Lady Linnea was not waiting—which didn’t surprise Gemma. It was still early; Lady Linnea had most likely just finished her secret morning sword practice.

Gemma sat down on the stool and picked up the outer layer of her gown—which was a plain brown color—and ripped off a small piece of her linen kirtle. She tied the little strip in a bow around one of the bars in case Lady Linnea could not remember which cell she was in.

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Gemma strained to get closer to the window to breath in the fresh air, her stomach rolling from the prevalent, coppery smell of blood that coated the dungeons. She glanced at the blanket and the soldier’s cloak left on the ground from the previous day before she hopped off the stool.

I should rest. Even if I don’t want to.

She tucked the blanket around herself after she sat down in a corner. She closed her eyes, trying to come up with an escape plan.

Lady Linnea paced back and forth. She had heard—thanks to a fist full of copper coins presented to a servant—that Gemma survived the night with no threat of beheading. The servant insisted it was because Gemma successfully spun flax into gold, but that was impossible.

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“Gemma is not the goose that laid a gold egg. She’s an excellent seamstress, but she hasn’t any magic!” Lady Linnea said, addressing Lake Sno. “Prince Toril must have gotten through to his father. That is the only reasonable explanation.”

Lady Linnea rounded the bend so she could peek past the trees and peer at the Verglas palace. No one was in sight.

“Will he take all day to arrive?” Lady Linnea groaned. Her message to Prince Toril asked him to meet her at the shores of Lake Sno immediately. Evidently the dim-wit did not share Lady Linnea’s sense of urgency.

“The lovesick fool is probably off sighing over flowers and a reflecting pool,” Lady Linnea sourly said, her expression pinched. “Perhaps I should see if I can speak to Gemma in the dungeons…”

“Lady Linnea!”

Prince Toril, riding a beautiful stallion, broke through the line of trees at the border of the forest.

“Prince Toril,” Lady Linnea said, treating the prince to a delicate and elegant curtsy before she smiled at him. “Isn’t it great news? I must give you a million thanks,” she asked. The smile fell from her lips when Prince Toril rode closer and Lady Linnea was able to read his stormy expression. “What is it?”

“Your maid—,”

“She’s my seamstress.”

“Fine. Your seamstress has not been released, nor was she spared because of my efforts.”

“Then how?”

Prince Toril sighed, his bangs falling over his eyes like a horse’s unruly forelock. “She spun flax into gold.”

“Impossible,” Lady Linnea said.

“Impossible or not, she did it. I saw it with my own eyes. All the flax fibers were gone, and instead, there was a spindle of gold thread,” Prince Toril said, dismounting.

“Then it was a trick of some sort.”

“It was not. Father had the goldsmiths inspect the thread immediately. It’s real gold.”

“But how? Gemma doesn’t have any magic. I know she doesn’t! If she had an ability like that, she would have used it before now to make her dresses even more exquisite! She has too much pride as a seamstress not to.”

“Does she have a patron? Someone who could hire a man to climb the castle walls and deliver gold thread to her?”

“It is a clever idea, but no. She is employed solely by my family. She has parents, but they are penniless. Perhaps Papa and Mama did it. How much thread was there?” Lady Linnea asked, offering her hand—palm up—to Toril’s stallion.

“A good amount on a spool this big,” Toril said, gesturing with his hands.

Lady Linnea bit her lip. “Then it was not my parents. They like Gemma well enough, but Papa wouldn’t give up that much gold for a seamstress.”

“And you didn’t do it?” Prince Toril pointedly asked.

Lady Linnea frowned at Prince Toril. “If I thought up that smart of a plan, I wouldn’t have bothered to ask you for help in the first place. It’s a shame I didn’t think of it.”

Prince Toril also frowned at the casual, verbal backhand. “It was not a smart plan. I nearly talked my father into letting her go. And then he saw the gold.”

“He won’t release her?”

“Not now. Even though it is obvious someone besides Gemma made the gold, he’s not going to give her up. He is too greedy.”

Lady Linnea wilted. “I hadn’t thought of that possibility. So she’s still captive.”

“Yes. And Father intends to make her spin again.”

“Tonight?”

“Probably. The materials need to be gathered I suppose, but after—,”

“That’s it!” Lady Linnea said.

“What?”

“We can delay the spinning if we buy up all the flax in Ostfold!”

Prince Toril was almost pulled off his feet when his stallion tossed his head. “Do you have any idea how much that will cost?”

“Who cares? Gemma just spun your father gold thread. You can afford it. Now are you going to help me save my seamstress or not?” Lady Linnea asked, planting her fists on her hips.

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