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Author's Chapter Notes:


I am a terrible liar and an irresponsible updater. *hangs head in shame* I promised in the last chapter to post the next update within a week, and yet here we are weeks later...

You see, after re-reading the chapter that I was about to post for an update, I realized that after all the time Lene had spent being five years old, she spends very little time being nine-and-three-quarters. And it felt really unbalanced. So I decided to add some more flesh to chapter twelve (yay, more content for the readers!) but then got buried with school, work, and sewing (boo, no time for writing).

As a result, instead of a nice well-rounded chapter twelve full of Nickalicious goodness, here is a stringy, little Nick-less chapter to tide you over until uni gets out in two weeks. I know I keep making promises, but things should pick up again with ONH in June!

This one is for both Ashley and Sarah, who've stuck with me through the dry season. 


Lene stared through the bars of her cage out of the only window in the tower, wondering where Nick was at this moment. Somewhere in the wilds of Other World, a piece of Lene was with him. How old was she out there now, still five? Lene could no longer watch Nick through Günter's tapestries because he was the only one who knew how to activate the wall hanging and use it as a mirror to the realms beyond the castle. And she hadn't seen Günter in days, not since he'd left the tower through that door in the ceiling to go back home and recover from his wounds; she couldn't remember when that was exactly because there was no way for her to keep count in her cage. But at least he'd left her water and bread. "Traditional prisoner fare," he'd chortled.

Apparently, when Günter had sent his satellite out into Other World, something had happened during his encounter with Nick, and it had not gone well for him. At the time of his return, Lene hadn't noticed his injuries at first because she'd been so wrapped up in her plan to escape Günter by threatening him at sword point. When he'd recovered from his satellite too soon and foiled her plans, Günter had punished Lene, first with physical violence and then with his cruel words. But soon afterward he'd collapsed to the floor, weakened by some sort of injuries that he'd sustained in satellite form. Had Nick fought Günter and been victorious? What did it mean?

Staring out the tower window, she wondered how long it would take Nick to get to the castle. Lene wasn't the least bit familiar with the geography of Other World, so she had no idea where those forests – the ones from the tapestry where she'd last seen Nick – were located. He could be hours or days away for all that she knew. If only Nick could get to the castle before Günter returned, they could escape Other World together. And if Günter came back and they had to face him, then what would Lene do? If in the end it came down to it, could she kill the man who had raised her since she was nine years old? Of course, he had admitted to a part in the murder of her parents, but still – if needed, could she kill the man whom she'd once steadfastly followed?

Günter had accused Lene of already trying to kill him when she'd only been trying to scare him into letting her go. He'd approved of her actions, saying that Lene had taken after him. Is it true? Am I just as ruthless as he is? Lene wondered. She stared at her hands. Were these the hands of a murderer? According to Günter, she had not been helping him all these years to rid the world of evil men; she had been part of the evil, an accomplice to his schemes for power. Maybe not all of those people they'd defeated had been the monsters that Günter had made them out to be. Some of them might have had families. Some of them might have been people like her parents, and Lene had helped Günter to get rid of them and in the process made him even stronger.

Lene's parents, though they'd died when she was nine, had instilled her with a strong sense of what was good and right. She'd thought that she had been honoring them all these years, not spitting on their memory by helping a man with a blackened heart. How did I not notice the truth about Günter? Lene wondered. Surely there must have been some clue, some sign along the way, revealing Günter's real motives. But she had been too blinded by her own sense of duty to him, the man she'd believed to be her savior. Lene had followed his every command unquestioningly until Nick had come into the picture.

Nick... She sighed longingly at the very thought of him.

Meeting Nick had been like a refreshing trip to the seaside after a lengthy journey in the desert, and it had changed her life. From the moment Lene had started watching Nick under Günter's command, she'd known that something had been absent in her life and that something was amiss with the orders she'd been given. She couldn't reconcile Günter's report of a cold-blooded killer with the sweet, funny man who played guitar on Friday nights at his favorite coffee shop: Nick was kind to everybody, loving to the three sisters and one brother who had lived with him for a while but were now scattered across the country, and didn't even seem to know that he was gifted with magic powers. Sure there were things she saw about his lifestyle – the partying, the women – but these were the flaws of men, not monsters, and nothing comparable to the horrors that Günter had accused him of. It had been easy for Lene to feel attracted to Nick with his good looks and natural charm, and it had been even easier for her to fall for him, although he only knew her as that Norwegian chick with the accent who poured his coffee.

Leaving out any mention of her feelings for Nick, Lene had tried to tell Günter that he wasn't dangerous, that surely they were after the wrong man, but Günter had insisted that Nick was a real threat. And then he had insisted that Lene be the one to kill him. Not since her parents' death had she felt so miserable. Lene understood now that Günter had been manipulating her for his own purposes. Günter already had so much blood on his hands from the past crimes he'd committed, had he intended for her to join him in it now, as well? Whatever the reason, Günter's plans had been ruined by Lene's defiance of his will. Hopefully, some good would come of her mutiny. And as long as Nick survived, there was still hope.