I gloomily stared around at the dimly lit shop with a sigh. Ever since King Grawth took over the kingdom, we had all descended into poverty—even the wealthiest of us. It had only made my situation worse.
I pulled myself back to the present and inspected the walls filled with paintings, none of them taken yet, and then to the empty canvas and the paints and brushes beside it on a dark wood table. Grimacing, I pulled my fingers through my cropped hair, trying to get through the tangles. My chestnut locks were streaked with black paint from my latest work—one that had occurred to me after a dream. It was an army of people with black hooded cloaks that hid their faces, swords in hand and the moonlight shining down on them.
I stood up from my chair, the legs squeaking as I pulled back and rose. My jeans were tattered, speckled with blue streaks, and my white long-sleeved shirt was spattered with all of the colors I had.
I yawned, then snapped out of it when I heard a knock at the door. I rushed over, flicking on the lights, which blinked once or twice then blazed brightly.
I answered, and Prim smiled brightly at me, nodding toward the shop. “Can I come in?”
“Of course.” I moved out of her way, then shut the door again.
“Been painting again, have you?” Prim said, gesturing to my newest painting.
“Yeah. Sorry it’s a mess, though.” I ran a hand through my clumped hair and tried to tame the tangles unsuccessfully.
“No problem.” Prim fingered her locket—the one I had given her—and swept her gaze around the room. “You’ve been busy, haven’t you? Come on, you deserve a break.” She nudged me teasingly. “Sleepover at my house tonight?”
“Thanks, but I’m good.” I fought back a shiver when I thought of Mayor Green—the tall, imposing father of Prim that hated my very existence. I definitely did not want to face his wrath and have to fight through a whole five minutes—without getting in a good punch. I had learned how to fight from my mother, who had been a martial arts teacher—and a well-paid one, at that.
At least, before the accident.
Her body had showed up at Monil, apparently killed in a fight. I couldn't help but resent her memory. If she had been as skilled as everyone believed, she wouldn't have left me. She had to have known. Instead she just rolled over and accepted her fate. Why?