Ch 48.1 – Mole tore into the gingerbread. She had never tasted anything so delicious. She finished the large square in a minute and sucked the honey off her fingers. The woman beside her handed her a water skin, and she drank greedily.
At last she noticed that the others were staring at her. She cringed away from them, waiting for them to yell or beat her for eating more than her share.
The woman turned to the old man. “Mr. Dumfries? Bernie? Why don’t you go stand guard? We need a few moments.”
Mr. Dumfries cleared his throat and stood up. “Yes, Ma’am. Take all the time you need.” The donkey nodded his head and left with the old man.
The woman turned back to her. “You don’t have to be afraid of me. I won’t hurt you.”
Mole put her arms around herself and crouched on the ground, watching the woman. What did she want? Why had they taken her from the castle? She was uneasy under the open sky. Even with the clouds, the light was too bright. There were too many places an enemy could come at you.
The woman had a pleasant voice. “I know you’re confused. We haven’t had much time to get acquainted. My name is Natalie. My son’s friends rescued us from the castle. They’re going to fight the trolls soon, and we are going somewhere safe until it’s over. What’s your name?”
Mole licked her lips. She hadn’t been able to speak for many years. When the boy — Eli — had restored her tongue, she’d been shocked, but she’d been able to hide her newfound ability, even when she’d been hurt. Mole looked into the woman’s eyes and saw only kindness.
“Mole.” She put a hand on her mouth, surprised at how husky she sounded. Her voice had been different… before.
Natalie frowned. “That can’t be your real name.”
Mole shrugged. “After we came out of the tunnels, Zelda said my name was Molly. Before that, I lived with the trolls. I was Mole.”
Natalie seemed to look into her and see the words she couldn’t say: the years of hard labor in the cold, dark caverns below the mountains; the beatings; the awful day when her beloved Gumpy had been killed and she had been forced to wear his pelt; and even worse, the day the troll prince had taken her tongue.
“Oh, my dear, I’m so sorry for all you’ve endured. How long were you a captive of the trolls?”
“A long time,” she whispered.