In the beginning they had despised her, the cloistered academic wizards who took her in when she had thrown everything away that had been given her for love - or what her seventeen-year-old self had known as love, at any rate. She had ridden from the city with naught but the clothes her mother had made for her and her dancing shoes.
Such pride, she had then, not to stay where Clovis and his bride stared haughtily from every banner, every tawdry, screen-printed souvenir of the Royal marriage. The ballads said that she had thrown his clothes in the fountain - and so she had - but she had also stripped the apartments he gave her and given the contents to any passer-by who cared to cart them away. She had left the rooms open to the street, bare of all but the carpets. Even those had probably been prised up before Clovis left his honeymoon to discover what she had done. She wouldn't know. By then she had been at the Citadel, swearing their vows.
She had thought that he loved her. He had been so handsome, shining like sunlight, his every move graceful and powerful as only a man trained from childhood to rule can be. By day she had danced for him, laughed with him and by night he had sworn promises into her skin that she had believed.
It had not been enough.
She had thought - she could barely imagine how young she must have been to think it - that he would stand at the Cathedral altar and discover that he could not marry when his heart lay elsewhere. She had waited with beating heart in her rooms until the bells rang solemn and pitiless across the city to say that he had taken his vows, and then she had emptied the contents of his cupboards into a silken sheet - weeping, cursing like a madwoman - and thrown them into her carriage, only to hurl them into the fountain before the Cathedral as he exited with his new bride.
The bride had stared at her with wide brown eyes as Clovis shepherded her - without a look at the girl he had lived with for nigh on two years - into their gold-encrusted enclosed carriage with the royal insignia picked out in scarlet on the doors. The memory of those soft brown eyes remained with Minhyrdin still. Until then she had not quite realised that Nerri of Trusand was a real girl too, another victim caught in the snares that men wove in their careless dominion of the world.
It had been the memory of those brown eyes that had brought her Rosie, the last and dearest of her rescued children. The bride's eyes upon her wedding day had told of a life filled with privilege bought at the cost of total powerlessness. Nerri's eyes had closed in upon themselves, had ceased to hope, although she peered out at the wild dancer with a wistful joy that such freedom could exist for others.
When they first met, Rosie's eyes had held the beginnings of that look, even as young as she had been - but she was still fierce, still pecking at the cage that held her, her magic and her rebellious spirit strong and clear to Minhyrdin despite the rich, stiff clothing that the child wore and the heavy hand of her mother upon her shoulder.
Minhyrdin had felt the rage well up in her as strong as it had been on the day she left Angelshand. This caged spirit would be offered the choice. She would make sure of it.
The day Minhyrdin left Angelshand the streets had been filled with bright bunting, the bells had rung across the city, across the countryside; her lover and his bride had wed in a panoply of jewels and tissue of gold - and she had known what she must do.
If she had thought that her beauty and that strange power she wielded over men not only because of her beauty but for the quality they called 'wild' - her passionate love of life, her dancing and joy - was enough, she now knew that it was not. That power was ceded to her only by the grace of the men who surrounded her, as fragile and fleeting as a declaration of love, and as meaningless.
The magic which flowed through her veins, unused and disregarded, was different. She had never needed it until now. Everything she wanted or needed had come to her with a peal of laughter and the tilt of a creamy bare shoulder.
But that power had shifted underneath her, sand washing away where she had thought to build on rock. Now she sought something that would belong to her alone, elemental and inalienable. No man could deny her this: it was her right as a wizard to take the vows and from the moment she did she had a place which could not be taken from her. All she had to do was renounce the tawdry world from which she had come.
She knelt before the wizards and took their vows with all the passion that was within her, renouncing the world for its failures, turning her gaze to the knowledge that beckoned her hungry, underfed mind.
And they had despised her. They could not deny her or her magic, but few indeed were the wizards who looked and saw Minhydrin the Fair as more than a pretty body, and enticing face.
Those who did, though - ah, they were worth it all. And the magic itself, that was better than anything (except perhaps dancing). For the sake of the magic she had laboured over dense-packed texts (she, who had been hardly literate when she made her vows), finding her reward in the way the power rose in her like music, how it shaped itself under her labour into a tool that could pierce the universe.
Here, at the end of her life, with the Citadel as close to falling as it ever had been since Chelladin's day, she regretted nothing - not even Clovis. With older eyes she saw how young he had been, how few his own choices.
Her choices had brought her here to die at last, her successor - the boy thought he had troubles now: hah! - holding a tsaeati for the kill while she drew every skerrick of her power into doing what must be done.
It would be enough. It had to be enough: for Rosie, for the boy, for the heritage which would soon rest upon the boy's shoulders.