“…Their bodies – those vast and perilous estates,
pulsating with the energy that made the worlds…”
– C. S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters
Paralyzed with shock and dismay, Amalia watched the entourage continue up the street to the castle.
What had just happened? One moment was all joy and laughter and the next was filled with tension and animosity.
With tears blinding her eyes, Amalia pushed her way through the remaining crowd and hurried home. Once there, she burst through the door and ran to her room, sobbing. Her aunt Beatrice heard the disturbance and went to Amalia’s room. She sat down on the bed next to her and gently stroked Amalia’s head.
“Amalia, my dear, whatever is the matter?” she said. Amalia raised her head, the very picture of misery.
“Oh, Aunt Beatrice, it is too awful,” she said. “I was so happy to see Skunk, I mean Skandar, that I called him ‘Skunk’ in front of everybody. And then the prince came over and wanted to know what I said. When Sku..Skandar told him, he grew quiet and stern and said that I had insulted his brother. Then he told Skandar to strike me, which Skandar couldn’t do. So the prince was going to strike me himself. But when he raised his hand, I looked at him and thought, why are you doing this? I think he heard me because then he dropped his arm and made Skandar leave with him. And now I will never see Skandar again, and it’s all my fault.”
“My dear Mole, do not distress yourself. From your account, the prince merely acted in haste and made a mistake; but seeing as how no one was hurt, it should turn out well. It was a small error on his part.”
Amalia shook her head.
“I do not think this is a small error. My heart tells me that something terrible will come of it. It seems that Skandar never told his brothers about his nickname ‘Skunk.’ Perhaps that is something he should have done. Perhaps there was a reason he did not want them to know; oh, what do I know? I know nothing except how to be stupid!”
Amalia burst into fresh sobs. Her aunt wisely left her to her grief. That her niece had suffered a great disappointment was evident. She needed time to sort it out. In the meantime, Beatrice would make her with a strong cup of tea.
The next evening, King Rheynold sat alone in his chamber. He wanted no company, although his wife made it clear that she was displeased at her dismissal. Hours passed, and still Rheynold remained motionless. He was in agony over his son; he could not understand why he deemed such a harsh punishment necessary. He was aware of Rhino’s overwhelming distress and longed to go to him and comfort him, but he was bound by his fear that to do so would show weakness where strength was required. He was so deeply engrossed in his thoughts that it took him several seconds to notice a commotion outside his door. Voices were raised in anger; there were sounds of scuffling, and Lord Lokinvar burst into the room.
“WHAT HAVE YOU DONE TO MY SON!” he roared.
He reached Rheynold in a few swift strides and pulled him up from the chair by the front of his shirt, his face inches from the king.
“HAVE YOU SEEN THE STATE HE IS IN?”
Guards rushed into the room but by the time they reached Lokinvar, he had already released his hold on Rheynold and had shoved him back into his chair. As his men laid hold of Lokinvar, Rheynold held up his hand.
“Leave us,” he said. Then he stood and walked over to a window, his back to Lord Lokinvar, who remained standing, shaking with rage.
“Your visit is most unexpected. To what do I owe the honor?” Rheynold asked quietly.
Lokinvar could scarcely believe his ears. He walked over to Rheynold and spun him around so that both men were facing each other.
“I received a warning to look out for my sons. It seems that it was timely, seeing the treatment Skandar has received at your hands. How do you account for it?”
Rheynold stifled the quick retort that rose to his lips. He had always prided himself on his honor and integrity. In truth, what justification could he give Lokinvar for his actions?
“I would that I had an answer for you. As yet, I have found none to my satisfaction. All I can tell you is that I thought it best at the time.” Rheynold lifted pleading eyes to his brother.
“Lokinvar, you know yourself one of the rules of the training—that if the prince makes a mistake or an error, then his brothers are to be punished for it. We lived under the same edict ourselves. We survived.” Lokinvar turned away in disgust.
