Ch. 50.2 – Janine found Queen Natalie and Mary at the edge of the forest, standing beside a body. A young, extremely dirty boy with long shaggy black hair sat on the ground, with Mr. Dumfries’s head in his lap. The boy howled as he stroked the old man’s white hair.
“What happened?” Janine asked. “You all were supposed to stay hidden in the forest.”
Queen Natalie looked up. “Tell that to the troll who found us. He hit poor Mr. Dumfries right over the trees. Mary killed the troll, and we set out to find Mr. Dumfries. The boy won’t let us near him.”
Joy soared within Janine as she studied the girl before her: so like Zelda, and yet, not alike at all. There was no cruelty in this face, and her eyes were pools of calm sadness. Her hair was ragged and brown, and she was very thin. Janine could hardly wait to get to know her.
“Hello, Mary,” she said softly. “It’s so good to finally meet you. I am your sister, Janine.”
Mary looked at her shyly. “Hi.”
Janine crouched beside the weeping child and touched his shoulder. “Bernie, it’s me, Janie.”
Bernie turned watery brown eyes to her and wiped the snot from his face. “He’s the only one who really cared for me all these years. You fixed the dragon and everybody in the cave. Can you fix him?”
“I don’t know, but I’ll try.”
Janine opened her knapsack and took out a small bottle. She held up the old man’s head and poured a little liquid into his mouth. Then she put a rolled cloak under his head and covered him with a blanket.
“Nothing’s happening,” Bernie wailed.
Janine gave Mr. Dumfries a second dose from another bottle and then put her fingers against his neck. “His heart is beating, which means he’s still alive. Maybe he just needs a few minutes.”
Queen Natalie gestured at the weeping boy. “A little while ago the donkey transformed into this boy. He looks just like…”
“Yes, he’s your nephew, Bernard.”
“But he’s just a child. Years and years have gone by.”
Janine nodded. “The way this spell works is that when you transform back to human, you go back to the age you were when the spell first hit you.”
“Do you know if my sons are alive?” Queen Natalie asked.
“I don’t know yet. Did you see any of the animals on the battlefield transform?”
“Yes. It was an amazing thing. Especially the two boars. It was as if they disappeared.”
“There were three boars.”
Queen Natalie bit her lip and looked away. “One of them didn’t make it.”