Rana is only sixteen when she becomes queen. Her first challenge is to quell an internal coup while a massive army storms the gates of her castle. Her enemies believe her to be a child, but she has powers they’ve never suspected. She also has great dreams for her people, and she will do whatever is necessary to make them happen, even marrying a prince she does not want.
Rana knew the moment she entered her mother’s room something wasn’t right.
While the thick stonewalls of their castle always radiated coldness, today it felt like a tomb.
“Mother?” Frost swirled in the air from the breath of her word. She tensed upon seeing blackness where she expected a glowing fireplace. Her mother always had a fire in her room, even when she planned to be out for the day, even in the hottest month of summer. She loved the way fire danced and altered its colors. It reminded her of home.
She would have left the room upon seeing the dead fireplace, only a horrible sense of wrongness filled her body.
“Mother?” She waited until her eyes grew accustomed to the darkness and then made her way carefully in the direction of the window, not visible because the curtains had yet to be pulled open today.
She remembered the words her mother had told her when she became a woman. “Never run from trouble, Rana. You may be small, but you are not defenseless. There is great power within you. Power that you must hide from your father and the others, but power I will teach you to access.”
Always being chosen last in games, always being given the worst position, never thrown or kicked a ball, never invited to celebrations when her side won, Rana had thought her mother was just feeding her a line to make her feel better about being four foot two at the age of sixteen.
The average citizen of their kingdom was six foot five. Her father was seven foot, with shoulders almost as wide as she was tall. Of the adults, only her mother was shorter than she, being a mere four feet tall.
Yet her mother showed no self-consciousness about her height. She always behaved not as if she were perfectly normal, but as if she were special. And she was! Father declared her the most enchanting woman in the entire planet of Hope, a woman of mesmerizing beauty and extraordinary intelligence.
None of which, apparently, Rana had inherited. All she got was the dreaded shortness, or so she thought until she learned the truth about herself upon her sixteenth birthday six months ago. She still remembered the shock that filled her when her mother confessed that she wasn’t human, that Rana was only half-human, but to her eye, not even that.
Her mother’s words horrified her at first, but then she realized she wasn’t a sorry excuse of a human, but a different entity. That made her special!
Her mother’s race had been on this planet since the beginning of time, or so their legends claim…Rana had rolled her eyes when her mother first said it.
However, the more she learned about their ability to manipulate time, the more probable and also less meaningful that statement became. It turned out she could go back to the ‘beginning of time’ herself, so the fact that some of her people wish to hang out and watch life evolve into its earliest forms didn’t really surprise her. In fact, it sounded like a nice way to spend a week or two.
Only she was never allowed to manipulate time because ‘Father wouldn’t approve’.
So instead of being allowed to use all of her fabulous powers, Rana remained an undersized, physically inept young lady. At least now she was too old to play games—thank God for womanhood!
Finally reaching the cold stonewall, she felt for the thick velvet drapes that were currently closed to keep in the heat, if there had been a fire. Locating the sticks on each side—which allowed her mother to pull open and close the drapes—she opened the curtains, blinking as the white light ripped at her eyes.
She turned away from the light, staring across the room at the bed, now illuminated from the window.
Her mother lay above the blankets, her arms crossed over her chest, her porcelain skin, which normally glowed a vibrant white, today seemed gray and dull.
“Mother?” She ran to the bed and the source of wrongness she’d been feeling.
Her beautiful mother was cold to the touch. Dead.
But why? Mother had told her their kind lived for hundreds of years. And she was only thirty-four. She couldn’t be dead.
“Mother, wake up!”
Yet, she was.
Rana uncrossed her arms and pressed her cheek to her chest. She should have been able to tell the cause of death by doing so. It always worked on humans. She had been able to read the cause of a person’s death even when she was a child, but today… nothing.
Pulling her mother up by her shoulders, Rana tried to make sense of this nightmare. Her mother’s head fell backward and lay at an impossible and disturbing angle. Rana felt the back of her mother’s neck where the head now bent.
The neck bone had been broken. The lack of blood or cut skin left her to conclude it must have been twisted until the neck bone snapped.
Who would do that?
Her mother was good and kind to all. Everyone always claimed to love her.
Someone didn’t. Someone must have found out she was a fairy and killed her for it. Her mother had warned her humans would object to having fairies living among them.
But why couldn’t Rana tell who did this? Why didn’t they leave their anger upon her?
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