Debra Doyle and James D. Macdonald
When I was very young, my mother the queen had a mirror that hung on the wall in her private chamber. A velvet curtain fell across the glass's gilded frame, but in those days no hand ever drew it aside—save mine, one day when I was curious and, I thought, alone.
My own reflection looked back at me: a girl-child in rich clothing, with the same dark eyes and fair skin that made my mother's beauty famous throughout the kingdom. Behind me, a casement window opened to show the palace gardens and the deep woods of the royal hunting preserve beyond. I saw movement among the reflected shrubbery and turned to find Gregor, the chief of the queen's huntsmen, standing outside in the garden.
I let the curtain drop back across the mirror.
"What are you doing here?" I asked, with all the dignity I could muster. I was always a little afraid of Gregor, who had been in the royal service since the time of my grandmother, the Old Queen—though he must have been a young man in those days, when my mother herself was only a child.
Even now, though silver had frosted the jet-black of his hair and his pointed beard, he bowed with the grace of an ambassador at one of my mother's receptions. "I do the queen's will, Your Highness. And her will is that no one shall enter her chamber while she is away."