Abby descended the stone steps with a wide welcoming smile as Marcus and Augustus arrived at the entrance to the castle with their escort, who subsequently turned and strode away across the lawn. Alex and Chloe trailed behind Abby, eyeing the new arrivals with curiosity.
"Hello Augustus, I'm Abigail Noonan. I'll be your training instructor, den mother, or shoulder to cry on as the need arises."
She moved toward the raggedly dressed boy with her hand extended. He was embarrassed that his hands were so dirty, so he sort of slapped Abby's hand gently and dropped his arm to the side. She turned her head to indicate the boy and girl behind her, apparently unoffended by the weak handshake.
"This is Chloe. She's new as well, so you'll be taking training with her and Marcus, plus a few others." Chloe smiled and nodded at Augustus. Abby continued with the introductions.
"This is Alex. He's been around for awhile. He knows the grounds and rules very well. He's here to help newcomers get situated. Until you get used to the layout and routines of this place, he will be your go -to guy with questions and smaller concerns about where things are, and scheduling, etc. Bigger concerns will be addressed directly to me. Your room is right beside Marcus. There will be an Ipad in it with a link to my cell phone. Use that if you find yourself in a mess you can't get yourself out of."
She turned toward Marcus with a slightly warning frown on her face. She already knew about Marcus' altercation with Alex, and it was very clear that she expected him to defer to Alex, and not pick any more fights. Marcus put his head down and blushed a little uncomfortably as he rubbed the scar on his neck below the scarf.
"Alright then. Alex, would you take Augustus up to his room, please? There's a new wardrobe in his closet. There's time to shower and change before dinner. Chloe, Marcus, follow me to the training ground, please."
Augustus started towards the stone steps where Alex waited for him. Chloe came down the stairs to stand beside Marcus, who was still rubbing his neck. He started to walk behind Abby, when he suddenly felt a soft hand on his arm.
"Wait Marc, let me see your neck. You keep rubbing it. It looks like it's hurting you."
"No!" he yelled as he jumped back from the girl, scrunching up his shoulder in an effort to hide his neck, even though his scarf still covered it.
"It's just an old injury. I'm fine."
"Okay, but I can tell it hurts."
Without warning, she reached out and put her hand under the scarf and rubbed the scar gently. Marc's temper rose as he got ready to yell at her to mind her own business, when he realized that the thick knot of scar tissue on his neck had loosened, and the painful tightness had lightened considerably. He could feel a warm deep-heating sensation, almost as if an industrial strength liniment had been massaged into his neck. It was soothing. Chloe continued to rub the scar for a few minutes, then pulled away. He instinctively put his hand to his neck. His jaw dropped in amazement.
"The scar isn't thick any more, and it doesn't hurt," he said.
She stood on tiptoe and lifted the scarf to look at the faint pink line, which was all that was left of the painful scar.
"Huh. I guess I have some healing powers, after all."