Humans make plans, and the gods laugh...

"Malthy." the queen was calm and collected. She looked her old friend in the eye. "Say it."

Malthy sat back. "Tis said that the prince has been having the temples sneak around, looking for Petey. Seems they found him, over in Lertolia." She rubbed her eyes. "Tis said, that they told the prince here that Petey is gathering up an army. He's supposed to be sailing for the south end of Tothran with his soldiers."

In the suddenly quiet kitchen, someone whispered, "Gods preserve us."

"It's happening, just as 'twas foretold," the head baker said. 

"Our Peteros." The chief cook stepped back and trembled. "Our little Petey, what used to sneak down here for a first taste of the pastries." She put a hand to her mouth.

"The dark day is upon us for sure and certain," one of the cook's assistants said. "But what about the poisoned earth being bloody?"

Queen Lora stared at the wall, looking pale, and said nothing.

Malthy rubbed her eyes, "There's many who could give you a dozen answers about why they think the kingdom's poisoned. Or maybe the prophecy was talking about his majesty. The bloodied earth is the war, that much is simple."

Conversations all over the room rose in volume and tangled together. In the excitement, the queen slowly turned to look at Malthy. "Did." She rubbed her face between her hands. "Did they find him? Before?"

"Yes." Malthy looked into her cup. "So did she."

The queen nodded. "This wasn't what I wanted." She was about to cry.

Malthy looked up. "It's a fact that we don't get what we want in this life. We get what the gods send us. But there's still ways to keep it from getting out of hand. At least, keep it from getting all the way out of hand. You know sooner or later you have to come out and choose in front of people. One of them is going to get hurt, no matter what."

"I just don't want one of them to get killed." The queen bowed her head. "I didn't know what else to do."

"You didn't have a choice," Malthy said. "I'm starting to think maybe none of us ever had a choice. Might be that this really was wrote down a long time ago."

"Don't start that again," Queen Lora straightened up and smoothed her face. "Gods or no gods, our lives are what we decide them to be. Right now, I need to get back to work." She stood and headed for the door, while Malthy watched in sad sympathy.  

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