From Chapter 4, “Contradiction”
The full import of it all was finally sinking in. There was a man in her tower. She knew next to nothing about him. He was the king’s son – maybe – and he was worried about his sick brother – maybe – and now he had been unfairly exiled – probably. And here he stood, a stranger, an intruder. A man. His breathing was still a little fast; his eyes roved all over the place, one unsteady hand clutching his wounded arm. He was tall, his shoulders broader than her own or Mother’s. Zellie had no one else to compare him to. All she knew for sure was his differentness. Maybe that was why she couldn’t stop staring.
“It’s so…so ordinary,” he murmured.
Zellie tilted her head. “What do you mean?”
“A bed, cabinets, even an ordinary old washbasin.” He shook his head. “Isn’t there a secret room somewhere with…I don’t know, skulls hanging from the ceiling and shelves holding arcane items of power…cauldrons with secret potions brewing, the air full of incense?”
“What in the world would I do with hanging skulls?”
“Magic…things,” Gareth said lamely, turning to face her. He blinked. “Oh. You’re…very young.”
Zellie was miffed. “I’m nearly twenty-two.”
“No, I didn’t mean any insult. I couldn’t tell from the ground – I assumed you were –”
“A hideous crone?” Zellie asked with raised eyebrows.
“Older.” He shrugged. “Maybe the stories my father spreads about illicit magic have influenced me more than I thought.”
“Clearly.” Zellie sighed. “As I tried to explain before, I have no abilities with magic. That’s my mother’s work. And even though I’ve never asked her, I can’t imagine that she has skulls hanging from her own ceiling.”