Fletcher's Sister

      "I always wished I had been born otherwise-- ugly, poor, infertile; then I might have had the life I wanted, the secret life that sings to me. My father valued me only for the political alliances he might gain from my marriage. How I hated him, before the war, after the war... the only difference is that after the war, everyone else hated him too.

      "After the war, after my mother died in it, he married Retsina; she was of good birth, and her father had been important before. It didn't matter to him that she had been ill-used by enemy soldiers, for she brought him what what he craved-- status. He banked on her bloodlines, banked on the son that she would bear him...

      "And that son was my brother, though perhaps in name only. I think his father was one of the rapists... though Retsina never spoke of it, not once, and both Father and she perpetrated the myth that Fletcher was their son, and only theirs.

      "Fletcher had just come of age when Father entered into marriage negotiations on my behalf with an ancient politician who had buried four wives over the course of his long career. But since he kept to the letter of his marriage contracts, it didn't matter to Father that this Bluebeard might be the death of me. It was then that I started to slowly poison Father, a little bit every night in his cup of tea. Fletcher beat me to the endgame, though.

      "Father was an Occupation toady, a peacemaker and a sell-out. He knew of the withdrawal ahead of time, and retired to his well-warded estate to wait out the aftermath-- to emerge in time as a wise counselor who would be embraced by the State for his service during the Occupation, perhaps given a high-status government position out of gratitude. That's a laugh. But he never got the chance to pull it off. Someone rode posthaste from the Capitol and killed him that very night. In the ensuing chaos of the withdrawal, no one asked how Father had died. I certainly never asked; at night I pray to that unknown assassin, and thank him in my heart."