Chapter 21

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“You tricked me!” shrieked the wicked pixie as she tore out clumps of her emerald-green hair. “That potion should have killed you. I mixed it myself!”

A sly smile spread across the devious damsel’s face. “I would indeed have perished – but you neglected to add the crushed dragon tooth to your potion.”

“I did add the crushed dragon tooth!” wailed the wicked pixie. But the devious damsel shook her fair head. “I switched it with a jar of powdered unicorn horn.”

The pixie paled with dread. “You drank powdered unicorn horn? That means your curse is… is….”

“Broken,” finished the devious damsel. “My powers are restored.” With that, a ball of white light shot forth from her palm and engulfed the wicked pixie. The pixie screamed and thrashed as the magical light transformed her small body into-

 “Maelyn?” Heidel thumped on the door of her bedchamber. “Are you awake?”

“No,” said Maelyn, eyes fastened to the page. But the door swept open and she heard a pattering of multiple feet. Before she could look up, a storm of sisters in nightgowns crashed on her bed and she found herself smothering in a tangle of arms. “Maelyn, you can’t leave us!” her sisters wailed.

Maelyn clung to them, laughing and crying at once. “I don’t want to!”

“Then don’t,” said Heidel. “Tell Uncle Jarrod you refuse to go with him.”

Maelyn shook her head. “It won’t work.” She extracted herself from her sisters’ embrace and sat against the headboard. “Uncle Jarrod didn’t become a High King by accident. He knows how to crush defiance.”

Heidel propped her elbow on Maelyn’s pillow. “The Royal Reading Hour will perish without you.”

Maelyn shrugged. “None of you liked it much anyway.”

I liked it,” said Heidel. “But I can’t force the others. They listened to you.”

“What about those stuffy monarchs and ambassadors from other kingdoms?” said Coralina, her unbrushed hair looking like a ravaged bird’s nest. “Will I have to listen to their droning now? And discuss… taxes and trade and war?”

Maelyn smiled. “You’ll be the queen, Coco.”

Coralina scowled.

A few sisters tried a brightening tone. Lace offered to make a stunning wedding gown. Jaedis promised to visit often and keep Maelyn abreast of news from home. Ivy agreed to paint a mural in Maelyn’s new bedchamber. Only Arialain, scrunched at the foot of the bed, seemed aloof.

“When are you leaving?” she finally asked.

“Noon,” said Maelyn, having no doubt Arialain would fly back to Tofer before her carriage had covered the first mile.

“Ugh.” Heidel rolled her eyes. “Uncle Jarrod wants a cask of mulberry wine for the journey. It’s my last one!”

“What else do we have?” said Maelyn.

Heidel shrugged. “Some mead, hagberry wine which he hates, and ale, of course.” She bit her lip. “And a small barrel of Lumen wine.”

Maelyn’s eyes widened. “We have Lumen wine?”

Heidel grinned. “From a traveling merchant. I nearly gave the crown off my head for it.”

Maelyn was amazed. Lumen fruit grew in the canopies of the trees, several hundred feet above the ground. Smooth, dark fruit, like a cherry, but growing to the size of peach. But since the Lumens could not be climbed, their fruit could not be picked, and when it fell it smashed into worthless pulp. A piece of unbroken fruit was extremely rare and wine was nearly unheard of. Only once, in her childhood, did she remember her parents drinking it….

Maelyn’s fingers stroked the cover of The Devious Damsel resting against her thigh. For a long moment she sat quietly. “Give Uncle Jarrod the Lumen wine.”

Heidel’s cheeks flared red as her hair. “I’d rather die from… flesh-eating insects!”

“Even so, I want him to have it.”

“Maelyn, you’re mad!” said Coralina. “We’ve never even tasted it! We should keep if for a special event – like your wedding!”

“No. Uncle Jarrod gets the Lumen wine. And that’s an order,” said Maelyn. “My last order.”

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