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Chapter 1


Written by Karen Bruce
Last updated: 01/02/2007 02:01:11 AM

Chapter 1

“You aren’t my real sister! You’re a fat, ugly, little piglet that my parents felt sorry for and decided to adopt! One day, your real, pig parents will come and take you back to their sty along with their other piglets! And I’ll be glad when they do!”

Hands folded across his chest, Luc glared at the little girl sitting in front of him and raising her hands to him. It amazed him how his parents couldn’t see it when it was so obvious. Chubby and pink with a cotton-tuft of white hair, Irene wasn’t the cute, little girl everyone said she was - she was a piglet. He bet he would find a curly tail if he took off her nappy. He bet she would eat garbage if he gave it to her. He bet she would prefer it to baby food. She burbled her agreement, “Oink! Oink!”

“Oui, you are a piglet!” he told her, before adding in the sort of loud, rebellious voice that he hoped would carry to where his mother was discussing something with aunty Kitty, “And I’m still not looking after you! I don’t care what Momma said!”

Luc scowled. It was so unfair of his mother to expect him to watch Irene on such a beautiful day. It had rained the previous night, and the world was full of intriguing possibilities as a result. He had puddles through which to splash; worms to dig up and put into buckets; mud in which to wallow; water to shake from trees; grass across which to slide. Why didn’t his mother understand that? He had tried to tell her that, but she had just smiled at him, ruffled his hair and said the mud-puddles would still be there once she was done with Aunty Kitty. His expression darkened further. Didn’t his mother get that the sun would dry up the best mud-puddles if he didn’t get to them immediately?

“And it’ll be all your fault,” he said angrily to Irene, “I really hate you! I wish you would just go away!”

“Oink! Oink!” she smiled gummily at him.

“Are you watching the Piglet?” Ainet asked, coming up the path and trailing a worn skipping-rope behind her. A chubby, cheerful girl a few months older than him, Ainet was Storm and Bishop’s daughter as well as his best friend. Charles Summers always teased him about the fact that his best friend was a girl, but Luc didn’t care. He didn’t see a girl when he looked at Ainet. He saw someone who liked to play tag and hide-and-seek, who enjoyed watching cartoons with him on Saturday mornings, who always snuck him a cookie out of her parents’ jar. And that was good enough for him.

“Oui,” he replied glumly, “I want to dig up worms, but I’m stuck watching the Piglet.”

Holding out the rope to him, “Shame. Want to skip instead?”

“‘Ip! ‘Ip!” Irene echoed, clapping her hands in enthusiasm.

Luc glanced at her in disgust, before turning his attention back to Ainet. She was waiting expectantly for his reply and twirling the rope around in one hand, like a cowgirl with a lasso. Suddenly, a brilliant idea occurred to him.

“Pass me the skipping-rope, Ainet. I’ll tie the Piglet to the tree, and we can go hunting worms.”

“You sure she’ll be okay?” his friend asked doubtfully.

“Positive! I saw this on TV!” he grinned at her, taking the skipping rope and kneeling in front of Irene. The baby stared at him quizzically. He passed it around her waist and fastened it with a tight knot, before taking the other end and tying it around the tree. He gave the rope a tug to make sure it was secure, then stood and dusted off his hands with the air of having done a good job, “Bye bye, Piglet! Hello, worms!”

Doctor Luc Darkholme-LeBeau, world-famous entomologist, and Professor Ainet Munroe-Lucas, his trusty and equally famous assistant, were coming back from a successful trip to the Amazon rain-forest. They had dodged bloodthirsty pygmies (the Summers children), narrowly escaped being crushed by a boa constrictor (a hosepipe), crossed a lake of pirahnas (a big puddle) and wrestled with a panther (Socks the cat) all in search of the rarest of all species of worm: Earthwormus Veryrarus. Having procured ten fine specimens in their buckets, they were returning home to do whatever famous scientists did on returning home. Luc’s copies of National Geographic had never been clear on exactly what that was, but he thought that scaring Beth Worthington would be close enough to it. . . .

“I say we put them in an old chocolate box and give it to Beth,” he said enthusiastically to Ainet, as they approached his house, “She’ll freak!”

“Naah,” she dismissed his suggestion with a flip of her grubby hand, “She’ll be suspicious. I say we just drop them right into her blonde, curly hair.”

