The Fae King's Prize (Between Dawn and Dusk #3) - Jamie Schlosser
Seven Years Old
“Stop. Please,” I whisper through dry, cracked lips, but the effort it takes to beg only makes the pain worse.
I’m burning. It feels like my whole body is on fire. Heat spreads through me with every breath I take, and I think I’m ready to die. I just can’t stand this any longer.
Another flame shoots up my spine, and I jerk on the hard marble floor.
Hoping the cool tiles will at least lend relief to my burning face, I press my cheek to the smooth surface.
It’s useless. Nothing helps.
Unbelievable pressure builds in my forearm until it snaps in two. It hurts so bad I can’t help crying out, and I don’t get time to catch my breath before more bones are breaking.
My. Bones. Are. Breaking.
Every single one of them.
Surely, the end is near. I welcome it, but instead of peace, I experience fury. Rage for how unfair life is. Anguish over leaving my mother behind.
I can hear her weeping in the far corner of the room. She’s been chained there ever since she tried to stop my father from letting the wizard do a spell on me. I didn’t understand all the words the magical fae man said as he sprinkled dust over every inch of my naked body. I’ve been slacking on my Old Fae language studies, however, I did catch strength, pain, and king.
I don’t know how long ago that was. Minutes? Days?
At first, I thought my father was trying to restore my sight. Because of a war between the Day and Night realms, a coven of powerful witches cast a blindness curse on all the firstborn children of the royals last year. The only way I’ll ever break the curse is if I find my fated mate.
But I’m dying, so that’ll never happen.
Will it be dark after I die?
I’m scared of the dark. I had always felt so lucky to be born in a realm where the suns shine all the time, but then everything went black just before my sixth birthday, and I haven’t seen a speck of light since.
Not being able to see makes everything feel like so much more.
A surge of heat whips through my skull, and I scream. Loud.
My skull splits, the trembling plates separating.
I try to crawl forward, but I can’t get my fingers to grasp anything. Slapping the floor, I realize I have no control over my hand. It keeps slipping as if my arm is made of jelly.
“Por favor,” my mother begs.
There’s a crack and a yelp. Father hit her again.
“I told you to stop using that language,” he tells her sternly. “You live here now. You’ll speak as we do.”
“P-please,” she tries again, her Portuguese accent thicker than usual because she’s upset.
“The wizard said the first transformation is the worst,” Father mutters, irritated. “It’s not uncommon for it to take a couple days.”
“It’s been three days,” she cries. “It’s killing him. You’re killing our son.”
“I’m making him stronger.”
“He’s fine the way he is.”
“He’s blind, and he has no power!” Father roars. “No one in the royal line has ever lacked fae ability. Until now. Because of you.”
“I gave you a child,” Mother says with defiance. “Is that not enough?”
“No, it’s not.” His voice is calm now, but I’m not fooled. His temper is still boiling, just like the blood in my veins. “He’s too… human. But I’m fixing it. Zander will be the pride of the kingdom soon.”
“If we’re not good enough for you, then send us back.”
I want to tell her not to say such things. It makes Father so mad. He might hurt her again.
He can’t stand to hear her talk about her home—the place she was taken from. She tells me in secret. At night, when it’s just the two of us, she speaks of a place called Brazil. She describes the cattle farm she grew up on and something called a jungle. It sounds magical.
I’m sad I’ll never get to see it.
Father’s footsteps march toward her, and even though I can barely move, I do what I always do when he goes after her—distract him.
I yell, but a sound I don’t recognize comes from my throat. It’s a squawk and a screech.
Father’s boots stop their stomping. Mother’s chains no longer clink and jingle.
It’s too quiet.
Suddenly, there’s light. I blink as blurry objects appear. Within seconds, the room sharpens.
I see the marble columns decorating the tall walls of my bedroom. The yellow comforter on my bed. Mother’s tear-streaked face and her bloodied