Ch. 12.3 Rescued —
Someone hauled her to her feet. Janine looked up into the face of Old Bob.
Janine began to pound him with her fists. “I hate you. I hate you.” Tears ran from her eyes.
Old Bob grabbed her wrists. “Hold on there, Missy. You’re like a treed cat tonight. Stop screeching and scratching, and listen to me for just a minute.”
Janine kept struggling.
“I didn’t kill your dog.”
Janine stopped fighting and stared at him.
“Your little Freddie’s fine, but you’re in danger.”
Janine looked behind her. She gasped. The crashing was getting louder, coming closer and closer. Paul was almost there.
Old Bob put a finger to his lips and then drew her behind a tree. He made a gesture with his hand. They stood as still as posts as Paul ran by with his axe.
“He’s under a spell,” whispered Old Bob. “He can’t help what he’s doing. Come on, I’ll help you get away.”
“Freddie’s really alive?” She felt weak with relief.
“Yes. Now, be as quiet as you can.” Old Bob took her hand in his large, gnarled one and hurried her through the trees towards his home. When they got to the little cottage, they went inside. Old Bob bolted the sturdy wooden door and muttered a few words.
There by the fire on an old blanket, was Freddie. He looked up at Janine with a forlorn expression. “Zelda said you didn’t want me anymore. She said you ordered Paul to kill me.”
Janine rushed to him, fell to her knees, and hugged the little hound. “She lied. I would never hurt you, Freddie dear.”
The dog licked her face and began to wag his tail.
Ch. 12.4 At Old Bob’s House —
“Will Paul find us here?” Janine asked.
Old Bob shook his head. “I’ve placed runes of protection around my home. He won’t even see it.”
The fire snapped and crackled as it spread a warm, golden glow throughout the little room. Old Bob set out the teapot and two mugs. He poured her a cup and added a little honey and cream. Janine drank gratefully. She took the bread and bowl of vegetable stew he offered. Freddie gobbled down his bowl of food as if he hadn’t been fed for days.
Old Bob sat down across from her. “I overheard Zelda talking to Paul earlier. She said, “You’ll tell everyone she came here in search of her dog and got in the way of Old Bob’s axe. Such a tragedy. You’re heartbroken. Old Bob will be executed, of course.” And then Paul said, “Yes, your Highness.”
Old Bob shook his head. “What a shame. Such a good man, with a gift for training dogs. And your sister… she’s changed. Not too many years ago, she wouldn’t have harmed any living creature. Now she’s enchanting the dogs’ water and ordering your death. Your parents have become vain and proud. After Prince Derrick married Ariel, I thought things would settle down, but it’s only grown worse. The whole kingdom’s gone mad.”
Janine agreed. Zelda Mary had been a sweet, loving girl up until four years ago. They used to play together all the time. Zelda had defended Janine from the other’s children’s teasing. She had never seemed to mind her sister’s warty face. Then overnight, Zelda had changed.
Janine set her spoon down. Sadness filled her. “Why does she want me dead? I’m no threat to her.”
The food began to take effect, and Janine’s mind stopped whirling. “I’m going to have to run away, aren’t I?”