Sally the horse clopped slowly along the lane, her ears twitched forward. Rebecca sat on her back and talked about her school day.
Her owl roosted on her shoulder gently snoring. He wasn't too good at staying awake during the day but he insisted on escorting her to school and snoozing all day in the tall trees until it was time to escort her home again.
"Life just couldn't be better," Rebecca said happily to Sally. "I was blackboard monitor again, I got all my spelling right and Miss Emmy said that one day I might be good enough to be a teacher."
"Something's up!" Sally interrupted. "Here's Golly."
The spidery dark shadow that was Golly the house goblin skittered towards them and jumped up on Sally.
"Here's a turnup, Princess," he greeted. "George is home with a visitor."
"George is home already?" Rebecca clapped her heels into Sally's side. 'Hurry up slowcoach." George was Rebecca's father, and had been gone for months working. It was very exciting to know that he was again safely home. "Who is the visitor?"
"What's her name and what's she like?"
"Trouble," Golly said.
"Trouble?" Rebecca echoed. "That's a funny name."
"Trouble!" her owl said as he opened his eyes. "We don't need trouble."
"Her name is Lianna," Golly said. "She's trouble because of the ogre."
"Do hurry up, Sally," Rebecca complained. "I want to get home."
"Won't be any less trouble by hurrying," Sally grumbled as she moved into a not very much faster walk.
However they reached home at last and Golly helped Rebecca rub down Sally and put her in her paddock. Then Rebecca rushed back to the cottage her owl flying behind her. Once she was inside and being kissed and patted by George who held Willyum she felt suddenly shy. She sneaked a look at the new cousin.
She was young and pretty and only Miranda's height, or lack of height. She had shiny black hair pulled back into one pigtail, big blue eyes and a red mouth turned up in a big smile. She was plump and wore a faded homespun skirt and a white blouse with a faded shawl clutched over it.
"My daughter Rebecca," George said. "Rebecca this is your cousin Lianna. She is staying with us for a while."
"I am so pleased to meet a new cousin," Rebecca said. "Will you be coming to school with me?"
"I left school a while ago," Lianna said with a chuckle. "I intend to help Miranda."
"George bought along Lianna's special loom," Miranda explained. "She is a very clever weaver."
"So glad George brought you to visit," Rebecca said.
"It just happened," Lianna explained. "He rescued me from a very wicked man."
"Not a Mr Brown, Black or Blue?" Rebecca asked.
"It was a Mr Blue," Lianna said. "I don't know why I was so stupid. I just agreed to everything he told me to do."
"I know," Rebecca said to herself, remembering the nasty wizards and the way they controlled people.
"They came here but left suddenly," Miranda said.
"Lianna was chained to a tree waiting to be collected with her loom and her sheep. I smashed the chain with my axe and knocked out the ogre," George explained.
"So clever," Miranda said happily. "George recognized her."
Rebecca sneaked another look at Miranda. You never took much notice of mothers because they were just people who were there all the time. Did they look alike?
They were both small. Miranda's hair was golden yellow, neatly plaited and pinned up around her head. Lianna had blue black shiny hair in a single plait down her back. They both had widely spaced blue eyes and mouths that tilted up into smiles. Perhaps they were alike. In fact, Miranda was a pretty lady also but you somehow never noticed it because she was just a mother.
"Lianna should be safe here," George said. "We came through Dwarf country along the underground streams so the ogres can't trace where we escaped to."
"They have my pure white ram and two ewes though," Lianna said with a sigh. "I need them back."
Rebecca kept her mouth shut. She knew about ogres and what was likely to happen to the sheep, but she didn't want to upset her new cousin.
"We will buy some more wool at the market on Saturday," Miranda promised.
"I will have enough stuff woven by then to sell for some more wool," Lianna said.
"I haven't enough wool to keep two looms going," Miranda apologized.
Lianna grinned and lifted up her skirt. Under her full skirt were skeins of white wool looped from her waist. She unhooked them all, piling them up on the odd little loom in the corner and getting less and less plump as she removed them.
"My goodness," Rebecca gasped. "That is so clever."
Golly and the owl followed Rebecca out as she left to milk the cow and the goats.
"There's going to be trouble, Princess," Golly said as soon as they had reached the paddock.
"What sort of trouble?" Rebecca demanded.
"If you had attended your lessons," Lord Be Thankful hooted. "You would know."
"What would I know?"
"The ogre will keep hunting until he finds her." Golly warned.
"The ogre won't find her," Rebecca scoffed. "You're both a pair of worry warts."