I am Melika, my journal tells me. Widow of Ovro. Mother of Chyra and Hulo, may Aehle warm their souls.

The same words sprawl across my bedroom wall. I wrote them there with charcoal. The journal and the wall tell me so. And they tell me more. My profession. A skeleton of my history. Instructions for separating one life from a thousand.

Every morning I read the words. Every morning I wish I had written more. But a life cannot fit on a wall, nor in a book. These road-markers are all I have. The rest will blur together.

The man calls himself Cosik. His legs tremble as he settles onto the windwood stool in my parlor. There are few things so odd as seeing a large man shake with fear.

“Will it hurt?” He lifts a meaty hand to his forehead and palms the sweat away.

“No. It is like a feather brushing behind your eyes.” I sit facing him, hardly two paces away. Close enough to read the hesitation written across his forehead, the desperation tightening the lines around his mouth.

“What do I do?”

“Take my hand.”

His fingers engulf mine, molasses over obsidian. My hand jumps and quivers along with his, but the contact is merely a distraction. A comfort.

“Push the memory to the front of your mind,” I tell him. “Think of it, and nothing else.”

Of course that will be impossible for him. The mind is a faulty sieve. I will take the memory he does not want, but more will bleed through. An impression of who he is, where he has been. Another hazy life among my thousand.

“And it will be gone?” His voice, I suspect, has climbed an octave higher than its usual pitch.

“Gone,” I confirm. “And aside from its loss, you will not change.”

His chin dips, then rises. “Do it, then. I’m ready.”

My eyes meet his and lock onto them. The room around us brightens to white and fades. Looking into him, I remember:

Bitter smoke in my lungs, soot coating my throat. Fire rolling in frenzied waves across the walls and floor. My foot quivering on the windowsill. Galver crouching by the altar, urging me to jump.

“I go when you go!” I yelled back. He was my brother in all but blood. I would not leave him.

Galver fumbled the prize from his satchel: three hundred gildings, bound in a drakeskin sack. Enough to make a new home ten cities away. Above the roar of the fire, he rasped four words. Four guttural croaks, closer to the coughs of a dying man than to any speech I knew. Yet each of them lifted the hairs on my arms, buzzed inside my ears. As soon as the last word left his mouth, the air rippled around the sack and spilled over it like water. A moment later, it was gone.

Galver sprinted toward me. Behind him, the door opened and two men stepped through. Before the warning could escape my lips, Galver’s throat opened and a quarrel’s head poked out. Silver clothed in red.

My legs did not wait. They swiveled me around and hurled me through the empty windowframe. The ground rushed up to meet me.

The moment Cosik leaves, I scribble the memory down in my journal, in the section devoted to other lives. The room in flames, the bag of gildings, Galver.

The other fragments I ignore. Sights and sounds and scenes marking the places where Cosik’s mind leaked into mine. The face of a child I know is his. The name of a woman he convinced himself that he loved. The route to his current hideout beneath the Koln Barrens, all unfurling behind my eyes like an unbound scroll.

I reach up to smooth my hair sideways over the bare spot on my scalp, then drop my hand with a curse. My hair has not yet begun to thin. The bare spot, and the constant need to cover it, are Cosik’s. Scant seconds in his head, and already my hands move as his do, my mind works as his does. Already I know him as no one else could. I have been him. The memory is a shortcut to his secrets. A door to his soul.

Crossing to the bedroom, I push the pieces of Cosik away. I recite my name, the names of my husband and children. Eyes closed, I let the most precious memories flicker through my head. The ones I know belong to me. Even the last one, the final glimpse of my family. I watch it unspool, with gritted teeth. It is painful, but it is mine.

Were there another with my Gift, I would burden her with that memory, as Cosik gave his last image of Galver to me. Then I could forget the final day, remember Ovro and Chyra and Hulo as they lived, not as they died.

But there are no others like me.

My charcoal clicks against the wall. Now Cosik’s memory grows dull around the edges. Galver’s face wavers. The four sorcerous words linger, sustained by the energy writhing within the syllables, but the rest begins to fade. Not enough that I lack the time to transcribe it. Merely enough for the details to blur.

A memory is like a pebble dropped into a pond. Clear at first, easy to discern, but dimmer as it sinks toward the bottom. Hard to distinguish from the murky water around it. And if it lands in a pile of a thousand more pebbles, how could you ever tell one from another?

