Ameryn had very little in the palace that she could call her own. She had a shelf of books and a basket of knitting and a dress or two. But that was all.
Except for a room.
She had an attic room above the princess’s suite. It was a large room, stretching across the full diameter of the tower. The floor was of white stone, as were the walls. There were four narrow windows, one facing to each of the points of the compass. There were racks of weapons hung on the walls. Racks of weapons, and one frameless mirror.
Ameryn sat before the mirror. She was breathing hard from that morning’s run. The sweat stung her face. She allowed herself to stare transfixed at the thing she saw in the mirror.
Her face was covered network of gaping scars that coiled along her face like the tentacles of some wicked sea creature. They were as red now as they were the day they were made, and hurt almost as badly. Any untorn flesh was pitted and red, like a crimson cobweb stretched across her bones in place of skin. There were parts of her face where the cuts delved perilously close to the bone, specifically around her eyes and mouth. One brow sagged a little where her skull had been fractured above her left eye. Her lips were tightened against her teeth in a permanent snarl.
The stripe-scars continued down her neck, back, and arms in puckered red coils. The skin between the cuts had the same cobwebby, burnt look as the skin on her face. So many times he had tried to kill her. Every scar testified that he had failed.
She remembered where every scar came from. He first tried to cut out her heart, but the pendent had kept her safe. When he saw he couldn’t have her heart, he tried to slice open her throat, but she got away with only a deep, burning scar that stretched beneath her chin from ear to ear. The burnt cobwebs across her skin were from when she tried to boil her in a vat of something stinging and hot.
When he found he couldn’t kill her, he decorated her. The stripes on her face and back and arms. He tore her apart and rebuilt her, scar by scar, into a creature whose likeness pleased him better than whatever she had been before.
The last Sprite Lord was dead now. But he had left his mark. He had left his mark all over her.
Her hair remained. Her hair and her eyes. Those were the only parts of her that remained untouched. Everything else was a monstrous ruin. She remembered only dimly a day when she had had fair skin like her mother’s, and the childish imitation of her father’s strong but gracious features. Now she looked nothing like either of them. She looked like an animal.
Perhaps she was.