Chapter 8

"Mara, I picked you flowers."

The Queen's retinue parts before Uldren. Astonished eyes flicker between his face, his wounds, and the potted flowers cupped in his hands. Some of them see a madman and reach for weapons before they remember that this is Uldren Sov, Prince of the Awoken, beneficiary of the Queen's limitless indulgence.

"Asphodelia is its name." He kneels and offers it to his sister. "It grew only in the Black Garden… until today. We will plant it here, in our dominion, where I know it will take root and flourish. It will remind the people of our twin heritage."

For a terrible moment, Mara is unreadable. Then she smiles and beckons. "Our brother has attained the Black Garden and returned to us. Come forward." She peels a single petal from the flower and lays it across her fingertip. Holds it up to the light. "Magnificent. Illyn, see to it."

She passes it off. Uldren swallows protest. He'd hoped she might plant it herself.

Afterward, in private, she is silent and still. He tells her everything he remembers. "Did you see the heart?" she asks, softly.