The next morning, a tap at the door interrupts my recitation. May Aehle warm their souls, I finish silently, and peer through the spyhole. A woman stands outside, brown-haired and plain, clad in laborer’s leathers. Odd, to have two visitors in as many days. Briefly I consider turning her away or leaving the door shut, but I have never before refused someone my service, and I will not break that chain today.

“You are the Gifted?” she asks me when I have pulled the door open. The spyhole masked the raggedness of her clothing, the way it droops like a shroud over her skeletal frame. Stringy hair hangs in clumps before her face, not quite thick enough to hide the lines bunching the skin around her mouth, creeping out from the corners of her eyes. She cannot have seen more than thirty summers, yet she stoops as though each year has pressed her further toward the ground.

“Yes. Come inside.” I gesture toward the parlor and the stools within it. “You have something you wish to lose?”

She settles onto a stool and waits for the door to shut. “In truth, I came for something else.” Her eyes flick upward to meet mine. “You can take a memory from me. Can you give one to me instead?”

Easily. But each memory is my own to keep, my own to bear. I made that promise the day I began using my Gift.

“Whether I can does not matter,” I tell her, “for I will not.”

She lifts her fingers to her temples and kneads the skin, as if warding off an impending headache. “I hope you will reconsider. A man saw you yesterday. Big man, sixspan at the least. Would have called himself Medure or Cosik. He took something from me that was not his.”

The bag of gildings flickers into view behind my eyes, clutched in Galver’s fist.

“That is no business of mine,” I answer. “The constabulary is across Nhyl Square. They can help you far better than I.”

“You misunderstand. I am not looking to capture him. All I seek is what he stole.”

Recalling the scene, I know what she will ask for, but the words leave her mouth before I can object.

“If you have his memory,” she says, “you have the words he spoke. Three or four of them, in the Goddess’ Tongue. If I speak them, I can summon my belongings to me. But the words themselves are not enough. I need his tone, which exact notes his voice hits. I need to watch him utter the phrase.”

A soft desperation dwells in the lines across her forehead, pools in the dark patches below her eyes. It is wrong for someone so young to look so defeated.

“Madame Gifted,” she says, “what is your name?”


“Melika. My name is Caltha. I am a scribe for Kheprin. He runs a forge near the Hearthpit. You know of it?”

“Yes.” I have never been inside, nor met the man, but I go to the Hearthpit often enough to know the shops nearby.

“He is a fair man, but not a generous one. Pays the standard scribe’s wage. Never a gilding more, no matter the circumstances.” Her breath hitches as she draws it in. “When my husband died, the Lords gave me his wages for the rest of the year. Like a fool, I kept them together, in a drakeskin sack. You saw it, if he gave you the memory.”

Her eyes make the words a question. I nod in response.

“I have three children,” she says. “Nevel, and Nehana, and then the youngest, Caete. Named after the south star.” Her eyes flick toward the ceiling, as if she hopes to glimpse her daughter’s namesake between the clapwood boards. “It was well chosen. Her hair glows like firelight.”

Her expression brightens, and for a moment it is as though years are spilling off of her. Somehow she is less hunched, less curled into herself.

Then she lets out a breath, and the flicker of hope escapes with it. “Three children, and I cannot care for any of them without those gildings.” She punctuates the words with a forlorn curse. “Do you have children, Melika?”

It makes no difference, I should say. I cannot help you. But Hulo’s voice flits through my ears, and the ghost of Chyra’s hair tangles in my fingers, and the words die unspoken in my throat.

“I am sorry.” The words scramble from her mouth. “Please, forgive me. I should never have asked.”

She read the pain on my face, saw the answer in an instant. For years I have prided myself on my skill at holding secrets close, but this secret is too sharp. The tighter I grip it, the deeper it cuts.

She leans forward, meeting my gaze. Her eyes run the entire spectrum of blue: light at the edges, deepening seamlessly into the black of her pupils.

“I can see you know what it is like to lose your children. I do not. And I never want to.” Her hand reaches out, grips mine. “Please help me.”

I feel myself drawn to her, as if she has hooked invisible fingers behind my heart. My foot inches toward the stool, my mind clenching the memory in its grip, preparing to thrust it into her eyes and behind them.

By the time I lock my leg stiff and cast the thought away, her face hovers a finger’s width from mine. She smells of ink and old sweat. Her eyes widen in anticipation.

“I am sorry,” I tell her, and drop my gaze to the floor. “My clients use my Gift trusting that I will keep their memories to myself. I will not betray that trust.”

