Mercy had read enough fairy stories to know bargaining with a sorceress was a lousy plan. There weren’t enough fairytales to show her a better way. (She looked.)
The trouble with magic is that power has to come from somewhere. Bright magic creates power, but that’s difficult—and slow. Dark magic just takes it. Every night Mercy and her eleven sisters dance from midnight to dawn, their energies leached by a powerful Sorceress’s dark magic. If they don’t, the Sorceress will destroy one girl entirely, using up every spark of her soul.
The Sorceress wants to regain her rightful role: queen regnant, not mere consort. Twenty-five years ago, the kingdom chose her husband. Now that she’s strong enough, she intends to take the crown. If she has to obliterate every soul in the kingdom to do it, well, she can rule just as easily over hell.
No one seems to notice the girls’ struggle. In fact, with the kingdom (and their father) absorbed in a bitter war, no one seems to notice the girls at all.
The princesses are growing weaker. They may not survive the year’s dark contract. If they don’t, no one will be able to warn the king of the Sorceress’s plans—and no one will be able to stop her.
King Frederick christened the twelve for what he thought the kingdom needed most. Each is named for a different virtue, but their defining virtue has always been loyalty. Above all, the sisters stay together.
But to save her family and the kingdom, Mercy may have to leave her sisters behind.
“Amity,” he said when his youngest was born, and despite his wish for friendship (or, perhaps, because of it) was never seen to speak with the queen again. There would be no more daughters.