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- Franci


Chapter 50

It just doesn't make sense that Shelly and Thatcher would be held captive in their own kingdom. Surely their guards would strike back against whatever evil might've befallen them” Arthur speculates as the maids clear our dessert plates. “True, but what if they've been put under some kind of spell?” Roonie chimes in. The other's nod in agreement. “How can we be sure? Nora's amulet has been on the fritz for quite some time now, then it suddenly spurts out two or three visions in a single day? Something's weird about that” Jax adds. “That's true.. and it is rather odd, but my visions have always been accurate so far” I explain. “Can you be certain which kingdom your vision was showing you? I would like to know why it's suddenly started up again. What if the amulet only shows you what you want to see instead of the reality of the situation” Luke mentions. I shake my head in disgust, “Are you implying that I want to see one of my dear friends throwing up blood and kissing that wretched ex-husband of hers?” Luke sighs and apologies, “No I don't suppose you do. That was silly of me. I'm ever so sorry, just trying to sort through the madness of it all you see.” I give him a little smile, “I understand. It's hard to think clearly with so much excitement happening at the castle, plus the terrible events involving our kingdoms and friends.” Cade rises from his seat next to me and calls everyone's attention, “Friends let's rest our eyes and minds for the night. The new day will surely bring insight to a plan of action. Weary minds don't make wise decisions.” With that we all shuffle off to our sleeping chambers, though I have doubts that any of us will get much sleep with everything going on.

A song bird tweets happily from the window sill the next morn, and my eyes flutter open slowly. “Cade must've gone to breakfast already. Golly, I wonder what time it is” I think as I pull myself from the bed. I ring for Midi to help dress me, and look out the window to the courtyards. My eyes travel past them, past the villagers hustling and bustling, out to the open countryside. “Where could you be Shelly?” I wonder to myself.

Ooo! Good mornin' majesty! The suns out and the weather's nice. The babes have been sleepin' soundly and the castle greets a new day” Midi calls cheerfully as she entered my room. I turn around to face her and give her a smile, “My, my someone's awfully chipper this morning!” She bustles over to the closet to get my underthings, and returns to me with a huge grin. “Why Midi, I don't think I've ever seen you this happy!” I half giggle. “Aye majesty, I haven't been. Today is a happy day indeed. I'm ta be a married woman! Cantor proposed last night!” she beams in excitement. I gasp without thinking, “Midi that's wonderful news! Though, I have to wonder if this means you'll be leaving us?” She shakes her head fervently, “No m'lady, I wouldn't dream of it.” I breathe a sigh of relief. I've grown close to Midi, and couldn't imagine not having her around. “That's so exciting! How did he do it?” I ask as she dresses me and pulls my corset tight. “It was so romantic m'lady. He took me down to the village pub for supper. I'm not gonna lie...there was a bit of ale in him...quite a bit actually. He stood right up in his chair halfway through our supper, and shouted out to the whole place. I love this woman, that's why I'm fixin' ta marry her...if she'll have me. Then he jumped down and kissed me right there in front of all of 'em and put this ring on my finger when I said yes. Then all them boys gave a holler and bought us a round” she beams with pride. Thinking how Midi and I have different ideas of what romance is I take a moment before replying, “Whoa that is something. Definitely a memorable engagement. It's a smart match, and I wish you two the best.”

A knock at the door startles us as Midi puts the finishing touches on my hair. “You may enter” I call, and Midi answers it. “Begging your majesties pardon. A notice has arrived...if one can call it that” the messenger guard informs. “It's Zane, right? What do you mean if one can call it that?” I ask. Zane nods and holds out the notice commenting, “See for yourself majesty.” The a note was scrawled on a crumpled brown piece of parchment. Whoever wrote such a note, was surely in a hurry. The notice read : “Trapped in Stone Ridge. Please send help. -Shelly” Midi and I draw in our breath in shock. “Oh my word, I must tell Cade at once!” I almost shout. “I'll tell the king right away your highness” Zane tells me as he bows. I nod frantically, and sink to the floor. “Oh Midi, just think we were almost certain they were in Blue Haven, when all the while they've been trapped in Stone Ridge!” I say staring off into space. “Are you alright M'lady? Shall I fetch some water for you?” Midi asks nervously. I pause before answering her, “No thank you Midi. I think I will go check on the others, and let them know of this news”

Downstairs I find the girls arguing in the grand hall. Upon my entering the room, Roonie turns towards me hastily, “Nora! Thank goodness you're here. This bunch can't agree on something to save their life! They can't decide where to search for Thatcher, Shelly and Juliana. I just can't do with all of this back and forth.” “Don't worry Roonie, I know how to settle this. Friends I have received a message from Shelly, and I know where the guards should be sent. They're in Stone Ridge” I reveal. They stare at me flabbergasted for a moment, then all begin talking at once. “Does Cade know?” Tulip asks. “Have the guards been sent?” Bonnie wonders. I put my hands up to get them to quiet down for a moment, “A guard has been sent to inform Cade. At this news he will immediately send out a team of guards. I'm sure they'll be returned in no time, now that we know where they are!” Thoughts race through my head as the girls give me a smile, turning to one another happily talking of Shelly, Thatcher and Juliana's return. Sure I didn't mention that the note was only from Shelly, and there wasn't mention of her husband or child. Sure I didn't mention the crazy vision of her and Lestat, but they all have children to think of...I just can't give them anymore bad news.

Later that day after Cade announces that a team will be sent to Stone Ridge for the rescue and return of Shelly, Thatcher, and Juliana. He then discusses plans of us traveling to Learia. “The people of Learia need to be aware of the growing dangers of Carolin and Dragon Valley, but also the elusive Madame Parfon. We need to help set up the kingdoms people, if they are expected to thrive and help their fellow neighbors in this inevitable battle” he explains. At this news the maids are sent into a tizzy preparing for our travel, but Bonnie has some apprehension about the journey. “Let's take a walk while the maids rush about. Nanny will look after the children, so wipe that look off your face Bonnie. I know you aren't keen on the idea of a nanny but you will see, they are very helpful to have. Besides Nanny Weslor is one of the most sought-after nannies in the realm!” Roonie pipes. Bonnie rolls her eyes, but agrees to getting some fresh air. “My children won't be spoiled...” only I hear her mumble under her breath. I shake my head, and ask Tulip if she will join us on our walk. “That sounds great, but would you all mind if we turn it into a picnic? I'm sure I'll be starving halfway through” she says with a giggle. We decide to round up our own things for the picnic since almost everyone in the castle is busy preparing our extended stay in Learia. Even Cookie is surprised when we enter the kitchens unannounced. We're out of her hair quickly, and on our way to the meadow in no time.

The day is perfect for a walk, with a gentle breeze coming from the south as we travel through the forest. Bonnie walks in silence, while I listen to Tulip and Roonie going on about what to do first when we arrive in Learia. The forest trees become more sparse until finally we arrive at the meadow. It is beautiful with wildflowers by the thousands. “Should we stop here or are you girls in for a bit of a climb?” Tulip questions looking past the meadow at a small mountain up ahead. “My goodness Tulip aren't you tired? You're full of energy today” I exclaim. “What about the babies? Will they be alright?” Roonie asks worriedly. Tulip smiles, nodding, “Of course! It's just that it should be time for them to arrive and I am trying to get things going!” Bonnie gives a scoff, and folds her arms. “Now what?” Roonie frowns at her. “Well since you asked, I think it's ridiculous that we aren't going with the guards to rescue Shelly and them. Meanwhile we're supposed to be planning a welcome home ball for you and Luke, dancing and carrying on like you haven't a care in the world. Don't you think that's selfish?” she blurts. Roonie looks absolutely mortified at this insult. Tulip and I exchange looks as if we are both thinking we'd better keep out of it for now. Roonie has always been a timid girl, and even though she and Bonnie fight like cats and dogs, their friendship has been good for the both of them. Bonnie has learned (for the most part) to hold her tongue when necessary, and Roonie has gotten better about speaking up when it counts.

As a matter of fact, I don't think it's selfish at all. True we will be welcomed by our kingdom, true we will hold a celebration that Learia is finally able to stand on its own once again after the terrible attacks against it. That doesn't mean I don't care about Shelly and the others. I care just as much as you do! What did you have in mind Bonnie? A pregnant woman and two with small infants accompanying the guards through the treacherous wilderness. There are other things we can be doing, like setting up the school in Learia. Getting the men to join the guards so we can put a stop to the evils of Dragon Valley!” Roonie defends, her voice rising even higher than normal. “This is exactly why I didn't want to be part of your little princess clan; nannies for the kids, and servants left and right. Spoiled brats is what your raising, ones who think a welcome ball is more important than things happening with the kingdoms right now” Bonnie snaps. “Ok that's enough out of you. I'm not a princess. I have no kingdom of my own. I think it's wonderful that Nanny can look after the children here and there. Everyone needs time for themselves to rest and so on. Why are you being so ugly today Bonnie?” Tulip interjects. Bonnie is ready with a comeback, and I try to tune her out while I go deep in thought. Bonnie's words upset me, but I know her and can't help wondering what's troubling her making her lash out like this. The raised voices pull me out of my thoughts, and Bonnie's words become clearer....”Even my own mother! She used to be a caring person! One that would've gone right after Shelly the moment she came up missing!” Tulip and Roonie's jaws fall open and they look over at me in pure shock at Bonnie's words. I blink absentmindedly before tears spill from my eyes. I open my mouth, but the words fail me. I've been strong for so long now, with the disappearances, babies, pregnancy news, and now this. It's all too much for me. I turn and run as fast as my feet will carry me, towards the mountain. “Oh dear, Nora! NORA COME BACK!” Roonie calls after me. “Now you've done it! You're unbelievable Bonnie. Nora wait!” I hear Tulip yell.

