Christopher Key, chapter one scene four

The Princess Alexane:

Royal princesses weren’t supposed to eat apple-cores, but who cared about that?

Alexane didn’t.

She’d been famished. That crisp juicy apple might have dropped straight from paradise; one couldn’t haul out a packet of ham sandwiches and dig in during a formal procession, after all. She had to act royal. Bah. She should have been Crown Heir instead of her twin Alexander, because then this lengthy ordeal would have been worthwhile; but no, she had all of the duties without any of the delights. Growling stomach or no ignoble growling stomach. One didn’t eat or drink (or make faces) during one’s own grand procession.

But the gift of an apple, thrown by a loyal subject? It had been her duty to enjoy that apple.

Now she might survive to reach the palace.

Enough. She wasn’t Alexander; she should be better than Alexander. This constant grousing to herself was boring. Drumming her fingers in impatience was also out of the question. Much too much like something Alexander would do, that oaf. She should be above that.

Especially now, when she had Perrin at her side.

Perrin, her own sweet Perry … just the thought of him made her glow. Perry, riding next to her, glancing at her, smiling at her, reaching for her hand. When he ran one gloved fingertip across her palm, it was all she could do not to lean across and demand a kiss. She’d described to her dearest Mere how it felt when she kissed Perry, but all Mere had done was recoil in bafflement and incomprehension. Mere, who had never been in love, who had never been kissed, didn’t realize what she was missing.

Now, who exactly had thrown that apple? Ah, yes—that boy up there, on the rain-chain. Her savior. She gave him a wave and a wink in thanks.

*

Christopher closed his eyes and imagined himself a knight.

In just a moment he’d return to real life, shimmy down the chain and let Master Ward catch him. To be frog-marched home in disgrace, with the master gripping his ear. He’d never be able to use that escape route again.

Not that he could complain. The important thing was that he’d seen the knights, so he’d done what he meant to. That made this the best kind of adventure, one that ended in a victory.

Then everyone started shouting.

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