Steam from the train swirls around Eiaght Mora’s platinum hair as she steps onto the platform. Only a few people scramble off, darting down to the village. A sharp wind stings her face, making her nose cherry red. Under the awning a man stands in a grey, wool coat and a royal badge with the Mora crest, a centaur wreathed in olive branches. He bows. “Evening Princess Eiaght.”
Eiaght nods, unclasping her turquoise, silk cloak. Why aren’t there more guards?
“Your highness, wouldn’t it be better to remove it once we arrive?”
She hands the guard her cloak. “Siopei will be watching from her tower. She can’t know who I am. Did you borrow a common wagon?”
“Yes, your majesty.” He leads her to the green carriage.
The drive passes slowly, her butt aching every time it hits the wooden seat. After ten miles, they pull up to an iron gate. Siopei’s guards lift the enchantment and allow them through. “Be careful, Princess Eiaght. She’s been talking about you all day.”
Eiaght and her guard pull up to the tower where another guard helps her out. In her black gown, she could pass for a villager, but she takes her hair down for extra measure. The guards open the door for Eiaght. “Her room is at the top of the steps. Stay on your side of the bars and be prepared. There’s a shield charm around her cell, but she likes to test the limits.”
Dim light from emerald flames light the tower. The steps groan under Eiaght’s weight, so she levitates up to the door instead. Inside, the room is divided by bars and a shimmering shield. Siopei floats around her cell, eyes closed and silver braid trialing down her back. “How many children did I have to write down before you came? I lost track.”
Eiaght held her hands clenched at her sides, ready to use magic if need be. “Do you steal souls for attention?”
“You’re supposed to demand I sit before you start interrogating me. Why’d they send you? You’re barely old enough to travel on your own.”
“Float around if you wish. It makes no difference, as long as you answer my questions.”
Siopei dropped to the floor, her dirt smeared gown mushrooming out around her. “Does your mother know you’re here?”
“Why resume killing children now? You’ve been peaceful for ages.”
“Do you know why I’m locked away?”
“You harvest souls.” Eighty in total now.
Siopei laughed, her wrinkled hand reaching for Eiaght. “You have your mother’s chin, pointed and defiant.”
“What do you know about my mother? You’ve been here.”
“For fourteen years.” Siopei pressed a hand to her chest and her age rewound fourteen years.
Her shiny, copper hair and almond eyes, cut chills into Eiaght’s bones. “You wiped my family’s memory, separating my sisters.”
Siopei aged back to normal. “Tell your sisters Grandma says, ‘hi’.”