“We survived because of justice and fair play. Had you made the same mistake as your son, we brothers would never have suffered the punishment you inflicted on my son. I want to know why. Why was he treated in such a manner? Have you seen him? Have you seen what you have done?”
At this, Rheynold moved slowly over to his chair and lowered himself in it like an aged man.
“I could not bear to,” he whispered. “I have not even seen my own son, who they tell me is in an even worse state.”
Lokinvar asked sardonically, “How could Rhino’s condition be worse than Skandar’s?”
There was a long pause. Then Rheynold said dully. “Your son is battered and bruised and will heal with his love for you intact. My son is dead, killed by his hatred of me.”
Rhino sat at the table with unseeing eyes. He listlessly pushed the food around the plate, taking a tiny mouthful every once in a while which he swallowed without tasting. Trevor, Wilfred, and Elbert watched in silent wariness. Since the incident with Skandar, none of the brothers had spoken to Rhino. The only time they were in his presence was at mealtimes. They ate in relative silence, speaking in hushed whispers. after two days of this, they realized that Rhino would not have responded had they raised their voices to the rooftops. Rhino was a ghost, a hollow shell that went through the motions of walking, sleeping, and eating. He did nothing else, save sit for hours in the inner courtyard. Once, in passing by the window, King Rheynold spied Rhino sitting on a bench below. A small lizard scampered up Rhino’s leg and settled on his hand, sunning itself. Rhino made no move to shoo it away or even acknowledge that the lizard was there. Rheynold turned away in grief. Today Rhino was thirteen years of age.
Wilfred, Trevor, and Elbert spent every hour of the day with Skandar until the physician’s servant shooed them away. Skandar was recovering quickly and was beyond delight at seeing his father. He tried to tell him about Amalia, but his mouth was too bruised for speaking. Lord Lokinvar put a finger to his lips, indicating that Skandar should not try to talk. Then he kissed him and went to see the king.
On the third day, the brothers walked in to find Skandar dressed and sitting at a small table, eating breakfast. His face still looked dreadful, but the blackened eyes glowed with inner contentment.
“I say, this is almost as bad as the tumble in the tannery drum,” he said, through a mouthful of bread. Wilfred came bounding over.
“Well, I don’t know—perhaps the brine pits was worse. But with a face like yours, it’s hard to tell.” He pounded on Skandar’s head. “My, but it’s banner-wavin’ good to see you up again.”
“How are you feeling?” said Elbert.
“Hungry! Want some food? It’s great.”
Trevor hung back, trembling and flushed. Skandar noticed and called him over. “Hey, Trev, come have a bite.” Trevor just shook his head. Skandar rose from table and walked over to Trevor.
“What is it, Trevor? I honestly do feel better.” He put an arm around Trevor, who promptly burst into tears.
“Oh, Skandar, can you ever forgive me? I just watched what Rhino did to you and I made no move to prevent it or interfere. I am so sorry.”
Elbert and Wilfred dropped their heads in shame. They felt their own guilt for their unwilling participation in the incident. Skandar thought a moment and then gave Trevor shake.
“Listen, I know what happened and how it came about. I was there; remember? The way I see it the king gave none of us any choice in the matter, especially Rhino. I think we all did the best we could under the circumstances, even Rhino. Speaking of Rhino, where is he?”
The other boys exchanged significant looks.
“Oh, he’s…around. You know, just sitting here and there,” said Elbert.
“What do you mean ‘just sitting’? What’s he been doing? Has he said anything about it? How is he?”
Wilfred stepped forward.
“It’s like this. Rhino…he ain’t there. I mean, his body is in the room well enough but Rhino himself, he’s just…well… gone!”
“I think Rhino is broken,” said Trevor. “He was alone in his room after we left to take you to the physician. The next day when we saw him, he was changed; it’s like something was taken out of him. He hasn’t said a word since to anybody.”
Skandar’s heart was moved within him; he ached for his friend and wondered what could be done for him. Then he thought of Amalia.
