Prologue I: Candle

During the long night of the winter solstice, at the exact stroke of midnight, a baby was born to the lord and lady of the eastern marches. The midwife muttered at the timing and frowned down at the unusually blue eyes of the newborn baby. But she kept her thoughts to herself and swaddled the baby against the cold as the old year slipped away and the new began.

Lady Enys frowned down at her new daughter and then gazed up at her husband in distress. He gripped her arm reassuringly. It was hard not to find the soulless blue disconcerting.

"It's not unusual," he said, soothingly, "Ishbel's eyes were dark blue when she was born. This little one's eyes will change soon enough."

But they did not change. At nine months old they were still blue. Three years later they were still blue. And because the tradition stated that the child could only be named once her soul had anchored to her body and her eyes had turned brown the child remained unnamed. Her parents remained hopeful and treated her well. But by the age of five, their youngest daughter had become more than an embarrassment for the Lord and Lady. She was kept out of sight, tended to by only a few trusted servants.

It soon became clear that not only were her eyes blue but the Ancestors would not accept her either. In a land where magical ability was the norm, where every peasant could light a candle with a touch of their fingers, their youngest daughter had the magical ability of a lump of clay. She was also a sickly child, prone to illness and bouts of exhaustion. The Lord and Lady gave up hope and tried their best to forget about her. They paid for her to have a fine education, befitting that of a daughter of an aetheling, in the slim hope that any day soon her eyes would darken, her soul would take and her fingers would gleam with magic. But they never did. Tutors were paid vast amounts of rings to compensate for working with such a creature and to keep their own mouths shut.

The child herself grew to be small, dark-haired and serious. She applied herself diligently to her lessons and was quick to learn. Everything came easily to her, except magic. She spent long hours practising, most often with a candle set in front of her, touching her finger to it again and again.

She was never given a Name but eventually, she became known as Candle.