The path I'm running along, grows steeper and the lush green grass turns to a jagged rock, but still I climb. I can hear Tulip and Roonie calling after me, they must have followed but I don't look back to see. I was planning on going down the other side of the mountain once I got to the top, but as I reach it I notice, it falls off into a huge drop off. I plop down on the peak of the mountain and cry, and feel arms come around me in an embrace, but keep my head down. Drying my eyes I look up to see Roonie and Tulip hugging me tight. We break out of our hug, and Roonie asks if I'm alright. “Those were some of the most awful things I've ever heard from Bonnie. What in the world has gotten into her? I know she doesn't mean those things” Tulip soothes. “It's not just that girls. It's...nothing nevermind” I try to explain. “No, it's ok Nora please tell us” Roonie persuades. I give a heavy sigh, “I am overwhelmed. One of my best friends has been missing for awhile and she and her family could be in danger. Feeling sorry for myself over this baby stuff, and now Bonnie exploding on all of us like that. I'm sorry for complaining but it's just so hard to keep it all bottled up inside me all the time.” “Oh, Nora don't apologize! No one can keep all of those things buried inside, and they shouldn't have to” Tulips says kindly. “Exactly! That's what friends are for Nora. We are here for you always. Don't feel like you have to keep these things to yourself” Roonie adds. “Thank you both” is all I can say. “I guess Bonnie is still down there pouting” Roonie mentions. “She'll be along when she's ready” Tulip says with a huff.

We gaze over the cliff down to the valley below, taking in it's beauty. “No way..Um, Nora have you and Cade recently had..uh special time together in your chambers?” Tulip oddly asks with a strange grin. I give her a frown and a somewhat of a laugh, “Don't you think that's a little personal?” Roonie looks bewildered why Tulip would ask such a question, and looks back and forth at the pair of us. “Just answer the question, I'll explain in a minute” Tulip replies. I bashfully give a nod, “Yes last night as a matter of fact...dare I ask why?” Her face beams with excitement and she takes Roonie and I by the hand, “C'mon! Be careful!” She leads us quickly, but carefully down the edge of the mountain. Navigating the rocky slope, the three of us carefully descend. As we finally reach the bottom we comment on how beautiful it is. Lush foliage surrounds a small pond, and a group of ducks quack happily as they go for a swim. “How cute! What a beautiful place! I can't believe we haven't ever traveled this way before” Roonie comments. “Well it's a little difficult, I can see why we haven't before” I say as I watch the mother duck plop into the water. “Nevermind all of that! C'mere!” Tulip says eagerly. She quickly waddles over cluster of bushes, and points to a single purple flower growing underneath one of them. The flower looks rather mystic as it has almost a glowing aura about it. “It looks like a lily” Roonie says bending down to get a better look. Tulip almost screams, “Don't you know what this is!? One of the most rare flowers in the realm! The ancients said it was used for healing and fertility, but no one has seen one for over 20 years so they couldn't test it.” “Oh my gosh Nora!!!” Roonie lets out a squeal so high pitched that only dogs would be able to hear. Afraid to let my hopes up, I stand quietly staring at the flower.

Nora? Nora! Don't you know what this means? I saw the flower from the mountainside, and thought it was the Pluthabrin flower. I had to check it out. Legend says if you eat the flower shortly after you....well you know...then you immensely increase the chance of becoming pregnant!” Tulip says trying to jump up and down. “I don't know...I mean it's just a legend, but I suppose I could try it. Are there any weird side effects or anything?” I question. “Well I'm not entirely sure...no human has ever been known to try it. It's magic might not work at all. If you would like we can take the flower back to the castle and I can read more about it” she offers. I agree, and she tells me that we'll have to hurry. “We can't be sure how long the magic will last after we pick it” she tells me. “What if we pick it and the magic disappears before we even get up the mountain side?” Roonie says worriedly, “I think you should eat it now just in case.” Tulip puts her hands out, “Wait! We don't know the side effects, what if she eats it and something terrible happens?” “I could always leave the flower here and come back another time” I offer. “And leave one of the most rare flowers in the realm to chance? What if an animal eats it or something?” Tulip asks, “No Nora, you must decide now.” I clap my hands over both my ears, the decision is too hard to make. “I...I can't. Maybe it would just be better to not have any more children. I could leave the flower here and just go on with life” I tell them. “B-But, Brendlewood would be left without an heir. What would become of your kingdom?” Roonie gasps. “Suppose we hadn't come across the flower. I wouldn't have been able to have any then...would you still feel the same way about the kingdom?” I ask in an angry tone. “Oh Nora, that's not at all what I meant. I just meant that you finally have a chance, no matter how small, at an heir. Isn't that something you've been longing for?” Roonie responds apologetically. “The choice is yours Nora, it's your life. No one will judge you on your decision. No one has to know except the three of us if you choose to just walk away” Tulip comforts. Roonie nods in agreement and gives my hands a gentle squeeze.

My head swims with the three possibilities...One, I can eat it now and have the chance to be pregnant. But there is no telling what horrible side effects await me. Two, I can pick it and have Tulip analyze it before eating it. But, there is a chance the magic could fade before I am able to eat it. Or three, leave it and go on with life just how it is. But, never have a chance to share a child with the man I love, nor give him an heir. “How can I make this decision?” my mind races. My mind is screaming so loudly that it seems like I really am screaming out loud. Even Tulip and Roonie look around to see what the noise is. Suddenly we realize it's not me at all. We see Bonnie making her way down the mountainside, falling here and there, bumping into large rocks and stones. “Oh my gosh!” Roonie gasps. We rush to the base of the mountain and arrive just as Bonnie reaches the bottom with a crash. She lays there motionless, her body bruised and scraped. Blood trickles down her forehead, but her eyes remain closed. “My dear Bonnie...” I breathe fearing the worst. Tulip steps closer towards her, but Bonnie begins to stand up. “You...you wretches. You tricked me into coming down here. You did this to me! I'll kill you all for this! Your children will be fed to the lycans!” Bonnie wails with a look in her eyes I've never seen before. She laughs hysterically, and the veins under her skin begin turning black and bulging toward her skins surface. Backing away quickly, Roonie, Tulip and I exchange horrified looks. “Something is wrong with her” Tulip whispers. I give Tulip a look as though to say, “Ya don't say?!” and Roonie rolls her eyes. “What I mean to say is that I need to give her an antidote of some kind, but way out here there might not be much to work with” Tulip continues. “What's...wrong with her?” Roonie manages to get out. Just then Bonnie lunges towards us, her arms outstretched like some type of monster ready to kill. “No time to explain. C'mon!” Tulip shouts grabbing my hand. I in turn grab Roonie's hand and we hurry away from Bonnie. We dart around tree's as she yells and claws at us violently, and soon poor Tulip can no longer keep up. Her large pregnant belly slowing her down, and tiring her completely. “No! Tulip you can't stop, you must keep going. Surely there's somewhere to hide. Please!” I beg. But, Bonnie jumps at us from behind a tree, and knocks Tulip to the ground. She straddles her as Roonie and I try our best to pull her off of Tulip. “Stop! Bonnie please! What are you doing?!” we scream at her.

Suddenly, all of Bonnie's hair flashes gray, then quickly back to its glistening auburn. We're taken aback, but manage to pull her off of Tulip. She falls to the ground convulsing and writhing helplessly. We try to steady her but she continues to thrash about. “Bonnie!” Roonie calls out fearfully. Suddenly Bonnie sits up, still struggling but not as violently. “Help me! She's taking over...I can't...fight her!” she manages to tell us before being flung back to the ground. Her skin is now almost entirely taken over by black veins, and finally she lies still. Roonie lunges towards her to check on her, but Tulip grabs her by the arm and shakes her head. “Cirrus told me about this...we need to get back to the castle immediately!” she whispers to us. Bonnie slowly begins to rise, and the three of us back up. She screams, holding her arms out to either side. “Um, Tulip. How are we going to get past her?” I ask nervously. Roonie whispers, “Let's run for the mountain side. Maybe we can beat her?” I give my head a hard shake, “What about Tulip? She won't be able to keep up.” “I'll be fine. You two make a run for it, and distract her. I'll see if I can hide in those bushes and catch up” she answers. “Be careful” I whisper.

With that Roonie and I make a run for the mountainside, while Tulip sneaks over to the nearby bushes. We bolt as fast as we can towards the large rocks at the base. Bonnie takes off at record speed, running closely after us. Out of the corner of my eye, I see Tulip duck into some bushes. Roonie reaches the mountainside first and quickly begins to scale the rocks. “Give me your hand!” she cries out from atop a huge boulder. I stretch my hand out as far as I can. Roonie's finger tips are touching mine, but I can't quite reach. “Just..a...little...further” I plead. She lays down on her belly, and scoots her body to the far edge of the rock. Just as our hands lock together, she slides off the boulder and comes crashing down to where I am. Her head hits a nearby rock and she lies completely still. As she lands she pulls me down to the ground just as Bonnie closes in on us. “Oh my gosh! Roonie, wake up! Roonie!” I say as I try to rouse her. My attention turns to Bonnie who is just a few steps from me, and I try to find my footing. “Bonnie! Please stop! What's wrong? We can help you!” I cry as I stand up. She gives a laugh, a sick laugh, one that I've never heard come from Bonnie before. “Stupid girl. Don't you even recognize me?” she says smugly before grabbing my arm. I cower in pain as she twists it forcefully. “Well...ANSWER ME!” she shrieks bending my arm harder. A rock comes flying from the bushes a few feet away, and I can only assume it's Tulip trying to divert Bonnie's attention from me. It goes unnoticed by Bonnie and she bends my arm still further. “You're Bonnie! You're Bonnie!” I wail in pain. “WRONG!” she says through gritted teeth. With a swift motion she grabs my arm with her other hand and snaps my forearm. I fall to the ground writhing in pain, screaming loudly as pain shoots through my entire arm. Another rock comes flying towards us, this time nailing Bonnie right in the back of the head. “AGH!! What the hell!?” she clutches her head and spins around to see what hit her. Still moaning in pain I call out, “NO! TULIP!” My body is still pulsing in pain, but I try to get to my feet again, and get to where Tulip is hiding. As Bonnie approaches her, Tulip emerges from the bushes and begins trying all sorts of enchantments to stop Bonnie, but none seem to be working. “Bring it on blondie. You couldn't stop me before, and you won't stop me now!” Bonnie yells at her. “You're fighting a losing battle Parfon! You'll never be Queen of the Realm” Tulip retorts as she sends a flash of green flying towards Bonnie. “You little devil. You'll pay for that!” Bonnie screeches, and with a final blast, sends Tulip backwards where she slumps over. I gasp in horror, and try to grab Bonnie by the throat, but she pushes me down and glares at me. “Oh...your majesty I didn't see you there” she laughs. “What have you done to Bonnie!?” I shout clutching my arm. “Hehe. Don't worry she's still in here. Being given an array of tortures. I'm sure she's enjoying the show we're putting on for her. It will haunt her for years. I decided to over take her just as you began your walk. I thought it would be a fun little treat for you girls. I wanted to repay the kindness I was shown while IMPRISONED IN YOUR CASTLE!” she fumes.

