Ravenshade began. “The time of galas and pageantry will soon be upon us and so dressmakers, cobblers, and milliners now prepare for the onslaught that is to come. I have been experimenting with a new type of dye and have not left my workroom for the last two days. This morning the king’s men burst in and arrested me for the princess’ murder. Slender said she was stabbed to death with a golden spindle in Howling Wood.”
“Godmother, Primrose is terrified of the Wood. When she was a child, her cousins lured her to the abandoned asylum and locked her in overnight. She would never go back.”
“I have never heard this.”
“No one has. I know the story because it was I who freed her the following morning. I often frequented the Wood to harvest Goose Morels and heard the princess crying.”
“You had the opportunity to kill her. Your revenge would have been complete yet you rescued her, why?”
Ravenshade laughed, a musical tinkle that surprised Aryssa. “No doubt you know of my power. My thaumaturgical lineage reaches far beyond the start of most civilizations. Do you really believe I would kill a child over a place setting?”
“There are many Fae who are so petty.”
“True. Admittedly I did utter a curse that the princess prick her finger on a spindle and die all those years ago but it had nothing to do with a party slight and was purely ornamental.”
“I gave the brat diaper rash until its next bath. I merely intended to frighten the king and queen, not to kill anyone.”
“But if not for that slight why did you want to frighten them?”
Ravenshade hesitated, opened her mouth, then shut it again before shaking her head. “I cannot say.”
Aryssa frowned. “It does not look good, Ravenshade. I cannot hope to save you when Prince Logan comes for your head if you do not disclose everything to me and I know not whether I will be able to return.”
“Let me breast these cards for the moment. You may be able to clear me without them.”
“And if I cannot?”
“You must try, Godmother. The true killer is free. If I am put to death for his crime, you may never find him.”
Aryssa nodded and moved toward the door. “I will do my utmost to help you, Ravenshade.”
“Godmother, the day before Primose’s Jubilee, Honeypetal came into my shop.”
Aryssa paused with her hand on the knob. “Did she?”
“I was not in but my addlebrained tailor was so taken with her that he let slip information about my experiment. Apparently, the little skamelar remarked how amusing it was that I would not be gracing their majesties with a repeat performance for old time’s sake.”
Aryssa nodded, the wheels already turning as her brain absorbed this information. “Thank you, Ravenshade, I will consider that.”
A royal summons awaited her when she returned to her carriage and so they headed to the palace. The royal family had never requested her services before and Aryssa wondered why they sought her now. Were they upset by her visit to the tower? How did they find out already?
Remain calm, she told herself. There was no point worrying about what-ifs. Find out what the situation is and react accordingly. The monarchs of Davenmour were good, kind, logical people. Well, at least King Peregrine was. Queen Saskia was rumored to be acting a bit strange since her 40th birthday several weeks ago.
Upon arriving at the palace, Aryssa was directed to the gardens. It was an opalescent feast with exotic aromas that fed the soul. Perched on a marble bench beside a large fountain depicting the kidnapping of Persephone was Queen Saskia herself. She wore a gossamer pink gown with her golden hair fixed into an elaborate coif on which rested a diamond crown. Eyes that sparkled like sapphires stared into the water of the fountain. Lips like rose petals formed a thin line on her heart-shaped face. Even with this odd expression, Saskia was among the loveliest women Aryssa had ever seen.
“Your Majesty?” Aryssa called but the queen remained motionless, staring.
She stepped closer and reached out to the queen with her senses. Immediately she picked up on confusion, dismay, and shielded beneath the fog of a pink and gold Fae signature, madness. The Fairy Godmother gasped. Queen Saskia wasn’t human but Fae, well at least half-Fae. That accounted for the woman’s otherworldly beauty. Aryssa was concerned about the madness, which was said to befall crossbloods who denied their magical heritage. Magic was as natural to the Fae as breathing. When not expelled on a regular basis it can erode the mind especially if the mind is part human.
“Queen Saskia?” Aryssa called again, glancing around. If only Hazelbite was near.
Saskia looked up suddenly and smiled. “Ah, Fairy Godmother, you are here. Please have a seat. I will ring for tea.”
She fluttered her fingers and coils of pink and gold dust drifted into the air before fading. Aryssa frowned, doubting the chintzy effort summoned anything.
“You wanted to see me, Highness?” Aryssa said.
“You are a detective now, are you not? Why ever did you give up granting wishes? I would love to do something like that. Imagine being able to give anyone whatever they wanted. Imagine having that much power over another!” She curled her hand into a fist in front of her then stared at it in confusion.
Gently, Aryssa responded, “I’m afraid we’re limited on the kind of wishes we’re allowed to grant, Highness.”
Saskia unfurled her hand with disgust as if throwing something away.
“Bah! Hazelbite will not grant my wish either.”
Aryssa tilted her head. “What is it you wish?”
“Can you make the king love me?”