Clouds were covering the full moon as Amber looked out through the tiny slit of a window. From her tree top cell, she could just make out the convoy of wagons preparing to depart for the portal. In the distance she could see the faint faerie glow of the portal itself. The fairy/elf had watched the wagon train depart for the portal the previous night as she finalised her plans, scarcely daring to believe that she would make her escape through it. In her heart, she knew if she escaped now then she would never be able to return to the fairy kingdom again; knew if she needed help from her family she would need to turn to the elves. The thought chilled her heart but she had no other choice.
A soft knock at the door jolted her back to reality and, as she turned round, Blain entered alone. Her elf senses picked up a small movement to his left but, before she could say anything, the air shimmered and a tall, slender, shadow creature materialised in the room beside them.
“Good evening, princess,” said Blain softly. “I’ve brought you a visitor.”
“Blain!” she gasped. “Where did you find him? He’s perfect!”
Mutely, the shadow creature watched the two friends.
“He’s been staying with the healers for the past month, learning their secrets,” explained her friend. “Chamelle, this is Her Royal Highness, Princess Amber.”
“Charmed,” replied Chamelle, his voice wispy and hoarse. He stared intently at the fairy/elf, his dark eyes boring into her very soul then slowly the air around him began to shimmer. Gradually, before their eyes, he transformed into her mirror image.
“Are you ready to depart?” asked Blain anxiously. “We’ve only a few minutes to spare before they finish loading the wagons.”
“Yes,” replied Amber, lifting her sleeping son and settling him in the travel sling she had improvised from her spare shirt.
Earlier on, she had laid out the items that Blain had smuggled to her a few days before. The rowan twig had been stripped of its bark and fashioned into a magic wand. Curls of bark, soot and some of Amber and the baby’s hair strands lay in the bottom of a small wooden bowl on the table. With a quick glance at her friend, Amber lifted the needle and pricked her son’s thumb with it. Two large drops of blood spilled into the dish. The fairy/elf repeated the action on her own thumb, allowing the droplets of blood to mingle with the soot. Almost silently, she whispered an ancient elvish incantation then dipped the rowan wand into the bowl. A flash of green and red light lit up the room and, when the light returned to normal, the contents of the bowl had liquefied.
Swiftly, Amber dipped the thimble into the bowl then dripped the dark liquid into her son’s mouth. She swallowed two thimble-fuls herself then lifted her cloak.
“Amber?” began Blain, curious to learn what effect the spell would have.
In the blink of an eye, the fairy/elf and the baby vanished.
“Amber?” echoed Blain anxiously.
“We’re here,” she replied from within the invisibility spell. “Time to go. This won’t hold for long.”
When they reached the base of the huge tree that had been her prison, Amber followed Blain through the village to the last wagon in the convoy. It was being loaded with sacks of fancy spun colourful cloth that was coveted by the women at the King’s court. The supervisor had carefully stacked the bags, ensuring that there was a small “cave” created for her to hide in.
“Stay safe, princess,” whispered Blain as he felt her move from his side.
From her hiding place. Amber heard her friend drop a heavy purse into the driver’s hand then felt the wagon lurch forward.
As the wagon passed through the portal into the human realm, the faerie magic broke her elven spell and Amber became aware that she was fully visible to all around. She held her breath, praying that the baby would remain asleep for the remainder of the journey. The faerie slumber spell cast earlier was holding fast ….for now.
Steadily, the wagons trundled towards the village and the castle.
In his tower study, Urquhart stood at his window watching the train of wagons roll in from the portal. The fairy queen had signed off on five wagons per night for eight days. It was the most trade she had sanctioned in the past decade.
The boy wizard watched as the five covered wagons rolled down the narrow village street towards the castle.
His sharp eyes were drawn to the last wagon in the line. There was something about it that attracted his attention; something that was making his wizarding instincts twitch.
Dismissing the thought that flashed through his mind as an improbability, Urquhart returned to his desk and the ancient elven history that he had been studying. He had read it through three times from end to end and was still none the wiser about the fourth gemstone. His gut instinct told him he was searching for reference to a diamond but the history made no mention of one. There was no mention of any other stones, not even a pebble.
Thoughts of the wagon train interrupted him again and the boy wizard wandered back across to the window. A large bowl of crystals sat on a pedestal in the bay of the window. Carelessly, he ran his fingers through them, allowing the smooth stones to trickle through his grasp, as he watched the last of the wagons disappear from view as the entered the castle gates.
In the castle nursery, Jem too was standing at the window. The prince had his baby daughter nestled on his shoulder as he watched the fairies begin to unload their trade goods. The baby was restless and, every time he tried to return her to her crib, she squealed shrilly as he moved away from the window.
“What is the attraction with the window tonight, little miss?” whispered Jem as he turned her round in his arms so she could see out.
A movement at the rear of the last of the five wagons caught his eye.
The canvas flap moved aside and a tall, slender figure, clutching something tightly to their chest, stepped down, glanced round then disappeared into the shadows.
The baby squealed and wriggled in her father’s arms.
“Amber,” breathed Jem.