This horrible witch has caused so many problems for us, as though it wasn't enough that we have Caroline to deal with, and that wretch Kristen who killed our beloved Cirrus. I know there is no way to get out of this playing the force card, so I try something out of the ordinary. “Parfon, please listen. It was never my intention for things to become like this. In fact, when Bonnie took me to you a few years ago all I wanted was help” I tried to explain. “Don't you understand that it is my dream, my ultimate desire to be Queen of the Realm? All those idiots who teased me when I was young would see the power I hold, and fall under my rule!” she laughs at the thought. “I once heard of a witch that liked to help those in need...I think that is much more powerful than hurting people to get to the top. I wonder if that witch stills exists?” I try to sooth her. Suddenly she bursts into tears and covers her face with her hands. Awkwardly I manage to say, “There, there Parfon.” A large breath leaves Bonnie's lips and she falls to the ground lifeless. From the smokey-like breath Parfon emerges, still crying. “I did want to help people. I loved seeing how happy it made them....” she sniffles. I glance at Bonnie, who lies still on the lush grass. I want to run to her, but I'm afraid Parfon will just jump back inside her. Parfon wipes her eyes abruptly and frowns angrily, “What is this!? Ugh! This stupid spell is making me all weak and weepy!” “Tulip must have cast a spell on her that softened her heart” I think to myself. Off in the distance I can hear Tulip screaming, but I can't just leave Bonnie to the fate of Parfon again. Parfon takes a step towards Bonnie to take hold of her again, but suddenly stops. She looks stunned, like she is trying to catch her breath, then blood pours from her mouth and she falls to the ground. A very frightened Roonie stands behind her, completely shaking with fear. In the back of Parfons neck is a thick piece of wood. She looks at me, then at Bonnie and her eyes grow even wider in shock. “Bonnie! Bonnie, can you hear me?” I call to her as Roonie and I both rush to her side. Roonie is totally unable to speak and tears begin falling from her eyes. “BONNIE! BONNIE ANSWER ME!” I beg. Tears sting my eyes as they spill down my cheeks onto her arms and face. I reach for Roonie with my uninjured arm to comfort her. She doesn't make a sound but her shoulders shake violently from her crying. “Ugggggh! That evil bitch....” Bonnie says out of nowhere. She places a hand to her forehead, and sits up slowly. Roonie flings herself at Bonnie, wrapping her arms around her tightly. I give a cheer of joy and try to hug her as best as I can with only one working arm. The three of us embrace there for a moment before I remember poor Tulip, “Oh gosh! Tulip!” The three of us rise, and I lead us to where Tulip fell into the bushes earlier.

Tulip? Where are you?” Bonnie calls out as we search the bushes. We hear her call to us, and we quickly move towards the sound of her voice. Finally we find her, hidden in the brush. Her petite coat has been ripped off from under her skirts, and she is leaned against a tall oak tree holding two very small babies. They coo and wiggle in their petite coat swaddle, and we gasp at the sight of them. “Bonnie...is that you?” Tulip carefully asks, as Bonnie takes a seat next to her, clearly exhausted from being under Parfon's spell. I give Tulip a quick recap of what happened and she smiles from ear to ear. I frown at her in confusion, but she speaks before I can. “Roonie! I'm so proud of you! You remembered about the Satchroot!” Tulip brags to Roonie. She then turns to Bonnie and I continuing, “Awhile ago Roonie was trying to learn some things about becoming an enchantress and Satchroot was something we studied! It is a very sharp, jagged root that has a venom-like poison in it. While we still aren't sure if it will kill a witch, we know that it will at least act like a tranquilizer of sorts.” “So you mean that horrible woman could still be alive?” I ask fearfully. “Well with what you're telling me, it doesn't sound like it. But, we can't be too careful. Roonie if I give you the name of some items, do you think you can find them around here?” Tulip asks. “Hold on one minute. Don't you have some explaining to do?” Bonnie says as she looks at the little ones in Tulips arms. She almost laughs and answers, “Yes, Parfon did a number on me. The labor came unexpectedly, but these little ones had a powerful spell on them that Cirrus taught me awhile back. They were unharmed, and I'd like you to meet them!” she tells us. We give little sighs, clutching our hearts, and in chorus say, “aww!” “Jax and I agreed on names awhile ago, so I can introduce you properly now. This is my sweet little girl, Tawni Juliep Debois. And, here is my strong son, Tarrow Josiah Debois.” “Tawni and Tarrow! What beautiful names!” I complement with a wince at my arm. “Heavens Nora! Your arm! Roonie, will you see if you can fetch some Milkweed, Sparrow seeds, and Gumleaf? There should be some around here. That will at least stop the pain in your arm Nora, and once we get back to the castle I surely can find a spell to heal it.” Roonie nods as she takes off to find the items, and I thank her. Bonnie, apparently getting her strength back, volunteers to go with her and follows after her quickly.

While we are waiting I fawn over the babies, and ask Tulip about Roonie's sudden quietness. “Roonie is a soft-hearted person, in some ways she is almost childlike in her naive tendencies. She's becoming a stronger person and she has grown a lot. But, she's still the youngest of us and I think she's gone into a sort of shock after possibly killing Parfon in such violent way. It will pass I'm sure” she comforts me. When the two of them return they each take a baby while Tulip mixes up some nasty looking concoction for me to drink. I eye it suspiciously, but Tulip reassures me it will help ease the pain until she can fix it. I gulp it down quickly, and wrinkle my nose at the flavor. “Blegh!” I cough, sticking out my tongue. “Oh c'mon it's not that bad” Tulip kids. Instantly I can feel the pain of my arm melting away. I wouldn't even know it's broken unless I look at it.

Have you made your decision about the flower?” she asks. Thinking about what just happened with Parfon, I think I have made my decision, and slowly give Tulip a nod. “Wait what flower?” Bonnie inquires as she looks back and forth between us. “Well, when we were arguing, the three of us climbed up the hill and Tulip saw this flower...one with healing powers” I explain. Tulip catches her up on our prior conversation, and when she finishes Bonnie turns to me. She wears a solemn expression, and takes my uninjured hand in hers. “Oh Mom, I'm so very sorry I've done this to you. I never want to hurt you. I never want to hurt any of you! I'm so sorry everyone” she says apologetically. I shake my head at her, “Dearest Bonnie, I know that! It wasn't you that did it. Please try not to blame yourself. Ok hun?” I comfort her. She looks down but gives a slight nod. Then something happened that very rarely happens indeed, Bonnie was crying. Looking back up with tears streaming down her cheeks she looks into my eyes, “I just feel so bad about all of this. For how you were all treated. Roonie won't even talk! Mother, please take the flower. You don't have to eat it here if you don't want to but don't just leave it. You deserve a chance to have something you've wanted for a long time. I think you should take it back to the castle and let Tulip analyze it. If it's meant to be, the magic will last. Take a chance.” We all sit quietly for a few moments, with just the birds singing in the trees above us, and the gentle breathing of the now sleeping babies. “Ok” I finally whisper, “Let's get the flower.”

Oh good! It's still here” Tulip smiles when we reach the flower once again. “I've decided...I'm going to taste it” I tell her. “Taste it? Like just take a bite?” she asks in a confused manner. “I think it would be a good idea. If it does well then I can eat the whole thing. If it doesn't, then the symptoms won't be too horrible, don't you think?” I answer. “That's a great plan! Should it be harmful, surely one bite wouldn't be catastrophic!” Bonnie adds excitedly. Roonie nods eagerly as well, and bends down to pick the flower. “No Roonie! She must pick it herself” Tulip says quickly to stop her. She retracts her hand as I crouch down to the flower. The glowing flower looks like something of pure magic, the colors vivid and radiantly shining. As my fingertips touch the stem I can tell this flower holds a great power, and I carefully pluck it from the ground. As I bring one of the petals closer to my mouth a tingling begins in my lips, and I hesitate. Without another moment to change my mind, I take a bite from one of the petals. Instantly a fire like sensation shoots through my veins, and I gasp for air as I collapse to the ground.

I hear nothing. I see nothing. For what seems like several minutes I remain in quiet darkness. Then comes a light in the far distance, a faint purple light that seemingly grows brighter and nearer. It seems to beckon me towards it as flashes of joyous images fill my sight. A happy tune fills my ears, and I feel as though I am weightlessly dancing. The glowing light grows nearer still, and suddenly I feel as though I have been lit on fire. I cry out in pain, but Tulip and Bonnie's voices reach my ears. I am being shaken now, their voices becoming clearer and clearer. “Open your eyes Nora! Nora, please!” Tulip cries. “Mother! Mother you must wake up! WAKE UP!!” Bonnie's voice calls out. Slowly I open my eyes and see Roonie shaking me forcefully. A very worried looking Tulip and Bonnie are kneeled beside me each holding a baby. “Wha- What happened?” I ask as I try to sit up. “Oh Mom it was awful!” Bonnie says flinging her free arm around me. “Needless to say the flower is potent to you. You were just lying there screaming, then you fell silent, and we thought we had lost you! Our only hope is that I can find some way to mix it with something when we return to the castle” Tulip explains. “Well let's go. There's no use sticking around here. Besides we need to get back and have the doctor give those babies a check up” I tell them. Carefully we head to the side of the mountain once again. “What a sight we must be!” I think to myself as we reach the opening where Roonie stabbed Parfon. “Um, ladies...Where did Parfon's body go?” Bonnie worriedly says looking at the spot where we left her. Tulip closes her eyes and frowns in an irritated fashion. With a heavy sigh she says, “I was afraid of this. I think Parfon may have had a protection spell on her against things like this. Don't worry about her for now. I know she's dangerous, but we've got to get back to the castle. Everyone will be getting worried, and we need to get the children settled.” “I just don't understand..I saw blood spill from her mouth. She got stabbed in the back of the neck for goodness sake!” I argue. “Yes, yes I know that. But, if she had some charm or spell protecting her, then she would only appear dead for a length of time. Some spells have regeneration abilities too, so she could have appeared dead for minutes or even hours, then just get up and walk away” Tulip explains. “Well that's just peachy! How the heck are you supposed to kill someone that can regenerate?!” Bonnie fumes. “Trust me, there are ways. You just have to have the right spell” Tulip answers quickly. “Ok, let's talk about it more at the castle. It's making me nervous out here, and I really wanna get my arm healed up” I coax the girls. Roonie starts up first and the rest of us follow, each of us dreading the climb.

