Genre: Fantasy, short story
Blurb: Lana grew up with the deadly politics of Alfeari nobility. Now, she has been ordered to take the princess to the farthest reaches of the kingdom, away from threats of assassination.
Can Lana and the royal toddler survive what - & who - is after them?
"I only trust a few people with my daughter's life within the safety of this palace." Isidra spoke so softly, Lana half believed she was imagining the words at first. "Even fewer are the people I trust to keep her safe outside these walls. After her Acknowledgment and outside the city, I cannot think of more than one whose loyalty and inner strength are both so strong as to overcome all obstacles."
Lana frowned, sure that the thoughts running through her head must be wrong. "A warrior, maybe? My aunt..."
The Queen shook her head, cutting off Lana's grasping. "No." Her eyes bore into Lana's. "It must be you. You are the one I trust, the only one I trust."
Lana shook her head reflexively. "Oh, your Majesty, no! I'm no assassin, no guardsman. I've never even been outside the city more than twice. And both of those times were in your entourage! I have no experience, no skills in negotiating the world. I would not be a good choice..."
"The. Only. One." Isidra's clipped words filled Lana's gut with ice. "You have the skills I want, which are not necessarily the ones that are expected."
The woman Lana had known for her whole life was gone. The nurse now faced Queen Isidra the third, Matriarch of Alfeari, Protector of the Coral Isles, Guardian of the Far Reaches, Overseer of the Shang Wilderness. Nearly tangible power whirled around the royal made flesh, a product of charisma and authority rather than of the Chi and Flows of Monks and Witches.
Lana gulped, her throat suddenly, painfully dry. She tried to respond but only produced a weak hiss. Instead, she finally nodded.