Ok, so I've finished it. I'm now editing and re-writing. This is book three. Names are set in stone. There's a prologue and then this. I started writing this book years ago, so I was pretty rubbish back then. Basically, yes, I'm making excuses for the crapness of the following. Sorry. As I said in Anya's thread, I start with a character waking up. Book two ended with her conking out. Please tell me if I'm over-using names. I think I am. --- She was dead. She was dead. But she felt more alive now than she had ever before and this time, she had some of the Power of Malinas within her. And she knew its secret. Millicent Graves knew everything. ♦ Sorrel’s eyes opened and she squinted up at the ceiling. She felt disorientated; she had absolutely no idea where she was. She didn’t even know what time or day it was and for a moment, she couldn’t even remember what she had been doing before she had fallen asleep. Then she remembered. The War. The battle for the Kingdom of Malinas. She had fought with the Empress and won, but the last thing she remembered was collapsing into her mother’s arms. As Sorrel lay back in the comfortable double bed and gazed at the ceiling, she became aware that someone else was in the room with her. She could hear them moving about, quietly so not to wake her. Sorrel turned her head and watched silently as a young girl mixed something in a small wooden bowl. The girl had her back to Sorrel and was standing over a sideboard. An open book lay by her left hand and she glanced at it every now and then before going back to her mixture. She’s checking ingredients, Sorrel thought. Then, catching a familiar whiff from whatever it was the girl was stirring, knew it was something her mother would make. The girl stopped stirring the mixture and turned towards the bed. She stopped with a shock when she saw Sorrel’s eyes open and said, ‘Oh!’ in surprise. Sorrel looked at the girl and said nothing. She was an Elani, probably two or three years younger than herself. She had on a pale blue dress over which she wore a white cotton apron. There was an emblem of a small purple flower embroidered on the top right-hand side of the apron and the word ‘Pasque’ in fancy lettering. “Pasque,” said Sorrel. Her throat was dry and her voice sounded hoarse. She swallowed and cleared her throat. The girl smiled. She was extraordinarily pretty, with eyes as green as emeralds and neat strawberry blonde hair tied up in a single tight plait. "You’re awake!” she said brightly. “And on the one and only time when your mother hasn’t been by your side.” Sorrel pulled herself up into a sitting position and yawned. She was dressed in a white night-shirt, she realised, and quickly looked around the room for her old clothes. “I’ll get your mother,” Pasque said, popping the wooden bowl back down on the sideboard. “Nobody thought you’d wake yet.” “Where am I?” Sorrel asked. She rubbed her face, not liking to feel so tired and confused. Pasque turned back and went to sit on the stool by Sorrel’s bedside. “This is my home in North-Town,” she explained. “We thought it best for you to stay here in comfort. Your mother has chosen to train me as the next healer and it has been my greatest honour to accept and to care for her daughter.” Sorrel smiled. Her mother had wanted to start training a successor for a long time but neither she nor her brother Leif showed much interest or talent for the healing art. Sorrel rubbed her tired eyes again and then looked at Pasque. “I feel like I’ve slept for days,” she said. Pasque grinned and raised her eyebrows. “You have!” she said. “Four and a half to be exact.” Sorrel looked sharply at Pasque, then lay back down on her pillow, and groaned. “What’ve I missed?” Pasque got up and went to retrieve her mixture from the sideboard which she then handed to Sorrel and told her to drink. She sat back down on the stool and watched as Sorrel sipped from the wooden bowl. “You mean with regards to the affairs of the Kingdom?” “I mean,” said Sorrel, screwing up her nose and looking at the mixture in distaste, “with regards to the affairs of my family and friends.” She looked at Pasque again and asked suddenly, “Who’s been looking after Enapay?!” Pasque laughed and took the bowl out of Sorrel’s hands. “Your horse is being looked after by Gaeshi Sarkany in the Vale. Your mother, when she has not been here, has been at Leif and Saoirse’s in South-Town, cooing over young Imree.” “Imree?” Sorrel repeated, frowning. Pasque smiled at Sorrel and said gently, “Oh yes, I forgot. Imree is the name of their son.” “Imree?” Sorrel said again, pulling a face to make it clear what she thought of the name. Pasque smiled again. “As for your other friends, I believe Gunda is still here, waiting for you to wake. Evan waits with her, but that Fagan...!” Pasque shook her head and frowned. Sorrel sighed heavily. She knew Fagan would be more distant than ever after the death of his beloved Squirrel. She looked up as Pasque continued, noting with interest how her expression had softened into a wistful gaze. “Little Cloud has been by your side too. He’s quite charming. So gentle...” Pasque fiddled absently with the hem of her apron until Sorrel coughed and grinned at her and then she continued, sounding rather embarrassed, “Oh yes, but he left the Kingdom yesterday to care for his mentor, Running Bear.” “What’s wrong with Running Bear?” Sorrel asked, sitting up sharply. “He’s not ill is he?” Pasque frowned thoughtfully and shook her head. She pursed her lips and looked at Sorrel. “Not ill exactly,” she said. “More... well, it’s strange. He’s been bombarded by visions and images. They come to him all the time now, no longer confined to his dreams. Some say he’s completely cracked, but Cloud seems to think it’s something else. The poor old man’s certainly troubled by something.” “It’s not a seer thing is it?” Sorrel asked, feeling more alert now. “I mean, the same thing won’t happen to Cloud, will it?” Pasque raised her eyebrows and looked distant for a moment or two before she heaved a sigh and shook her head. “I hope not,” she replied. She placed the wooden bowl on the table next to Sorrel’s bed and then clapped her hands into her lap, declaring, “Well! I must go and tell your mother you’re awake!” Sorrel watched Pasque leave before lying back and wondering about Running Bear.