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With sharp eyes, Steven took in the cottage.  Against one wall hung countless bunches of herbs and pewter pots of varying sizes.  Facing that wall was a shoulder-high bookshelf laden with ancient tomes that filled the shelves and piled on top of each other nearly up to the ceiling.  Words such as “Healing” and “Enchantments” stood out in faded gilt lettering on the bindings.  A rough-hewn work table strewn with papers and measuring instruments stood next to the single bed holding his unconscious childhood friend.

On a three-legged side table by an ancient apholstered armchair rested a contraption of lenses that differed in size and thickness, the one article that truly confirmed the strange old man’s claim that he was a sage.  He had copied a book about magical folk once, a long, arduous task for one of the master’s more eccentric customers, and it claimed that sages always had looking-glasses to help enhance their sight.  Seeing the gadget, Steven relaxed, ignoring Will’s warning glance.  Sages might be magic, but according to the book, they were harmless, only able to see the past, present, and future and perform minor charms.

It was time to turn his attention to Annette, and when he really looked at the girl, he knew that a sage was the least of their worries.  Her face held an unhealthy pallor and looked thin, like she hadn’t eaten in weeks.  “What’s wrong with her?” he blurted out, unable to stop his brow from pinching in worry.

“I don’t have a sister,” Will said, facing the sage.

Steven must have missed something in his observation of the cottage.  “What?” he exclaimed.  “Surely you don’t think these two’re related?  Why, I knew Annette all her life, and she only has a sister!”

Trevor the sage looked at him.  “Yes, indeed.  You were close, perhaps closer to her than anyone else.  But your lines diverged recently—maybe two, three years ago?”

“Yeh,” he agreed.  “When her dad died and she went to work in the castle, and I had to start apprentice-ing.”

“Well, when the two of them were here not a month ago, she believed me when I read their bloodlines,” Trevor revealed.

“What!” Will protested.  “I’ve never been here before in my life.”

“My vision may be weak, but I can certainly see a connection as strong as blood relation.  And perhaps, my boy, the correct phrase should be, ‘I’ve never been here before in my memory.’”

“You mean they really came by here?” Steven checked, glancing at the bed.  “What happened?  Why didn’t they stay together?”

Trevor shook his head.  “They did stay together then.  Come, sit yourselves down,” he shooed them toward a pair of stools by the fireplace.  “I’ll answer all your questions, and perhaps some more, but first I need my tea, and it would do you no harm to have some, either.”

Steven was inclined to comply, grateful to have safe lodgings for once since he joined his old mate who didn’t remember him.  The new Will, on the other hand, did not take kindly to directions from others.  He lowered himself onto the proffered stool and leaned his forearms on his knees to watch the prince’s face darken.  “Do you know who I am?” he growled.

“You are William, crowned prince of Poldar, formerly and currently runaway, previously a…scribe?  At least, that’s judging from your connection to this young man here, whose ink-stained garments give away his profession,” the sage conjectured.

Steven laughed.  “He’s spot-on, Willy.  I like this guy.”

At that, Will grumbled but sat.

Only when all three men held steaming cups in their hands did Trevor speak again.  “Not quite a month ago, I opened my door to find that young lady supporting the young prince here, who was nearly unconscious and was covered in festering purple boils,” he explained.  “I nursed him to health, told Annette of their relation, healed her feet, and sent them on their way.  You two were on some desperate journey,” he nodded to Will, “but you wouldn’t say what.  A week later, my old friend Evangelina showed up.  She’s an enchantress, you know, and had just had a vision concerning young Annette and claimed we had to rescue her.  She needed my library to do so, and together we managed to transport the girl from wherever she was at the time to my cottage.  Not a moment too soon, either: She had a poisoned knife sticking out of her stomach.

“Well, I set to work healing her the best I could.  It was a rare poison, but I happened to have the antidote onhand.  There was a charm about the knife, though, something I can’t undo.  Only a person she loves can wake her from whatever hold the charm has over her.  She fights the charm.  She’s strong, and sometimes she manages to call your name; but she is not strong enough.”

“Suppose I believe you,” Will crossed his arms.  “Suppose you’re not feeding me lies like I think you are.  How would I wake her?”

“Only you know that,” the sage smiled sadly.  “But I am right.  You have been made to forget by a forgetfulness spell, but lost memories cannot erase everything.  You have a scar on your left arm, where a tree branch sliced you deeply.  You will not remember receiving the wound, but it is there, nonetheless.”

Will rolled up his sleeve and checked his skin, then frowned at Trevor.  “Say you’re right.  I still don’t remember her.  Why should I try to save her?  Who knows why she was hurt?”

“Ah, but there was something else Evangelina saw,” the sage held up a finger.  “Only Annette can defeat the sorcerer who is allied with your parents.”

“Why would I want that?”  Will protested.  “He’s making Poldar stronger.  It’s good for us.”

The sage’s expression turned serious.  “My boy, I knew your sorcerer.  I’m not as young as I look.  I trained him myself, two hundred years ago, and after I taught him all my tricks, I saw him for who he really was.  He isn’t helping Poldar.  His aim is to use it to crush Clachan.”

Who would want to hurt Clachan?  Steven frowned as Will’s eyes narrowed.  “Why would he do that?” Steven blurted out.

“Because his father was King Eric,” Trevor sighed.  “He wants revenge.”

Thanks for being patient today!  The end’s approaching :)  Let me know what you’re thinking, please!  Chapter 20 should be up on Friday.


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