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Others, 25

She didn’t feel the cold wind as she flew south, flew home. The wind was always cold, and there was no point in feeling it, so she didn’t bother. She had more important things to worry about than the wind. The wind would always be there, until it wasn’t any longer, and when it wasn’t, Zmnatch’gykldyra’djdzarkyln would have larger problems than nostalgia for a breeze that no longer blew.

This was her territory, hard won. Humans called this region the Cliffs of Angels, but they were called the Blood Cliffs by those who lived in them. Long ago a battle had shaped these cliffs, between two factions of former humans. Zmnatch’gykldyra’djdzarkyln and her offspring had intervened in that fight because it threatened their territory, and had claimed the cliffs as their own after the humans had retreated. Now Zmnatch’gykldyra’djdzarkyln had claim to all these cliffs and the lands beyond, and protected them zealously. Few had dared to impugn on her sovereignty of late.

Others saw her as she flew and she them. She paid them no heed, satisfied that they banked in all directions, eager to be clear of her path. Zmnatch’gykldyra’djdzarkyln had no time for petty challenges and pettier attempts to earn favour, and for the moment, it seemed that her petty challengers and favour-curriers had no time to be beaten.

Noble, 26

“We have no choice but to accept these terms,” said Bernd, reading over the treaty. It had been taken from Geoffrey before he could throw it in the fire where it belonged. “They are more than fair considering we are now on the wrong side of this conflict.”

“Extra taxes, military supervision, and our sons and nephews as hostages sounds fair to you?” Tanya demanded.

“It does. They could well hang us.”

“We’re not accepting their terms,” Geoffrey said. He didn’t understand why they were still having this conversation.

“I’m not sure that we have a choice, Geoffrey,” said Danai, leaning forward. “They have all the cards.”

Prince, 78

“All I ever seem to do is have formal dinners,” Franz complained. “And they’re always poorly veiled pretences to exchange information. Surely there must be a better way to do this.”

“Hunting trips take a long time,” said Matthew Hardhold. He shrugged. “You can’t go hawking in the winter. Parties are dangerous. Games of chance are a waste of time if anything less than a fiefdom is on the table. Leaves us a bit short on ways to talk to each other in private.”

Franz nodded. “It is rather unfortunate. We should all start having affairs, provide a good excuse for sneaking around with each other all the time.”

“I’m not sure the scandals would be worth it,” Matthew muttered, looking down at the table. They were waiting for his mother.

Slavery, 79

“So tell me, how was your vacation?”

“You already asked me that,” Daniel said, sitting on the kitchen counter next to Benedict while he put Theodore’s lunch together. He hadn’t cooked it—he didn’t need to, there were already way too many cooks for the number of people in the house—but he was arranging it on the tray in a fussy way.

“I did,” agreed Benedict. “When the other boys were present.”

Daniel smiled. “I don’t mean to be rude.”

“But you’re about to do so, no doubt,” Benedict said, arranging some sandwiches. There were like ten of them for some reason, the stupid tiny ones. There was way too much on that tray for Theodore.

Villain, 73

Sam scowled, the sensation of his leg un-breaking making all his muscles twitch. “Is that supposed to surprise me?” he demanded. “Force me to have an epiphany and reconsider my behaviour towards a liar and their stupid house? Fuck you. My mother died when I was a baby.”

“No she didn’t,” said Hadrina, taking her hand away from Sam. “She abandoned you.”

Sam grabbed her wrist as it retreated. It was thin, bony. “And why would she choose now to kidnap me?”

“To save your life, you mean. You bit off far more than you could chew, trying to fight that demon. You’d have died had I not intervened.”

“I didn’t ask for your help,” Sam growled, squeezing harder. This bitch may have taken away his new power, but he wasn’t afraid of her.

She jerked her wrist away, breaking his hold. “Did you not just hear me? You may not have asked for it, but you needed it, and it’s hardly my fault you’re an emotionally stunted ball of insecurity who doesn’t know how to swallow his pride and ask for help when he’s bleeding to death.”

Knighthood, 78

Edwin was sore and comfortable when he woke up, a pillow over his head and a weight on his back. This wasn’t his bed, he thought absently, and he didn’t normally sleep with…

Oh, the full moon last night. He was in Darby’s bed, right. They’d been up until dawn, and Edwin had a vague memory of waking up at some point to pull the pillow over his head when sunlight had started to creep in through a crack in the curtains.

The weight on his back snuffled a little, moving. Darby seemed perfectly happy to sleep back there. He’d had a pretty energetic night, seemingly even by his own standards, so Edwin didn’t blame him, though he himself hadn’t had trouble keeping up, thanks to all the practice he had with Owen. At the same time, he couldn’t sleep all day. So Edwin, with difficulty, rolled onto his side, dumping Darby onto the bed behind him.