“Gregor will desperately look for a seer for Victor’s engagement. There aren’t all that many left. I won’t even need a pretext to enter his court.”
Lukas still did not seem to understand.
Lysande explained. “I will disguise myself as a seer. With the right prophecy, I should be able to persuade him to send his army against the black shadow. As long as I don’t tell him that the shadow is a young girl, he will do as I please.”
Lukas croaked his agreement.
Lysande jumped up and rummaged through boxes and cupboards for her disguise. A little later, a stack of garments lay next to bottles, saucepans and pots. She rubbed her hands. “When I’m done even you won’t recognize me any more, Lukas. I will begin right after dinner.”
Some hours later, Lysande looked at her reflection. Her black braids were a dirty gray now, the once so smooth face laced with wrinkles, and she had changed her velvet dress for one of tattered linen and a cape. Now, she looked like a middle aged woman who led a life full of privation.
“What do you think, Lukas? Will I pass off as a seer?”
The raven chuckled.
The witch turned away from the mirror and patted his white feathers. “It is my intention that my own brother doesn’t recognize me. After all, he is the only one who has at least a small chance to defeat the black shadow. I must trick him, do you understand?”
The raven looked at his mistress and cocked his head.
“You’ll stay behind. Gregor would recognize you immediately.” Lysande took the holdall with her crystal ball, some useful magic potions, herbs and clothes and went to the front door. “Take care of house and yard, my dear, or the woods will grow on our doorstep in no time.”
The raven croaked repeatedly and flew through the house. Lysande opened a window for him, so that he could go hunting. Lukas landed on her shoulder, and together they left the house.
Melissa rode through the grassland for many hours, accompanied by sparkling stars. Leander still slept, and the unicorn kept silent.
Soon, Melissa could not bear it any more. “Stop sulking.”
“The grief for my lovely pelage locks my lips”, the unicorn answered.
“Why? What’s wrong with your fur?”
“It gets dulled by the riding and clings to my skin. Also, the spider will surely tangle my mane. I will never regain my beauty.”
He’s full of himself. Melissa shrugged. “You’re still alive.”
The unicorn neighed, and it sounded like the pealing of bells. Melissa got goose-bumps.
“I owe this fact to you only, fair maiden.”
“Don’t call me fair maiden. I am Melissa.”
The unicorn shook his mane and looked over his shoulder at his rider as best he could. His horn glittered in the silvery light of the stars. “I answer to the name of Reginald.”
Melissa smiled at the unicorn. “What do you think, how long will it take to reach the Talking Trees?”
“Well, that is hard to say fair … uh … damsel Melissa. If we remain on the Magical Paths we should reach the foothills of the mountains in approximately an hour.”
Melissa looked at the mountains that came closer with every step. The landscape they traveled showed more than grass already. Low bushes threw strange shadows on the path. In the grass, more and more flowers dangled their closed blossoms waiting for morning. On Melissa’s shoulder, Leander stretched his legs. The fluff on his abdomen tickled Melissa’s ear when he cuddled against her head. Only now did she realize that the path rose slightly.
“Really, just one hour? We’ll be there in no time.”
“Not quite.” Reginald shook his mane and snorted. “I not dare to estimate how long we will search the woods.”
Melissa raised her eyebrows. “Why? Is the place where the Talking Trees grow a secret?”
“Dear me, no. But there aren’t many left. Also, they move to a different place from time to time, and it has been a while since I last spoke with them.”
“Trees can move?” Melissa did not want to believe it. Trees were more strongly connected to a place than any other being she knew. To her, it seemed impossible they went to another place on their own.