I felt her fear before I heard her screams.

Her nightmare pulsed into me, shaking me out of my own dream, which had something to do with Orlando Bloom and a roller coaster—

Sound familiar?

These dreams are a semi-frequent occurrence for me.

I'm not a spirit user, in case that's your first thought. It's okay, Mom suspected I would be too. I'm very perceptive. But I was an early bloomer, so by the time I was fourteen and a half any suspicion of me inheriting my dad's element were shattered. I was never much good in fire anyway, and my earth control was dreadful. Even before I specialized, I knew I was an air user.

The dream I just woke up from was met with a reality of a thunderstorm, something that annoys most teenagers who are trying to sleep at 2 A.M. but calms me. The rain pelted the window with its rhythm, thunder rolling its heavy bass drums like the lullaby of a sky god. Storms are my favorite things to paint.

I slid my small feet out in front of me, towards the window, watching the lightning echo on my white legs. I put on slippers, and then snuck downstairs to get my painting supplies.

"Sophie? Is that you?" My dad appeared at the top of the stairs, in pajamas but looking awake.

"Yeah," I called, "I had another dream."

He padded down the stairwell, mindful of the cream carpet. "Auntlis left an hour ago with Rose."

'Auntlis' was a family nickname. Apparently, when I was a baby, I couldn't say 'Aunt Vasilisa' or 'Queen Vasilisa'. So that I wouldn't be confused between formal events and family gatherings, she was Aunty Lissa when she came over and Your Majesty in public. Naturally, I baby-talk botched both, but only the family nickname stuck. Rose was Guardian Hathaway, who would later explain my dream; the memory I'd picked up.

"They were teenagers, I think. You weren't in it."

Dad nodded. When I was younger, I would pretend the dreams were more frequent. I would pretend I was magical, a hero-in-training, with special powers and psychic visions and I was dangerously important. That was when mom thought I would be a spirit user. I'm not, it turns out, the dreams are just a side-effect of having a spirit-user father and frequent visits from a spirit-user family friend. The magic they experiment with left traces all over the house for my developing child brain to pick up on. The dreams don't make me anything special. If I'm going to be special, it will be because of what I do, not what I have. And I do have some pretty nice things.

Mom isn't royal, but dad comes from old money even though he doesn't work. I'm going to be an artist, which is not a real job but with politicking, it gives me flexible hours and will more than cover whatever costs I live on. Nice things are a lot more than money, though. For starters, my dad: All I have to do is say I'm Adrian Ivashkov's daughter, and the reactions tumble like a sea. He's a spirit user, close to the queen, and the grand-nephew of the last queen before Queen Vasilisa, and he had a famous affair with Guardian Hathaway when they were young. He wasn't into politics, but he didn't have to be. His word is surrounded by power.

Then there's Mom. Born Mia Rinaldi, she was the daughter of court janitors. But she didn't come by my dad by some tacky affair in a broom closet, oh no. They met in an underground reform group of Moroi who taught and practiced magical combat. Dad was thrown in with them a lot because of Auntlis and Uncle Christian, or Lord Ozera. Mom was one of the founders and top fighters. And when I say she was a founder, we're talking about a non-royal nobody girl who used water magic to help kill a Strigoi when she was sixteen. If I ever get to be as cool as Mom, I'm going to kick royal ass.

"Don't be too tired for the morning," Dad said. I nodded. In a few hours, I would be boarding the train to take me back to St. Vladimir's Academy, where I would be starting my junior year of high school.