I couldn’t. For now, I needed to leave this information where it belonged.
In the dark.
We rode in silence until the first village came into view, and the sun began to glow high in the sky.
“You have her face.”
“My mother?” I asked, already knowing that was who he meant.
Instead of confirming, he brought his mare closer, riding almost neck and neck with Wen.
I slowed Wen’s pace, and Kash pulled back, trotting beside me.
Glancing over at him, I found his eyes forward, his dark hair swept back from the wind, exposing a profile that would make any female, human or otherwise, weak in the knees.
The thought made me angry. “She was weak and stupid. You and I both know she should’ve left, but she never did.”