It was two days after Amalia’s disastrous meeting with Skandar and all that day, Amalia felt anxious, though she was hard pressed to know why. A feeling of foreboding hung over her that she could not shake. Her instincts told her that something was amiss with Skandar. That evening, as she was sewing, her mind replayed again the encounter with Skandar and Rhino.
If only I had acted differently. If only I could do something to make it right? But what?
She scarcely attended to her work, her hands moving automatically. After a while, she thought she should check it. To her surprise, the fabric looked small, as if she were viewing it from a distance. She held her hands in front of her face; they, too, looked far away.
“Amalia, what is it?”
Amalia looked up at her aunt and uncle who were sitting across the room; how very tiny they were.
“Aunt Beatrice! Uncle Hosten! You seem to be very far away—has the room suddenly grown long?”
Instantly her uncle sprang to his feet.
“What do you mean? You said we are far away?”
“Yes.” Amalia frowned. “Everything is backing away from me and growing ever so tiny.”
“Amalia,” shouted her uncle, his voice sounding faint in the distance. “Go to the inn. Go to your father’s inn. Amalia, go to the inn.” Then everything collapsed into darkness.
“Oh, bother,” groused Amalia, “where are the lights? Uncle Hosten? Aunt Beatrice? I can’t see a thing in this room. Hello…hello…is anybody here?”
“Oomph! Well, I’m here; or at least I would be if you were not sitting on my head, you great lump.”
Amalia felt a movement underneath her. Startled, she leaped up.
“Who’s there?” she asked in a none-too-steady voice.
“I am,” answered a rather grumpy voice.
“Who are you? What is your name?”
“I am myself and my name is Mole.”
“Mole!” Amalia exclaimed. “I’m Mole.”
“Well then, there are two of us. Now don’t stand there with your mouth open; follow me out of this hole into the light where we can get a look at one another.”
“I can’t see you, much less follow you.”
“Grab hold of my tail. Gently…gently, I say. Got it? Good, now, tread carefully after me.”
Amalia reached out a tentative hand and felt something long, thin, and shaped like a rope. She got down on her hands and knees, and with one hand on the tail, crawled along a dirt path. It was a warm and close environment and soon her face began to bead with sweat; she felt it trickle down her back. Her legs soon started to ache from their cramped position, and her arms grew tired.
“Are we almost there?” she panted.
“Just one last turn,” answered the voice. “And here we are. Let go of my tail.”
Once she cleared the turn, Amalia saw a light from what appeared to be the entrance of a cave. She looked overhead and saw that she would be able to stand. She rose to her feet and stretched her back. Then she walked to the entrance of the cave. There awaiting her was a mole. Amalia walked over and held out her hand.
“Hello, Mole,” she said. “I am sorry I landed on your head. I did not expect it to be there.”
“Not to worry,” said Mole. “I have had worse things land on my head. Oh, the stories I could tell you of excavations! The thrills! The dangers! But, never mind about all that. What are you doing here?”
“I don’t exactly know what I am doing here now, but I know what I am supposed to do next. I have to go to the inn.”
“And what inn is that?” Mole cocked her little brown head curiously.
“It’s my father’s inn on the River Avon. My father is Virgil, the innkeeper. Have you heard of it?”
Mole shook her head. “I cannot say that I have, but perhaps my friend has. Shall I call him?”
“Oh, please do.”
Mole pattered down a path leading from the cave to a large clump of bushes and called out,
“Skunk! Hallo, Skunk! You are wanted here.”
Amalia’s mouth dropped open.
“I also have a friend called Skunk,” she said.
Presently a black and white head poked through the leaves.
“So there is another Skunk,” it said. “Good. I have always felt that there were too few of us.”
With these words, a little skunk hauled himself out of the bushes, looked up at Amalia, and then said to Mole, “What is she doing here?”
“She is doing here whatever she needs to do to get to there, which is the inn at the River Avon. I thought you might help us.” Skunk nodded his head.
“I know of the place.” Then he shook his head. “But I don’t know how to get there from here.”
