A comet streaked through the night sky so brightly that Adea awoke with a start. She looked about but could see only the tall trunks of black pines beneath a blanket of silvery stars.
“Where are we?” she asked the young man sitting next to her.
Jadon had been watching her sleep for over an hour by then.
“I used the hammer, Adea,” he explained.
“The hammer? But why? What happened?” Adea grew more alarmed by each heartbeat.
“They were coming for us. The har-goblins. I could smell them already and I had to get us out of there. I used the hammer and pulled you through the door.”
“Did any of them get through?” Adea asked.
“No. I don’t think so. I’ve been listening for them for the last hour or so.”
“So we’re in Soltre.”
The hammer was Lagvind, a mighty gift from the people of Soltre. One solid strike, anywhere in the all the Realms of Possible, would open a window back to Soltre, but only for a moment.
Adea looked down to see her feet wrapped in Jadon’s scarf. Then she remembered what had taken place what seemed like moments before she woke up among the towering trees.
She and Jadon had been resting in a small wood-paneled room at the back of the only inn in the village of Nor. It was already late at night.
“You know the har-goblins might come out in a place like this,” he had said, half smiling. He was gazing through the foggy glass windows at the moon.
“You don’t really believe in har-goblins, do you?” Adea had teased. “Those are stories for wee children.”
“Heard them of late, have you?”
“I am sixteen!” she protested. “And I don’t believe in them. It’s silly. Monsters that eat your toes while you sleep!”
Yet she had not protested when Jadon pulled off his scarf and carefully wound it around her feet. The gentle and tender way he had caressed them while wrapping her small feet reminded her of why she admired him so much.
“Now listen. If the har-goblins come, they must obey the Law of Toe. Only bare toes, exposed to the air, may be eaten. They will not violate it, lest they come under the wrath of the Har-Kong.”
“What Law? I think you’re making this up,” she said.
“I have it by authority of Farfar Landon,” he stated resolutely.
“I think you just wanted to touch my feet.”
“Silly girl. You don’t want your toes nipped off one by one, do you?”
“Have you ever seen anyone walking around the village with missing toes?” she countered.
“They all have shoes on, so you wouldn’t know, would you? Now go to sleep. I will stand watch and guard your toes, just in case.”
“In case what? You just wrapped my feet.”
“Just in case,” he said more sternly. “In case it’s not enough.” He looked slightly worried.
Now in the darkness of the forest of Soltre, Jadon still looked a bit unsettled.
“I don’t think any of them got through. But they are real, Starlight. I admit, I didn’t believe the tales were true, but then the smell came. I heard the claws of their feet dragging along the floor in the hallway.”
She loved when he called her Starlight.
“But my feet were wrapped,” Adea said.
“I don’t trust the Law of Toe. I don’t really know what was coming down the hallway, but I wasn’t going to wait and find out. Ever since we left Soltre, all sorts of things we only half-believed before have been coming true. I had to get us out of that house, out of that village.”
“So you brought us back to Soltre? That’s like going backwards. You know what Bidron told us. We don’t have a lot of time.”
Jadon looked down pensively. He let out a long sigh. Adea’s eyes were getting used to the low light of the night sky and she could see he was holding something back.
“There’s something else,” she ventured. “Another reason you brought me here.”
“I just wanted to be with you, Starlight. Bidron said there were no night animals in all of Soltre. It’s just you and me right now.”
“Unless the har-goblins made it through the window,” she reminded him.
“Do you trust me, Adea?”
“I trust you completely, Jadon. With my life.”
“There are other ways to conjure magic, but the secret to all magic is that you must believe. Belief is everything.”
“I believe you.”
“Believe in my words,” Jadon whispered as he took her hand in his.
He raised it to his lips and kissed the top of her hand. Then he turned it over and kissed each fingertip once. Adea smiled.
“You going to start saying any words?”
“Shhh,” he warned.
He took her other hand and repeated the display of affection, almost as if part of a ritual.
“Now, believe this. I am a son of the Elgam. By kissing your hands and fingers in this way, you are protected from harmful magic until the sun rises.”
“You could just do that all the time if you’re trying to protect me,” she offered.
“It doesn’t work that way. I can only do that once every new moon.”
She looked up. The moon was full. Jadon saw her glance and followed her line of reasoning.
“In Soltre the moon is full. In our world, the moon is new. I saw that through the window as you were sleeping.”
“It’s like you planned this,” said Adea.
“Not exactly. But you are safe no matter what right now. Do you believe me?”
“I feel safe with you,” Adea breathed. “I believe you.”
“Then sleep, Starlight.”
He set himself against the nearest tree and pulled her softly toward himself. She nestled into him as he wrapped his arms around her.
“Sleep, Starlight. Tomorrow we will look for Bidron and seek guidance.”
“I love you, Jadon,” she mumbled as she slipped quickly into a deep slumber.
“I love you, too, Adea,” he whispered, as he realized she had already fallen asleep. “More than I should.”