After two hours, the lot of us reach the castle entrance. We are all covered in sweat, mud and blood with hair disheveled and two crying infants. The guards and maids are still scurrying about getting our things ready for our travel to Learia, but rush over at the sight of us. Soon they have us bathed, and our wounds attended to. “I'm glad the children are getting some rest. My poor dears, what a way to come into the world” Tulip tells me as she drags me into the enchantment room to heal my arm. “Don't worry Tulip, they'll be stronger for it! The doctor said they are in perfect health. What will the men think of all this craziness?” I ask. Tulip laughs, “I can't speak for the others, but Jax will wonder what in the world I was thinking! Now, lay your arm up here on this table.” My arm looks awful, covered in blood and bruises. I can't feel any pain but my arm lays on the table bent this way, and that. “My goodness...are you sure you can fix this?” I ask Tulip nervously. She nods as she mixes up a kind of goo and smears it on my arm. “There, give that a few minutes to soak in. While we are waiting you can drink this bone enhancer potion. This stuff is great for strengthening bones, plus it tastes like blueberries!” Tulip explains. I guzzle it down with a smile, “Whoa it really does taste like blueberries!” “Yes! It's nice because there aren't any side effects other than your arm feeling numb until it's finished. Oh yea, while you were getting bathed I did some reading on the Pluthabrin flower and humans. Turns out it's a really simple fix! I just need to boil it, and mix a few things together! Then presto!” She exclaims excitedly. Still trying not to get my hopes up too much I just give her a smile. “Oh Nora, I know you must be exhausted. Don't worry, I'll get the flower settled, and you can drink it before you rest. That way when you wake up, you'll be nice and refreshed” she tells me.

Her attention turns to the flower mixture, and she begins adding this and that to the bubbling pot. My mind is exhausted, and my comfy bed is calling my name, but I wait patiently. A few minutes later Tulip comes over to check on my arm and gives me a grin, “There! Try that out!” She instructs me to move my arm, first this way then that. “Wow! That's incredible! I feel totally normal again!” I exclaim in a surprised voice. Next, she brings me the flower potion in a glass vile. The vivid purple color is just as bright and brilliant as before. I glance at it nervously, and bring the vile to my lips, swallowing all of its contents.

TWT Chapter - 4

The cottage sat in a small clearing, just large enough for the sun to illuminate it between the thick forest tree's. It was a simple home, but the garden was well kept and inviting, like one of those you'd see from a fairy tale story. Old looking thatch roof, check. Abundance of flowers in the garden out front, check. Stone path leading to the door, check. As Abbott wandered up to the door he heard singing coming from inside, and he smiled to himself. He rapped his knuckles against the door five times, and heard Laraya call to him. A moment later she opened the door, and gave him a pleasant smile. “Well hello boy, not much visitors I get out here, Come in!” She had a raspy voice and long gray hair that dragged along the ground. “I've been baking all day. Don't you like lemon cake?” she asked him as they walked past the kitchen. “We can sit in here” she continued without an answer from Bo. He noticed the kitchen was a complete mess. No, not just messy; dirty. The pots and pans had clearly been collecting dust for awhile, and there were trays of old uneaten treats sitting here and there. Abbott was uncertain about this woman. He thought she seemed a little senile to help him find his sister, but he took a seat on a chair in the living room anyways.

She lowered herself into an old rocking chair near the fireplace. She smiled, but didn't make eye contact with him. She seemed distant, and stared at a blank space on a nearby wall. Abbott turned to see what she was looking at, but there didn't seem to be anything in particular. “Are you ok” he asked her curiously. She smiled warmly, and answered him, “Haven't you ever seen a blind old woman?” Abbott's eyes grew large, and he looked at the floor in embarassment. “I'm sorry, I didn't know..” he started. Laraya waved her hand and replied, “Nonsense. We've bigger fish to fry.” He sat up straighter now and asked, “Can you please tell me where my sister is?” She laughed a hoarse tired laugh, and leaned forward slightly, “The water's may show where your sister is, but it will come at a price. Nothing is free you know. I will take you to the waters, if you are willing.” Bo considered her words carefully. “What price must be paid?” he asks slowly. “That is for the waters to decide. Come, come with me” she answered oddly. Bo's head flooded with possibilities of this price to be paid, but he knew one thing for sure, he must find his sister. Even if he had to do the unthinkable.

Laraya rose from her rocker, and shuffled across the room. “Well, what will it be?” she croaked. Abbott rose from his seat and decided to follow the old woman. She lead him down a long corridor, dark and dank, the floral wallpaper peeling in places. Twenty or more empty picture frames hung on the walls, and the lighting in the hall was dim. At the end of the hall was an old door, that creaked loudly as Laraya opened it. Rickety stairs led down into a cold, dark room. Laraya stopped at the base of the stairs, took out a flashlight from her pocket and handed it to him. It was very dark down there, so dark in fact, that the only thing Abbott could see was a few feet in front of him. How Laraya knew where to go in the darkness, was a pure mystery to Bo. For all he could tell, the room was empty. But, soon they came to another door. Abbott held the flashlight towards Laraya as he watched her retrieve a key from a chain around her neck. She extended her arm slowly, and reached through the air feeling for the door. When she located it, her fingers moved along the wooden surface until she found the keyhole. The lock clicked as it unlocked, and she placed the key back around her neck. “This way..” she mumbled as she stepped down onto a staircase.

Bo had seen staircases like this one before; a spiral type made of cold black iron. The base of the stairs opened up into a huge room...no, a cavern! Abbott didn't really need the flashlight anymore. An opening in the ceiling allowed a stream of light to faintly illuminate the space. The walls and floor were made of dirt, and he noticed a dampness surrounded them. The stream of light seemed to be shining on a small pond in the middle of the cavern. Laraya moved toward the center, and he followed along staring up at the high ceiling covered in sharp pointy rock-like shapes. Laraya heard that his footsteps had stopped. She asked what he was doing. "What are those pointy things on the ceiling?" he questioned. “Stalactites...” she said softly, “That's what it's called. Come.”

Reaching the center Abbott noticed that the pond was actually more like a pool that was surrounded by a stone bench. “Are you ready?” Laraya asked. He gave a slightly uncertain nod. She then walked over to the edge of the stone bench, and around to the far side of it. Abbott followed her curiously. She took from her pocket a small gray rock and felt around along the stone. When she came to a divet in the bench, she placed the rock into it. A brilliant blue color shot out from the spaces between the stones and the whole bench spun in a slow circle. It came to a rest with a bang sound, as though something had been unlocked. Mist sprayed up from the water and danced in the air. Thousands of tiny water droplets hung suspended in the air above the pool. Abbott stared at them in disbelief. After a moment he noticed they began forming something, like stars make up a constellation. Before him the misty droplets had formed some type of large sea creature. It floated above the pool in a serene way and a soft voice came from it. In a voice, warm as the coo of a dove it said, “State your name. Seven questions answered, then, revealed the secrets of your heart; begin. Abbott stood awestruck for a moment, then straightened up tall and announced, “Abbott Winterdale here, and Laraya...um I'm not sure of her last name actually.” Laraya laughed softly for a moment, “Boy, she already know's I'm here. I'm always here when she's been woken.” He smiled and realized that the creature was probably very used to Laraya. “Oh, yea. I suppose you're right. What's her nam-” he started, but was interrupted by the creature.

“Hail you from where?” its voice called. “Well, I come from New Hampshire but now I live in Idaho with my aunt and uncle. Well that is unless my grandparents force me to live with them” he rambled. “Your years thus far?” she asked. Bo thought for a minute, then realized the creature was asking his age. “Oh, I'm 9” he replied. “Have you any markings?” the next question was asked. Abbott shook his head, and answered, “Nope.” Next she asked, “Prepared are you to leave your lives former routine?” Abbott scoffed slightly, “I pretty much already have done. But, yes I am prepared.” The creature leaned a little closer, and furrowed her brow. She then asked, “Would you kill for what you seek?” Bo stood in silence. He rather preferred the questions about his age and where he lived. Kill another to find Arista? He had never thought of this before. “I...I suppose I would if she were in danger, and it was the only way to save her” he answered finally. She raised her eyebrows slightly, and leaned in further still. The misty figure was now inches from his face. She spoke slowly this time, and asked, “Would you die for what you seek?” Abbott swallowed hard and nodded. While he had no intention of dying for a long time, he would if it meant it would save Arista. He shuddered at the thought of what horrible place she could be trapped or held prisoner. The creatures nose was so close to Abbott's nose now, that he could feel the coolness of the mist dancing across his nose. “Seek you what?” she whispered. He felt quite cold now, and little goose bumps rose over his skin. His eyes met the creature's and stared into his eyes. The creature was certainly making him uncomfortable, but he couldn't break his gaze. Without an answer from him, the creature leaned back. “I see...” she said softly, “Look into the mist, your desire is revealed.”

Bo blinked, and strained his eyes to make out a shape in the mist. The creature dove into the pool, and an eruption of water shot out. It swirled around like a tornado, going faster and faster. Suddenly Abbott was able to see something forming, like a picture on a tv screen. A nearly translucent porcelain colored hand could be seen being placed against a stone wall. One of the stones lit up blue in a strange pattern, like some kind of odd language. The stone wall changed into a type of portal leading into an underground room. It was cozy, and had a small stove, bed, and bookshelf. In the center of the room a rope ladder hung from the ceiling. Now he could see the back of a white haired girl. She wore a dress that seemed to have a type of glowing white aura around it. Tiny stars were sprinkled across the dress, and they too seemed to slightly glow. He watched as she begin to scale the ladder. He watched until her white tights and shoes could be seen no longer, as she disappeared in to the ceiling. Now the scene changed and he seemed to be looking at a river bank with many tree's paralleling it. From one of the tree trunks, a small door opened, and the white haired girl could be seen emerging from it. Her hair hung in her face blocking Abbott from seeing her features. She spun around to face the other direction, and he knew it was her. Piercing, almost glowing blue eyes shone bright against her porcelain skin.

