Chapter 2

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“People die too much,” said Princess Coralina Corissa at breakfast.

Maelyn looked horrified. “Coco!”

“Tell me they don’t!” Coralina challenged with her vivid purple eyes. “Every twelve seconds somebody drops. From plague or treachery or just stupidity. Can’t they find something better to do?”

“Rowan wasn’t stupid,” said Arialain, the youngest princess. She drooped over her berries and porridge, her wispy yellow hair nearly dipping into the bowl. “He was kind…. Even when I was little….”

Maelyn nodded. It didn’t surprise her to see Arialain so distraught. Her soft heart was easily touched. “He was kind. We’ve lost a faithful servant.”

Coralina rolled her eyes theatrically. “We’ve lost all our faithful servants, remember?”

Maelyn bristled and dug her spoon into her own porridge. How little Coco knew. How little they all knew….

She flicked a glance at the other princesses seated at the table. Either Rowan’s death had a quieting effect or they had given up arguing about the servants. Only Coralina seemed unaffected.

“Well, which was it?” Coralina asked.

“What?” said Maelyn.

“Plague, treachery or stupidity?”

Maelyn shut her eyes. “Red Fever.” Without looking she could feel the startled eyes of her sisters. “I thought the realm was finally rid of it.”

“Are you… are you sure?” Arialain asked.

Maelyn nodded. Rowan had probably woken in perfect health yesterday morning. By evening he was dead. That was Red Fever.

Coralina lifted a wedge of cheese off a silver platter and bit off the tip. “Who will carry our messages now?”

“No one, I hope,” said Maelyn, and Coralina laughed. But Maelyn brightened with a new thought. No messenger meant no correspondence with her uncle, the High King of Grunwold. Rowan would not be returning to answer for the “rumors”.

Hopefully the king wouldn't notice.

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