“So, we’re using magic right now? That’s why we can talk with them?” Zane queried. The boy was curled up into a ball sketching as he spoke. Lila peered over from her perch on the bed to sneak a glimpse of Zane’s sketch. He was drawing Kimber. Lila covered her mouth to keep from giggling. Zane had drawn Kimber in Earth clothes suited for winter.
“Yeah. And you know how the whole song and dance goes. Humans are terrible and ruined everything. That’s why we got kicked out,” Alastair said.
“All the better to trust them. They don’t want us here messing anything up. They’ve got enough to worry about here as it is,” said Gabbie.
“They do?” Lila chirped.
“Yeah. I hear Won talking to Lerol about what merchants have been saying.” Gabbie tapped her head as if she were trying to indicate that this was a secret even though the entire kitsune village knew—Won had a crush on the maid, Lerol. Only, Lerol didn’t seem to notice. Poor Won. “Apparently, there have been whole populations that have just up and disappeared.”
“Like, as in the people leaving. An exodus?” Zane asked.
“No, as in POOF! One moment they were there doing chores or playing games, and then in a blink, they were gone!”
“Does anyone know what’s happening?”
“No. That’s the problem. It’s still ongoing. That’s why the way I see it, if human are so bad, they’d want us up and out of here as soon as possible so they can deal with whatever is going on with the disappearances.”
All at once, the room sobered. They had been putting this off since they arrived at the kitsune village. Home. They wanted to go back home. If they cried now, how would they get past this journey to see an unfamiliar Queen? If they cried now, then this ordeal was real. If they cried now, there was no going back. And so the children glared at the wooden ground, their eyes burning, and their mouths drawn into crumpled frowns.
“Maybe, if we see the Queen, she can find out if one of us has enough magic to get us home,” Lila suggested. “Right?”
“I hope so.” Alastair said.
Perceval was soon at their door shortly followed by Tipper, Won, and Lerol.
“We’ve packed each of you provisions enough to reach the next big town,” said Won. Lerol gave each child a hand sewn leather pack. “Lerol made most of the breads. I made the jerky.” Won seemed especially pleased. “There’s also a great deal of water. Still, please portion your meals accordingly. It won’t do if you starve.” Won gave Ginger a pointed stare. Ginger had made due on her promise to ring the cord as many times as possible, claiming that she was starving. Ginger bit her lip and actually blushed. Alastair was stunned. Ginger had never, ever blushed before. She actually looked very pretty when she let her guard down.
“Thank you guys,” Zane happily said. He and Lila especially loved the food here.