Sample page from “The Orphan’s Secret,” Chapter Five

“What did the boy look like?” was Alessa’s first question.

Elaina had used her foot to scoop a large lump of mineral mud from the bottom of the pool. She was picking off the healthful sludge and smearing it on her face and neck. “Oh, he was gorgeous.” Elaina gazed off into the forest as she smeared. “But too young for you.”

“I hope you can describe him better than that.”

“His hair was dark brown—darker than mine, down to here,” Elaina said, indicating shoulder level with her muddy hand. “Curly. He had dark, glossy eyes—almost black. Black eyebrows: not too thin, not too bushy. A sweet nose, sweet mouth, sweet voice…”

“Did he have any hair on his face?”

“No, he was clean shaven. And he was fit. Strong. His skin was a deeper shade than mine.” She lifted her bare forearm out of the water and considered its hue.

“What was he wearing?”

“A cloak of camouflage, and leather armor under that.” She peered up diagonally to pull the precise image from her memory. “His armor was soaking wet, but it was in prime condition. He had a crossbow on his back, which must have been awfully uncomfortable for him to fall onto, and a sword… and…”

“The sword,” Alessa interrupted. “Was there anything engraved on the hilt or the scabbard?”

Elaina stared in thought. The reflections of the path’s lamps bobbed on the steaming ripples.

“I didn’t notice.”

“How old would you say he was?”

“Around my age,” said Elaina. “Old enough to be important.” She rinsed off her face as well as she could in the milky water. Later she would rinse it better in the other pool. “So that’s everything. What do you think?”

Alessa paused to consider what to comment on first: Elaina’s obvious infatuation with the boy, or her encounter with the menacing creep by the bridge. She decided the menacing creep would be an easier topic to tackle. “The man who confronted you,” she began, “was using an awful ability only a handful of people have.”

“I’ve never heard of an ability like that,” Elaina said.

“The people who have it never mention it. And the people who are affected by it never remember.”

Elaina bit her lower lip. A yellow leaf sailed down and landed, spinning, on the pool’s surface. Alessa lifted it delicately by the stem and flung it onto the bank.

“But I remember,” Elaina said. “I remember everything.”

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