The Swan Maiden

Heather Tomlinson

Henry Holt and Co.

Her fingers plunged into the feathers. Soft and warm, the swan-skin offered a silent promise.

Change.

Did she dare?

Doucette crossed to the window, pushed aside the embroidered curtains, and stared out of the luxurious room that suddenly seemed a prison.

Over the years, Doucette had heard her father instruct her sisters’ escort. Like them, she could follow the sheep flocks to a lake in the mountains, then seek the lake’s eastern shore. The river Immeluse would lead her the rest of the way to her aunt’s castle, to a season of studying magic with Azelais and Cecilia. If she dared.

The wind kissed her cheek.

Doucette sat and took off her shoes. Her hose. Her gown, and the soft chemise underneath. Folding each item, she set it on the bed. The breeze gusted, stirring dried rose petals in a wooden bowl and raising tiny bumps along Doucette’s skin.

She took a deep breath and drew on the coat of feathers. Magic tingled the length of her body and down her spine. Her neck stretched, her legs shrank. Her skin exploded in feathers. The world spun around her as her vision took on a crystalline sharpness. The floor rose to meet her, then stopped with a jolt.

She was a swan.