"What shall we do for your birthday party, baby love?"
Cinny grinned and leaned close to whisper in my ear.
"Fairy party, mama!"
I was delighted at the suggestion. Cinny had just recently figured out how to make herself tiny, and I hadn't had time to show her the ins and outs of my little fairy house. We had a great time drinking pollen punch, dancing wildly, and singing silly songs at the top of our lungs.
It was a gorgeous day, and a light breeze was wafting in from the sea. Laughing together, Cinny and I made ourselves big again. It was time for cake!
I cut each of us a big piece, and we settled in at the outdoor table to enjoy it. I had done a decent job of following my mother's recipe, if I did say so myself, but Cinny stopped halfway through her piece, staring at me with a confused expression on her face.
"Mama, who is Silvanus? And why does he think you're gonna have another baby?"
And then she went back to shoveling cake in her mouth as if nothing had happened. As for me, I wasn't sure what I was more shocked about - that Silvy was talking to my daughter, or that he thought I was pregnant.
I couldn't be, I just couldn't! Well, actually, technically I could be, I guess....
I pushed the whole dilemma out of my mind for now, as I had more important things to attend to. I presented Cinnamon with the doll house that Jaxon and I had conspired to have Andrae build for her. She absolutely loved it.
And so finally I sat down again with Silvy and the old waterlogged sack. With bated breath I reached inside and pulled out the magically sealed box, that I had seen so briefly weeks before when I'd rescued it from the ancient shipwreck.
The first thing I noticed was the emblem painted on the top. I described it to Silvanus.
"It's a round yellow circle, with a tiny flower painted in the middle," I exclaimed as I ran my fingers over the still brightly painted design.
"That's it! That's the Charm that the old witch was wearing when he cursed me! If it is still inside, perhaps there is a chance! Can you open it?" Silvanus' rumbling voice contained a note of excitement that I had never heard from him before.
I was pleased to discover that the protection spell was one that I was familiar with, and I quickly had the polished wooden box open. Inside was a small cushion, with a perfectly round indent in the middle. I lifted the cushion and shook it out, but it was no use.
"It's empty," I muttered dejectedly, my shoulders slumping in defeat.
"Are you sure? Perhaps there is a false bottom." Silvanus sounded as dejected as I was.
"I don't think so... wait a minute. There's a little button on the side of the box."
Excitedly I ran my hands over all sides of the polished wood.
"Yes! I think it's a puzzle box! My dad used to tell me about them."
It didn't take long before I was able to extract a small drawer from the side of the box. And inside the drawer was a small slip of paper. And written on the paper was a spell - A spell that was completely unlike anything I'd ever seen before.
"That is the antidote spell, I am sure of it. Perhaps we do not need the charm after all. The magic of this island has faded considerably, but perhaps there is still enough left to cast the spell. You can but try."
And try I did - all afternoon. At first I thought I might be casting incorrectly, but Silvanus concurred that I was indeed doing it right.
On into the evening I tried, but all that ever appeared were large puffs of smoke. I wanted to keep going, but finally I had to give into Silvanus' and Cinny pleas to break off.
Even so, I would have kept going on into the night, if my fickle stomach had not intervened.
I didn't even make it back to the house, before I lost my entire stomach contents on the front porch. I hated to admit it, but it appeared that Silvy had been right - I was pregnant again. This was the last thing I needed. I needed to concentrate! I had to think of some way to concentrate my magic so I could cast the spell.
But I couldn't keep my mind on anything but my growing belly and the tiny wolf-child that was in there.
"What's the matter, Mama? Aren't you excited about the new baby? I'm excited!"
For her sake, I smoothed out the grimace that distorted my face when I thought about this wolf-baby.
"Of course I'm excited, sweetie. I'm just still sick, is all. You know how sick I've been."
It was true, about the sickness. I'd never been so sick with Cinny. But this time around, I'd spent most of my days lying in bed, getting up only to force myself to eat, or to run to the bathroom.
"I know, Mama. I'm sorry," she murmured contritely.
But soon her child-like enthusiasm took over again.
"I hope it's a girl! I do so want a little sister! Would that be so wonderful?"
I swallowed hard and forced a smile.
"Of course, Cinny. That would be perfect, wouldn't it?"
But if the truth be told, I dreaded the thought of what was growing in my belly. And even after my pregnancy became obvious, I still found myself throwing up constantly. I really wanted to talk to my dad about the box, but I couldn't even make it past Uncle Marlin's lighthouse before having to turn back.
One day, though, the nausea held off long enough to make it to the school house where my dad still taught.
"Look at this box I found, Daddy. The picture on the top looks vaguely familiar, don't you think? But I just can't place it."
I began to open the secret drawer, hoping he could give me some advice about casting the spell, but he stopped me before I could show him. His complete attention was on the painted golden circle.