“Well,” said Amalia, “I am going to look around a bit to determine where I should go.” Amalia then proceeded to thread her way down a narrow path. Mole and Skunk looked at each other and then scampered after her. The path led to a stream that Amalia started to cross.
“Wait! Wait for us,” cried Skunk and Mole in unison. Amalia stopped and scooped them up in her arms; then the three of them crossed the stream.
“I think we should follow the stream for a while; it might lead somewhere.” Setting the animals on the ground, Amalia walked alongside the stream until it disappeared under a clump of thick grasses. Determined to see whether the stream reappeared, Amalia leaped over the clump and landed in an unseen crevice. She immediately began tumbling head over heels down a steep slope.
“HELP! HELP! OH BOTHER!” she yelled at the top of her lungs as she rolled with increasing speed down the slope. The force of her descent landed her on a wide expanse of sandy beach at the edge of a vast ocean. Amalia sat up, turned her head, and caught a mouthful of water. She crawled away from the water’s edge and stood up on shaky legs. Then she scanned the cliff for any sign of Mole and Skunk. She noticed a figure at the top; it looked like a horse. The horse spied Amalia and began running down the side of the cliff.
“Mountain Horse!” cried Amalia, as the magnificent creature cantered to her side.
“I heard your call for help,” he said.
In the meantime, Mole and Skunk were making their way down the crevice to Amalia. When they reached her, Amalia made the proper introductions.
“Mountain Horse, this is Skunk and Mole. Skunk and Mole, this is Mountain Horse. He helps people; that is why he is here. He is going to help me get to the inn.”
“Before I can show you the way, you need to tell me where you are,” said Mountain Horse.
Amalia looked around.
“I do not know where I am—that’s the problem.”
Mountain Horse merely shook his head.
“Be curious. Search for the truth. Look again and tell me where you are.”
Amalia did as he said and began looking intently about her. She looked all around her, turning slowly in every direction, allowing reality to have its way. Then she spotted ita faint hint of rose that blushed in the distance. She had seen that color before. It looked like…yes, it was…it was the home of Skandar, the castle by the sea that he had once shown her by magic.
“I know!” she said excitedly. “We are at Caerleon, where Skunk comes from. Not you, (looking at Skunk), my Skunk—Skandar.”
“If you will climb on my back, you will be able to guide me to the inn,” said Mountain Horse kneeling on the sand. Mole and Skunk padded over to the horse’s head. “May we come, too?” they asked.
Mountain Horse nodded. Amalia carefully lifted Mole and Skunk onto Mountain Horse’s back. Then she grabbed his mane and swung herself up behind them. Amalia looked dubious. How would she be able to guide Mountain Horse to the inn if she had no idea how to get there? However, as Mountain Horse rose to his feet, the land beneath his hooves started shrinking. It diminished in size until Amalia saw the country spread out below her like a map. Now she understood. She had previously traveled this way from a great height. She leaned forward to Mountain Horse’s head.
“Go this way,” she said, pointing to the southeast.
“Oh, my tail is rumpled from the ride,” said Skunk. He inspected it critically. “I never seem to get it to lie smooth”
“Rumpled is it? Mine is in an absolute knot.” Mole tugged and pulled at her thin tail. She noticed Amalia smiling. “Oh, you may think it is funny, but I tell you that the care of tails is serious business.”
“I’m sorry. I wasn’t making fun—it just sounds like how I complain about my hair.”
From her perch atop Mountain Horse, Amalia had successfully guided the party to a willow tree. The country around them had resumed its normal size and the four of them were resting in the shade of the tree. Amalia figured they were a few hours away from the inn. She looked around their surroundings. The day was fine and warm with just a hint of a breeze tugging at the leaves. he willow tree was singing songs in a hushed voice, and the birds were contributing to its harmonies. Mountain Horse, Mole, and Skunk were attending to the music with a look of contentment. Then Amalia heard it; a faint coo floating on the breeze. The others seemed not to notice. Amalia listened and after a few minutes heard it again.
