Today's Reading

Mind your mettle.

I almost flush. He used to say that to me when we were outlaws: times when we were in danger, or when the sickness was too much to bear. It always helped.

It helps now.

I nod slightly, then look around the table. "Consul Sallister has promised medicine for eight weeks, but beyond that—"

"It should have been two," the consul says.

"It was eight," says Harristan.

"It should have been two. I told Corrick that eight was impossible when he made this ridiculous guarantee. Before any of this happened, I said that the spring rains had caused a supply issue—"

"You said there could be a supply issue," Corrick says.

"And there is," Allisander says. "If you aren't making payment for eight weeks of medicine, I don't have the guaranteed revenue to pay my workers, so you can't blame them for walking off the fields."

"So there & won't be eight weeks of medicine?" Karri says.

"There will be," says the king, and his voice has a note of finality. "Consul Sallister made the promise as witnessed and recorded. If you've stopped paying your laborers, Consul, you can work the fields yourself. Tessa, continue."

I take a deep breath. "I have been sharing my findings with the palace physicians, and we feel that combining Moonflower with roseseed oil to create a longer-lasting elixir may allow the medicine to have a greater effect in a smaller quantity."

"Or more people could die," Consul Sallister says. He sounds like he wouldn't mind.

"Perhaps you could wait in the Hold," Corrick says icily. "I'm certain Quint would be happy to provide a copy of the meeting notes to you as well."

"Tessa," Harristan says evenly, as if neither of them have said a word. "Continue."

"If we were to adjust the dosage this way, the eight weeks of medicine could stretch to twelve weeks—"

"Is he right?" says Lochlan. "Would more people die?"

"I don't think so," I say honestly. "When I was delivering medicine in the Wilds, we provided a similar dosage, and we saw it work."

Lochlan is looking at me intently. "So you say."

I don't flinch from his gaze. "You saw it yourself! You know the people trusted us."

"The people trusted you." He turns his glare on Corrick. "No one trusts the King's Justice when he's not wearing a mask."

I expect Corrick to snap back, the way he did to Allisander, but he holds Lochlan's gaze. "My goal is to change that." He pauses. "In this, you don't need to trust me. I don't claim to be an apothecary. Tessa is right. I saw her medicine work."

Lochlan doesn't move. It's clear that he doesn't trust anyone. Quint's pen keeps scratching across the paper, loud in the silence of the room. I wonder if he's only writing down what's said, or if it's more. Quint notices everything. I imagine he's recording every glance, every shift in weight.

"I trust Tessa," Karri says softly.

Lochlan glances at her. In that moment, something in his gaze gentles. After he incited a mob that nearly killed Corrick, and later, led a murderous rebellion into the Royal Sector, I have a hard time finding anything about him likable. But every time he looks at Karri like that, it tugs at my heart and reminds me that he does care. Not just about her. About everyone.

So do I.

"So this buys you more time," Lochlan finally says. "Then what? What happens at twelve weeks?"

"If we can prove to others that a lower dose works in the Wilds," I say, "then we can encourage more people among the sectors to use a lower dose. It allows for more medicine to be spread among more people."

"So you're testing your medicine on people too poor to know better," says Lochlan. "No! I wouldn't classify it that way—"

"Yes," says Allisander. "We're testing it on him, too," says Corrick. "He just doesn't know it yet." The consul inhales sharply, his eyes like thunder. "What?" says Corrick. "Did you think we were tricking the populace while taking a full dose here in the palace?"

"This is absurd!" Consul Sallister cries. "You—you are purchasing full dose allotments and then—"

"Making it last longer," says King Harristan. Karri smiles. She looks at Lochlan. "See?" she says brightly. "I trust Tessa."

This excerpt is from the hardcover edition.

Monday we begin the book BRIGHT by Brigit Young.

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