Guilt sloshes around the pit of my stomach. Chyra and Hulo stare up at me from the deck of the ship, an instant before—

No. I shove the image aside. This guilt has always clung like a parasite to my Gift. Countless times my vows have stopped me short of giving clients all that they need. I have always kept the vows anyway. Today will be no different.

I suck in a full breath to restore my peace. “If the fault was truly his, have a Constable hunt him down,” I tell her. “He will say these Goddess’ words and reclaim your gildings himself.”

“Please.” The word emerges as a whisper, yet the pain pressed into its single syllable pierces the air. “Is there something I can offer you? Anything—anything that would change your mind?” Her eyes dart in fevered circles, behind me, up to the ceiling, back to my face. “I can’t lose them,” she says. “Please.”

“I am sorry,” I tell her again, and wince. Each word is like a fishhook dragged up my throat, cutting as it rises. “I cannot.”

For a moment her eyes narrow to slits, and her tensed knees quiver with an energy born of desperation, like a cornered animal preparing to strike. But before I can react, her shoulders slump, and the energy drains away. She straightens her back and gives me a single nod. Without a word, she slips through the door, leaving it ajar behind her.

As I move to close it, my fingers tremble. I try vainly to will them still, then cross the floor to my bedroom. The door hangs open—I forgot to shut it before letting Caltha inside. She must have seen the words spanning the back wall, but I doubt her head was clear enough for her to take note of them.

Sitting on the corner of my bed, I take steady breaths and whisper the vows to myself again and again. For what feels like hours, my gaze traces the words on the wall. My fingers clench the smooth leather of the journal until their quivering subsides. But Caltha’s ice-blue eyes, sharp and desperate, linger in my mind. I cannot pry them free. And there, as I hunch elbows-to-knees on a tangle of blankets and bunched straw, the memory that I have kept submerged for so long rises to the pond’s surface and drags me under.

This I remember:

The press of bodies against my shoulders. The sour musk of days-old sweat. A chill so deep that I believed my bones themselves were blackening.

And the spray. Razor pinpricks soaking my clothes, stinging my skin.

Our edge of the galley lurched upward. A scream cut through the rage of the waves. Ovro, clutching my arm, flashed me a starved echo of his crook-lipped smile. The two of us were beyond screaming. Our fortune had been great enough to grant us passage out of Elhya before the Kolars breached the wall, but the lower decks had filled by the time we neared the docks. Now Hulo and Chyra sheltered beneath their father’s arms, eyes glazed over with hunger. To our left, a throng thicker than I had ever seen. Corpses, some of them. The old man beside me had not moved in a day. To our right, a waist-high wooden rail. Then a long drop over black water.

I remember Ovro’s grip softening, his fingers like embers, warming me.

The wave that took him hit the ship like a battering ram. My stomach dropped out, and when it returned, there was nothing but an ankle-deep puddle where they had stood.

A man behind me had grasped my wrist when the ship shook. His strength had kept me from following Ovro and Chyra and Hulo into the sea.

I cursed him for his grip. For his goodwill. For thinking, like a fool, that he had saved me.

I am Melika. Widow of Ovro. Mother of Chyra and Hulo, may Aehle warm their souls.

After finishing the recitation, I slip my thickest cloak around my shoulders and leave the house. The journal rests in a pouch at my waist. I cannot keep it at home, lest I stack all of my drywood in one pile.

The market sprawls a scant hundred yards away, but my steps falter in the grip of the wind. It claws at my face and mires my feet in the snow. By the time the market doors thud shut behind me, my fingers are numb, my lips tingling. For a moment I can do nothing but stand and watch the market stretch into the distance. In many ways it is a city all its own, with booths stacked atop each other like a child’s blocks and alleys etched tight in between them. The musk of the butchers’ stalls hangs in the air, tempered by the richness of fresh bread and the tang of coriander. In the center lies the Hearthpit, the fire that warms the endless chamber. It smolders like a restless beast, orange claws reaching above its grate at the air, black breath coiling up to the ceiling, where six great chimneys release it into the sky.

Once the life bleeds back into my legs, I start for Egart’s booth, fishing enough gildings out of my cloak to pay for three loaves of bread. A Constable stands a few paces away, leathers crisp and smooth, gaze flickering across the crowd. The sight of him jars something loose in my mind. Something that had been trapped, pushed to the side.

She could go to the Constables, I reminded her more than once, but she said...

