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Track Orders. Change Language. English Malay. The air seemed heavy and charged, and the wind had begun blowing from the east with a singular intensity of purpose. It brought with it the smell of distant rain.
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Every great or terrible moment of her life had been presaged by a storm, and Violet had learned to accept and embrace change as part of life. To meet it, not fear it. It had stormed the night before her brother was born, and four years later it stormed the night before he died.
And when a storm had come to save them from starvation, she had danced in it. She took a deep breath, feeling the storm as it moved in. It was as though the tempest called to something deep and wild within her. She opened her eyes, and she could see the rain approaching. Violet watched as it hit the tops of the trees in the forest and came on with a steady sweep. Child, come inside before the storm arrives, her father, William, said, approaching from the barn, where he had just put away Bessie and the wagon. It was the first Monday of the month, and he had just returned from his monthly trip into the village.
Violet was bursting to ask him what news he had heard, but she knew better. Her father always saved news for telling at the supper table. She gave him a little wave, wanting to linger a few more moments and knowing that she would hear the news soon enough. She turned aside reluctantly as her father came to stand beside her.
He looked out at the rain sweeping in, and a worried look crossed his weather-beaten face. He turned and headed for the house, clearly expecting her to follow.
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Violet lingered another moment and cast one last look at the storm front. But it always does, she muttered under her breath before turning and heading after her father. Thomas was thirteen and fast growing into a man. He was the youngest of six children, all boys. As the farm prospered and William grew older, he had needed more help. With no son and only one daughter William had had to look elsewhere. The village was small and would never have need of so many butchers.
He should just make it before the rain starts, her father said, as much to himself as to Violet. Inside the house the smell of stew filled the air. Finished, she put down the pot and coughed hard into her apron. For the last three months her mother had been coughing, not hard, but persistently. No one wanted to talk about the fact that Mother was getting weaker. Father was usually cheerful and talked a lot during supper. Usually, on the days he went to the village, he was bursting with news, but this time he sat silently.
It soon became obvious as they ate, though, that there was something on his mind. He ate in a distracted manner, casting occasional glances outside that grew more frequent once the rain began to fall. He sighed and put down the piece of bread he had been eating.
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Violet stared at her father, wide-eyed, as her mother gasped. Are they planning to feed the whole kingdom? The Feasting was four weeks away. It was an annual event which commemorated the victory of the people of Cambria over the king of Lore in their last great war. The Feasting would last for four days, the height of which was the High Feast on the third day, when no one in Cambria did any work.
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Rumor had it that during the High Feast the servants in the castle even ate with the lords. For the common people High Feast Day was a day of revelry and a festival. Everyone would sample strange foreign foods, dance, and make music while engaging in contests of skill and strength. They say the Prince will marry.
Violet sat up straighter, eager to hear. Any wedding was special, but a royal wedding! There had not been one in her lifetime. Who is he to marry? William shook his head. No one knows. But they say royal carriages have been arriving at the castle for the last fortnight.
One thing that is certain is that no one really knows. I did talk to one of the kitchen boys who works in the castle. The lad said that princesses had been arriving from all over and that there was some sort of contest to be held. A contest! The thought seemed outrageous, and yet at the same time it appealed to Violet.