The man in fine clothing peered out at the lake through the brush and saw a woman in a red cloak lying down on the ground, so he rushed over to see if she was alright. When he got close, he cautiously inquired, “Miss? Miss! Are you okay?” Cally inwardly groaned. She didn’t want to hear any taunting or ridicule from a normal person right before she died and hoped that it would happen sooner so that she would not have to endure it. Once his words sunk in more, she found the strong timbre of his voice almost comforting. He sounded very kind, which sort of confused her. People so rarely worried about her well being, so this felt both refreshing and strange…
Suddenly, even though her eyes were closed, she saw a shadow hovering over her face. She opened her eyes to see a man with smooth, bronzed skin as well as deep, light blue eyes and short, wavy, dark brown hair staring at her with concern. For a moment, she enjoyed waking up to find such a handsome man at her side, but then she remembered what her own face looked like and bolted up in terror. “Stay back!” she cried out.
“I’m sorry I frightened you!” he apologized. “I just wanted to make sure you’re alright.”
“I’m fine!” she mulled it over for a moment and then corrected herself, “Actually, I’m not fine. I’m dying…”
The man gasped, “I’m so sorry! Could I give you a ride to an infirmary? Maybe they can save you!”
Although Cally refused to show him her face again, she did sense his sincerity in wanting to help her. She felt moved by his compassion, but she couldn’t understand why he would want to save her. Patrons of Camellia’s Circus had seen her get hurt and laughed about it, so she felt surprised by such an authentic care for her. She wondered if it was a trap of some sort and began to grow suspicious of him. “An infirmary won’t help me. I’ve been cursed and we don’t know what hex did it. I’ve been taking a potion twice a day since I was a baby to stay alive and I’ve just spilled it all. I don’t have much time left.”
As the words left her lips, she felt as though she were lying. Reisseck made sure she took the potion exactly on time, not one minute longer, and yet nothing seemed to be happening. Actually, she felt a little better than she did before, lighter and a little stronger, but she couldn’t explain why. The man didn’t seem to buy her claim either, but he humored her, “Well, is there a next of kin that I can inform?”
“No!” Cally didn’t like to get reminded just how alone in the universe she was, and with her hideous visage, she didn’t get why he thought anyone would miss her if she perished. Reisseck would probably miss the money she brought in and feel irritated he would have to take care of the house himself, but other than that, it hurt to think no one would have cared if she didn’t exist anymore. “I’m a mere servant, I have no one.”
“Really?” He sounded puzzled by that statement. “I have plenty of servants, but they all have families who would miss them. I would be saddened to hear if they died as well.” Cally felt a little intrigued by a man who allegedly had multiple servants and really pondered who she might have been talking to now. “Do you have a husband?”
Cally bitterly laughed at that question. “You’re mocking me now!”
“No!” the man insisted.
“You’ve seen my face!” Cally snapped. “Why would anyone want to marry me?”
The man, utterly bewildered, responded, “You’re joking right?” Cally didn’t understand his attitude and couldn’t help but turn around to see if he truly meant it. He had a look of total incomprehension and a fierce worry for her. “Why wouldn’t a man want to marry you? You’re the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen!”
Cally didn’t think he could possibly be telling the truth with that. While she knew beauty meant something different to each person, she couldn’t see a man of his caliber actually finding her that attractive. “You’re lying! You are mocking me!”
The man, completely baffled, stood there trying to understand her perplexing behavior, but when he saw a patch of wet ground, he remembered that she had spilled potion there and suddenly, something clicked for him. “Look at your reflection in the water.”
“Why on Earth would I want to do that?” Cally spat. “Do you think I like looking at my tentacles?Or the warts?”
“You don’t have any tentacles!” the man stated firmly. “Or warts.”
“You’re lying again! You’d have to be blind not to see that my face is covered with…” She pointed to her face to and should have touched one of her tentacles, and she got completely thrown off when she didn’t! She timidly felt her forehead, and she could hardly believe to discover its total smoothness! She ran her fingers all over her face and didn’t feel any blemishes! She ran to the lake, and when she saw her reflection, she almost screamed in astonishment! She could see her eyes for the first time, and she never knew they were a stunning golden brown! The man was right about her looks, she did have a beautiful face! She always dreamed of having a face like this, and it actually made her tear up to see it.