“How beautiful she is!” Laraya exclaimed. This sudden outburst from Laraya startled Abbott, and he glanced over at the old woman. When he looked back into the spinning water, the scene had disappeared, and Arista was gone. The water fell and the pool grew very still. “Why did you do that?!” Bo shouted angrily, “We could have found out where she was going! ...Hey, wait a minute. I thought you couldn't see!” Laraya smiled and answered, “I can always see the desires of the heart that Reverie shows people. Though, I don't get many visitors, so there isn't a lot to see. It's the only time I can see anything, so you know how special it is to me.” “Reverie, that's her name? What is she?” Bo asked curiously. “Yes. She is an old spirit. A spirit born long ago from a young man's broken heart. It is said that a young gentleman fell in love with a beautiful girl. One day she was caught in a stampede of wild horses, and was severely injured. The young man stayed by her side as each day her life slipped further and further away. The young man held her hand as she drew her last breath. Moments after she died, the man slumped over, killed from a broken heart. Their spirits lingered above their bodies, and shared their first kiss. When that happened their spirits combined, and Reverie was born” she explained eerily. “Weird.....” Bo whispered, “Ok, well can you help me find Arista? We don't have much to go on, but I know she's by a river, with a special tree. That's a start.” “Yes there is such a tree...I can point you in that direction. Just know that by the time you get there, Arista won't be there. She will have moved on to somewhere else. I don't know how much that will help you..” Laraya told him. Abbott figured it was more than he had to go on previously, and agreed to accept Laraya's help.

"Now it is time for the waters to decide what price is to be paid. Climb into the water and float on you back" Laraya instructed him. Abbott did as he was told, pulled off all but his underwear, and dipped a toe into the water. It was surprising warm as he entered the pool, and began to float on his back. For a moment everything was fine, but soon the water started growing colder. His body began to shiver with cold from the water. He didn't know what was happening, and tried to get out of the pool, but he couldn't move. The waters temperature felt like a thousand needles piercing his skin, and he wailed in pain. His thoughts raced through memories, and events of his life as the water stabbed at him. Blood began lightly trickling into the water, as he tried to break free. "Stop, Please!" he screamed.

Calmly Laraya answered him, "The waters have chosen pain as your price, there is only one way to stop it." The water pierced his side hard and he gasped for air and called, "Any...thing!" His mother came into view in his mind. Staring into space as she sat in her bed, she seemed like she was in some kind of trance. Suddenly she screamed a high pitched shrill scream. Convulsing on the bed violently, then clutching her heart, she fell over dead. Her body instantly turned to ash, which flew into the air and out the window. The water gave a final jab into Abbott before subsiding, as it grew warm once more. Tears flooded his eyes, and he tried to move, but still no luck. Laraya then took a glass vile from her pocket, and gathered some water from the pool. Moments later ashes appeared over him, and he stared in disbelief. They swirled around before floating into Laraya's glass vile. She put a cork in the glass jar, and shook it gently. Then she popped the cork off and drank the entire contents. Her hair instantly grew about six inches, and her skin became smooth and youthful. Her eyes remained in their eerie state, and it was apparent that she was still blind.

Abbott sunk under the water and thrashed around, quickly getting to his feet. He rushed over to the edge of the pool calling out angrily to Laraya, "Why did you make me do that?" He climbed out of the pool and wiped his face. "You're blind! What do you care if you look young? My mother....My mother is DEAD because of you!" he shouted in with rage. But Laraya smiled, "No dear boy, your mother is dead because of you. I played no part in the decision of the waters. You agreed to pay the price to find out more about your sister, which you have done. You now know that she is indeed alive. My features matter not to me, though when one calls upon Reverie and the waters collect their price, I am rewarded. The waters reward me with a youthful body, allowing me many more years of life. I thank you for your contribution to my longevity." Abbott stood in complete silence, he dared not speak for he knew the words he spoke would do him no favors. His skin was wounded from the water, but he showed no sign of weakness at its pain. A few more tears snuck out of the corner of his eye, but he stood with his fists clenched, and didn't even acknowledge them. "I know you're upset boy, but sometimes sacrifices must be made if you wish to find what you seek. Your mother was a sad soul, she was unhappy. Her life was spent as a burden to your father. Her soul will find its peace, and you can seek your sister. Here this will heal your wounds" Laraya soothed as she pulled a hot towel from a notch in the wall.

After he was dried and dressed, Laraya motioned for him to follow her once more. On the walk back upstairs his head reeled with what had just taken place. Guilt and anger plagued his conscience, while hope and joy danced in his soul at the knowledge that his sister was alive. Hundreds of emotions pulled his heart in every direction, and his head began to pain him. Back upstairs Laraya explained what direction to head to get to the special tree. “You should stop by my daughter's house. She is Fluxian also, and will be keen to assist you in your journey. You should know, she's a bit of a wild card. She's not like most Fluxians...she's very liberal in her views. You might have to do a little convincing, but she will prove to be helpful to you” she told him. She offered him a snack to take along, but judging by the disarray of the house and the kitchen, he politely declined. In a short while Abbott was on his way, trapezing through the thick forest tree's once again.

He headed east and reflected on the events at Laraya's. He couldn't believe it...all this time Arista had been alive! When everyone had given up, he hadn't! There was more to what happened to Arista, so much more, but how would he ever find her? An hours walk took him to a cliff side, and across the way he could see some type of cabin or hut semi-hidden in the bushes. "Wonder if that is Laraya's daughters place?" he thought aloud. With no way to get to the other side, he decided to head south to find out if it led around to the cabin. It did not. After a little ways he realized that it may never lead to the opposite side, and so he decided to crawl down the large rocks that bulged out from the side of the mountain top. 

A short ways down he noticed it was becoming increasingly harder to climb down, but he kept at it. The next rock seemed a bit far but he thought he could jump it. He readied himself and sprang from the current rock he was on. He landed it perfectly, but as soon as his feet hit the next stone, it began to crumble under his feet. Quickly he searched for something to grab hold of, and his hands found a thick root just in reach. Now the rest of the stone fell away leaving him hanging onto the root for dear life. The closest rock was too far to reach, even if he swung himself over to it. His nerves began making his palms sweaty, and his hands began to slip from the root. Anxiously he glanced down at the almost fifty foot drop, and knew he would never survive the fall. "This is it.." he thought, "I've made it all this way just to die." 

A sturdy rope fell from above and hung temptingly beside him. "Hey stupid grab the rope!" a voice called down at him. With out much choice Bo had no option but to grab hold of the rope. "Hope whoever's up there doesn't mean me any harm. Although, anything would be better than falling to my death I suppose" he mumbled to himself. Climbing the rope was really hard work, the coarse fibers stung his hands as they slid across its rough surface. But, Abbott gave it all he had, and soon enough, he reached the top.  

"What the heck are you trying to do, get yourself killed?" a girl with jet black hair asked him. She tightened her ponytail and untied the rope from a large nearby rock. This girl seemed "normal" to Abbott, not like those other water folks, or the fire people that wore those strange outfits. She had on hiking boots, khaki shorts and a t-shirt that read May I Help You? Bo smirked at her sarcastic t-shirt, but tried to hide it. "Well? Do you speak?" she asked, her dark eyes searching his for an answer. "Uh...Hi. I'm Abbott, Bo for short. Thanks for saving me by the way. I was looking for a way over to the other side of the cliffs, to that cabin" he replied tripping over his words a bit. "What do you want with my cabin? Where you heading?" she pressed. "Well I'm looking for some people. Brietta, Dovie, Arista and some girl, Laraya's daughter..." he trailed off realizing he never did get her name. At this the girl bursted out laughing, and Bo looked on in confusion. "Haha! Hold on, you are looking for Arista, the moon princess? The one from the sky? And you think....haha! You think she's just out here running around in the woods?! The Fluxian's would have destroyed her by now if that were true!" she giggled as she fell to the ground. 

"HEY!" Bo shouted irritatedly, "Who are you?" The girl calmed herself and got to her feet still wearing a smile, "The names Pasha. Put 'er there. Just so you know I don't condone anything the Fluxian's are doing. I think they are going about things all wrong. Mother always got her undies in a twist because I wouldn't call myself a Fluxian. I says to her, I'm a foster. I'm no special elemental being, I'm just a regular teen, same as anyone else. Sheesh...how is the old hag?" Pasha asked. She stooped to pick up a walking stick, and surveyed it carefully. "Wait so you're...you're Laraya's daughter? Oh wow! Can you help me? She said you could help me!" Bo said excitedly. She scoffed, "FOSTER daughter, and yea I'm the closest thing she's got to having a kid of her own. By the way kid, I already helped ya. Later" With that she turned and walked away. 

"Hey, wait! Please help me find my family" Bo pleaded. "Not real good with families bud. Not in the business of finding families. I figure, no body can break your heart if ya don't give it to 'em in the first place" she answered without stopping. "Yea well, fine! Laraya said you weren't gonna help me anyhow. I'll find them on my own! And, if Arista is a princess of some kind how's she gonna like it when she finds out how you treated her brother? Too bad, maybe you could have even gotten a reward or something from her for helping me" Abbott huffed marching off in the opposite direction. Pasha stopped in her tracks and turned toward him. "Hey, Bo. You know I was just messin' around right kid? I mean, you and me are gonna be thick as thieves, I can tell! I always liked red-head kids. They're just really cool people to hang out with" Pasha blabbered. Abbott raised an eyebrow in disbelief, "Yea, yea. Now, which way do we head?"

Not far off, Brietta and Dovie marched through the forest. Dovie's shoes were covered in mud, and sweat dripped off the tip of Brietta's nose. “We'll never find him!” Dovie whined, “We've been walking for such a long time. Can't we stop for a few minutes?” Brietta sighed, “If we stop, he'll j-just be that much further away. Come on, I think I see a clearing up ahead.” The tree's soon thinned and the sounds of rushing water could be heard. “Shh...listen. I think we are near a river. C'mon!” Dovie said perking up. “Why are you so excited about a river?” Brietta called, chasing after Dovie. At the edge of the forest Dovie stopped quickly to avoid falling down. Brietta crashed into her, but caught her by the arm to pull her back. The edge of the forest dropped about ten feet, at its base sat the river bank. They carefully climbed down to the bank, and looked around a bit. “Bummer....this seemed like a good place to meet. I thought Bo would think it was a good idea too, and we would find him.” “Well the river stretches a long way, he could be anywhere along the river's edge. T-That's if he even thought to meet us here” Brietta said downheartedly as they walked along the river.

