‘The Court and me – we made a deal,’ Wilmina protested. ‘He’s mine – mine – ‘til his eighteenth cycle, six years it’s been, not enough.’ She slipped from her seat and, her hands shaking, opened drawers in a peeling wooden bureau beside the fireplace. ‘There’s papers to show it -,’
‘Those papers are void, Wilmina, we both know it,’ said Percival measuredly. ‘In fact, I doubt they were ever binding. And if they were, the Court’s decree would mean nothing to me -,’
Wilmina whirled round, her voice tight and loud. ‘Why’d you want him now anyways? He meant nothin’ to yu, di’n’t give a rattle-rat’s ass ‘bout him!
Percival remained seated, looking up at her calmly, but he began pulling his robes tautly over his knees. ‘Each and every day I have thought of that boy, of where he is, of the thoughts and beliefs he must suffer with, each time convincing myself that he still lives because of the spark I sense still alive in our land. If I had known of this deception – treasonous, might I remind you – I assure you he would be in my care.
‘This world is dying, and we all know he is one of the only ones capable of helping us. You and I, we might have the will to go on, but what good does that do us when even the rivers forget how to cry? Those that aren’t strong need us to make a difference, starting with him. Give him to us, Wilmina. You know it is right.’
Anala watched her expression, and for an instant, she seemed convinced, until her eyes creased and her lip curled up, revealing several needlepoint teeth that seemed to grow longer like fangs.
‘Make me!’ she growled, her hands clenching. She walked towards him, but Anala rose to her feet, darting in front of him, her eyes flashing gold and deadly with those of a creature trying to take hold.
‘Careful, troll,’ she spat, a dangerous shadow falling across her cheeks. Frightened, Wilmina fell back, reaching out for something to support herself with as she stumbled. Her hand connected with the rim of the cauldron, and her skin sizzled as she screeched, clutching it pitifully to her chest.