Title: HARPER'S STONE
Genre: YA fantasy
Name: Tricia J. O'Brien
First page below:
The blue marble floor stretched before Fiona like creaking ice in a frozen river. She was ordered to attend the King's Gathering. To herself, she called it the King's Harvest, his right to pluck sixteen-year-old maidens from their families and place them where he pleased.
She was accompanied by her only relative, Great Aunt Celia. Several noble families were in front of them, and Fiona thought the girls' stiff smiles meant they were as frightened as she. The king could marry them to any of his allies; some old, some cruel.
Great Aunt Celia, who rarely left her fireside chair anymore, clutched Fiona's elbow tightly. The opulence of the royal hall felt oppressive as they moved toward the velvet-draped dais upon which King Cadric and his new bride sat in gilded chairs.
To ease her anxiety, Fiona studied a porcelain vase on a side table. It must come from the far realms, brought by sailed-ship and wagon, tucked in straw to keep it safe. The twining vines and flowers were unknown to Fiona. She tried to hear the plant's song even though it was painted, not real. Softly, she hummed a possible melody.
Great Aunt Celia's fingers bit into Fiona's arm like teeth. "Stop at once!" she hissed.
Fiona stifled the notes and glanced around. Her aunt forbade her to sing or play her most prized possession, a small harp, for others, but no one could have heard her humming. They all were focused on the king as he conversed with an unfamiliar girl who didn't live in the castle as Fiona did.