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The woman expressed her gratitude as she hobbled through the doorway. Eirwyn started a fire and wrapped a woolen blanket around the crone’s shoulders. They sat talking and telling stories of the forest folk until the rains passed. As the old woman took her leave, she pressed a bright red apple into Eirwyn’s hands.

“Take this, my dear, as a small token of my thanks.” Eirwyn tried to refuse the gift but the crone insisted.

“It is all an old woman can offer such a pretty young girl. Take it and enjoy. My apples are famous in these parts for their color and sweetness.” 

“Thank you and take care on your journey home,” Eirwyn said in parting.

Eirwyn watched from the window until the crone faded from sight. She sat by the fire, drumming her fingers against the wooden arm of her chair. She sighed in boredom as she stared at the dancing flames. 

The apple sat atop the hearth and reflected the soft light of the fire. Eirwyn stood and grasped the apple, admiring its smooth red surface. She brought it to her lips and took a bite, juice running down her chin. Surprised by the truth of the old woman’s words, she took another. Moments later, Eirwyn’s head spun and her heart fluttered as her face contorted into a mask of confusion. She reached out and grabbed the hearth in an attempt to steady herself. As her vision blurred, she dropped her hand and backed away, searching for a chair. She tripped over a stack of books and fell to the ground. Within moments she lay in the dirt floor of the hovel, her eyes closed as if in sleep.

Moments later, Moira heard the sounds of men’s voices and horses approaching the hovel. Ulric entered, followed by a goblin and the prince Moira had seen kiss Eirwyn’s hand in her vision. This prince wore the red rose of the Vardinons. Ulrich stood in the doorway shocked by the scene that lay before him. Eirwyn lay, still as death with an apple lying beside her outstretched arm. 

The End

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