No. She never gave an answer. She moved the conversation down a different path. And I never asked why she could not seek the Constables’ aid. I was too focused on my own guilt—

Not just my guilt. Her eyes, written in my mind like the sorcerous words that Galver spoke. Ice-chip blue, darkening into a blackness so deep I barely pulled myself out. I never asked how she knew Cosik’s name, or how she had learned that Galver used sorcery to hide the gildings.

She has a Gift. One like mine, except it twists minds rather than taking memories from them. Rare, but not unheard of. Used most often by thieves and confidence men. She avoided the subject of the Constables because the gildings were never hers to claim, or because she has some other reason to elude the Lords’ notice. Even if she was not lying about her children, she left out far more truths than she told.

Terror shoots through me, cold and jagged as the wind outside. Suddenly my feet are too heavy to lift. I stop dead in the middle of the path, earning a curse from the man behind me. I came within a half-breath of giving her everything she sought. Cosik’s weaknesses, his flaws, his home, his family—

Someone jostles my hip. By reflex, I pat the pouch that holds my journal.

My fingers hit empty cloth.

The wind roars in my ears again, though I am inside. A new numbness fills me, one that owes nothing to the cold.

A child darts through the crowd near Egart’s booth. Is he holding something thin and leathery in his hand, or am I simply willing it there? Before I can step toward him, he vanishes into an alley.

A curse from decades ago spills out of my mouth. The Constable stands against the wall a mere pace ahead, impassive, gaze fixed ahead. What would I tell him? How could he help me? The child is gone now, whether or not he is at fault.

Caltha swims into my head, her eyes flicking down to my journal. Is there something I can offer you?

The wind fought me on my way to the market, but it helps me home. Its freezing pressure settles across my back like a guiding hand as my feet pound the snow. Silently I scream the recitation. I am Melika. Widow of Ovro. Mother of Chyra and Hulo, may Aehle warm their souls. And Ovro is the small man with the crooked smile. The healer. Not the grim-faced soldier who laughed like flowing honey, or the wiry young man who shaped tallow into candles. I am almost certain of it. Chyra had frizzy golden hair and loved to climb. Hulo...

Two images drift to the surface. Baby boys, but different. One with high cheekbones bridged by a constant smile, the other slender and sanguine, with one chubby arm that would not move. I see slivers of two lives, track traces of two different infants, two different children. Which of them is Hulo? Which is my son?

Leaving the door open, I race to the back of the house.

The wall stands empty. Scoured clean with acid, judging from the pale yellow streaks.

I am on my side, with no memory of falling. My chest aches as though someone hit me there. My throat squeezes tight, and I fight for each breath.

Staring blankly at the wall, I see a handful of words looping across the bottom. I read them sideways.

Noon tomorrow. The Hearthpit. The memory for the journal. Come alone.

I am Melika. And that is all, now. I have nothing more to recite. I remember their names, but it is hard to tell them from the hundreds of other husbands, the countless children.

My grandfather—I believe he was my grandfather—said that our memories make us who we are. I hope that he was wrong, for if he spoke the truth, then I am no one.

For the past hour I have sat on my bed with my knees tucked to my chin. First I considered the Constables, but they have nothing to offer me. The Lords whom they serve care only for themselves. Were I killed, and thus unable to siphon their unwanted memories, they would tear the city apart in anger. But the theft of my journal will not stop me from serving them, so they will give my past no more attention than any other lost belonging. And I cannot ask a Constable to accompany me tomorrow. They know how not to be seen, but one mistake and Caltha will disappear, and my journal along with her.

As she says, then. The memory for the journal. A small price to pay to have my life returned to me. I will let her stare for a few seconds out of a thief’s eyes.

The instant the thought enters my mind, sickness clenches my guts like a fist. The mind, as I have said, is a faulty sieve. Caltha will know him as I did, from his thinning hair to his underground safehouse to the feel of his infant son in his arms. She will know him as he knows himself. I cannot give her a few seconds of his life without giving her his soul.

The path to the Shards lies buried beneath an ocean of snow. But I know the way.

The wind taunts me. Howls in my ears, throws its weight against each step. I no longer feel it. There is a numbness in me deeper than anything it can inflict.

The slope seems steeper with each step, the ice slicker, my destination farther away. The city runs together below me, white streets and brown timbers infected with looping veins of black smoke. The founders placed the Shards on this hill to keep them apart from the living, but from here it is the city that looks dead.