“What was that?” Dovie gasped as she stopped abruptly. “W-What, was what?” Brietta answered quickly, stopping along side her. Dovie pointed up ahead, and answered “Over there....I thought I saw a flash of light....you know like a flash light!” The girls exchanged looks, and took off running to catch up to where Dovie saw the light. “Bo! Hey, wait!” they called after him running faster and faster. No matter how fast they ran, they couldn't seem to catch him. As they rounded the river bend, they saw a wisp of silvery white hair disappear into the trunk of a tree. They quickly ran over to the group of tree's to investigate, but none of the tree trunks had any sign of a way inside.

“What in the world was that?” Brietta wondered aloud. “No clue, but I want to find out how to get in here” Dovie said pulling pieces of bark from the tree.” Brietta shook her head, “It's no use Dovie. It's getting too dark to see anything, even if t-there was anything to see.” Davita stopped, and slumped down against the tree trunk. She sighed heavily, “What are we going to do once it gets dark? Bo has the flashlight, and there is nothing providing any kind of light.” Brietta nodded, “I thought of that too. Do we have some matches? W-We could build a fire.” Dovie rummaged through her bag looking through the supplies she brought. Ho ho's, moon pies, twinkies, bread, a few apples, gingersnap cookies, and some peanut butter sandwiches. “You mean to t-tell me, all you brought was food!?” Brietta said angrily. Dovie shrugged sheepishly, “I was hungry when we were packing. Besides even if we made a fire, wouldn't it just attract unwanted visitors?” At this Brietta thought for a moment, and huffed, crossing her arms in protest. “Fine we'll walk as far as we can before it gets so dark we can't see, then w-we'll stop for the night” she compromised. She helped Dovie to her feet, and they trudged on a little further following the river.

Twenty minutes later, with no way to see through the darkness the two of them decided to rest for the night. The girls huddled together for warmth next to a huge rock by one of the tree's. The night brought a temperature drop, and they shivered in their sleep. Down the bank a few hundred feet, a strange looking man went from tree to tree inspecting it briefly, until he reached the spot where Brietta and Davita lay sleeping. He made some notes on a pad of paper, and stuffed it into his pocket. He ran both his hands through his dark colored hair, then rubbed his hands together quickly. His hands were suddenly surrounded by flames, but he didn't seem to be in any pain. He made a motion with them as though he was washing his hands, and the flame rolled into a ball. Collecting a nearby branch or two, he laid them not far from the girls. Next, he sat the flame ball onto the branches, and stood back to admire the small fire that was now glowing. The light from the fire danced along the girls faces, and Brietta's eyes fluttered open for a moment, but she instantly fell back to sleep. The man was nervous he would wake the girls, and so he climbed up the bank out of sight. He pulled a hammock from the pack he was carrying, set it up between the tree's, and drifted off to sleep.

Next morning he awoke to the sound of the girls talking, and peered over the edge of the ground down to the bank. “I already told you I have no idea how it got here!” Davita said grumpily. “W-Well I just don't understand. I know I didn't put it there! What if someone is following us?” Brietta said uncertainly. “If someone is following us, I don't think they mean us harm. I mean they had their chance to harm us last night if that was the case” Dovie pointed out. “Her words are true. You must take precaution with your camp” the stranger said, jumping down from a few feet above them. The girls gasped with shock at the surprise encounter, and Dovie nearly fell over. Brietta tried not to stare, and felt her cheeks grow warm. Dovie noticed her sister blushing, then looked back over at the man. He stood tall, and moderately muscular with deep set ocean blue eyes. Rich brown curls fell just past his ears, and complimented his strong jaw. He smiled at the girls as they gawked at him dumbfoundedly. “Oh this, sorry I'm a bit disheveled” he chuckled pulling his curly brown locks into a samurai style hair do. Playfully he furrowed his bushy brows, and posed in a ta-da type of stance. Dovie rolled her eyes, and Brietta was overcome with a fit of the giggles. Dovie gave Brietta a strange frown, then turned to the man and arrogantly asked, “...and you are?” She looked the man up and down, and determined that this stubbly bearded man in some type of odd attire that had definitely seen better days, didn't look like someone to trust.

Grinning at Brietta he replied, “I do beg your pardon. I've forgotten my manners, the names Parrow. To whom do I owe this honor?” He finished with a little bow and of course more grinning at Brietta. An annoyed Dovie stepped between them, “I'm Davita, but they call me Dovie. Where have you come from? Have you been following us?” Parrow looked happily surprised. “You're a fiesty one, aye? Actually no, I wasn't following you. I was- well nevermind all that. I was making my way down the banks and noticed you two had a terrible excuse for a campsite. So I gave you a fire, then I went up there and set up my hammock, as the hour was very late” he explained pointing to the small cliff above them.”W-W-Well...my name is Brietta. Thank you for looking out for us” she stammered almost uncontrollably. Before Parrow had a chance to speak however, Dovie butted in again. “You never explained where you are from? Don't you want to answer my questions?” she fussed throwing her hands on her hips. “I'd be glad to tell you all about me. But, first how about some breakfast? Also, your fires out again” he said cooly. He climbed up the ledge of the bank, and returned with a rucksack. He pulled from it some bread and a can of jam. “Bread is always better toasted in my opinion” he said almost to himself. Then the girls watched as his hands started turning red, brighter and brighter until an orange-red flame surrounded them. He again rolled the flame into a ball, and sat it on top of some twigs. “Oh my gosh....what th-” Dovie started. But, Brietta quickly interrupted her, “W-What she means to say is, how did you do that?”

As Parrow toasted some bread for them they sat talking about Abbott, and basically everything up until they were separated. Parrow offered to help them find their cousin, and as promised, answered Dovie's questions. “From what you tell me, you know about the books stories. So, you must know about the fire ones, the people of Thermo? Well I was born to a Thermic man, but my mother was just a common villager, with no known elemental skill. My father teased her about it often. He was a terrible man...he had a temper you see. The two of them would fight, and many times I had to treat my mothers burns. Finally she had enough, late one night she took me, and we left Thermo when I was about year 10. She told me we could never go back” he explained. “I see, what a brave woman she is” Brietta said sympathetically. “Was...She no longer lives. About a month after we left, someone came round banging at the door. My mother told me to go out the back door and go hide in the shed. A few moments later the entire house was covered in flames. I tried to get inside, but the flames were too wild. I ran off into the woods, been on my own ever since. The townspeople called it a random tragedy, but I knew better. I knew it was my father” Parrow finished. “Oh my! How absolutely dreadful! I'm so sorry about your mother” Brietta responded solemnly.

He gave a little nod in thanks, then began packing up his belongings. "What say we find your cousin? There are three places where he could be. The first, dead, which I find unlikely given what you've told me about him. The second, lost and wandering in the woods, the best of our choices oddly enough. The last, he's found Laraya, a dark water witch. This would be most unsettling. She can be cruel and cunning if her "guest" isn't persuaded. The girls exchanged looks as they too pack their things. "Do you think that's where he's gone?" Davita questioned. "I don't see how he would end up there. But, if there are Fluxian's wandering about, then it's likely they instructed him to go there" Parrow replied. "Oh dear..." Brietta said nervously. "Hey, chin up beautiful. We'll find him, and we'll find out where his sister is too" he told her looking into her eyes. "Ahem! Um, EXCUSE ME! Are we gonna go look for him or what?" Dovie asked as she tapped her toe on the ground impatiently. Parrow and Brietta gave each other a smile, and started along the bank of the river. Davita rolled her eyes and followed them as she slung her bag over her shoulder. 

Chapter 49

The next morning after breakfast, I decide to pay Parfon and Phillip a visit. I usually let Cade deal with those two, but this morning Jax needed his help with something, so the task was mine.

The cold stone walls greet me as I enter the stairs to the dungeon. The guards greet me pleasantly, and stand up a little straighter at my presence. “How are the inmates? Any problems?” I ask them. A nearby Phillip snarls angry words at me from his cell. "You idiot, Parfon will rule one day and you'll be sorry!" he growls. One of the guards takes a staff, and jabs the prisoner in the stomach through the bars. “You will respect our Queen thief, or it's the gallows for you!” the guard Mathis yells. He turns toward me again, “We've had no trouble that we can't handle majesty.” The guards exchange looks with one another, but try to do so subtly. “Mathis, is there anything you wish to tell me?” I ask suspiciously. Mathis glances at the others nervously, avoiding eye contact with me. He wrings his hands, but then stands tall and opens his mouth to speak. Before he is able to, Jeston, a guard from the back of the group calls out, “Marcob is dead!” All of the guards whip around to glare at him, and I draw in my breath slightly. “What happened? Why are you keeping this from the King and I? You are meant to be loyal to us, are you not?” I ask with concern. “It just happened last night highness. We have yet to inform you, as the hour is early” another guard explains. “We didn't want to worry you so your majesty” Mathis adds. “I'm not upset...but you must tell me immediately in the future! Don't stall for the hour. What has happened?” I question.

Mathis hesitates before he answers, “It's Parfon your highness. She seems to have cast a spell on Marcob. He was found trying to release her from her cell. We caught him in time. As soon as her gaze from him broke he looked bewildered, as though he had no idea what was happening. Then, she mumbled something and he fell over dead.” I give him a look one would give a child in trouble, “Mathis...I've got to tell you, I'm disappointed. This is exactly something that would be appropriate to wake us for. My patience has been tried with you in the past, and I believe I've run out of it. Jeston, how long have you worked as a secondary guardsmen to the throne?” I ask. Jeston stands tall and answers proudly, “All my life majesty. It is an honor to serve the royal throne.” I give him a smile, “Not any longer. You sir are promoted to High Guard of the Royal Protection. Your ceremony will be arranged, but your duties begin at once.” Then turning my attention to Mathis I continue, “I'm afraid I will have to place you as a groundsmen for the royal gardens. Perhaps in time our confidence in you can be restored.”

