‘Knock thrice and wait till the moment passes thrice?’ Olly read the odd inscription on a door half their size. What was it with this place and varying door sizes. ‘I must be stuck in an Alice dream,’ she muttered, reading the inscription again as Grams rapped on the door with three clear knocks a second time.
Somewhere down the alley, someone snorted what sounded like a horrible phlegm and Olly naturally turned to see in disgust.
‘Keep your face hidden, will you?’ Grams hissed, exasperated. She knocked thrice on the door a third time and waited. ‘Why must Glor insist on this stupid knock, I’ll never understand. She lives in the slums, for God’s sake!’
‘And with good reason, Beatrice!’ The small door opened and at its helm stood a dwarfish lady, decked out in splendid red velvet robe. Her door was a perfect size for her, obviously. Olly’s mouth must have flown open as the next words from those cherry red lips were, ‘Sweety dear, it’s rude to stare.’
‘I’m so sorry,’ she muttered, embarrassed.
‘It’s been quite a day, Glor,’ Grams stood in front of Olly. ‘Mind if we talk over some of your wonderful tea?’
Glor opened the door wider and stepped aside. ‘Of course, the Guards are always welcome to this abode, my lady.’
Grams smiled and stepped in as if she were stepping through a human-sized door. Olly cringed, waiting to hear her head thud, but instead, see saw Grams shrink to Glor’s size in front of her very eyes.
‘Okay, what is going on here?’ Olly refused to follow. ‘We’re walking into doors that appear in trees, the forbidden forest seems to a haunted ground, and now we are shrinking?’
Grandda nudged her from the back gently. ‘All will be explained, Olivia, but it must be done indoors! Now, stop wasting time we haven’t got.’ He shoved her towards the door and Olly felt her feet shuffle quickly. She was sure to hit the wall, and her eyes shut out of fear, waiting to hear her face crack against the wooden panel. None came. When her eyes opened, she was inside and Grams was no longer a tiny woman, and neither was Glor. In fact, Glor was a strangely tall woman with ashen hair and pale skin, with a hint of mischief in her smile.
Soon, Grandda was behind her and the door shut close. She could hear locks shift into place though there were no visible lock on the door.
Grandda stepped forward with arms outstretched and smiled at the stranger whose house they’d just shrunk into. ‘It’s wonderful to see you again,’ he said as they embraced. ‘I’m surprised the slums and their little tricks are still allowed.’
Glor laughed, ushering them deeper into her house till they emerged into a cozy kitchen. ‘With all the developers eating up prime lands, the poor have no where to go, and the government has no interest in having a slum twice as big.’
Glor placed a pot of water on the stove and turned. ‘So what brings you to my door this fine evening? Humans finally made you out and you were forced to flea?’ She laughed, a melodic laugh that once again had Olly staring.
Olly turned away again, apologetic. ‘Sorry.’
‘Not your fault dear. I’m used to it,’ Glor said. ‘Comes with being half Siren.’
‘Uhh,’ Grams shook her head at Glor. ‘Not the best time for that.’
Glor looked confused for a moment till she looked Olly up and down. ‘She doesn’t know yet, does she?’
Olly’s oldies shook their heads. ‘We couldn’t. We can’t.’
Glor nodded slowly. ‘You’re bound by an oath?’ They nodded in answer before Glor set about making tea while her elderly guests sat down as if catching up with a friend.
‘What can’t you tell me?’ Olly snapped. Enough of the coy tactics. ‘I think I deserve to know.’
‘Aye, and you will,’ Glor flicked her hand and a chair knocked Olly’s knees out from under her till her ass landed on it. Then it tucked itself into the table. ‘It’s a long story, and I need tea if I am to tell you all about who you truly are Olivia Custos, heir to the Phoenix…’
Grams cleared her throat and interrupted. ‘Perhaps that part of the story can wait till later, Glor.’ She took the kettle off her friend’s hand. ‘How about you sit and tell Olly what we are forbidden to, and I shall make the tea?’
‘Very well,’ Glor pulled herself a seat and watched Grams set about pouring them tea. ‘It all began a long time ago, when I was a little lash.’
Olly saw Grandda nod vigorously beside her and couldn’t help but ask, ‘How long ago are we talking?’
‘One does not ask a lady her age, but, I guess for you and the story, it will not hurt.’ Glor threw Roger a filthy look, but she answered despite it. ‘It began over a hundred years ago.’
‘What began a hundred years ago?’ Olly couldn’t help herself.
Glor threw the Oldies a look. ‘She even asks moot questions like the humans? This will not do!’
‘Please, Glor!’ Grandda held his hand up to Olly, ‘If we were at liberty to tell her all this, we wouldn’t have risked bringing her here.’
Glor nodded. ‘A great risk to all. No one must know she is here.’
‘Why should no one know I’m here?’ Olly’s question fell on deaf ears.
‘Then make a quick job of it, and send us back home.’ Grams placed a cup of hot tea nervously in front of her friend.
‘Aye,’ Glor nodded once more and began again. ‘Our world was beautiful. Fruitful. Magical. And then, the brothers happened. Two brothers on the throne, two equal claims upon the realm, and one so full of greed and grandeur that it tore the royals apart, heirs scattered in the wind like clouds and vanished, and a tyrant took the throne that does not belong to him.’
‘And what does that have to do with me?’ Olly questioned. ‘I’m not royal.’
‘No. You are far more. You are the legend that keeps giving people out there hope. A beautiful prophecy that has yet to come to pass. You, my dear, you are our salvation!’
Olly glared dumbstruck at the adults. Yep, she definitely went down the rabbit hole. ‘You’re kidding, right? Do you guys hear yourselves?’
‘We do dear, and we have been protecting you till you were ready.’ Grandda smiled, a smile that never reached her green eyes.
‘And we knew this day would one day come.’
‘Ready for what?’
‘You’re training,’ Glor smiled.
‘Training? For what?’
Glor smiled, ready to continue her tale when something caught her eye. It was the fire in the fireplace, dancing erratic as if wind from all directions were tying to stamp it out. Her face grew tense all of a sudden.
‘We have company.’ Grams said in a hush.
‘Yes,’ Glor stood grimly. ‘You must hide. Go, back room, there is a hatch on the floor beneath the keg. Take her,’ she eyed Olly, who was whisked up quickly. ‘I shan’t be too long. Thrice knock, remember that.’
A knock sounded on the door and Glor disappeared from sight while her guests made themselves scarce. ‘Coming!’