"That's.. I don't believe it! That's the charm your grandfather Oakheart brought with him from the Viewing River!"
Then his face sobered a bit as he continued.
"I'm not sure what's happened to it though. If I remember, he gave it to your Aunt Aster. And.. hmm.. there was some scandal with Meaghan and Val. I think Aster let Meaghan borrow it, or something. You'd have to check with Aster."
Amazingly, I was still feeling pretty good, so I made the short trek from the school to Aster's and Rudy's house. One of my wolf cousins answered the door.
"Yes? What do you want?" She practically growled in my direction.
"Um. Is Aunt Aster here?"
"Come in then," She frowned at me.
"It's the fairy princess, come to see Ma," she announced to the room full of wolves.
I swallowed hard and followed her inside.
Rudy went upstairs to get my Aunt, and I was left waiting in a room with my three wolf cousins. I had never gotten along very well with any of them, but today the girls were especially unpleasant.
"What's up with them?" I motioned to the two girls.
"Ah, don't worry about them, they're just jealous," Alick shrugged. "You're already having your second baby, and they haven't found anybody yet. Not a lot of choice, you know."
He let out a big sigh.
I was about to sympathize with him when a sudden wave of nausea caught me by surprise.
"Excuse me, I'll just wait for Aunt Aster outside..."
I was still throwing up when my aunt walked down the stairs. I was horrified to be making such a mess right on her doorstep, but she clucked in sympathy at my predicament.
"I"m sorry, Auntie. I don't understand why I'm so sick. It wasn't this way with Cinnamon."
"Aw, don't worry about it, Freya. Those little wolf babies can really take it out of you. I should know, I've had three of them."
I knew it. I mean, I'd always suspected that this baby's wolfishness was causing my problems, but now I had confirmation. I didn't know how my aunt could be so nonchalant about the whole affair. But I guess she really loved Uncle Rudy, and that made the difference.
Eventually I steered the conversation away from wolf babies to the real reason for my visit.
"Oh yes! I've never told you the whole story? Let me fill you in!"
I was shocked to hear the truth about my Uncle Val. I knew he had been a wild one in his youth, but to compel Meaghan with a love charm? No wonder my family wanted nothing to do with him.
"And so," Aster said, coming to the end of her story, "I gave Meaghan the charm, to protect her from Val. As far as I know, she still has it."
It was late when I finally said goodbye to my aunt. I was feeling slightly ill again, so a visit with Meaghan would have to wait for another day.
"Don't you worry about that baby," she called to me as I waddled away. "It'll be fine, you'll see. I'll come help you if you want! I'm sure you'll need it!"
It was quite a few days before I felt well enough to venture out again. Meaghan was overjoyed that her second grandchild would be coming so soon. I tried to be happy for her as she rubbed my swollen belly, but I couldn't help but notice that she was not wearing the ancient amber charm. Instead, she wore a small silver heart around her neck. She smiled when she noticed me staring at it.
"Lovely, isn't it! Andrae made it for me. I think it suits me better than the old amber necklace I used to wear."
"Do you still have it? The amber necklace?" I tried not to sound too eager.
"I think so. Why do you ask?"
"Could I see it? It's..uh.. very important to me."
I guess I was starting to sound too eager, because Meaghan was looking a bit taken aback. Nevertheless, she led me upstairs to her bedroom,where she kept a box for her jewelry on her bedside table.
With trembling hands I lifted the lid, and.. there it was. The thing I'd been searching for, for so long, had been here in my children's grandmother's jewelry box the whole time.
"Oh my! It's so beautiful! Do you mind if I borrow it.. just for a few days?"
"Tell you what," came the surprising reply. "Why don't you just take it? I never wear it anymore. And no better person to pass it on to than the mother of my grandchildren. Besides, I think it suits you."
I could almost swear it glowed slightly as she fasten it around my neck.
My heart was eager, but my body was exhausted by the time I arrived home once more. I could barely put one foot in front of the other to stumble up the steps to my front door. Besides a quick mumble to Silvanus, that yes, I had found the charm, I ignored his frantic questions, too tired to reply.
I barely made it into the bedroom, where I collapsed on the bed and immediately fell sound asleep. I would just take a short nap, then perhaps I'd have enough energy to try the spell.
I was awakened a short time later to the most excruciating labor pains. I was glad that Cinny had stayed after school to help Grandpa Manny with a project. It would have scared her something awful, I think.
Fortunately it was a short labor. I'm not sure if I could have survived much longer. Cinny had her wish - a new baby sister. She was big for a newborn, much bigger than Cinny had been. I knew she was a wolf, but one look at her tiny baby face and I couldn't help but fall in love. Aster was right after all, everything was going to be fine. I hoped.