Leaving the others, she followed the sound as it repeated its call intermittently. At last she found the source. It was Dove.
“Dove,” said Amalia, “whatever are you doing in there?” As it happened, “there” was a large bramble bush. Dove was in the very center of it.
“Oh, Mole, it’s you,” said Dove. “I heard voices and was frightened so hid myself in this bush to be safe. Unfortunately, I cannot get out.” The bird touched a feathered wing tentatively to a sharp thorn.
“I think I can manage. Just hold still,” said Amalia.
Slowly and carefully, she placed her hand into the bush. Its thorns swallowed her arm up to her shoulders before she was able to reach Dove with her hand. Dove hopped onto Amalia’s hand, and Amalia gently closed it around Dove in order to protect her from the thorns. As she drew out her hand out of the bush, its thorns tore at her flesh, scratching and poking and drawing blood. After what seemed like an eternity, Amalia’s hand was clear of the brambles. She opened her hand and out flew Dove.
“Thank you, Mole. That is the last time I ask a bramble bush for protection. It became a prison.”
“Yes, that is a problem with bramble bushes,” said Amalia. “Their help can be deceptive. And, Dove, we have another Mole here about so you better call me Amalia.”
“Well done, Amalia,” said Mountain Horse, trotting toward Amalia, with Mole and Skunk scampering behind him. “Shall we continue to the inn?”
So the five of them—Amalia, Mole, Skunk, Mountain Horse, and Dove—continued their journey to the inn. After an hour’s walk, they came to a clearing in the trees that led to a meadow. In the middle of the meadow was a large stone, a standing stone that since had fallen on its side. Amalia hurried forward.
“We are almost there,” she said.
The others joined her at the stone. Amalia pointed to the right of the stone.
“The inn is through this patch of trees. Follow me.”
But as Amalia stepped around the stone, a shadow spread in front of it, barring her way. Amalia shuddered. Something about the shadow was menacing. She moved to go around the other side of the stone but the shadow grew from that direction also. As she watched in dismay, the shadow surrounded the stone, blocking all paths to the inn. Amalia turned to the others.
“I cannot pass through the shadow. We have to find another way.”
“Amalia, you are the only one who knows the way to the inn,” said Mountain Horse. “This is your path to take. We can only follow.”
Desperately Amalia gazed out over the shadow, seeking any sort of break in its darkness. Instead, she perceived a small patch of something that showed up black against the shadow. She leaned forward as much as she dared, trying to make out what it was. Then, with a shock of recognition, she saw it was Rabbit huddled in the shadow.
“Rabbit is in there! I’ve got to get him out.”
Taking a deep breath, Amalia plunged into the shadow. A sickening stench filled her nostrils while the shadow swirled about her like smoke. She looked down; around her feet were thousands of dead and dying bluebell flowers. Amalia was heartsick with grief; nevertheless, she pushed forward until she reached Rabbit. She gathered him tenderly in her arms. Suddenly, the shadow dissipated. Sunshine and warmth filled the meadow. Amalia hugged Rabbit.
“Oh, my dear, I was so worried about you. Whatever were you doing in the shadow?”
Rabbit twitched his nose. “I was going to give you the courage you needed to help you through the shadow, but I got caught in it myself.”
Mountain Horse, Mole, Skunk, and Dove joined Amalia and Rabbit.
“Amalia, I think it is time you led us to the inn,” said Mountain Horse.
Amalia led the group through the trees along a river and presently saw the back of the inn. Her father and mother were waiting for her. Amalia ran as fast as she could until she was in their arms.
“Amalia, Amalia, you made it!” Virgil and Franna cried out in relief.
“Come,” said Virgil, “your aunt and uncle are inside, awaiting to guide you back to London.”
“What!” Amalia exclaimed. “What are they doing here? Why are they taking me back to London? Can’t I stay here for a while? Why do I have to go back to London?”
“Because, my dear, that is where your body is.”