Mathis seems to be unphased by this demotion, and instead a broad smile spreads across his face. “It was I who killed Marcob. Parfon was a distraction. While you idiots were busy with her, I injected him with a fast acting poison” he informs us snidely. He begins backing up towards Parfons cell as he talks, but the other guards get closer to him with every step. Finally we are at Parfon's cell. She is perched on the edge of the cot, sitting in a dainty manner wearing a smile. Mathis grabs something small from his pocket and throws it to Parfon. A burst of green smoke blows the cell door wide open and all of the guards, with the exception of Mathis stand stiff as board. I gasp in fear for what she will do, but she smiles that creepy smile once more.

Don't worry deary I won't kill you, I need you” she says slyly. I remain fear-stricken a she turns to Mathis and puts her hands into the air as she speaks, “Mathis, my good man. You have lived up to your word, betray the royal throne and free me, and you will have indefinite glory brought upon you when I rule. Oh, and I plan to rule. I plan to rule this entire realm!” she laughs and leans in closer to him. With stealth, I try to reach for a nearby guards sword, but she freezes me in place. “Are you ready for your reward?” she seductively asks Mathis with the tip of her nose pressed against his. Mathis seems ready for the kiss, but Parfon quickly pulls away and slices his throat with one swift flick of her wrist. He clutches his blood pouring throat momentarily before falling dead to the ground. With that more green smoke erupts and envelopes Parfon within it. Freed from my petrified state I snatch through smoke to try and grab hold of her, but she is gone. Phillip laughs hysterically at the chaos from his cell. Confusion and anger break out among the guards, but I let them know it will be alright. “Jeston get these guards back to their stations. I will tell the king of these events!” I instruct. “At once majesty” he says as he bows deeply. As I turn and climb the stairs, I can hear him barking orders at the guards.

Rushing around the castle looking for Cade, I stumble into Tulip. “Oof sorry! Have you seen Cade & Jax?” I ask quickly. “I haven't, I'm actually looking for Jax myself. I something important to tell him” she replies. “Well we can look together. Is everything alright?” I pry. Tulip goes red in the face. “I, um...what's new with you?” she stammers. I raise an eyebrow to show that I'm not convinced, but fill her in on what happened with Parfon. “Well that's much more important than my news” she blurts out. “Well I don't know about that, but we must find Cade quickly. What news do you have” I press. “My, my Nora! I never realized what a nosey friend I have” she teases. “You'll know soon enough. Now, c'mon!” she tugs at my arm.

Finally we find the men in the garden of all places. We see them off in the distance and Tulip calls out to them. Jax leaves his place at a run and joins us near the back entrance of the castle. Cade soon follows, and I tell them what's happened with Parfon. “That bitch!” Cade snarls before storming into the castle. “So he's got a plan?” Tulip asks. I give a shrug and tell them I'll catch up with them later. In our chambers, Cade paces back and forth angrily. “Anytime we get a little lead, we end up right back at the start!” he fumes. “I know sweetie. Honestly I think we should let Parfon and Carolin duke it out. Maybe one of them will kill the other, and then we'll have one less problem on our hands” I tell him as I gently rub his shoulder. “Ugh! Maybe you're right. You know what? Between you and me, I really just need a break. I just want to spend time with you, just us. Away from Parfon, Carolin, Trolls...all of it” he says looking out the window. “It'll all work out darling. You're such a strong man, and an excellent king. We all get overwhelemed sometimes. We just have to do the best we can, and let the chips fall where they may” I soothingly tell him. He reaches over and pulls me into a tender hug. “You know what I really need?” he whispers in my ear. I blush deeply, as he begins to kiss my neck. “But, darling shouldn't you be-” I start, but he cuts me off. “The only thing I should be doing right now, is making love to my beautiful wife” he says as he scoops me up in one motion. He kisses my lips, and I feel that electric spark I always get. He gently lays me on the bed, and takes his coat off. He disrobes me then himself, kissing and caressing me all the while. “I love you beautiful” he whispers sweetly in my ear. Before I know it, he's on top of me and the two of us our overcome with pleasure.

My eyes fly open suddenly, and I see Cade picking up a few books he must have knocked off the bookshelf. “Sorry hun. Enjoy the rest of your nap. I've got work to do” he apologizes. I tell him alright, and snuggle deeper into the covers as he leaves the room. I lay there with the late afternoon sun pouring through my window as it sets, and relive the past hour with Cade in my head. “I really got myself a good guy” I think to myself. Smiling like an idiot as I think of us together, I'm suddenly jolted from my thoughts. The amulet on my chest grows warm and a dizzy sensation takes hold of me. My eyes roll back in my head, and after months of nothing, I'm struck with a vision.

Now the sun has just dipped below the horizon, and a beautiful twilight colors the sky. Jax and Tulip stroll through the gardens hand in hand. “What do you make of all these new babies?” Tulip asks him. He gives her a smile and replies, “I think it's gonna be awfully noisy at the castle.” “Oh, hah. Yea...well that's not really what I meant” Tulip responds. They reach the center of the courtyards, and Jax takes her other hand in his, spinning her playfully. “Let's just enjoy this night, and not worry about everything else” he says happily. Tulip's hair seems to glow even more yellow than normal, and she laughs as she spins. He stops her, and they take a seat on the edge of the fountain. She looks up at the night sky that is littered with stars. “I need to talk to you about something important...” Jax starts. Tulip turns to him with a panicked look. She takes a deep breath, “Ok, but I really need to get something off my chest.” Jax looks at her with concern and asks “Is everything ok babe?” Tulip bursts into tears, “I just can't keep it from you any longer. I didn't wanna tell you, because I know it's not what you want. I didn't want you to be mad.” Jax pulls her into a hug and calms her. “Lippie you can tell me anything. Don't be afraid, we'll work it out, what ever it is.” She wipes her eyes and leans up to look at him. She glances off to the side, her eyes darting from Jax to the ground. “I know you don't want get tied down. I know you were probably relieved in a way when I miscarried with your child awhile back. But, I've been pregnant for a few months now....with your twins” she tells him. A look of pure astonishment spreads across his face.

Well, what do you think?” she asks nervously after a few moments pass. Jax's expression softens and he answers ”What I think...” he then slides off the edge of the fountain and down on to one knee, “...is that I want you to be my wife. I want to raise these wonderful children with you, and show you each day how much I love you. I know I've messed up bad in the past. I know I've been a complete ass. But, if you will let me I would like to make up for it from now until the rest of our lives...If you'll have me?” Tulip sits in disbelief. None of us ever thought Jax would settle down. “The bad boy, the flirt, that goofy guy that treats everything like a joke...now down on one knee ready to be husband and father?” I think to myself. Tulip clutches her heart in surprise, and gasps. She bursts into tears again nodding, while a wide smile covers Jax's face. “I'm sorry, it's the hormones. Yes darling, YES!” she finally gets out. Jax laughs and then kisses her tenderly. Just as they embrace the vision begins to fade and I grin from ear to ear.

“How absolutely wonderful” I think. I spring off of the bed happily. Catching my reflection in the mirror I pause, and notice my amulet. “Glad this thing seems to be working again. I wonder why it has suddenly started up again” I ask aloud. “Probably has something to do with Parfon leaving. Maybe her presence causes it not to work or something” Arthur says scaring me half to death. He laughs and apologies, “Sorry I didn't mean to startle you!” I softly chuckle and catch my breath, “Oh that's alright. You just surprised me is all. So, you've heard the news already?” Arthur nods, “I think everyone does. Cade is pretty angry about it, and he was talking to the lot of us downstairs. I was actually coming to see if you know where I can find Tulip? Bonnie is looking for her.” I smile broadly, “I do, but she's a little busy at the moment. I'll have one of the maids send her to Bonnie in a bit.” Arthur thanks me, and heads back into the hall.

I just can't believe it! Marriage, and twins for Tulip and Jax! How exciting!!” I say to my reflection in the mirror. The girl in the reflection does not smile back. Even though I speak words of joy for Jax and Tulip, the face staring back at me wears a solemn expression, and my hand slides over to my empty belly. Though I'm extremely happy for my dear friends, a wave of sadness spills over me. Tears fall from my eyes, and I plop down in front of the tall mirror sobbing.

I barely notice the sound of the door opening, or Cade's arms around me. He gently catches my face in his hands, and wipes my tears. A tender kiss follows, and I look into his eyes briefly. I glance away frowning, as tears continue to roll down my face. “My love, what's the matter? Who's hurt you?” he asks worriedly. I shake my head and try to compose myself. He helps me to my feet, and giving a sniff I reply as I trip over my words, “I....I can't...I just want to make you happy.” At this point, I stop and take a deep breath. Finally some composer comes to me, and I begin again. “My amulet is working again. Arthur seems to think it's because Parfon left, like maybe she had some sort of spell on it preventing it from working” I explain. Cade nods along as I speak, as though this is all makes sense to him. “I just saw Jax and Tulip in the courtyard gardens. She told him that she is pregnant with his twins, and his response was a propsal! I'm so very happy for them, and for the other couples that are having children. But...as you know we've been trying for some time now. I thought it wise to have the doctor check me out” I continue. At this my eyes find the floor and I finish, “Unfortunately he has informed me that I am no longer able to bear children...I'm so sorry, but I cannot give you an heir.” Tears once again spill from my eyes, and I cover my face in shame and heartache.

Cade's embrace surrounds me now, and he gentle strokes my hair. “Shh...my darling” he whispers in my ear. He leans me away from him holding my shoulders at arms length. “Look at me Nora...Look here!” he says searching for my eyes. “Yes..” I whisper with a waiver in my voice. “When we wed it was because I love you, and wanted you to be my wife. I want to share this life with you, through whatever it may bring us. If we are not to bear children, then so be it. I will love and honor you for the rest of my days. Don't let this worry you so!” he tells me lovingly. I nod as I wipe my tears, and he firmly kisses me. “Worry not, my love!” he says with a smile. Taking me by the hand he leads me downstairs, and I can only smile at him. “How lucky I am to have found such an incredible man” I think to myself.

Downstairs we find our friends talking excitedly about Jax and Tulip's news. “Shall we join them darling? If you're not up for it, it's fine” Cade whispers to me. “You go on ahead hun, I've got to talk to Cookie” I answer. He gives me a half smile, and a little pinch on the bottom. “Hey!” I say in surprise as I playfully swat him away. He grins sheepishly, then gives me a wink before joining the others.

