Chapter 3

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When night blackened the castle windows, Maelyn turned the latch on her library door. She needed to be Maelyn for a while. Not the daughter of a king. Not the eldest of nine sisters. Not the ruling princess of Runa Realm. Just Maelyn and her books.

She had spent the day dutifully. Attended Rowan’s burial. Gave his wife a satchel of goldens. Prayed with the friar. Sung with the minstrel. Spoken with eloquence of Rowan’s faithful service. Ate the mutton pie served to her.

Maelyn sighed. She was grieving. But displaying grief as a duty was disheartening.

She lit a candle and gazed about her library, comfortably cluttered with padded reading chairs, miniscule tables, and towering shelves of books. She’d find a new story and steep her mind in another world.

She held her stub of candle at eye level and searched the nearest shelf for a book she hadn’t read. The Finicky Fairy – that was fun, she’d read it last winter. The Useless Unicorn. A bit silly but animal stories were never her favorites. The Carnivorous Carriage. If books were any less scarce, she’d have burnt that one. It still gave her nightmares.

Her candle flame passed all the titles on the shelf, then the two shelves above. It glided to the next bookcase, brushing each book with its gentle light. Methodically, the flame worked its way across the walls, lighting shelf after shelf. Maelyn found herself murmuring the titles aloud. “The Peculiar Prisoner, The Nauseous Knight, The Sinister Slippers, aren’t there any I haven’t read?” Ten minutes of careful searching later, Maelyn faced the dismal truth – she was bookless.

Disgusted, she blew out her candle and stalked to the window, though night hung too heavily to see beyond the glass. This meant a walk into town and a wearisome haggle with the Book Miser.

She hated that man.

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