Lord Lokinvar rode slowly down the street, keeping an eye out for the baker’s shop. Sir Arlan and Sir Matson accompanied him. He told no one of his errand, having given his promise of secrecy to his son. The delicious aroma of bread soon led him to the door of a small but neat shop. The knights positioned themselves outside the door while Lord Lokinvar entered the shop.
“Good morning, my lord.” Sybil greeted him with a smile. “How may I serve you?”
“I am looking for Hosten, the baker. Is this his establishment?”
“It is indeed, my lord. I will go fetch him. May I give him your name?”
Lord Lokinvar said, “Tell him I am a friend of Virgil, the innkeeper.”
Sybil curtsied and left the counter. After a few minutes, Hosten emerged from the back, wiping floury hands on his apron.
“My lord, this is an honor. My daughter said you are a friend of my brother, Virgil, and that you wished to speak with me.”
“I am Lord Lokinvar, of the province of Wales. I am perhaps better known as the father of Skandar, who is acquaintance with your niece, Amalia. I met her on a stay at the inn about a year ago. I was there with my wife and my other son, Alanar.”
Hosten widened his eyes in recognition.
“Ah, yes, we have heard of young Skandar,” said Hosten.
“The reason I am here is on behalf of my son,” said Lokinvar. “He urgently desires to see Amalia, if this is possible.”
“Let us inquire of the young lady herself. Please excuse me, my lord.” Hosten then went through the back door and emerged a few moments later with Amalia.
“Here is Amalia, my lord. Amalia, do you remember Lord Lokinvar? He was a guest of your father’s at the inn.”
Amalia smiled and curtsied.
“My lord,” she said.
Lord Lokinvar took her hand. “Well met, my dear. I am here with a message from Skandar. He very much wishes to see you and asks that you would allow me to escort you to him at the castle. That is, if your uncle permits.”
Amalia turned excitedly to her uncle. “May I, Uncle Hosten?” Hosten nodded and smiled. Then he reached for some loaves of bread. “Take these with you, with our regards.”
It was a silent ride back through the streets that led to the castle. Amalia was too overwhelmed with curiosity to say anything, and Lokinvar was content to leave her to her privacy. When they reached the main gate of the castle, Lokinvar turned aside and spoke to his attendants.
“You may go now. We will enter through the back.”
Lokinvar led his horse around to a small tunnel. He dismounted and helped Amalia down. Then he took her to the entrance of the tunnel.
“Follow this tunnel to a gate; inside the gate is a private garden. Here is the key. You will find Skandar waiting inside.” Then with a bow, Lord Lokinvar left Amalia alone outside the tunnel. With a rapidly beating heart, Amalia fairly raced down the tunnel. Her trembling hands could scarce insert the key in the lock. The gate swung open silently as Amalia pushed her way inside. She walked slowly into the garden and saw Skandar sitting on a bench with three other boys. She heard the sound of laughter. One of the boys glanced in her direction and saw her standing there.
“Hey, Skandar, I think your friend is here.” Skandar whipped his head around. Then with a whoop he sprang from his seat, sprinted over to Amalia, and crushed her in a whirling embrace.
“Mole, I am so glad to see you. I am so glad that you came. Oh, Mole, I have missed you so.”
It was several seconds before he released her so that she could look at him properly.
“Great Light! Look at you! This is as bad as the nettles. Am I ever going to see what you really look like?” Skandar laughed and they embraced once again.
“Hoy, lads, come here and meet Amalia—Mole. She is the one I was telling you about. If anyone can find Rhino, she can.”
Amalia had no time to question this strange salutation because the next instant, she was surrounded by the other boys as introductions were handed around. Her hand was grabbed and pumped repeatedly.
“Hello, I’m Trevor; my father is Lord Vortimer of Essex”
“I’m Elbert of Kent, the son of Lord Ethelred.”
“I’m Wilfred—but they call me ‘the Mighty’.”
“We do not.”
“Well, you should.”
“Why? What are you so mighty at—eating?”
“Lads, will you settle down a bit? You are going to scare her away.”
