You're coming with me. I'll take you on credit," he said. - You got yourself into trouble," Mara thought, and said aloud: - "All right.

- You're coming with me. I'll take you on credit," the man said, and turned his back. 

Rodhar the Iceblade had once screened her in a bride selection. Offered her the honorable place of a mistress. Mara refused the honor and decided to marry a neighboring lord. He ruined her marriage, made a desert around her, strangled her with taxes, disgraced her. And now he also broke into her house. 

"You got yourself into trouble," Mara thought, and said aloud: - All right.

Author Catherine Karidi

 

- Pack up, come with me to the royal castle!

 

The uncle burst into the house like a sudden draught. Actually, the draught was the real thing, because Merkel Huntz didn't bother to close the door behind him.

 

- Why? - Mara was taken aback as she watched him shove the darning basket aside.

 

He had reached the table and was now drinking morsel greedily from the jug, head thrown back. When he had finished, he set the jug on the table with a clatter and gave it away:

 

- Rodhar the Iceblade announced the selection of brides.

 

Mara's heart suddenly felt a tingle. An alarm was sounding in her mind.

 

- What?" she asked again.

 

Merkel moved away from the table and stepped toward the window.

 

- Come with me," he dropped the words, standing back. - Selection is a chance. If you're lucky, you'll have a job at court. If not...

 

He glanced around and glared at her.

 

- Someone will want you.

 

It was said in such a dismissive tone that Mara couldn't stand it and turned away. There was no point in arguing with Merkel Huntz, her father's younger brother had been her guardian since her parents had died.

 

There was a short pause. Finally Mara said:

 

- Okay, I understand.

 

And she got up to leave. And he tossed her after:

 

- Do not take anything unnecessary with you. We'll buy you some clothes on the way, so you won't be a ragamuffin. Enough for the first time, but after that, let whoever wants you.

 

And then she couldn't take it anymore.

 

- Look, uncle, why do I have to go anywhere at all?

 

He leaned forward and grinned wickedly.

 

- Because I said so, Mara. Now go and pack fast. We leave in an hour!

 

***

 

An hour?! She was just choking with resentment and indignation.

 

Mara locked herself in her chambers and sat staring at one point. Merkel left her no choice. He didn't even give her time to get used to the idea.

 

I guess we should be happy, right? She'll go to the bride selection, she'll see the royal castle. But it has to be official! It's not a cow on the market, it's the future queen of Higsland. All the girls are sent an invitation, brought by the royal heralds.

 

And instead of heralds here was her uncle.

 

Eventually she overpowered herself and began to pack.

 

The guardian came to get her an hour later, grudgingly looked at her belongings and commanded:

 

- Get out. We're late enough as it is.

 

But when the maid went to fetch her things, he growled:

 

- "Where are you going? You're staying.

 

That was the second alarm.

 

- What am I going to do without a maid? - Mara asked, trying not to show her shock at what was happening.

 

- You'll be fine for now. They'll have maids for you in the palace.

 

Oh, the further she went, the more certain she became that her father's little brother was up to something bizarre. And he had already picked up the trunks of her belongings. Shouted at random:

 

- Now!

 

And headed for the exit of the room. Mara did not move. Uncle turned around, staring at her menacingly.

 

- Well? What are you doing? We are late.

 

- "An invitation," she muttered. - Must be an invitation from the King.

 

- Is that so? - Merkel grinned beastly. - Don't worry, I have an invitation for you!

 

It rang in her ears. Mara could not move, and her uncle moved toward her and hissed menacingly:

 

- I said. We are late. Come out, don't just stand there. Or shall I have to drag you by force?

 

And then she woke up.

 

Merkel was too angry and clearly determined. She had to obey, or he would have to drag her by force. But why would he do that? What was his interest? Mara glanced involuntarily around the walls and ceiling of her room. She couldn't believe it. She couldn't believe it.

 

But she would have to deal with that later.

 

She pulled herself together and said:

 

- Yes. Sorry, uncle, I was just thinking. I'm on my way.

 

- That's right. You'll think about it later, when I get you there.

 

He walked briskly down the corridor. The footsteps echoed, and Mara followed him, trying to figure out what was going on. But she would have to deal with that later, I suppose.

 

***

 

In less than a quarter of an hour she was already bumping up and down in the cramped carriage. She turned to look out the small window and saw the walls of her parents' castle receding. Finally she sat up straight and turned her gaze to the back of her uncle galloping slightly ahead.

 

And why did she have the feeling that this was all a grand trick?

 

Translated with www.DeepL.com/Translator (free version)

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