In a world where seventh born sons are valued for their strength and power, she is born a daughter.
Zezilia Ilar is the disappointment. Born after six brothers, she was supposed to be the son to restore her family’s prestige. She intends to remedy her shortcomings by being a dutiful daughter, marrying well and producing children, preferably a set of seven sons. But when someone offers her an alternative, she begins to dream of more.
In a society that worships a goddess, he follows the Almighty.
Hadrian Aleron, as a seventh son of a seventh son, stands to take up the second highest position in government, Sept Son. His main qualification for office is his birth. Despite preparing for this role from childhood, he does not desire what is to come. As a follower of the Almighty, he knows he will be the target of many, and his faith might eventually lead to death.
Rachel Rossano lives with her husband and three children in the northeastern part of the United States. Homeschooled through high school, she began writing her early teens. She didn’t become serious about pursuing a career as an author until after she had graduated from college and happily married. Then the children came.
Now she spends her days being a wife, mother, teacher, and household manager. Her evenings and free moments are devoted to her other loves, writing and book cover design. Drawing on a lifelong fascination with reading and history, she spends hours creating historical feeling fantasy worlds and populating them with characters who live and breathe on the page.
Afternoon sun beat down on our heads as we rolled over the last mile. I didn’t mind because my attention was completely enthralled with the beautiful land that unfolded in all directions. Green grasses and trees crowded like little islands of chaos among the great fields filled with long orderly rows of vegetables and grain. Occasionally the plowed ground gave way to meadows full of cows and horses grazing peacefully.
“Turn in at the next road,” Errol instructed.
The next turn led down a narrow track thick with grass between the wheel ruts. It looked recently used, but only after many years of neglect. The road sloped downwards into the shadowed arch between straight trees.
“Ah, the girls must be here already,” Adreet commented as she fidgeted with her hat and then gathered up her stitching. I leaned forward to see around the driver. The ancient trees lined the trail, spreading their thick green canopy over us. I didn’t recognize the species, but I knew instantly that I was going to love them.
“I am glad they got here first,” Adreet said as she tucked the last of her thread away in the simple bag at her feet. “That means that the maidservants have been able to begin working on the cleaning.”
“I only hope Delmar came too. I am not looking forward to all the tending that these lands are going to need.” Errol frowned at the underbrush crowding the cart.
“Candra will help you.”
“I know, but the task is beginning to look a bit daunting,” Errol replied eyeing the appearing cottage with suspicion.
I found myself disagreeing with him rather strongly. The cottage looked perfect to me. Ivy and what I guessed was a flowering vine rioted up the walls on either side of the double main door. The peeling stones were sturdy looking despite their need of a whitewash. The windows appeared watertight with sturdy shutters for the storm season. Nestled in a bed of wild flowers and brush, I thought the entire setting quaint and refreshing after the cool pomp of the High King’s palazzo. I turned to tell Errol so, when suddenly my eyes fell upon the most beautiful sight.
A great willow, ancient by the height of its stature, stood to the left of the house. Branches and long tresses of leaves stirred slightly in the breeze and my memories of the afternoon in the High King’s garden rose to the surface.
“Are there more willows like that one?” I asked.
Errol looked up at the great tree and then turned to smile at me. “A great many more, child. This property is what they call a willow farm. The High King’s willow trees came from here as seedlings years ago. There are willow trees all over the property. Now it is more devoted to vegetables and a great pond area to the west full to overflowing with pussywillows and rushes. I am sure Adreet will have you busily harvesting some of both as soon as she has the household under control. Won’t you, dear?” he asked as the wagon stopped before the front door.
Whatever Adreet was going to say in response was drowned out by a sudden clashing of raised voices from within the house. The doors burst open and a girl of perhaps eleven came running out, red hair streaming behind her and hand clutching something. Upon seeing us, she swiftly whisked the object behind her back and plastered an innocent look on her face.
“That is my comb,” a second child yelled as she ran from the house. She was older than the red head. Half of her rich auburn hair fell down her back while the other half was pinned up nicely. “Mother, please tell Candra to give me back the comb. I am in the middle of putting up my hair.”
“You are too young to be doing your hair that way,” a third girl protested in a tone of supreme knowledge. “Besides the combs are mine and you did not ask to play with them.” Unlike her sisters, she moved with a dignified grace. I knew immediately that this was Galatea, the one prone to posing. Not just because she looked to be my age, but because I could see why she would be slightly vain. She was everything I wished to be, slender, but filling out into womanhood, with a classically beautiful face and obviously gorgeous hair that stayed perfectly in place.
I was thin. My curly hair never stayed in place and in humidity, it frizzed. My face wasn’t ugly, but it was dominated by my nose which was slightly too long for the accepted concept of beauty.
“But you told me I could borrow them yesterday,” Eloine protested.
“This isn’t yesterday,” Galatea pointed out.
“But I didn’t want to use them yesterday. I want to use them today.”
“Girls,” Adreet interjected. Her mellow voice cut through the exchange. All three girls turned to look at their mother, who was getting down from the wagon. “Eloine and Candra, give the combs to your sister.”
“But mother…” Eloine began. Candra, however, walked over to her oldest sister and presented her with a sweaty comb.
Adreet turned and simply raised a hand. Eloine’s mouth shut. “I said give your sister her comb, El. I want no discussion.”
With visible reluctance, Eloine removed the comb from her hair and handed it over to Galatea.