Gwenllian’s idyllic life takes an unexpected turn when the Red Uniforms destroy her village, forcing every adult to fight to the death. In shock at the demise of her parents, the fifteen-year old girl realizes she must assume responsibility for 16 orphaned children.
Leading the young refugees on a journey to what she believes is a place of safety, Gwenllian stumbles across a most surprising sanctuary. Joined by an old man, who teaches magical skills, but possesses few himself, an old woman who travels with only a crazy goat for company and an aggravating shape-shifting boy, the children struggle to establish a life for themselves in the hidden refuge.
The concealed settlement thrives and grows, becoming a target for the wrath of the King. Desperate to protect the hidden sanctuary, Gwenllian struggles under the tutelage of the old man, seeking to learn to control her previously unsuspected magical powers.
When she discovers a powerful family secret, Gwenllian faces a difficult decision—relinquish her responsibilities or learn to re-shape her own destiny.
The wolves leaped as one toward Lanie, who shrank back clutching her book. Teeth bared, the largest wolf aimed its trajectory directly at her throat.
Gwen’s fury and frustration at her own helplessness rose to an unendurable level. With weak knees, but a determined set to her jaw, Gwen raised her stick and shook it with a violent gesture. Something invisible exploded from her chest as she shouted, “No!”
That something flung the wolves backward through the air toward the forest. Wild-eyed, Lanie dashed toward Gwen. The largest wolf slammed into a tree with an audible crack and limped away on three legs. The others whined as they slunk into the trees and out of sight. One remained on the grassy meadow, its neck resting at an unnatural angle.
Gwen stood staring and scowling into the forest for a moment, stick upraised, before allowing her shoulders to slump.
“What the hell was that? I thought I was a goner and then…” Lanie grabbed Gwen by the shoulders and stared into her face. “Are you okay? You’re so pale.”
“I’m fine, just fine. I don’t know what happened. I saw the wolves, and you were too far away for me to help.” Gwen’s hand shook as she lifted the stick to peer at it. “Maybe there’s something special about this stick, but how could that be so?”
“You were going to try to save me by fighting a wolf pack? With nothing but a stick?” Lanie hugged her friend. “You must be crazy.”
“What else could I do? I couldn’t just stand there!” Gwen shivered. “C’mon, let’s go inside.”
They headed back to the castle, Gwen clutching her stick. “Hey, wait a minute…Skinny! Here, boy.”
After half an hour of stumbling in the dark and calling for the dog, they gave up. Lanie tucked her book into her belt and shivered. “It’s getting cold. Maybe he was afraid of the wolves and ran home.”
“I don’t think so. The last time I saw him, his hair was standing up, and he was growling, not running away.”
“We’ll get everyone to help look for him in the morning. He’ll be fine. Don’t worry.”
Amery sat in the kitchen eating a late supper when they returned. He held up a hand. “I know I’m late, but I couldn’t help it. John needed a hand repairing his chicken coop…something’s still getting in there.” He swallowed a bit of stew. “I have news.”
“We do, too.” Lanie poured a glass of water.
“Let’s hear Amery’s news first.” Gwen watched her brother’s gaze drop to the table. “Are Lilly and Didi okay?”
“Yes, yes. They’re happy and growing like weeds.” Amery dropped his spoon into his bowl. “It’s the red uniforms. They are on the move again. John said they burned another village north of our old home.”
“That means they are heading away from here. So why would that worry us?” Gwen narrowed her eyes.
“We need to worry because…they have put up posters asking people to turn in the names of everyone with red hair. John said to tell you to keep your hair covered.”
Gwen stared at her brother’s dark red hair, a match to her own. “That makes no sense. Why would they be looking for people with red hair?”
“John doesn’t know, but he said it’s better to be cautious.”
“We have a crazy story to tell you, too.” Lanie scooted her chair closer to the table and launched into her tale.
When she finished Amery examined the stick closely. “Do you suppose there’s something special about it?”
“I don’t know. One minute the wolves leaped at Lanie, and the next minute they were flying backward.” Gwen rested her head on the table. “I don’t know what any of this means.”
A familiar voice filled with humor spoke from the doorway. “It means ye be a wizard, girl!”