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            “You must be mistaken,” Annette stated.

The sage just smiled.  “No, I am definitely not.  It’s as clear as crystals, plain for all to see.  Why, look at your faces.  You have the same eyes, same nose, same cheekbones.”

But if it were true—he was a prince.  She started shaking her head.  “No.  I’m not a princess.”

“Is he a prince?”

“Yes, of—” of Poldar.  She took a step away from the bed and the sage.  It could not be!  She could not have been the product of such wicked people.

“No,” she repeated.

In a way, she could see how it made sense.  She must have been born to someone, after all.  Fairies didn’t come to this part of the world, so she must have come from somewhere.  There had to have been a reason for the Telling Tree to bring them together.  And they did look rather similar.

She felt sick.

Will groaned.  Her eyes darted to the sage.  “Don’t tell him,” she begged.

His hesitation made her heart race with anxiety, but at last he nodded.  She rushed to kneel at Will’s side, the sudden motion making her raw feet throb anew.

The prince moaned again and opened his eyes.  Even if he wasn’t her brother, she was still concerned about his well-being.  “Hey, are you okay?”  She picked a cloth off the bedside table and wiped his brow.

He moved to push himself up and clutched his shoulder.  “Ow.  I don’t know.”

“Oh, I forgot!”  Annette exclaimed.  “His shoulder is dislocated.”

The sage stepped forward and gripped Will’s arm.  “We’ll have that fixed in a jiffy,” he promised.  “I’m Trevor the Sage, by the way.”  Leaving Will no time to respond, he yanked the prince’s arm.  A “pop” followed by a string of curses that turned Annette’s cheeks red filled the cottage.

“You should take it easy for a couple weeks, but otherwise your shoulder will be good as new, right, boy?” Trevor said.  The big grey dog lying beside the rocking chair blinked.

“Thanks, but I can’t take it easy.  We have to get going.”  Will laboriously pushed himself to the edge of the bed.

“Ah, I’m afraid that’s impossible,” Trevor clucked his tongue.  “I’ve yet to care for young Annette’s feet.”

Surprise morphed into concern as Will’s eyes swiveled to her.  “You’re hurt?  Why didn’t you say?”

She sat on the bed as the sage directed and tried to stop looking at Will.  “It’s not a big deal.   They’ll heal.”  It was a far bigger deal that she suddenly had blood family.

“Normally, yes,” Trevor interjected.  “But your wounds are badly infected.  Another few hours and you’d be as bad off as your…friend here was.”

He was probably right.  Her feet looked larger and pinker than normal, and every step made her grit her teeth.  Trevor set a tub filled with a warm, cloudy liquid in front of her and lowered her feet into it.  She sighed with contentment as she met coolness instead of the stinging she had expected.

“Where are we?” Will asked when Annette’s feet had turned the tub’s contents brown and Trevor began wrapping them with herbs and clean cloth.

“Your…companion brought you to my cottage,” the sage explained.  “We’re in Clachan, very near to Poldar.”

“How soon can we leave?”

“Why, my young prince, you are welcome to stay as long as you wish, but I must insist you do not leave for at least two more hours.  That is assuming you’re waiting for Annette.”

Will’s shoulders drooped.  “I guess I have to.”

Annette resolved then that she would wait as long as possible before revealing their relationship to him.  If Sara, who was only her step-sister, disliked her, how much more would Will upon discovering she was his full sister?  And he already disfavored her.

The next couple hours were the most uncomfortable Annette had ever spent.  She refused to speak to Trevor, still angry at him for ruining everything with his news.  The sage continued talking, narrowly avoiding the big information in a painfully obvious way.  Will scowled and kept whining about the delay.

It was a relief when her feet were unwrapped and declared healed enough to walk upon.  The siblings took up their packs, which had been discarded outside the cottage door, thanked Trevor for his aid, and continued.

“Do we have to go back into Poldar?”  Annette tentatively asked.

“Yes,” Will barked, then hesitated in his next step.  “Yes,” this time more gently.  “There is no other way.”

            No other way for what?  Annette was about to ask—but they stepped back into Poldar and a troll jumped up behind them, and she knew it would have to wait.


Please let me know what you think!  Look for chapter 10 on Friday.

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