I hear the Shards before I see them. A high, glassy tone, cutting through the fog like a wind chime struck a mile away. Then, beneath it, a low echo, identical in pitch but haunted with a pulsing resonance. Out of tune. Wrong. It sends a quiet horror skittering up my spine. Like seeing your reflection in a mirror but noticing that its eyes are a different shade.

A sudden gust wipes the fog clear, and the Shards litter the hilltop before me. Crystal spirals wind to the height of my chin, each of them a monument to someone who has died. Each infused with a final glimpse of its subject—the image of their face, the sound of their voice, the smell of their skin. Each is a different color, from wispy pink to the deepest black. And the colors pool together in blots as I walk toward them, leaving patches of bare chalky white.

There is no need for markers. My feet lead me to Ovro’s Shard in seconds. Its edges are warm to the touch and smooth as churned butter. The spiral curls up into an oblong globe the size of a head, but there are no features, no hair or jawline. Just a smooth stretch of crystal. It glows a deep amber. The color of his eyes, I know, though the shape of his face, and which face it was, grows less clear each passing minute.

“Show yourself,” I whisper, and press my hand to a spot halfway down the spiral. It is not cold crystal I feel but the skin of his palm, warm and rough with calluses. The Shard’s surface roils and ripples, and then his fingers reach out and intertwine with mine. If I stop myself from looking down, I can persuade myself for a moment that they are real, skin and bone and blood, rather than a set of crystal protrusions jutting out from the Shard. This is what he chose to leave of himself, what he wanted inscribed in his resting place. Not his face, but the feel of our hands together.

My fingers squeeze tighter, and a moment later I am sagging against the Shard, cheek pressing against the blank amber curve where his head should be. “Let me see you.” The words are more than a thought but less than a whisper. The motion of numb lips against freezing crystal. My eyes shut, and I focus on the warmth of his hand against mine, trying to track that feeling, follow it back to the rest of him.

An image flits through my head, and I clamp down on it until it stops wriggling and lies still. He is crouching outside the wall of a shed, one hand gripping the rim of a broken carriage wheel, the other reaching toward a pile of nails thicker than my finger. He must have heard me approach. His head has just begun to turn in my direction, and even though his mouth is still bunched into a frown of concentration, I can see the grin in his amber eyes, frozen before it can spread to his lips.

It is as if a vise has loosened around my chest. Suddenly I can breathe again. I know this man. I know exactly how the impending grin will look. The way his left cheek lifts higher than his right. The pair of chipped teeth left over from a childhood fight. I have seen that grin a thousand times.

“There you are,” I whisper, and smile so wide that my frost-dried lips crack in a dozen places. For another few moments I study his face, tracing the line of his jaw, the faint wrinkles etched across his forehead. Then I turn to the rest of the scene, drinking in the details, trying to trap the moment like a firefly in a bottle. The dip in the roof where a timber has snapped. The sprig of ivy wending its way up the wall. My own arm braced against the doorjamb, thin-wristed and pale as milk—

No. No, I must have remembered it wrong. Or perhaps it was a trick of the light, sunbeams strained through a filter of colored leaves. But I cut down each excuse the instant it crops up.

The arm is pale where my own is dark. It is not mine. The woman is not me. And this man is not my husband. Another frantic instant of tearing through memories, clutching at his fingers, brings me nothing. I do not know who my husband was.

When my fist hits Ovro’s outstretched fingers, chips of amber spray into the air like blood from a slit artery. I lash out again. The thumb breaks free and clinks off the side of another Shard before settling somewhere in the snow. Pain cuts deep into my hand, and the wind snatches the scream as soon as it leaves my mouth, but I do not stop until the last finger snaps off. Five jagged nubs poke out from the Shard’s surface. Guilt lances into me, but I shove it away. What use were his fingers? The feel of our hands together means nothing if I do not know whose hand I am holding.

When I stand, blood drips from my hand onto the base of the spiral, marring the amber with red splotches. I had prayed that the Shard would let me see him. I had prayed that it would save me from Caltha’s bargain. But it has hidden my husband from me. It is no better than Caltha, no better than my own mind.

The Hearthpit groans and crackles as I approach. Flames grasp at hunks of skewered meat turning above the grates. Families huddle along the edge, hands held above the fire. As if they can store enough heat in their fingers to keep them warm through tomorrow.

Caltha stands in a clear spot an arm’s length from the edge. Alone, it seems, but what else is she hiding from me? How many of the men warming their hands behind her are also searching the crowd for Constables, tracking me as I close the distance?

