Verriane was destined to do great things. Everyone said so. You could see it in her eyes.

She didn’t know exactly what form these great things would take, so she had kept her options open. She studied etiquette with the young Lady Seanna, in case she would be a great diplomat, and helped Seanna’s older brother, Pell (the fifth of that name) study important battles, in case she would be a great general. She practiced painting and cartography and archery. She met with the local wizard, Khalm the Calm, to learn some basic magic. She even dressed herself as a boy to learn sword-fighting with the soldiers (although this didn’t fool anyone for long, everyone pretended not to notice).

She was, strictly speaking, Seanna’s maid, but she spent very little time actually acting as a maid. No one really minded, though, Seanna least of all. Verriane was going to be great, and no one really wanted to get in the way of that.

Verriane tried to be modest, but it was one of the few things she didn’t have much of a knack for. She couldn’t keep herself from boasting or showing off.

As her fourteenth birthday approached, she was starting to get impatient. She was ready for her destiny, but she wasn’t sure how to go about finding it. The problem, as she often told herself, was that Pellholm simply wasn’t a great place.

Which wasn’t to say it was a bad place. Not in the slightest. Pellholm was a very good place — the best, really. They had good farmlands, and the mine produced good iron. The people were good people and Lord Pell (the forth of that name) was a good lord. Everything was good.

But for someone ready for greatness, good wasn’t very good at all. Nothing interesting had ever happened in Pellholm, and Verriane was pretty sure it never would. No feuding families threatened to harm the land. There were no monsters or brigands lurking in the hills. Very few warlocks could challenge Khalm, and none of them had any interest in a place like Pellholm.

Occasionally Lord Pell and his family would visit his lord at Valetop Keep, and Verriane, as Seanna’s maid, would go with them, but this wasn’t terribly exciting, either. Lord Hael didn’t host tournaments or balls or anything of that sort, and Lord Pell had no desire to travel to the other high lords’ keeps or the king’s palace where such things were held. “There’s too much to do here,” he’d say, although Verriane wasn’t sure how that was true.

Her birthday came and went without much notice. Seanna gave her a lovely silk ribbon — she loved to give gifts — but other than that, there wasn’t much to mark it from any other day.

She sighed as she ran a brush through Seanna’s beautiful dark hair.

“It will come when it comes,” Seanna told her. “You’ll know it when it does. I suspect that’s how it works.”

“But what if it doesn’t?” Verriane said. “What if I’m supposed to go out and find it? I love you Seanna, and I love Pellholm, but I don’t know if I can find my destiny here.”

Seanna thought about that for a moment. She thought a lot for a child her age. Verriane suspected that might be why the two got along so well. Verriane wasn’t inclined towards long-term planning, but Seanna could always come up with something.

She clapped her hands, as she always did when she got a good idea. “This autumn, I’ll be eleven, and that’s old enough to go to balls and tournaments, I should think. I’ll ask father if we can go to the Sun’s End Tournament. Surely you’ll find something there.”

Verriane made a non-committal noise. It wasn’t a bad plan, but she wasn’t sure she could wait another five months.

There was a knock at the door. Verriane lay the ivory brush down and went to answer it. A knight stood there, his helmet tucked beneath one arm, and gray just beginning to creep into his hair. He wasn’t one of Lord Pell’s knights; Verriane knew them all.

“May I help you, m’lord?” she asked, curtsying. The knight didn’t speak, but studied her for a minute. Without warning, he fell to one knee in front of her.

“Lady Every,” he said, not raising his head.

“You are mistaken, m’lord,” Verriane said, not sure what was going on. “This is Lady Seanna’s chambers, and I am just her maid. I know of no Lady Every in these halls.”

He looked up at her, but didn’t rise. “Nay, you are the long-lost daughter of Lord and Lady Balleron.”

Seanna gasped, holding her hands to her face. “This is wonderful, Vaerri- I mean, Everie.”

Verriane frowned. “Are you sure, sir knight? My father is Lord Pell’s stewart, and I’ve heard no unusual circumstances around my birth.”

“There can be no doubt of this, for you are Lady Balleron’s spitting image. I have been tasked with delivering you to them, so you might take your rightful place as High Lady of Ocean’s End.”

“Are you all right?” Seanna asked, when Verriane didn’t respond. “Come, sit down. This must be a lot to take it, Everie.”

“Verriane,” she said. “Please, my lady, just call me Verriane.” She found she wasn’t happy with this. Sure, this seemed like the type of thing destiny might have in store for her, but the idea that her mother and father would no longer be her mother and father left a sour taste in her mouth.

