All Solae wants is to be accepted and loved by the family that has always rejected him. But given it was his late mother who cursed the kingdom to eternal winter, the chances of that happening are minimal. If he can find a way to break the curse, however, surely that would be enough to change their minds regarding him.
But Solae is forbidden to practice magic because of his mother, which limits his ability to pursue solutions. Desperate for advice and new ideas, he contacts a famous curse breaker—and has no idea what to do when the man unexpectedly shows up, handsome and friendly and dangerously intriguing.
Once upon a time there was a king, golden and glorious and much loved by his kingdom. His queen was a bright and beautiful woman who doted on her people and was loved in return. Over time, the king and queen bore two sons.
The first son was as golden and glorious as his father, strong and brave. The people loved their crown prince and knew he would grow to be a great man one day, and they came to call him the Prince of the Sun.
The second son was as bright and beautiful as his mother, noble and smart. He was skilled with a pen, spoke strongly in court, and shone with the brilliance of the stars. The people adored the younger prince and knew he would grow to be a wise man someday, and they called him the Prince of the Stars.
Many years passed in that grand kingdom, the royal family and the people happy and thriving.
Then tragedy struck the kingdom, a terrible illness that took the life of the beloved queen. The king and his sons were grief stricken, and all the kingdom mourned with them. A dark shadow fell across the land, born of the king’s grief.
One day, as the king walked alone in the garden his late queen had made, he chanced upon a woman there playing a harp. The woman was dark and beautiful, a witch of terrible power who cast a spell upon the king. Lost to her magic, the king declared his love for her and soon made the witch his new queen, and the shadow over the kingdom darkened.
Eventually she bore him a son, but the birthing proved difficult and left the witch weak. As her power weakened, the spell on the king faded, and he saw the terrible deeds he had done under her spell.
The king ordered the witch put to death, and the people dragged her to the execution fields. But as she was tied to a stake and the fire built beneath her, the witch cast a curse—that the kingdom would never be warm again, but always cold. That it would never know happiness again, only bitterness. That one pure of heart and spirit could break the curse, but only if someone could be found who was able to see past the surface to the purity within.
When at last she died, the wind rose up and scattered the dead queen’s ashes, and wherever they fell, all that they touched was turned to ice and snow, and it spread until the once-beautiful kingdom was a land of eternal winter.
In the palace, the king and his sons worked to learn the secret of the curse and find a way to break it. But the years passed, and no solution was found.
Throughout, the witch’s son grew, and he was nothing like his glorious father and brothers. He was slight of figure and delicate of frame, with skin as white as snow, hair as black as ebony, and lips as red as blood. Like his mother, he excelled at magic, though his father forbade him ever to use it. Whenever he walked the halls, people whispered and recoiled. All feared him as the witch’s son, and they came to call him the Prince of the Dark.
So the years passed, and the kingdom suffered under the heavy weight of the witch’s curse, wondering in despair if they would ever be free of it.
Then, one day, a stranger appeared in the kingdom…
Solae looked up at the sound of singing, startled by the cheer in the singer’s voice. Marking his page, he closed the book he was reading and rose. Grimacing at his sore, stiff muscles, he walked slowly to his balcony and drew aside the heavy drapes that held back most of the cold. Pushing open the glass and wrought-iron doors, he stepped out onto the balcony and looked down at the courtyard far below.
A man was singing as he rode across the pavilion and up to the palace. Solae marveled again at how cheerful he sounded, as frozen and tired as he must have been; traveling through the kingdom was an arduous task for even his father and brothers.
Who was he? Why had he come? Solae wondered if getting answers to his questions was worth leaving the solace of his tower. His stomach growled then, reminding him he had not eaten all day. He still had hours of reading ahead of him, so he may as well go for food while he had paused and investigate the stranger.
Pulling up the hood of his cloak, shadowing his face, he left his tower and traveled slowly down the long and winding stairs. At the bottom, he nodded politely to the sentries in the hall, long-used to the way they ignored him. He continued through the halls of the palace, in no particular hurry to leave behind the largely empty south wing for the more heavily populated portions of the palace.
Since his mother had died, the south wing had been studiously avoided. It did not help his own reputation that he had chosen to take rooms there, but the solitude was a welcome change from the fear and loathing he endured everywhere else.
He drew a steadying breath and released it slowly as he left the south wing entirely. Reaching the main halls, he walked at an unhurried pace as he headed for the primary throne room where his father would be holding court and the visitor would be directed.
He could hear his father’s booming voice, the rumbles of Tolle, his eldest brother, the smoother tones of Kestra, his second brother. Bracing himself, he slipped in by way of a side door and stood along the wall beside the throne, just out of the way, hoping it would take some time for anyone to notice him.
His gaze fell first on his family—if he could call them that. Certainly they were his blood relations; however different he looked, they all shared the same dark blue eyes and the diamond-shaped birthmark on their shoulders. But Solae was born of the witch, not of she whom they now called the True Queen. He was not golden or bright, strong or beautiful. He was a witch, or should be, save his father had forbidden him the use of his talent.
No matter how hard he tried, he would never be invited into that circle of light, called ‘brother’ and ‘son’. Never be looked upon with love and respect by the rest of the court, never given a pretty title of admiration. He wondered, some days, why his father had bothered to let him live. Turning away from the sight of the family that was and yet was not his, Solae cast his gaze upon the stranger.
Something twisted, hard and sharp, in his chest. He could not stop staring. The stranger was… beautiful was not the word, nor was handsome. He was too rough, too scarred, to be either of those things. But he had the same draw as an open flame, tempting Solae to touch even as he knew it would burn him. He was like standing in the midst of a howling storm, a raging fury that could kill at any moment, but was impossible to resist.
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Megan is a long time resident of LGBTQ fiction, and keeps herself busy reading, writing, and publishing it. She is often accused of fluff and nonsense. When she’s not involved in writing, she likes to cook, harass her cats, or watch movies. She loves to hear from readers, and can be found all over the internet.