Sabba and the princess stood at the foot of the throne and listened as the king scolded them for their behaviour, and the risk they were putting their people in.
“But, father,” Amber protested. “Working for Pierce Hogan means we know what is going on.”
“And what happens if he suspects you?”
“How will he suspect us?” Amber said. “He thinks we are students.”
“I forbid it, are you listening to me?” He clenched his fists and brought them down hard on the arms of the throne. “We have enough to worry us without having to run around after you.”
“My dear,” the queen touched his arm. “Let us hear what the children have to say first.”
“There is nothing they could say that would change my mind,” the king said.
“We have managed to put a stop to his plans for a while,” Sabba said.
“How,” the king asked.
Sabba looked at Amber for help.
“We rang the historical society and pretend to be concerned citizens. We said that we had found documents that showed the castles true history, and they promised to send someone to look in to it,” Sabba said.
The king rose and stalked out of the room.
“He is exhausted,” the queen said. “He will come round in time. Now, children,” she said Amber and Sabba stood. “Run along. I have business with Galten.”
The queen joined Galten at the banqueting table and waited to hear his latest news.
“It is not good, majesty,” he shook his head. “I never expected this to happen, and some powerful spell kept it from me until now.”
“You are frightening me,” the queen turned pale.
“I cannot help but be honest in what I am about to say,” He said. “The Erebans know about the changelings. They are intent on killing your true child and that of Lady Blackthorn’s.”
“How can this be?” the queen’s voice shook with fright. “What would it gain them to do so?”
“It would mean the end of your line in the true sense. I know the princess will marry and so will Sabba, but they are not of the true blood. Perius knows this, and he will use this knowledge to take over the land of Bargamore when you and the king had lived out your allotted time.”
“What can we do?” the queen was close to tears.
There was never moment when she did not think of the child who lived in the mortal world.
“The king must be told,” Galten said. “We have to find a way of stopping them before they carry out this dreadful act.”
“What about Amber and Sabba?”
“They have no interest in them. They are no threat, and other than using them to show we have lied for all these years, they will leave them alone for now.”
“That is something, I suppose,” the queen said. “What do we do now to help our children?”
“The Erebans have already tried and failed to kill Lady Blackthorn’s son. The attack was halted by a fairy dog that Sabba sent to watch over him.”
“My daughter?” The queen’s voice was hoarse with emotion. “What of her?”
“So far they have been watching and waiting, biding their time, but she is safe for now.”
“She is safe for now,” the queen whispered.
Amber and Sabba had to pass through the land of Claradon, the home of the dwarfs, to reach the sacred lake. Hack was busy working on the hand powered press, when his eye was drawn to a red flash outside the window.
“The princess,” he muttered, wiping inky fingers on his tabard.
Picking up his notebook and pencil, he ran as fast as his little legs allowed to catch up with her.
“Princess,” he gasped. “Have you any news for me?”
“Go away, Hack,” Sabba put his arm around Amber’s shoulders and tried to lead her away.
“But sire,” Hack asked. “Do you not think the people have to right to know what’s going on, like why you have been visiting the mortal world?”
“It is for you to question what we do,” Amber glared down at him.
“I understand that, Princess, but your people are curious,” he said. “Is it anything to do with the man who wishes to destroy the castle?”
“If you print that it will cause panic. I am warning you,” he said. “Print one word and I will see to it personally that you are banished from this land forever.”
“Whatever you say, sire,” Hack backed off.
The holly bushes in Hacks garden were bare of fruit, but heavy with thick, green leaves.
“Dwarf,” a voice hissed.
Hack stopped and looked around him.
“Over here,” the voice came from within the holly bushes.
He edged closer and saw two red eyes gleaming through the leaves. Thin, bony fingers, the nails like talons, parted the branches, and he was face to face with an Ereban Hag.
“What were you writing in your notebook, little one?” she rasped.
“Nothing, nothing at all,” Hack ran inside and slammed the front door.
He realised, for the first time, the seriousness of what he was involved in.