Copyright @ 2016 by Anne Osterlund. Used by permission of Speak, a division of Penguin Young Readers Group, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc. All rights reserved.

No. Aurelia pressed her head to the door, her palms flat against the surface, her mind dark. She was not “Her Highness.” Had forfeited her title.
A chuckle came from across the barrier—the same chuckle she had heard from Drew a hundred times before she had fled. And become nothing. The horseman’s voice replaced his laughter. “Come on, Highness, it’s blasted damp, and I’m turning into a mangy cob.” His humor ceased. “I’ve brought news.”
To respond would be to rip off all the calluses she had built by telling herself this was her life now. Her hands curved to fists as she fought the need to beg for answers to the thousand questions that had haunted her for the past eighteen months.
“Aurelia, Anthone has attacked Tyralt.”
The calluses tore, her mind inviting a lone color: Red.
“The Anthonian army crossed the desert in a matter of days,” Drew continued.
Crossed or crushed? Memories of her own experience in the Geordian Desert slashed within her: the smoke as a tent burned around her, the screams of the trapped tribe members, the odor of death caused by her sister’s bargain with King Edward of Anthone.
“Not underhanded raiders this time,” said Drew. “Organized soldiers in an open assault against the frontier. Your sister declared the attack an act of war.”
So Melony had learned that her barter with the neighboring king had a cost.
“But she’s refused to send northern Tyralt any military support,” the horseman added.
What?! Aurelia’s knuckles scraped against the door.
“She’s declared the capital too vital to lessen its defenses. Claims the people of the frontier chose to go north, and if they want to protect that land, they’ll have to defend it.”
Against an army?
“The frontiersmen have cobbled together a force, Your Highness. But I’m afraid it’s only a matter of time . . .”
Of course it was only a matter of time! Why was Drew here? Why wasn’t he back there fighting?!
“You’re the only one who can save Tyralt. Please, Aurelia, come home.”
Her hands jerked open the door.

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