Mirella continued to stand, unheeding. Nan Maura moved across the room and closed the door, inadvertently brushing the girl with her arm. The touch jolted Mirella and she stumbled forward with a curtsy.
“Where have you been?” asked the Queen, “There’s blood on your hem.”
“That’s from the crossing the room. Elymas has dragged someone into his secret chamber. I ran as fast as I could.”
“Secret chamber?” asked Laveth. “I don’t know of this room.”
“It’s below the stairs begin behind the–“
“What kept you?” interrupted the old nurse.
“Oren Hunter has come from High North and announced the birth of the Earth Child. He wants to take him to the Shautu.” She covered her face with her hands and began to weep. “The Shautu says he is in great danger.”
“Blood of the Tree!” Nan Maura grabbed up the sleeping prince and took him to her corner. “I was a fool not to have foreseen this.”
“The Shautu?” Laveth furrowed her brow. “Are you referring to that old man who lives in the Eld Forest and always wears the same robe?”
“He’s more than an old man,” Nan Maura replied. “The Shautu is the Sikestran of the Eld Forest and Leader of the Brethren of the Blue Stones. These facts aren’t hard to learn, Laveth. Heaven knows I tried to teach you.”
“He knows everything and he’s sent Oren Whitehair,” As Mirella used the Hunter’s name, color rose in her cheeks. “Everyone knew of Oren back in the Shivelite Camp. He stood guard on the Jutting Rock during the Spring Calling of Spirits. When I spied on the Pentacacus during the Spring Calling of Spirits, I was always terrified of being caught by him. He’s completely white-headed, and huge.”
“What was the Shautu’s message?”
“Oh, Mi’Lady, it was awful.” Mirella wiped her tears. “The Shautu read the heavens and knows that a new Earth Child has been born. He sent Oren Whitehair to fetch him.”
“The Shautu knows from the stars,” Nan Maura’s words ran together in a moan of despair. She couldn’t stop rocking the boy. “From the stars, the stars . . .”
Laveth threw her a frightened glance. Was she the only one not in danger of losing her mind?
“How dare he expose us?” The Queen’s nostrils flared.
“Oren said the Shautu sent him because the Earth Child is in danger,” she turned, daring to look at the nurse. “Mortal danger.”
“There is great evil coming from afar,” Nan Maura rose, handing the babe to the Queen. “And coming soon. Perhaps it is already here.”
“Oren didn’t reveal the identity of the child,” Mirella added, then hesitated before adding her opinion. “I don’t think he knows it. But Elymas was livid at the suggestion that one even lives. He puffed and argued but Oren held firm. He said the Shautu didn’t make mistakes.”
“The Shautu doesn’t know it’s the Prince with the thickened sole?” Laveth’s eyes flared with hope. “Mirella, start at the beginning and tell me everything.”