The guards grabbed me by the arms and yanked me to my feet. Once I was standing, they continued to
grip, as if I might try to run away.
I’m not surprised,” Lena said, turning up her nose at me. “It was only a matter of time before this one
started some trouble.”
I struggled to maintain my calm. “She wished harm onto my daughter.”
Kirsten rolled her eyes. “Please. No one believes that. I am of the highest breeding. My word carries so
much more weight than yours, or that of your spawn.”
“Save your excuses for the head of the royal guard.” Lena cut me off. “He’ll be the one deciding a
punishment that will fit this show of disrespect.”
The head of the royal guard? Not the King or Queen or the princes?
Lena must have seen the confusion on my face. “Arguments between candidates are too trivial to
bother the royal family about. These matters can be handled by the palace staff.”
A knot began forming in my stomach. What punishment could the head of the royal guard dish out?
I wasn’t likely to be ejected from the competition without the royal family’s consent. As a publicity stunt,
it wouldn’t look good to drop me flat before the first elimination. But expulsion wasn’t all they could do to
They could move us to a smaller, windowless room. Or take away some of my freedom of movement through the grounds. Perhaps, they would want me to perform physical labor.
All of those potential punishments I could handle. None of them were what made me feel sick.
My deepest fear was that they would take away Elva’s medical care.
That fear alone kept me silent and complacent, as Kirsten laughed in my face.
“Aw, were you hoping Prince Nicholas would save you again? You should know by now, Piper, that you
are the lowest of the low. You don’t deserve to breathe the same air as the prince, let alone speak to him.”
“Prince Nicholas chooses whom he can speak to,” I said, daring a soft retort.
To imply that Nicholas would not speak to anyone common was a slight he didn’t deserve. His issues
with me had been regarding our shared past, not because of my upbringing.
Kirsten’s smile tightened. Her eyebrow twitched, revealing the truth of her barely–hidden annoyance.
“Prince Nicholas only talks to you because he is a good person and he feels bad for you. You can’t
honestly think you actually have a chance in this competition? Someone like you?”
I had no misconceptions about my place here. I knew I was allowed to stay simply to improve the
reputation of the royal family among the common people.
Yet Kirsten’s blatant dismissal of someone like me had me lifting my chin in defiance.
Seeing that she was not breaking me, Kirsten’s smile wavered, and her anger grew.
“You will never be Luna, Piper. You are weak and pathetic. You don’t even have a wolf! How could a Luna not have a wolf? Outrageous.”
not necessarily need a wolf to be Luna,” Lena corrected. “However, what she does need is a
certain poise and respectful demeanor. Neither of which she possesses.”
Lena had a strange sense of decorum, to think Kirsten a paragon of virtue and me significantly less so..
I should have continued to hold my tongue, but the injustice of it all had my blood boiling. What had !
ever done to deserve such bullying?
It wasn’t as easy to defend myself as it had been to defend Elva, but for Elva’s sake, as well as my own, I
had to try
“Prince Nicholas will see through you soon enough,” I said to Kirsten. “You stole credit for that
handmade gift, but how long will that goodwill last? Eventually, you will reveal your true self.”
1 stole nothing, you oh. Oh, I see.”