Emma gave up trying to move. “Who are you? And why can’t we move?”
“My name is Merlin,” the man answered. “Magic is keeping you from moving. I need your help, girls.”
“Magic isn’t real,” Emma said. She loved reading books with magic in them, but it didn’t happen in real life. “And Merlin is just a character from a story.”
“Of course it’s real, Emma.” Merlin suddenly disappeared and reappeared on top of one boulder.
Emma looked at her friends. Their mouths were hanging open, too.
“Now, we don’t have a lot of time. Emma, Jessie, and Madison, you’re the only ones who can help me save Morenda.”
“How do you know our names?” Jessie asked.
“Ah, my dear girls, I know many things.” Merlin popped out of sight and reappeared near them. “Will you help me?”
“What… what kind of help?” Madison asked.
Merlin snapped his fingers, and four chairs appeared. “Let’s sit and talk about it.” He sat in the biggest and most colorful of the chairs. Much of the chair was black with carved feathers. Each feather was a different color of the rainbow.
“We can’t move,” Emma said, still not sure if she believed the man or not. But she was certainly starting to.
Merlin smiled and waved them over. “Of course you can. Come join me.”
Madison, the bravest of the three, tried moving first. When Emma saw her walking, she followed. Jessie came over last.
“I’m sorry if I scared you,” Merlin said. “But I was afraid you’d run away before we could talk.”
“Shouldn’t you be old?” Emma asked. “The character in the story is really old.”
Merlin chuckled. “I’m extremely old, my dear.”
“Shouldn’t you have a pointy wizard’s hat?” Jessie asked.
“I don’t like hats.” He looked at Madison. “Do you have any questions before I start?”
“Can we have our snacks?” Madison asked. “I’m hungry.”
Merlin nodded and snapped his fingers, and a table covered with food appeared. “Eat anything you want.”
Emma had never seen a table covered with so many kinds of food. There were bowls of fruit, trays of brownies, three different cakes, sandwiches, and squares of cheese.
They each filled a plate with food and waited for Merlin to tell them why he needed them.
“I’ve been watching each of you all your lives,” Merlin explained. “Madison, Emma, and Jessie, you are the princesses of Morenda. And you are the only ones who can save it.”
Madison was about to put a fat blueberry in her mouth, but she stopped. “We’re not princesses. We’re Americans. America doesn’t have princesses.”
“You are both, Princess Madison. Morenda must always have three princesses. When you were born, my magical order marked you each as a princess. We decided you’d grow up here until it was time for you to come to Morenda. They left me behind to watch over you. It’s now time for you to come to Morenda.”
“Why?” Emma asked. She’d already finished the cheese she’d put on her plate and was about to start on the brownie.
“Every two hundred years, Mercury and his friends appear. They try to capture all the happiness in the land by taking away everything that makes people happy. Only the three princesses of Morenda can stop them. Mercury and his friends will be arriving soon. If you do not stop them, there will be no happiness in Morenda for a thousand years. The three of you must help.”
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