Chapter 19

1.3K 121 1

As a child, Maelyn had thought the Lumen trees were long arms carrying the sky. Their marble-smooth trunks rose higher than the castle, unfettered by a single branch until they burst into fat canopies.  A century’s growth had swollen them to the widths of twenty men. Too smooth for climbing, too hard for chopping, too dense for burning, they stood like an army of stone giants around the castle. But other than as a sound wall of defense, they were useless for any other purpose.

Finally rid of Tofer, Maelyn turned off the Wending Way and followed a wriggling stream. Within ten minutes she found a Lumen tree that bore a unique feature: it had cracked open. Though Lumen bark grew thick as the castle wall, their centers were hollow, and occasionally, moisture or earth tremors caused the trees to crack. The one ahead bore a jagged, door-sized hole punched open by a boulder that had tumbled from the mountains. Maelyn crept around broken chunks of rock and ducked inside the tree.

The smell of moist earth seeped through the round cavern, wide as Maelyn’s bedchamber. She spread her cloak on the soft dirt and leaned against the inner wall, textured like cork and rising in a tunnel of blackness above. None of her sisters knew about this tree. The only place in the kingdom where no one could find her.

Maelyn shut her eyes and pondered her options. Could she run away? Find a remote kingdom where she wouldn’t be recognized? But even if Uncle Jarrod didn’t hunt her down, he might fall back on Ivy for Prince Murdel’s bride. She wouldn’t do that to Ivy.

Could she face the marriage? Perhaps she would like Prince Murdel. Perhaps he wasn’t unpleasant. Perhaps his kingdom wouldn’t resent her for not being a real princess….

Maelyn thumped the back of her head repeatedly against the tree, squashing her thick coil of hair. She was real. She was real. She was real.

She began to wonder about her sisters. Naturally they’d visit her in Dorf. Occasionally. And probably not all at once. Then they’d trickle away, one by one, married to other princes and carted off to distant lands. Father had gathered them like a bouquet of wild flowers; now Uncle Jarrod would scatter them across the world again.

Her sisters. Her friends. Heidel. Arialain. Briette. Even Coco. She wasn’t ready to leave them.

Maelyn: The Nine Princesses - Book 1Where stories live. Discover now