“Good idea!” Luc laughed. One of Ainet’s great grievances was that she did not have blonde, curly hair and never would. Even if Beth hadn’t been such a spoilt, little cry-baby, Ainet would have still hated her for her hair. Long and golden, it was just like that of a fairy princess in a storybook or an angel in the pictures in his Bible. Considering her father had white, feathery wings sprouting from his shoulders, he guessed that that was to be expected. He didn’t know why it bothered Ainet so much. His own hair was straight and red, apart from the white strands at his fringe, and he’d never wanted blond curls.

“How will we get close enough to . . . .” Ainet cut herself off in mid-sentence, and exclaimed in horror, “Luc! The Piglet’s not there!”


His stomach twisting painfully within him, Luc looked beneath the tree where he had left his sister. One end of the skipping rope was still tied to its trunk, but the other lay loose and limp on the grass. Irene was very obviously no longer attached to it. His bucket of earthworms falling to the floor, He turned to his friend in panic and said, “But how? She’s just a baby! She can’t untie knots!”

“Maybe someone took her!” her eyes were wide, “Maybe someone kidnapped her, while we weren’t there!”

“This is all my fault! I wished she’d go away and she did!” Hot tears rose in Luc’s eyes and spilt down his cheeks. He felt sick, like he was going to vomit. His stomach hurt and his chest felt tight. This mess was all his fault. This was all happening because he had wished he could get rid of Irene. Maybe some fairy had been listening to him, and had waved her wand to magic her away from there. Now, she would refuse to give her back to them until they completed three tasks, or killed a monster, or went on a long journey. Even then, she might replace her with a changeling - a fairy-baby who looked like Irene, but who just lay in the cradle and smiled stupidly. That was what always happened in books.

Sniffing, he rubbed at his wet eyes with the back of his hand, “What am I going to tell momma? She’s gonna be so mad when she finds out that Irene’s gone.... ”

“Still, you have to tell her, Luc. Irene could be in trouble and your mom needs to know about it,” Ainet said urgently to him, “And hurry. This could be real bad.”

Blowing his nose on a fold of his muddy shirt, Luc walked up the steps of his house and slowly pushed open the door. His mom was stretched out on the lounge sofa with a thick book in one hand. Her streaked hair was loose around her shoulders, and she had a little frown of concentration on her face. Luc felt his insides turn and twist within him again, like the mass of earthworms in his bucket. How was he going to tell her about Irene? How could he even begin to tell her that he hadn’t been watching Irene, because he had wanted to hunt earthworms with Ainet? Worse, how could he tell her that it was all his fault, because he had wanted her to go away for good?

Luc wished his dad was home, but he was a thousand, thousand miles in New Orleans visiting his own dad and looking after Guild business. Poppa would have known what was wrong and found a way to fix it without Luc needing to speak a word. He wouldn’t have gotten cross with him either. He would just have hugged him and told him it would be all right, before getting Irene back from wherever she had been taken by the fairy. He loved his mom very much, but she just didn’t understand things in the same way his dad did.

“Maman . . .” he began, tears beginning to well up in his eyes again, “I got somet’ing t’tell ya, an’ ya’re gonna be cross wit’ me . . . .”

“Well, that makes two of us, kiddo,” Rogue closed her book and set it to one side, before getting to her feet and coming to stand in front of him. She folded her arms across her chest, which Luc knew was a bad sign. When she folded her arms across her chest, even uncle Logan ran in the other direction, “What with you tyin’ Irene up like she was a dog and runnin’ off to hunt worms or whatever! Ah thought you had more common sense than that! If Ah hadn’t come out to check on you and seen her like that, Lawd knows what would have happened to her! That was so stupid of you, Luc!”

“You . . . found her? She’s safe?” he whispered, unable to believe his ears.

“Yeah, she’s in her crib at the moment, but that doesn’t mean you’re off the hook,” Rogue continued, “You’re grounded for at least a month.”

Luc wouldn’t have cared if she had said he was grounded for a year. Irene hadn’t been taken by a fairy, and he hadn’t wished her away forever. She had been safe in her cradle the entire time. Sweet relief filled him. He felt like singing, dancing, shouting, hugging his mom. Instead, he asked, “Can I see her? I want to make sure she’s okay.”

“Ah guess so, sugah.”

“Merci, maman.”

“Je t’en prie, cheri,” she replied, her voice gentler than before.

Luc slipped his grubby hand into his mom’s cool one, and let himself be led up the stairs. Together, they went into the nursery and came to stand in front of the crib. Small and perfect, Irene was lying asleep in it, a mobile of butterflies drifting in lazy circles above her. She was smiling to herself as if she were having some happy, baby dream.

“She’s really okay . . . .”

Standing by the cradle, looking down at his little sister, Luc realised something very important. He realised that he loved her.


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