So it wasn't a dream.
It was real.
Delia.
The beautiful prince.
The magic pictures.
The strange boy.

All of it.

The magic ~ her magic ~ very real.

It was incredible!
It was so exciting!
The prince was so ... charming!

But if all of this was real, then the danger at the shop was real, too ~ and it was her responsibility to save the life of the woman she had met there!

She remembered what the boy ~ 'Hal' she now knew his name to be ~ had told her:

'"I know that shop, Princess! My guardian, Prince Rouark goes there often."'

"Your Highness" whispered Maia to the smiling Prince, "may I ask you something?

"You may ~ and you may also call me Rouark. Let us not stand on ceremony, if we are to be friends."

"Your ward, over there ..." (The boy was now playing hide-and-seek with Delia.) " ... He told me that you often visit this shop. Is that true?". She was holding up her drawing, for him to examine.

"I do, indeed, though young Hal doesn't know why. He thinks that I go there simply to purchase interesting items ~ and they do sell some very interesting things, I can assure you. But that is not why I return so regularly."

Then he began to look confused and worried.
"Maia, we come from the same magical world, but I do not have the same powers as you, and I do not understand the relevance of your drawings. I am guessing, now, that you did not draw this shop on a whim?"

"No, I drew the pictures before ever I saw the shop, and I have no idea whence the images came.
All I do know, is that the woman I met in that shop, is in great danger."

"Danger from what, exactly?"

"I know not, my Lord".

"I think, if what you are saying is true, then you, too, must be in danger. I shall deal with the woman. You must come with me, for protection. I will hide you."

Maia had learned never to go off with strangers. Rouark was a stranger, but then, so were Delia, Hal, the harpist and the woodsman.

What should she do?

As she pondered, she heard the distant faint sounds of a harp. A voice in her head seemed to be singing quietly to the music ~ telling her that, deep down, she knew exactly what she should do, and exactly whom she should trust.

But did she?


"The secret of success is constancy to purpose" - Benjamin Disraeli.