Covenant's End - Ari Marmell

She lived in a house. Just a normal, everyday house, so far as she knew, though any of Davillon's citizens who lived outside the Rising Bend district would have told her otherwise. Could have told her that the multiple stories and the high eaves, the glass windows and the broad gardens, all were signs of wealth and fancy. None of them did tell her, however, and she'd spent all of her eleven years in and around the better neighborhoods. She dwelt with her family, in ignorant comfort; just another willful, entitled child of the aristocracy.

She wouldn't be, for much longer.

Her name was Rosemund. Rosemund Seguin.

She wouldn't be that for much longer, either.

Rosemund wore her best that day. Her tunic of peaches-and-cream, vest of dark velvet, a full skirt very much like a grown woman's. And, of course, her favorite pendant, a gleaming silver swan. Wore her best, but certainly didn't act it.

“It's not fair!” It was a shriek, as affronted and accusing as only a child could make it. Through a film of tears that blurred her vision and pasted dark strands of hair to her cheeks, she searched frantically throughout the room, seeking some argument, some evidence, some leverage that would make her parents see reason. She saw only the ponderous old grandfather clock, the shelves of dinnerware and vases, the usual luxury of which, so far as she was concerned, the whole of the world consisted.

Only those, and the disapproving, currently despised faces of her parents.

“You said! You said I could! Weeks ago, you said!”

“That was before you snuck out in the middle of mass,” her mother told her stiffly. “Again.”

“But everyone will be there! I have to go!”

Her pleading gaze turned on her father, normally the easier touch, but tonight he seemed as merciless as his wife. “Maybe after this,” he said in his gruff, pipe-smoker's voice, “you'll keep your promises.”

“It's not fair!” Only the fact that her arm wasn't quite long enough to reach it, from where she stood, saved a fine set of lacquered ceramic tableware from shattering across the floor. “You said! You damn well said—!”

“Language, young lady!” the adults barked in unison.

A fourth, softer voice took advantage of the momentary lull. “What about me?”

Rosemund glanced back and down at a head of tousled hair and an outfit rather less well-kempt than her own. Frankly, she'd forgotten he was here.

“I was going to go, too,” Rousel reminded them. “What about me?”

Their father stepped around the fuming daughter to the earnest son, reaching out to further ruffle his hair. “I'm sorry,” he said. “But you're not old enough to go alone.”

“I am, so! Why do I have to suffer because she—!”

The older sibling drew breath to protest, though whether she would have shouted down her brother for pointing out that she was at fault here, or would have used his disappointment as an argument against her parents, she hadn't yet decided. Nor, as it happened, did it matter.

“This is not open to discussion!” their mother roared. “Rousel, honey, I'm sorry you're caught up in this, but remember whose fault it is. Rosemund, next time you'll think before—Don't you walk away when I'm talking to you!”

And technically, she wasn't. It was really more of an awkward flounce than a walk. The young girl pounded up the stairs to her door, which she rather predictably slammed with sufficient force to shake the shelves below. A moment later, she heard Rousel's door down the hall do much the same.

But Rosemund wasn't quite done; she had one more thrust to get in. Hauling the door wide open, she shrieked, at the top of her lungs, “I hate you!” Again, Rousel was doing the same, following her lead, when she slammed the portal shut once more, satisfied that her parents must have heard that.

They did, of course, and though it hurt them, they salved themselves with the knowledge that it was just something children said. That she didn't really mean it.

Something else heard her, too. Something that reveled, basking in the knowledge that she meant every word.

She wasn't sure what had awoken her.

Rosemund sat up, rubbing her eyes, to discover she'd dozed off face-down on her comforter, not having even changed for bed. The swan pendant left a faint imprint in her skin where she'd lain on it. Her tunic, vest, and hair were as mussed as she could ever remember seeing them. Not that she could see much, in the room lit only by the puddle of moonlight dribbling in