“You came.” Shadows still pool in the hollows of her cheeks. Her hair still hangs around her face like dirty string. But the trapped-animal tension has slunk back into her, and it lingers now, adding a hunch to her shoulders and a deadly glint to her eyes.

Those eyes. This time I must remember not to look into them.

“I will have the memory now,” Caltha says. Despite the desperation written in the lines of her face, her voice is smooth, confident.

“Was any of it true?” I ask her.

“I need those gildings. That was true. The rest...” She shrugs one shoulder.

My fingers should be curling into fists. Another fire should be igniting in my head. She cheated me, stole my entire life. But I am too tired to hate her. “Show me the journal,” I say.

“Well enough.” Her hand dips into a pocket and emerges with it. Yellow pages clasped between flaps of brown leather, rumpled at the bottom from wine spilled a decade ago. My heart surges. My legs burn to push me forward. My fingers anticipate the creases in the cover, the feathery smoothness of the next blank page.

Rooting my legs in place is like swimming against a flood. But I keep myself still, keep my arms at my sides. “Let me hold it.”

“The memory first.”

“No. I need to be sure it is mine.”

The decision plays out across her face. Wrinkles of suspicion above her eyebrows. A lightning-quick glance to the side, confirming that her men stand ready. The ghost of a smile tugging at her lips, revealing the gleaming white tips of her teeth as she assures herself I cannot get away.

She extends the journal to me. “Touch it, but leave it closed. That will have to be enough.”

If I let my hands linger on it, I know I will lose my strength. So I keep the touch brief, no longer than the flick of a wrist. The grates of the Hearthpit are narrow enough to stop a child from falling through, but the journal slips between them easily. A belch of smoke bubbles up in its place.

Caltha’s hands cross half the distance to my throat, then jerk to a stop like chained dogs. A death or kidnapping here will hardly go unseen, and the Lords will hunt her to the end of the earth to avenge their loss.

Rage paints red blotches across her cheeks. Her eyes widen again, enticing me down their ice-blue slopes into the lightless pits at the center. But I am already turning away.

This I remember:

Twin ruts, thick with mud, etched into the narrow road. A lamb bleating from within one of them, its front left leg jutting sideways at a sickening angle. The other girls standing beside me upslope, all of us in glimmering spinesilk, awaiting the carriage that would take us into the city.

Horse-thunder rumbled from around the hill. Too fast to be the ferry horses. A messenger, perhaps, or a nobleman late for an appointment.

I did not know I was going to do it until I was halfway down the hill. My friends’ shouts bounced off of me like slingstones from a knight’s breastplate. My drake’s-hair slippers slid off easily, and I plunged my foot into the rut. Mud squelched and splattered up my calf. Some part of me cried out as brown glops dotted the hem of my dress, but I kept that part silent. My arms circled the lamb’s body, and I tugged upward. Hoofbeats filled my head. A noble, I knew, would halt for me no more than for a lamb.

With a wet pop, the lamb’s body came free. The sudden lack of resistance sent me stumbling to my knees. Cold sludge splashed my shoulders, my face. I scrambled up the slope, dragging the lamb after me. I heard the horses pass but did not see.

When the blur left my eyes, what I saw was a small man with tightly curled black hair standing in front of me. The puzzlemaker’s son. For two winters he had tried to court me, though I had given him no reason to persist.

He extended his hand to me, pulled me up. His smile made his eyes glitter.

“How could you want me?” I asked him, a tremor in my voice. “Even now, like this.”

His eyes never left my face. His hand motioned toward the whining lamb at my feet, toward the rut, which now bore a knee-deep hole where I had fallen.

“All of that,” he said, “to save an animal you care nothing about. How could I not love you?”

I was wrong before. My grandfather’s words, if true, do not mean that I am no one. They mean that I can be anyone. I have a thousand lives from which to choose myself.

I am not sure whether that last memory is mine. Her arms seem as slender as my own, her skin as dark, though perhaps I am mixing pebbles. But whether or not Ovro was that small man with the glittering eyes, I hope that is why he loved me.

Let this be how I am measured, then.

I am Melika. She who will not sell another’s soul.

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John Wheeler is a law student and a graduate of the Alpha Science Fiction and Fantasy Workshop for Young Writers. When he’s not writing fantasy stories or studying 19th Century court cases, he spends his time rock climbing and playing trumpet and guitar. He enjoys short, to-the-point walks on the beach.

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