The figure tapped on the window before pressing his face against the frosted pane. “Lady Linnea, it’s me,” Prince Toril said. “Could you let me in—YIKES,” he yelped when he nearly fell off the roof on which he was crouched.

Lady Linnea threw on a robe and stalked across the cold room. “I never think you can get more idiotic, but somehow every time I see you, you manage it,” she said, opening the window and grabbing the struggling prince by his cloak, dragging him into her room.


“You are absolutely mad,” Lady Linnea declared, shutting the window behind him. “First of all, you could break your skinny neck by climbing two stories in the frost and cold. Secondly, do you have any idea what will happen if our parents hear about this? Please try to use your head, however small it may be, and think for once.”

“I did,” Prince Toril said, picking himself up off the ground with an injured look. “I thought you would want to know what happened to that servant girl of yours. I can see now that I was wrong,” he stiffly said.

Lady Linnea sighed, exhaling the fight and stiffness out of her body. “No, you are right. I apologize; I am very eager to hear about Gemma, and I am sorry for abusing you so. What happened?” Lady Linnea asked, clasping her hands together as she feared the worst.

“She did it again,” Prince Toril said.

“She what?”

“She spun all the flax into gold thread. I wouldn’t believe it if I hadn’t seen it myself, but she did it,” Prince Toril said with a puppy smile.

Lady Linnea sat down hard in an armchair. “She did it,” she repeated.

“Do you know how she’s managing it?” Prince Toril asked.

“No,” Lady Linnea said, relief making her lightheaded. “I asked her about it—she said a mage broke into her room and did it for her.”

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“That can’t be,” Prince Toril frowned. “There aren’t any mages in the area. At least, none have presented themselves at the palace—and they always do.”

Lady Linnea shrugged. “I don’t care how she does it as long as she is alive. This is marvelous!” Lady Linnea said, sagging in her chair.

“Not quite,” Prince Toril said.

“What do you mean?”

The prince shrugged uncomfortably. “My father.”

“What of him?”

Prince Toril shrugged. “I don’t think he’s ever going to release her.”

“He can’t keep her in the dungeons forever,” Lady Linnea said.

“No, but he will try to think of a reason to keep her chained to him so she will spin gold whenever he wants it,” Prince Toril said. “I believe we could potentially help her escape, but now—especially after the large amount of gold she spun last night—my father would create a bloodbath among his guards and hold them responsible for it.”

“Oh,” Lady Linnea said, drooping further.

“Furthermore, this maid—,”

“She’s my seamstress.”

“This seamstress of yours will never be safe in Verglas—not as long as Father is alive. If we manage to free her without getting all the guards killed, she will have to flee across the border.”

Lady Linnea bit her lip and looked west. “The Kozlovka border is closest to Ostfold.”

“It would be better if we sent her to Loire or, ideally, Arcainia. My father would never dare to reach for her there after last year’s episode with Princess Elise,” Prince Toril said.

Lady Linnea stared at Prince Toril, shocked by his moment of brilliance. “Yes,” she said before brightening again. “You could take her and then go to romance that princess of yours.”

“Maybe,” Prince Toril slowly agreed. “But I think it would be best if I stayed behind to clean up the mess my father will make. Will you go?”

“No. My parents hardly let me out of the house. I could never talk them into allowing me to leave the country,” Lady Linnea sighed. “But it makes no difference. I could send a servant with her, or Gemma will survive on her own for a time. She’s a smart girl, and much more clever than I am,” Lady Linnea said. “What?” she asked when she noticed the odd look Prince Toril gave her.

“I don’t think I have ever heard a person say their servant is more clever than they are,” Prince Toril said.

Lady Linnea shrugged. “Gemma is fiendishly smart. Although I wouldn’t want you to get the wrong impression! In a situation that requires weapons, I would perform far better than her,” she said with a proud smile as she stood.

“I see,” Prince Toril said.

Lady Linnea pulled her robe tighter around her waist when she heard someone rustling in the room next door. “You have to leave—someone will be by shortly to tend the fire.”

“Ah, right! Of course,” Prince Toril said, retreating to the windows. “Do we continue with your plan to purchase flax?”

“Yes,” Lady Linnea said, glancing over her shoulder. “I mean to visit Gemma this afternoon. Will you be available after lunch?”

“Yes. I’ll wait for you on the shores of Lake Sno?”

Lady Linnea nodded and flipped her tangled blonde hair over her shoulders. “Until then. Now get out!” she said.

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