Chapter 29

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Maelyn found Arialain in the kitchen, helping with supper preparations. Two fat partridges sizzled on a spit in the cavernous fireplace and the air smelled sharp and smoky. Arialain stood at the rough worktable, her back to the fire, slicing turnips and leeks with a small knife.

“Where’s Heidel?” Maelyn stepped to the opposite side of the table, facing Arialain, and picked up the knife she imagined Heidel had been using.

Arialain shrugged, focused on her turnips. “Went to get something.” Her knife moved with rapid knocks against the wood.

Maelyn pulled a turnip out of a large wooden bowl and cut off the greens. She sliced it into round disks and slipped them into another bowl nearly filled with chopped vegetables. Heidel must be planning to stuff the partridges. “Did you see Tofer today?”

Arialain paused a moment, then went on chopping. “No.”

“Hmm.” Maelyn reached for a leek. “Well, perhaps tomorrow?”

Arialain’s green eyes leapt to Maelyn’s face. Maelyn set down the knife. “Ari,” she said kindly, “I’m not fond of Tofer. I’m not sure I trust him. But he is your friend, not mine. I shouldn’t have meddled.”

“What about… what about his not being a nobleman?” Arialain asked.

Maelyn laughed. “Mother wasn’t right about everything. Just promise me you will be careful.”

“I – I will!” Arialain clutched the table. “Oh, Mae! Do you think there’s enough daylight?”

Maelyn glanced at the window. “If you take the fastest horse. You’ll miss supper, though.”

But as Arialain scampered out of the kitchen, Maelyn suspected that stuffed partridges were the last things on her mind.

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