As a child, Coriel Halsing spent many glorious summers at Castle Auburn with her half-sister-and fell in love with a handsome prince who could never be hers. But now that she is a young woman, she begins to see the dark side of this magical place.
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December 12, 2002
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Excerpt from Summers at Castle Auburn by Sharon Shinn
The summer I was fourteen, my uncle Jaxon took me with him on an expedition to hunt for aliora. I had only seen the fey, delicate creatures in captivity, and then only when I was visiting Castle Auburn. I was as excited about the trip to the Faelyn River as I had been about anything in my life.
I had been surly at first when Greta insisted that I could not go alone with my uncle such a far distance from the castle. "People will say things," she pronounced in her hateful voice. "A young girl and an older man gone off together for three nights or more. It will cause talk."
"He's my uncle," I pointed out, but Greta was not appeased. She did not like me, and I assumed her ambition was more to thwart my glorious adventure than to protect my reputation.
However, when I learned who my traveling companions were to be, I stopped complaining and began dreaming. Bryan of Auburn was everything a young prince should be: handsome, fiery, reckless, and barely sixteen. Not destined to take the crown for another four years, he still had the charisma, panache, and arrogance of royalty, and not a girl within a hundred miles of the castle did not love him with all her heart. I did, even though I knew he was not for me: He was betrothed to my sister, Elisandra, whom he would wed the year he turned twenty.
But I would be with him for three whole days, and say clever things, and laugh fetchingly. I expected this trip to be the grandest memory of my life.
The others who were assigned to us I accepted with passable grace, though only one had come my way often. Kent Ouvrelet was Bryan's cousin, a thin, serious young man whom I had known since I first began visiting the castle eight years ago. Damien, a peasant's son, was Bryan's food taster, and never more than three feet from the prince. However, I could hardly say I knew him since he almost never spoke. The last member of our party was a young guardsman, tall, sandy-haired, lanky, and freckle-faced. He was new to the castle since my last summer there, and I did not even know his name until we set out.
Which was the hour before dawn, a time both dark and wet. We all met at the stables behind the castle, myself, at least, skidding on the slick cobblestones that spread a hard carpet around the entire grand citadel. I had tied my heavy black hair back in a thick braid and dressed in boy's clothes (a more flattering look for my slim figure than some of my court gowns, and I hoped Bryan noticed).
Jaxon laughed when he saw me. "Don't you look like the gatekeeper's urchin!" he exclaimed, not letting this prevent him from giving me his customary bone-cracking hug. "What was Greta about to let you out in public dressed like this "
"She wasn't awake when I left my room," I said breathlessly.
"Well, your sister's maid, then. I can't imagine that she-- Come to think of it," he added, breaking off to look about him in an ostentatious way, "where is that girl Didn't Greta tell me she would be coming with us to chaperone you "