“If Your Majesty would lend me your hand briefly.”
King Gregor bent forward and held out his left hand with the palm up as if she were a palmist. Lysande took it and opened her memories of the visions. She projected them from her mind into her brother’s. She had been able to do this since childhood. Carefully, she selected what her brother should see. She did not want him to learn that evil hid behind the pretty face of a young girl, or he would never set his army in motion.
Waves of a world-spanning hate closed over Gregor and her. They saw burning towns. Riders in black amour pillaged, looted and murdered. Of the Magical Woods only charred stumps remained, and the earth was covered ankle-deep in soot. Even at midday, the sky was gray and gloomy, and crown prince Victor’s helmet hung on a crude wooden cross over one of the fresh graves in front of the gates of the soot-blackened, lifeless town. In the wind, a piece of paper with his name clapped against the timber. The repetitive noise set Lysande’s teeth on edge.
Gregor gasped and pulled his hand away. He had slipped off the throne and knelt in front of Lysande now. The witch forced her memories back into the farthest corner of her mind. She dried her tears and ignored the guards who stood beside her with drawn swords waiting for a word from their king.
King Gregor took considerably longer to find back into reality. Finally, he rose and sat on his throne again. With a deathly pale face, he waved the guards aside and said with a hoarse voice, “Alert the army, Secretary. Every soldier on his post, especially those with a drop of magic. And fetch the crown prince.”
A door in the wall on the right of the throne smashed open, and a manservant busted in. His colorful uniform hung in threads, was dirty and reeked of smoke. Tears ran over his face, and he had long lost his powdered wig.
Lysande had never seen a royal employee in such a condition in all her life. He stopped a few steps in front of the king and bowed as etiquette demanded. Lysande was surprised that he kept the protocol despite his excitement.
“Forgive the disturbance, Your Majesty. Crown prince Victor was kidnapped by a dragon just now, and the back stable is burning.”
Lysande stiffened. For the loud roar of her blood in her ears, she hardly heard Gregor’s orders or the running and crying of the courtiers.
“It has begun”, she whispered, but nobody listened.
While Melissa waited for the return of her two friends, she looked around the cave. In the part she sat, the rock had clearly been washed out by water. The cave’s ceiling showed furrows, and stalactites and stalagmites grew toward each other in damper places.
The tunnel, Leander and Reginald had disappeared in, consisted of stamped earth and formed a surprisingly even oval. It looks as if a giant mole has dug there. Melissa trembled at the thought that there could really be such an animal. What do I know about this world? After all I have seen, giant moles wouldn’t be a surprise. Suddenly, it occurred to her that moles ate insects and spiders. What if Leander meets such a monster? Reginald won’t help him. I’d better look for them.
She got up and limped toward the tunnel, her heart beating excitedly. Anxiously, she kept a lookout for its builder while she followed the silvery spider’s thread. With every step, it became a little darker around her, and after the first bend, she couldn’t see her hand in front of her eyes any more. She grabbed the thread and groped carefully along. Before she took the next step, she checked the floor with her foot. Still, she feared stepping over the edge of a precipice. Her heart beat faster, and the pain in her foot grew again. The darkness made it difficult for Melissa to judge how far she had already walked. As long as I have Leander’s thread, nothing will happen, she thought and her fear abated a little. A couple of steps later, she stumbled over a rock. She yelled. Seeking hold, she reached for the wall and let go of the thread. Her throat tied up. What will I do without the thread? She knelt down and groped around the ground. Her fingers glided over smooth stones, loamy earth and fine cracks in the rock. However, they did not touch the silken thread. She fought against rising panic. If I don’t find it, I can stumble around eternally.
A sigh echoed through the darkness.