Chapter 6

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The peasant boy never looked up from the floor. He clutched a wriggling piglet in his arms and reddened with shyness.

Maelyn smiled at her last visitor of the day. “Flynn! You’ve grown so tall, how old are you now?”

“Twelve, my lady,” said Flynn. The piglet squealed and Flynn rubbed between his ears.

“And why have you come to me?” Maelyn asked.

“I came to…. Mama sent me to….” Flynn sniffed and rubbed his nose.

Maelyn removed her ivory cape and left it on the throne with her scepter. She sat on the marble steps below her throne and patted the place beside her. Flynn sat reluctantly, settling the piglet into his lap.

His eyes drifted over the small throne room. No chamber or corridor lacked a theme and here it was birds: sparrows painted across the walls, peacocks glowing in stained glass windows, swans carved in stone niches.

“Tell me about your pig,” said Maelyn.

“I bought him,” said Flynn. “A kind nobleman gave me a golden. I want to raise a pig herd.”

“Very wise,” said Maelyn.

Flynn stroked the white bristles on the piglet’s back. “But Mama’s angry. She says I should’ve bought food with the money. Says I can’t raise a herd with one pig. She wants me to ask… if you would buy him from me.” His last words wobbled and he sniffed again.

Maelyn reached over to let the piglet snuffle her fingers. “You like pigs?”

Flynn nodded.

“But your mother’s right. You need two pigs to raise a herd.”

Flynn’s face crumpled. “So… will you buy him?”

Maelyn stayed quiet a few moments. “I have another idea. Our pig had a litter last month. What if you bought a piglet from me? A female.”

“I – I have no money!” said Flynn.

Maelyn stood, tugging Flynn to his feet. “Go to the pens behind the castle and choose a female piglet. Princess Shulay will help you, she tends our animals. Later, when you’ve grown your herd, give me one of your pigs. That will be your payment.”

Flynn’s eyes grew wide. “I – I will! Thank you, my lady!” He ran for the door, hugging the piglet to his chest. Maelyn smiled. If books could have litters she’d be just as happy.

As Flynn tugged open the door to the throne room, Maelyn heard heavy clomping in the outer corridor. Before she could even wonder, a man pushed into the room, impressively stout, with a well-shaped salt-and-pepper beard.

Maelyn gasped. She grabbed the pink skirt of her gown and sank into her deepest curtsy.

“Hello, Uncle Jarrod.”

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