Something hid among the trees. This was evident as two red eyes watched when they stepped out of the cottage. Tabby arched her back and started to spit
“It is Flora, you silly old thing,” Amber said.
“Then why would Tabby react in such a way,” Biddy mused. “She’s known that old fox since she was a kitten. I’ve seen them playing together.”
Biddy picked up the cat and ushered them indoors. She knew it was not Flora, but some Ereban hag who had the power of shape shifting. Had it been listening outside the door?
“What is it, Biddy?” Amber asked.
“Nothing, my pets,” she gave a weak smile. “You must get home before it gets dark. I will walk as far as the castle with you. I’ll rest easy knowing that you’re safely home.”
“Safe?” Sabba held the door open to let them out. “How can it be safer with the Erebans there?”
“Tell your father there’s no longer any doubt. Perius has sent out his spies and he must make ready for battle,” Biddy kissed Amber on the forehead. “Have courage, my child.”
“Goodbye, Biddy,” Sabba kissed her wrinkled cheek. “We will see you soon.”
“I have been thinking about our shadow self’s,” Amber said as they entered the cave. “What if they are evil and in league with the Erebans?”
“I doubt if they are,” Sabba said. “It is something to do with the old magic. You know how Larkeon is always going on about how magic is waxing and waning,” he copied the old dwarf’s voice and made Amber laugh. “Well, maybe it’s coming back, and they are part of it, and here to aid us.”
“Or maybe, the magic is dying, and they are here to take advantage of this?”
“We will go to our fathers and ask them about it. We are no longer children who can be fobbed off with some story, and it is time we learned the truth,” Sabba said.
It seemed colder than usual as they descended deeper into their subterranean world. It’s always cool inside the cave, but tonight the air had a bitter sting to it. Amber shivered and tried to ignore the icy water running through her veins.
“Your father is very angry,” Roak’s scarred face peered at them out of the darkness.
Legend said that his mother was frightened by an Ereban while out picking moon berries one night, and the fright showed in the face of her child. Therefore, Roak prefers to remain in the darkness.
“I will go to him right away,” Amber promised.
Flora was exhausted. Her day was at an end and her young pupils were back with their parents. It was a pleasant surprise to see the princess and young lord again.
“Did you go hunting in the mortal world today?” Amber asked the fox.
“Me!” Flora asked. “I most certainly did not. You know how much I detest going above ground.”
“I thought as much,” Amber sighed.
“Why do you ask?” Flora narrowed her eyes and looked from one to the other.
“Biddy thought it was an Ereban hag who had shape shifted. Whatever it was, it was listening outside the cottage and heard every word we said.”
Flora smiled. What possible secret could two young people have that would interest the Erebans? Then she noticed the fear in the eyes of the princess and young lord. There was something strange afoot and she needed to find out what.
“Have you spoken to Larkeon about this?” Flora asked.
“No, not yet” Amber said.
“Then do so, at once,” the swishing of the fox’s tail was the only show of the turmoil in her mind.
“Come in, come in,” Larkeon bade them to follow him into his study. “What can I do for you my young ones?”
For the next few minutes Larkeon listened in silence as the princess told him the story about the shadow selves and what Biddy said about the Ereban Nightflyers. When she finished, Larkeon stood and urged them to do the same.
“Go home and speak to your parents,” he ushered them towards the door.
As the door slammed behind them, Amber and Sabba wondered why everyone was behaving in such a strange manner when they mention the shadow selves.