Sara’s worn soles slapped against the worn stone as she ran. Words flew in her head: “Telling Tree frozen—air of Poldar—find Annette.” Such horrible things were announced in the castle Great Room, such evil happenings. Ferngold was in danger, so she did what she could. She ran to fetch her step-sister Annette, who was necessary for some incomprehensible reason. She knew exactly in which wing of the castle Annette would be. The girl was doing Sara’s work, after all. She was so gullible. Would a cough really excuse Sara from her work—and who but a fool would believe that faked cough was real? When she got close, she began throwing doors open and scanning rooms. To disgruntled occupants she called, “Sorry, emergency,” over her shoulder, already well on her way to the next room. Finally she found her step-sister in the nursery, covered in dirt from head to toe as always. “There you are!” Sara gasped. “Come with me. The Telling Tree’s in trouble!” Annette blinked dark brown eyes at her, dropped her cinder shovel into her bucket, and stepped out of the fireplace she was cleaning. Satisfied that she would follow, Sara trotted back toward the Great Room. It was even more crowded when she returned than when she left. The crowd did not deter her, however much it might make Annette shrink back. She grabbed the other girl with one hand and used the other to push their way between elbows and bodies that needed a bath almost as desperately as Annette needed one. Her grip loosened when they reached the front and could see the king, queen, princess, their old neighbor Steven, and a young man who must have been Steven’s fellow apprentice. Steven grinned when he saw them and pointed at Annette. “That’s her.” A guard materialized in front of them and relieved Sara of her job as Annette’s supervisor. Sara bounced between her feet and dared to sneak closer, straining to hear what was being said. “But how can the air of that putrid kingdom do any good to our Golden Fern?” the king and queen were muttering. Steven slung his arm over Annette’s shoulder. “Annette, allow me to introduce Will Scriber. You’re going with him on a journey, or quest, or…a walk, or something. I’m not really sure what, yet.” Sara inspected the other apprentice when Steven turned Annette’s gaze to him. He was tall and oddly filled-out (for being a poor apprentice). His brown eyes stood out in his face, which was as white as the princess’s sleeves, and he barely took them off the monarchs of Ferngold long enough to nod at Annette. “I don’t understand,” Annette’s frail voice barely reached her ears. “Neither do I,” Steven chuckled. “Isn’t it fun?” Then the boy—Will—stepped forward and bowed. “Your majesties,” he said in an unexpectedly deep voice, “I do not think it meant breathing air. I think it meant the heir to the throne of Poldar.” The queen covered her mouth and the king clutched his heart. “Then we are doomed,” he lamented. “The boy disappeared two years ago. What chance have we of finding him?”
Please leave your feedback! I’m sorry for the shortness of this chapter, but future chapters will be somewhat longer.