At the far end of the room was a set of double doors that were nearly as tall as the ones through which they had just come. In front of these doors, an older Duende woman sat at an ornately carved desk. The woman was looking down and writing something with a quill pen. The plume bounced around as she worked. She either hadn’t noticed their arrival or didn’t care; Carling couldn’t tell which.
Carling looked over at Higson. He winked at her, took her hand, and led her forward. They stopped in front of the desk. The woman still did not look up.
“Good Morning, ma’am,” Higson said politely.
“What do you want?” she responded brusquely, finally lifting her eyes and looking over the top of her spectacles.
“We would like an audience with the town council,” Carling said, trying to sound confident and professional, though she felt far from it.
The woman shook her head. “I’m so sorry, children, but that is impossible. They are in their daily council meeting.” She motioned her head toward the closed doors behind her, then looked back down and continued with her writing.
“We have something very important to discuss with them,” Carling continued.
The woman slapped down her pen in irritation. “I’m sure you do. Everyone does. But I cannot interrupt their meeting.”
“Oh, I think you can.”
Carling and Higson started. The deep, mellow voice came from behind and above them. Carling recognized it immediately. She turned around quickly and gazed up at Vidente, the Wizard of Crystonia. It suddenly occurred to her why the doors needed to be so tall. The Wizard’s hood was off his head and draped over his shoulders. His face was now clearly visible. He looked much younger than Carling had imagined he would be. The only wrinkles on his face were smile wrinkles at the sides of his blue eyes, which sparkled beneath bushy eyebrows. His beard was brown and trimmed neatly. His cheeks were pronounced yet, at the same time, round and rosy. She cocked her head to one side and examined him closely. She was sure that he had a long gray beard when she last saw him.
“Wizard,” she said. She felt herself relax, not having realized until now just how tense she had been. “You’re here.”
He smiled down at her, causing the wrinkles near his eyes to deepen. “Yes, Carling. I thought you might need some help.”
Carling wanted to run to him and hug his legs, but she kept control of her impulse. Instead she simply said, “Yes. I really would appreciate that. But….” she paused.
Vidente asked, “What is it?”
“I thought you had a gray beard.”
Vidente chuckled. “I decided to change it up a bit. What do you think?”
Carling nodded. “It’s nice. Makes you look younger.”
“Well that’s a good thing, don’t you think?”
“Perhaps?” he answered.
“Well, the other one made you look…”
“Wiser?” he added with a smile.
Carling wrinkled her nose and grinned. “Yeah…sort of.”
Vidente laughed and patted Carling on the head.
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