The sun was just high enough in the sky to make the dew in the grass sparkle like thousands of diamonds in a sea of green. The air was still crisp and cool as it will be in early spring. Though the air in the barn was more musty than crisp and Erdwin had woken too early to see the dew sparkle.
He sat milking one of the family's huge cows, brooding with each fresh squirt of sweet milk. He brooded about how his bed was at its softest at this hour and how he'd much rather be under the covers. He brooded about how he never got to venture out past the border of their farm; he was sure there was excitement just waiting past the forest's edge or over the crest of the hills. He brooded wondering whether any of Gran's stories were true. Could there really be giants that lived in the mountains? Twin princes in the far off thrones that ruled side by side with twin scepters? Gremples and brownies and clever wolves by turns waging war with each other and allying altogether against forest intruders. Each story, each element was more fantastic than the last, and yet when she told the tales it was as if she had been to these places and seen these things herself.
In the midst of all the brooding Erdwin heard a rustling. The cats liked to sneak into the barn to get a bit of cream straight from the teat. Usually the animals all got along well enough, but at this hour the cows, like Erdwin, were not pleased to be awake. He got up from his stool and shuffled his way over to the source of the rustle, doing his best to look menacing.
"Boots? Florence?", He called out, "Whichever one you are, you had best scram on the count of three. I mean it. Three, two..."
Before Erdwin had reached "one" he turned the corner to the next stall and saw there was no sign of a cat at all. The straw near the cow moved again, whatever was there was bigger than a stupid cat. He pondered whether he should find his father in case it was a dangerous creature. But the foxes were smart enough not to enter the barn. He took another step towards the shape and heart it emit a moan, then a mumble, "...Paulsen, I'm so lost, why do you always have to cheat when we play hide-n-seek? Illusions aren't fair..."
Laying in the straw was a girl a few years older than Erdwin with light blue skin. She held a staff limply. Erdwin made sure she had no mortal wounds and sprinted off to fetch his father.
Angela woke up to find herself in a straw bed in a warm room. There was a spotted cat lying near her feet.
"Oh, you're awake, are you?"
She turned to find a young man sitting in a chair in the corner of the room reading a tome. She turned to reach for her staff, but found her body unable to obey her well.
"No. Don't move, you're weak yet. My name is Erdwin, you're on my family's farm, you're safe. Please, relax and rest. I'll be right back, my father told me to find Gran when you awoke."
The boy dashed out the door, upsetting the cat from the bed in his wake. Angela settled back into the bed and looked around the room. Her staff and pack were set next to the chair Erdwin had been sitting on. It looked as if the pack hadn't been opened. What trusting strangers were these? She raised her hand weakly to lift her hair from her face and noticed her hand. It was blue. Like the sky without clouds. Blue?
When she awoke again there was a weather old woman who looked as if she had seen the world be made and could tell it off if she wanted. Angela noticed this old woman had strange eyes. The pupils were slits, like those of a cat.
"Ya can call me Gran, m'dear. I take care of the medicine and some odds and ends. Ya have a touch of mountain sickness, though you may have figured that out yourself."
"The blue color of my skin?"
"Very good. It might fade in time, or again it might not. But I don't take a girl traveling alone with a staff to be one taken with vanity. Though if its any consolation it looks quite striking on ya."
"I was traveling with another...I think...Some time after Paulsen's cottage..."
The old woman smiled, "You know Paulsen, do ya? I trained him when he was just a wee pup, constantly nipping at my heels, begging for a new scroll to read, or a new spell to learn. I trust he's made all the right mistakes by now.", Gran stopped for a moment lost in her memories, "Can you remember how ya came to be on our farm? What brought you over the mountains? Try telling me what you can, I'll help you fill in the gaps."
"It was all smooth until like you said, when I got to the mountains...I think..."