Chapter 24

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“What?” Uncle Jarrod yelled. “Are you sure?”

The servant nodded, his eyes bulging. Maelyn knelt next to her uncle and pressed her hand to his cheek. She pulled it away. “I – I’m so sorry, Uncle.”

Uncle Jarrod’s breath came in short gasps. “How – how long do I…?”

Maelyn shook her head. “Usually… a day.”

“I have to get home!” Uncle Jarrod’s arms flailed. “My apothecaries-”

“You won’t make it, Sire!” The servant clapped both hands on his head. “It’s three days to Grunwold!”

Maelyn clasped Uncle Jarrod’s hand in both her own. “Listen to me, Uncle. I have something with me. A medicine that may… weaken the fever. Give you enough time to reach your apothecaries.”

“Get it! Now!” Uncle Jarrod roared.

Maelyn’s tone hardened. “I have a price.”

Uncle Jarrod stopped thrashing. “A price?” he asked, managing to look shrewd even through bloated features.

“You will crown me queen of Runa in my twentieth year,” said Maelyn. “You will swear to this, in writing, and place your seal.”

“I’ll die first!” Uncle Jarrod barked.

Maelyn smiled. “Yes. You will.”

“Gah, it burns!” Uncle Jarrod ground his fists in his eyes, kneading savagely. The swelling had now spread to his already-thick fingers. The servant flapped his cap up and down in a useless attempt to fan the king.

“G-get me some parchment,” Uncle Jarrod rasped. “Before I can’t write!”

Maelyn stood up. “You,” she addressed the servant. “Fetch parchment and ink from my trunk. Then find the king’s seal and melt the wax. Quickly!”

“Where is the medicine?” King Jarrod gasped.

“You’ll have it when you’ve signed the document,” said Maelyn.

The servant brought a length of parchment, ink, and a quill. The king wrote with a trembling hand. “I – I can’t understand… how I caught it.”

Maelyn shook her head. “No one knows what brings the Fever. My messenger died of it only days ago.” She stood over the king as he signed and pressed his seal. When he handed her the document, she reached inside the satchel that still hung from her shoulder and withdrew a vial of golden-brown liquid.

“Thank you, Uncle,” said Maelyn as the servant wrenched the king to his feet. “I suggest you hurry home.”

Uncle Jarrod needed no encouragement. He snatched the vial and heaved into the carriage, barking orders at his servant. Maelyn waited until the carriage became a small fleck on the distant hill. Then she collapsed in the grass, laughing long and hard.

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