“Come on, Amalia, over here,” said Skandar as he led Amalia to the bench. She and Skandar sat down, and Wilfred, Elbert, and Trevor settled themselves on the grass in front of them. They looked up at Amalia expectantly.
“Amalia, I told the lads all about you and about the magic we discovered. They know about the cave and its magic ‘cause I took them there. So whatever you want to say about it, it’s alright. I even told them about my nickname, ‘Skunk.’ They like it so much they want one of their own.” He looked pointedly at Wilfred. “But no one is calling you ‘the Mighty’.”
Amalia was taken aback.
“Err…what is it you want me to do,” she asked.
“We would like you to find Rhino and bring him back,” said Elbert. “We think he is lost.”
“Where exactly is he?”
“We don’t know, but it’s somewhere none of us can get to. However, Skandar thinks you might be able to help. He told us how one time, you and he somehow connected…you know, shared thoughts and experiences. We thought you could find a way to connect to Rhino and bring him back to himself.”
Amalia was silent. She looked at the brothers’ anxious yet hopeful faces. If she was going to help them, they must be told the truth.
“Well, I can try to do what you ask, but first you have to know what it is you are asking.” Amalia then proceeded to tell the boys about her gift of heightened perception. She told them of her experiences with Merion and with Henry William. Lastly, she told them about her journey through her own vast and perilous estate.
“When I found myself back in London, I was once more ‘inside’ my own body—even though I never really left it. I don’t quite understand it yet. Uncle Hosten explained that I could go inside my own inner world at any time, as long as I can find my way out. Usually people don’t experience that until they are much older and know what they are doing. With me, it happened unexpectedly. I found myself inside without a way to get out. My uncle and aunt, my father and mother, well, they entered into my world at a place we all know in order to guide me back. Otherwise, they might never have found me. I doing so, they had to actually leave their bodies for a while—which is what someone can do if you can do if you don’t stay away too long.”
Amalia paused and looked at the boys; their mouths were agape in wonder. She looked uncomfortable; nevertheless, she continued.
“When I entered Merion’s world and Henry William’s world, they guided me so I was able to return. But if I enter Rhino’s world without his knowledge and without his permission, I may get lost myself. I don’t know anything about Rhino, where he has been or what he has experienced. I want to help you but I don’t know if I can.”
“Could you at least try?” asked Skandar. “We are really desperate. We will do whatever you want if you will help us.”
Amalia thought for a few moments.
“Alright,” she said, “I’ll do it. Hmm…I think to start I need to know everything you can tell me about Rhino. What is he like? Where are some places he might go? Does he have any favorite things he talks about?”
For the next few hours, Elbert, Skandar, Wilfred, and Trevor painted a picture of Rhino. They walked Amalia through their adventures in each of the four provinces, recalling special occasions and significant anecdotes. They reminisced about times of joy, times of sorrow, times of laughter, and times of tears. They opened their hearts to Amalia—nothing was held back. In doing so, the brothers realized how much they loved each other and how much they loved Rhino. Amalia was impressed by the strength of their commitment to each other and considered that it could help her in her task.
Next they made a plan to spirit Rhino out of the castle to a secret meeting place; Amalia was confident she could guide them there undetected. The brothers agreed to meet Amalia the following night at the end of the tunnel. They had just finished fixing a time when Lord Lokinvar strolled into the garden, saying he had come to take Amalia home. Amalia embraced all of the boys and left in a much better frame of mind. Here at last was an opportunity to put to right a wrong she had done. She was more talkative on the ride back to her uncle’s house. Lord Lokinvar smiled at the change. If Virgil was correct in assuming that something was taking shape, Lokinvar had no doubt that Amalia and Skandar were a part of it. When he reached the bakery, he escorted Amalia through the door, bid good night to Hosten, who was waiting for her, and kissed Amalia on the forehead. Lord Lokinvar then made his way back to the castle, comforted that his son had such a friend.
Next Week: How to Disturb the Universe