That's not to say that when I snatched you from the fireplace or the ovens, that I didn't know that you were part fire yourself, as fey and as elemental as I am. There's not an icewoman alive who can't recognize one of the fire folk, even a half-grown half-human like you were. All those pretty lies I told, about pulling you from the fire for your own good, trying to keep what I thought was a human child safe? Well, they were just that – lies.
You'll learn to tell them too, if you haven't already – I've never been sure how much you believe the things you prattle to the paparazzi hanging around your new palace. Surely the little girl who screamed at me for taking her from the flames, who told me the burns on my hands served me right, still lives somewhere inside the young woman who speaks of a slightly misguided but caring stepmother? Surely you cannot have believed that I thought you human, you who lit candles with a glance and sizzled in the rain? Perhaps you don't remember how I made your bed in the hearth til you were nearly eight, for fear a bad dream would set the house alight; but I do.
It was I who saw the potential in you when you were only a babe, I who persuaded your father he was in love with me when your mother died of a chill. Not for him, or for marriage itself, or even for his money, as many said; nor did I want my daughters to inherit his property, for the truth is, there were no daughters. The girls I brought with me were my nieces, borrowed from my sister for the purpose of helping me keep an eye on you, or at least on any of your nurses who were likely to spread tales.
In the end, they replaced your nurses, and for that you owe them as much as I do – it isn't easy to play with a babe made of fire, especially when their touch burns the way yours does any of us ice women. And so we come to the point of my letter: the way in which you can repay me, and those others who raised you, from your step-sisters and the earth folk I hired as servants to the air sprites who danced illusions at that ball until the prince could see no beauty but your own – literally.
I can picture you throwing this letter down in disgust, declaring that you won your husband on your own – but I already know you'll pick it back up. I raised you far too well for you to let your emotions get the better of you for long. That was the point of snatching you from the hearth – to teach you patience, and humility, and how to blend in with the humans. To teach you to wait for the things you want, and look for your opportunities – to teach you to be the princess that our kind needs.
So I knew, even before you stepped from that enchanted coach in a gown of flames, your power so tightly harnessed that you gave off only a pleasant warmth, that you would win the prince. And I knew that though you were not my child, you would be my daughter in truth.
This is the legacy I leave you, fire princess of the humans: see that the treaty we have forged with your marriage does not break, so that fey and human will have the chance to live together in harmony. See too that your marriage does not break; you rule the future king's heart as he rules his kingdom, and this first kingdom, this first treaty, sets the pattern for those to come.
And there will be more to come; the humans spread across the land like a flood, carrying enough cold iron to drown us all. Without treaties, we cannot hope to hold even those lands that are dearest to us, for we have been pushed back for so long that we no longer have the strength to fight. Thus we have turned from weapons to words, from failing strength to hopeful diplomacy, and from our wisest elders to a slender, half-fire girl barely grown to womanhood, and the treaty she represents.
But I know you will not fail us; I remember how you snuck into the fire on the hearth time and again. I remember your stubborn refusal to give up, your determination and cunning, and yes, even your passionate – dare I say fiery? – anger and steady resolve. I charge you, my daughter, to use such things in our cause – to carve for us new treaties, alliances, and even friendships, and to see that peace has a chance to grow.
It is not an easy charge, but I leave this life knowing that it can be in no more capable hands than yours.