The man smiled warmly to see her cry happily like that. “I think that potion altered your appearance.”
Cally didn’t know what to believe at that moment. For over thirty years, she never really liked Reisseck, but the one redeeming feature he had was the work he did to make her the potion that she thought she depended on to stay alive, but now it appeared as though he had lied to her! It seemed like such a crazy thing to do that it just couldn’t be real! “Why would he want to do that?”
The man conjectured, “Usually, if someone disguises themselves, they’re trying to hide something. If he disguised you, then there’s a reason he’s trying to keep you hidden from the world.”
“Why would he do that?” Cally thought that explanation made sense, but she still couldn’t think of a logical reason as to what would motivate Reissekc to pull a stunt like that.
The man contemplated this for a moment. “Hmm… It’s hard to say. How long have you known him?”
“My whole life,” Cally replied. “I’ve been with him since I was three days old, and I’ve never seen any reason why he’d do that. I mean, I never really questioned him keeping me hidden because I was so disfigured that I didn’t want to get seen, but those disfigurements aren’t real, so why would he…?” Cally’s head felt too overloaded with all this new information, making it hard for her to think. “I’m just an orphan, I’m nothing special, why would he…?”
The man jumped in, “Where were you in the first three days of your life?”
Cally shrugged. “I have no idea. Reisseck told me he found me abandoned in the woods. He had no idea who my parents could have been because no one in the world looked like me. But if he altered my face, then I guess that couldn’t be true. I suppose my parents could have abandoned me for other reasons, but then why bother to disguise me?”
“Maybe he didn’t find you abandoned in the woods,” the man theorized. “Lots of people go missing each day, and sometimes it just takes one little clue to figure out what happened to them. Your parents could have vanished, and your true identity could prove key to finding them.”
“Maybe…” Cally considered this notion. “But that would mean that Reisseck… I’ll have to ask him about it when I see him tonight.”
The man remarked, “I don’t feel comfortable letting you go to someone who could be a potential criminal. You should come with me, I’ll keep you safe.”
Cally had always dreamed of an opportunity to get away from Dregs Hollow, and she dearly wished that she could go with him, but unfortunately, she had to turn him down. “If I could get away from him, I would have done so a long time ago. But you see this?” She showed him the star on her left palm. “I’m magically bound to stay near him. If I go too far from wherever he is, I freeze up. Maybe it doesn’t matter why my parents left, either way, I’m stuck with him!”
“But maybe if we solved that mystery, we could figure out a way to break the spell,” the man pointed out. “At the very least, we could figure out who you truly are.”
“Who I truly am?” Cally echoed. “You don’t even know who I am! And I don’t know you. How do I know you didn’t do a spell to tempt me into helping you?”
The man laughed, “I think the people of Andor would have noticed if their future king could do magic!”
“No way!” Cally reacted in shock. “You’re not…!”
He half bowed to her. “Prince Derrick, at your service!”
Cally didn’t believe him and now truly thought that he was trying to trick her. “Yeah, right! The prince of Andor just happened to be in this remote area and just found me by chance?”
Derrick refuted the notion of any ill intentions on his part, “I went to Camellia’s Circus to take a break. I often come to Lacoria because Queen Avalyn often travels and King Henrick’s mind has been in and out in terms of sanity ever since his daughter died. Queen Avalyn is still in denial about it, she actually searches the world trying to find her! It’s sad really. Well, anyways, I just needed a break from my royal duties. I’ve heard good and bad things about Camellia’s Circus, so I decided to check it out for myself. I was just heading back when I heard you shout. If something foul happened to your parents, I owe it to the kingdom to find out what. When I go back to Barlock, I’ll search through the records to see if any newspapers mention you. Can I have your name?”
“No, you can’t! It’s getting late, I need to get home!” Cally turned to run away.
“Wait!” Derrick called after her. “Please, let me help you!” Cally ignored him and ran through the thick of the trees like her life depended on it. He followed her, but since she knew this area much more than he did, she was able to weave her way out faster than he did. By the time he got back to the path, she had gone completely out of sight!