“We may need a moment, sir knight,” Seanna said to their visitor.

“By all means, take as long as you require,” he said, but he looked around somewhat nervously.

“Seanna, you and I love each other as kin, do we not?” Verriane asked.

Seanna nodded. “Of course! Even as I love Pell as my brother, I count you as my sister.”

“And if you had knowledge that I was daughter of the Ballerons, you would not have kept it from me, would you?”

“I can see no reason why I should.”

“Then why would my mother and father keep their tongues about it. Could they have feared I would love them less for it?”

“Perhaps they were sworn to secrecy, or through circumstances, did not know themselves?”

Verriane was considering this, when there was a should from outside in the hall.

“Sir Agen, you deceitful worm!” A plump, older man said, wheezing as he ran up to the doorway. He wore the deep violet robes that marked him as a high priest of the Twelve Gods.

Sir Agen stood, towering over the priest. “What cause have I given for such hostility, Father Berric?”

Berric’s face started to turn purple. “You know very well what you’ve done! We all swore that none would approach her until we had agreed on whose claim held precedent.”

“We’ve been arguing on that for almost a year now, and no closer to an accord than when we first began. Whatever vows were made were only to last until her fourteenth birthday. You know this.”

“Of course I do,” Berric snapped. “But her birthday does not end until the Gods have cast their light upon her once more. Morning, in other words.”

Agen laughed. “In the minds of the Gods, perhaps, but men are simpler things. A day ends when the sun goes down.”

“Don’t play the simple man on me. We all know you’re too cunning by half. You wanted to speak to her first, hoping, no doubt, that your ridiculous claims would seem more true at this hour, perhaps even to wisk her away before anyone else could have their say!”

This appeared to anger Agen. “Ridiculous claims? Any who have seen Lady Balleron would vow on their life that this girl is her daughter!”

Berric looked at Verriane and frowned. “I have met your lady more than once, and while there are… certain similarities, I think very few would stake so much on such a claim.”

Verriane stood up. “So you are saying that I am not Lady Everie, the lost daughter of the Ballerons?” She wasn’t sure if she was happy at this news, or disappointed. She had never been so confused in her life.

“I’m saying it doesn’t matter,” Berric said in a soothing voice. “You are clearly the chosen of Shandalla the Many-Armed, Goddess of Destiny. Lineage is a trifling thing compared to that.”

“Yes, trifling,” Agen said, contemptuously. “If you are content to sit in a temple, pondering on the unanswerable questions. Lord and Lady Balleron would give you riches and a fine home, and the attention of kings and queens would fall on you. At their side, you could change the world.”

“Truly, they are generous people,” a cruel, high-pitched voice said, “if they would give such things to a stranger.” A man stepped forward, although Verriane could not say precisely where he stepped from. He was dressed in riding leathers, with skin the color of tree bark. Long, pointed ears poked out from his thick mane of blood-red hair. “I told you before, she is a changeling, a child of the fey, switched at birth and raised by human parents. She is no more their lost child than I am.”

“I should have know you’d show up, Tree-Shadow,” Agen snarled.

“Well, I don’t care who’s child she is,” Berric said. “The will of the Twelve Gods is more important than such things.”

Tree-Shadow laughed. “Your Gods have no eyes and no hearts for the woodwalkers. They could never love a changeling.”

“The thoughts of the Twelve Gods are beyond your comprehension, Tree-Shadow. Do not claim to know them.”

“It doesn’t matter,” Agen said. “Neither of you carry anything but words to hold up your claims.”

“And your insistence that she looks just like your lovely lady is apparently so solid, you can wear it as armor,” Tree-Shadow snickered.

There was a crack of thunder, and a beautiful woman stood among them. Her hair was black as shadow, and seemed to melt into the flickering shadows of the torchlight on her crimson dress.

“Treasonous dogs!” she shouted, gesturing dramatically. “All know I marked her for my apprentice on the day of her birth!”

More protests were shouted, first at the new woman, then at each other. None of them even looked at Verriane. She watched them for a minute or so, then closed the door.

“I’ve decided,” she told Seanna, “that destiny is not as great as it sounds. I would stay on as your maid, if you would have me.”

“I would love nothing more,” Seanna said, “but are you sure? You could do great things. We all know this.”

Verriane picked up the brush and started running it through Seanna’s hair. The muffled sounds of quarreling could still be heard through the door. It sounded as if a fifth person might have joined.

“Maybe someday. I see no reason to rush.”

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