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The Lake of Tears

To find the second stone, the three heroes must travel through territory ruled by the monster-sorceress Thaegan. Their journey is filled with treachery, trickery, and danger, and at its end they must face the hideous guardian of the enchanted Lake of Tears.

The old woman smiled at Lief. Her smile was sweet and merry. She was pink-cheeked, with twinkling blue eyes, and she was wearing a long blue dress. Her apron was white and her grey hair was tied in a knot on the back of her neck.

Lief smiled back at her. She reminded him of a picture in one of the old storybooks in the bookshelf at home. It made him feel warm and safe just looking at her. The old man was also comforting to look at. He had a kind, cheery face, a fringe of grey hair around a bald patch on his head, and a bushy white moustache.

"Nij," the woman said, patting her chest and bowing slightly. Then she pulled the old man forward. "Doj," she said, tapping him.

Lief realized that she was telling him their names. "Lief," he said in return, pointing at himself. Then he held out his hand to Jasmine and Barda and said their names as well.

With each introduction, Nij and Doj bowed and smiled. Then they pointed to the little white house, mimed washing and drinking, and looked at the three companions questioningly.

"Certainly," beamed Barda, nodding vigorously. "Thank you. You are kind."

"Yrgnuh era ew," said Doj, patting him on the back. He and Nij both roared with laughter as if at some great joke, and began walking together towards the house.

As Jasmine lingered, looking back over her shoulder, Barda's voice sharpened. "Come along, Jasmine!" he complained. "Anyone would think that you enjoyed being wet and covered in slime!"

Lief's feet were quickening as he approached the little white house with the smoking chimney and the flower gardens. Home, his heart was telling him. Friends. Here you can rest. Here you will be safe.

Jasmine trailed behind, with Filli nestled against her hair. She was still frowning. If either Lief or Barda had paid attention to her, had listened to her doubts and suspicions, they might have slowed their steps.

But neither of them did. And they did not realize their mistake until long after the green door had shut behind them.


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