I … wasn’t sure I’d slept last night, but I must have, because when I awoke there was a man standing at the foot of my bed. “How did you get in here?” I asked, when what I really wanted to know was, “Why did you get in here?” He just stood there, with a bit of a self-satisfied smile on his face. He was tall and slender, with a sharp, aristocratic profile and a haughty air about him that said he had every right to be in my room at the crack of dawn.
“You turned out well,” he said, as if that answered my question.
I sat up in bed. “Who are you and what do you want?” I asked. I wasn’t willing to be downright rude just yet, figuring he might be from the administrative offices of the Great House, and that I might be in the wrong room, or the wrong classes. I wasn’t really afraid of him. He didn’t look particularly threatening, and, if it came to it, I was pretty sure I could take him.
“I am Kestrel,” he said. “I will be taking over, shall we say, the more enduring parts of your education.”
“Well, with all due respect, I can’t start today,” I said. “My friends have not arrived on time for school and I’m worried. I’m going to go home and check on them. The twins, and Dunlin, who is the young man I love and plan to marry … and the Administrator said … there is no record … of them ….” Kestrel’s expression was making it harder and harder to speak and there was this cold lump in my chest.
“Lycee is a time to forget the old and embrace the new,” he said matter-of-factly. “Your life is about to change – very much for the good. Now get dressed. You’re coming with me.”
“I’m going home!” I exclaimed.
“You’re not,” he said flatly. “Those people do not matter anymore because they do not exist. They never did. Home does not exist. It never did. That world was created for you to give you a normal childhood. You are not part of that world anymore. Now be a good girl and do as I say or you’ll be late for your morning classes.”
I was confused, and frightened, and he was cold and smooth, like thin ice. I was truly afraid by now that he was going to do me harm. The walls were stone and screaming would do no good. Something told me that launching myself at him wasn’t going to do any good either, and at that point I started to cry.
“Oh, Precious Equus,” he snapped. “I’m here with your future in a bowl made of Menorquin Sea Crystal, and you’re simpering under the covers like …I don’t know what. Get dressed and I’ll tell you who you are.”
I remember stumbling out of bed and into my clothes while he sat in a corner of the room and stared at the wall. “She may be just a little too hominoid,” I heard him say, but I had no idea who he was talking to.
I must have managed to get dressed, because he told me to brush my hair, which I did, though my hands were shaking so hard I could hardly hold the brush. “Come here,” he said, and I went, though how I got my feet to move is still a mystery to me. The weight of my grief was overwhelming. What if he was telling the truth? What if my family did not exist? My home? And Dunlin. I felt staggeringly full and terrifyingly empty, all at the same time.
“Watch where I touch the wall,” he said. I nodded. A part of the wall slid to one side to reveal a small alcove with a control panel inside. “Get in,” he said. I just stood there. He grabbed my arm and pulled me in. The panel closed. He touched one of the controls.
There was this strange tingling and the whole space was blue and maroon for a few seconds. Before I could get my breath the wall slid aside and I was in an altogether different place, with alabaster walls and the sound of unseen water, and a woman was standing there, and she smiled and held out her arms to me. “Wren, welcome home,” she said. “I am Lark. I created you.”