Three horsemen appear around a bend in the road, well-dressed and laughing loudly. At first I think they don’t see me, as they show no signs of stopping. Then the middle horseman slows and nudges his horse to the side of the road. He’s extraordinarily handsome, his clear blue eyes studying me closely.

“Well, well. What have we here?”

The other two riders stop, shifting uncomfortably in their saddles. “Come Heinrik,” one says. “We’ve no need to waste our time here.”

I bristle at his words, but force myself to stay calm and continue the charade I’ve created. “Spare a few coins, sir, for an old woman.”

“We’ve nothing to give,” the third man says shortly. “Be on your way.”

My eyes narrow and I try to keep my anger under control. After all, if my emotions overwhelm me, my magic becomes…unpredictable. I gleefully consider the different curses I can cast on the two rude horsemen. I think I’ll spare the first, as he did stop.

The first one, Heinrik, smiles as he dismounts. “Do you pester all who travel along this road, hag? Or have you singled us out because we are rich?”

Well, perhaps I should reconsider my course of action.

“I-”

“Do you know who I am?”

I shake my head.

“I am His Royal Highness, Prince Heinrik, heir to the Skaran throne. Your life is meaningless compared to mine. Why would I give you anything? You are nothing more than a drain on society. The best thing you can do is die.”

The other two riders flinch at his speech. I begin to wonder if their harsh words were their attempt at avoiding this confrontation without crossing the prince.

I let go of my fragile control, magic snapping and crackling in the air around me.

“You, Prince Heinrik, have been tested and found wanting.” My voice echoes with power as I drop my disguise. “According to the laws and traditions of magic, you shall be punished accordingly.”

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