'Stay away from the window!' Orange light flickered across the old woman's face. 'The usurper king's men are here. You must flee, my child.'
The girl's eyes widened. 'Flee, like this?' She held out her arms, thin and clad in a white nightgown ballooning across her swollen stomach. 'I can't run, Zimelda. I can barely even walk.'
'You must, child. They can't find you here.' The old woman threw a cloak over the girl's shoulders, and shoved a pack in her hands. 'Hide in the forest. I will come as soon as I can. Quick.' She pushed the girl out the back door.
Hidden under the fur cloak, the girl ran through the herb garden, bent over as much as the child inside her allowed. Fully grown and strong, the child protested by kicking her in the ribs as if it, too, was ready to fight. Stanufo Korghas' baby would not let itself be killed like its father and grandfather.
At the edge of the forest, the girl stopped to look over her shoulder.
The village burned. It had been her home for the past three moons, when she could no longer hide her condition from her family. Men in the blue livery of the House of Guorn rode through the streets, crying victory. One of them dragged a body by the hair. The village Elder. The girl's stomach did a twist. She knew the Guorn guard well. Why this carnage? Why?
There was no safety from men who had gone insane. The girl ran into the forest. Twigs snagged on Zimelda's too-large boots, branches slapped in her face. She ran until the only sound was that of her ragged breathing. Then she sank on the carpet of pine needles. Exhausted, thirsty. A sharp pain tore through her body. She clutched her stomach, which tightened into a hard ball under her touch. 'Please,' she whispered through parched lips. 'Please, not now. Please.'
* * *
Princess Larissia threw her head back and laughed. 'Oh, Luso, you are priceless. The evil king and his son were killed before I was born. How could they possibly come back? Even the magicians cannot rise from the dead.'