*I quickly make my way to the servants kitchen to find Cookie, and find her standing over a large pot of stew. She's humming a spritely tune with much enthusiasum, and doesn't even notice me as I take a seat at the large wooden table. “Your singing brings a smile to my face” I interrupt. “OOOH! Good heavens majesty! You gave me a fright!” Cookie shrieks. I stiffle a giggle, and apologize as Marcie joins us. “I didn't mean to scare you. I'm sure you've heard of all the news circulating throughout the castle. Roonie and Luke are wanting to hold a ball in their kingdom of Learia. The kingdom is newly rebuilt, and I would like you to journey with us to assist their kitchen with the feast” I instruct. She nods and curtsies in understanding. “I understand that you are Cookie's most trusted kitchen aid?” I ask, turning to address Marcie. She blushes bright red and gives one hesitant nod. “Aye mum” she whispers. “Right, so you'll be in charge of the kitchen while Cookie is away” I further explain. I give them both a smile, and they curtsie.

I can still hear the chattering of my friends coming from the grand hall as I leave the kitchen, and I stand up tall putting away my personal problems. After all these are my best friends, and I'm very happy for them. My own sorrows won't cause me to be bitter towards them for it. Before I can join them however, I'm struck with a vision, a faint one. This vision is strange, and seems to be coming from a very far distance. The vision is almost translucent, and I can still see Brendlewood's hall. Slowly the vision focuses a bit more, and I can barely make out a figure hunched over in an empty room. This foggy vision doesn't give much for detail, but it seems the figure is a woman who's crying. The door of the room opens with a bang, and the woman whips around with a gasp! It's Shelly! Oh how I wish I could reach through the vision and hug my dear friend! Next thing, the vision shows a new scene. Shelly is sick, even throwing up blood. “Oh Shelly! You poor darling, where are you?” I wonder. Horrible sounds come from the vision now; sounds I can't make out. It begins to fade and blur, and Tulip's voice reaches my ears.

Did you finally have a vision? What happened? Are you ok?” Tulip questions in her excited mood. I look into Tulip's eyes, and for the first time she looks truly happy. Her lemon honey colored eyes sparkle with jubulance, and I smile. I can't take this moment from her with worry of Shelly. “It was hard to make out really...I'll ask Cade about it later” I tell her. She nods fervently as though she's excited we aren't talking about the vision after all. “I have news!” she squeals in a voice almost as high pitched as Roonie's. Not wanting to spoil the fun for her, I play dumb. “Oh? Do tell!” I reply eagerly. She begins rattling off details of the evening that I saw in my vision, but I try to act as though this is the first I'm hearing of it. “It's so exciting! I could be giving birth anytime now! There could be two new little ones running around Brendlewood Castle soon!” she delightedly informs me. “Wait what? How far along are you?” I ask confused. She laughs and her eyes light up even more “Yea! Well I'm a few months by now. I'm not exactly sure. I can just tell that it's almost time. If one or both faeries are of gifted fae it's not long after they conceive that the baby arrives. Not trying to toot the old horn, but Cirrus told me many times that my skills are of those from enchantress descent. I guess she was right” she explains. “But you don't even look pregnant!” I blurt before I can stop myself. She laughs, “Spells my friend. I didn't want anyone to know until I could tell Jax. I kept waiting because I was afraid of his reaction. Now we're getting close to time, and I knew I couldn't keep it secret much longer. Do you think I'm a bad faerie because I didn't tell him straight away?” I shake my head, “No, I don't. I mean you guys have been through so much.” Tulip gives me a wide grin, and throws her arms around me in a bear hug. “You're such a great friend Nora! C'mon let's join the others” she tells me enthusiastically.

So now we have more little ones on the way!” Roonie chimes in pointing at Tulip's belly. “Now it's your turn Nora! Plans for any-” Roonie tries to continue, but Cade cuts her off. “Well I congratulate you Jax and Tulip! The best to you both! Now I think we need some dinner” he interjects. Tulip glances at him as though she knows he's bothered by Roonie's comment, but she doesn't say anything except thank you. He motions for a maid and instructs her to let Cookie know we'll be taking our dinner in the patio wing. “I'm going to go check on the children. We should probably be going home” Bonnie announces, and Arthur says he'll join her. 

“Now just where do you think you're going? Those cousin's will need bonding time! You must stay for dinner! Right Nora? Cade?” Roonie pipes. “In fact I think you may have outgrown Brendlewood's village. The school is running well here, and well with Learia recently being rebuilt, I think we could use your help Bonnie. Our school number's are very low indeed. What do you say to moving to Learia?” Luke adds. Arthur and Bonnie exchange looks. “But, what about the children? When would she be able to care for them?” Arthur asks. “We know you enjoy the village life, but perhaps you could stay with us at the castle. That way the nurses can care for the little ones, and you can still do what you love. You can always move to the village or back to Brendlewood once the school is better established or your little ones are a bit older. What do you think?” Roonie suggests. “We'll certainly think on it. I do enjoy helping the children learn, and Brendlewoods school is thriving with Miss Kencie and Ms. Petson running it” Bonnie mentions. “We'll see you at dinner” Luke calls as the two couples make their way to the staircase, all talking excitedly about Learia.

Jax makes conversation with Cade about the results of some local wrestling match in the village, and Tulip's attention turns to me. She looks at me with concern, and pulls me to the side. “Is everything ok Nora?” she questions. I give her my best smile, but it doesn't fool her. “Oh you stop that. I know something is bothering you. Please tell me what it is” she presses. “Ok, well it's a few things actually. Please know that I am very happy for you, and everyone that recently had children. I just...well I spoke with the royal doctor, and he's told me I won't be able to become pregnant. I just told Cade this morning, and he took it well. But, I just feel horrible” I blabber mindlessly. Realizing that I've said too much, I cover my mouth, and then apologize. “Oh Nora, I'm sorry. Please don't apologize, I know this must be hard for you” she comforts. “I just don't get it, Cirrus told me something before she took her final leave. Something about a son...but the doctor just gave me this news. I just...” I sniff hard to keep from crying, but Tulip smiles. She catches herself and hides it quickly. “Why on earth are you smiling at my misery?” I snap without thinking. “I'm not! I-I'm sorry. I just know that beings can be wrong sometimes” she says somewhat mysteriously. “Wait do you mean Cirrus was wrong, or the doctor?” I quickly ask. “We will have to see. Just don't give up yet Nora” she tells me comfortingly.

I nod and go on, “I'm also worried about Shelly...I got a weird vision of her” I begin. As I begin to explain the vision, Cade and Jax join in our conversation. After learning what I've seen, the four of us stand quietly a moment. “Were there any details in the background? Maybe a clue as to where she could be?” Cade asks. “Well it's hard to tell. In one scene she seems to be in a castle or cell room, but then it looks like she's in the woods somewhere. I just can't tell” I explain to them as I begin to tear up. “Don't worry, we're going to find her, Thatcher, and Juliana too! I've had enough of this Carolin woman and her goons!” Jax says angrily. The rest of us agree and Tulip tells me to let them know the moment I have another vision. “I'm just glad it's working again!” I say a bit relieved.

Dinner is served majesties” Marcie announces. “Thank you Marcie. C'mon let's get some food in our stomachs. I'm so hungry I could eat a horse!” Jax kids. The others laugh lightly, and turn to head for the back yards. “I'll go get everyone from upstairs” I offer. Cade kisses my cheek, and follows Jax and Tulip outside. I let out a sigh, gather my skirts and begin  to climb the stairs. Trying to put on a happy face for everyone, but it's hard sometimes. Though I am truly happy for them, I can't help but get lost in a daydream of having a child with Cade. When I get to the landing I pause suddenly. My amulet has turned a deep red hue, and another vision surrounds me. A lavish bed chamber comes into view. No village room would be so elegantly decorated, so this must belong to a castle. I hear Shelly's voice now, but she doesn't seem as though she's in trouble this time. A man's voice can be heard, their conversation seems of a loving nature. “She's found Thatcher surely!” I think to myself. She leans forward and he wraps his arms around her waist, but as he comes into focus I realize that it's not Thatcher at all. Shelly and Lestat embrace, and follow it with a passionate kiss. “NORA!” a voice calls, “Nora! Are you ok?” Shelly and Lestat disappear and Roonie's face comes into view. “I said, are you alright?” she asks again. I nod, but feel disoriented. Apparently during the vision, I lost my balance and fell to the floor of the landing. “Ow...my arm” I mumble grasping at my bruised elbow. Luke appears beside us, and offers a hand to get me to my feet. “Another vision?” he asks. “Yes, I think I know where your mother is...or at least was. It's not much, but it's a start” I tell him. I mention about dinner, and send a maid to fetch Bonnie and Arthur.

The evening breeze is cool on the courtyard patio. The gardens' flowers are lush, and vibrant under the evening sky as we join the others for dinner. “What a beautiful night!” Roonie exclaims. Cade and Jax rise upon our arrival, and Cade helps me to my seat. “I had another vision just now on the landing. I didn't even know it was coming, and I guess I fell during it” I tell everyone once we're settled. “Oh gosh! Are you ok?” Tulip asks quickly. The other's look on with nervous expressions, but I reassure them I'm fine. I fill them in on the details from the vision, and my guess that she's at some castle. “Well we know it's not Castlerock...because it was destroyed. Do you think Thatcher has found the baby? I wonder if he has caught up to Shelly” Tulip thinks aloud. “Who knows? But, It can't be Learia, it's just now been re-established, surely not an ideal place to try to hide prisoners” Luke mentions. “Honestly I think if it were Dragon Valley, Shelly would be dead by now...and we would have heard about it. That Carolin likes to boast you know?” Arthur adds. “Ok so that leaves Stone Ridge and Blue Haven...” Jax says stroking the hair on his chin. “She's the new Queen of Blue Haven, so that would be her home...would someone hold her prisoner there?” Bonnie wonders. “That does sound like a good reason to hold her hostage there, but remember I saw her with Lestat. The last place we saw him was in Stone Ridge...what business has he in Blue Haven?” I bring up. “I just can't figure out why she would do this to Thatcher! And, with Lestat of all people!” Roonie squeaks.

Everyone chatters about the vision, and argues over where we should look first. The evening carries on and the kitchen maids come collect our empty dinner plates, offering dessert. With only enough available guards to send one search party, we're forced to choose between the two kingdoms. They are on the opposite side of the realm from one another, and we can't afford to be wrong. But, which should we chose; Blue Haven or Stone Ridge” I wonder to myself.