“Come on, big brother,” Svadilfari teased. “We need you to prune the hawthorn and clean out the stables.”
“You know, we have normal, human staff for all that,” Pyry complained. He was sick to death of horse shit and hawthorn thorns.
“And we have a normal, human brother for that, too,” his younger sister Abasta pointed out. “Face it, Pie, no matter how much you wander around bothering the older fae, you’re never going to Change. You’re twenty-three. You’re Faded.”
“A genetic sport,” Svad offered. “A failure.”
“Thanks so much,” Pyry muttered. “I know the same stuff you guys do.” And some you never bothered to learn. “I know what a Faded is. And I know I’m Faded,” he grumbled. “But that’s no reason to treat me like a freaking servant.”
“What else are we going to treat you like?” Abasta asked sharply. “You can’t hunt with the fae. You can’t ride with the big boys.”
“Says the girl who never broke five feet,” he snapped. “‘Big’ in our family might mean fat – certainly does in Svad’s case – but that’s about it. And why the hell can’t I fight with the rest of you?”
“No magic,” Svad rumbled, clearly a little irritated by the “fat” comment. “No magic, no half-immortal. You’d squish in a minute.”
“And that’s my gods-damn-it choice,” he snapped.
“Look,” Abasta murmured, placatingly – Pyry might not have Changed, but he could still make everyone else unhappy when he was angry, “just take care of the bushes and the stables, all right, and I’ll talk to Mom about taking you out on a couple hunts. If you can hack it, we’ll bring you with us, okay?”
“I promise,” she muttered. “But only if you clean the stables.”
“Stables,” he grumbled. “Like we don’t hire someone to do this. Like we don’t hire thirty people to do this.” But Mom’s law was that the human members of the family – him, his mother’s brother, Abasta’s father and her sister – served the fae members. And if that wasn’t the way the Law likes it, well, the Law could bite off.
“Stables,” he repeated, getting more and more angry. If his mother hadn’t slept with the Faded, he might have had a chance of Changing. If she hadn’t isolated him through most of his teens, kept him away from all the fae, sent him to a human boarding school. She’d taken away every chance and now, and now…
A splitting headache drove him to his knees. No, no, he was not going to kneel in horse shit, he was not going to give Abasta and Svad something else to tease him about he was not…
“Holy shit, Pie… I mean… holy no shit at all. Damn, you’re never going to get out of stable duty now.” Abasta’s voice was almost reverent. Looking down, Pyry realized why. Every bit of the manure had transformed into clean, fresh hay; he was kneeling in it, surrounding in it, his horn dipping into it.
“Should’ve called you a failure years ago,” Svad muttered.