Chapter 31:

Needle in the Haystack

ZAUBER: the thread that binds us

 For a moment, Paltar looked out into the pen at the different geese. He had to know who she was. After all, he had petted her so often—he should know her shape by now. But without her dress it was as if she was naked. He quickly shook the thought out of his mind. He had to focus on the task at hand. How could he find out which goose was Nanna?

They might look the same on the surface, but each bird behaved a little differently. Some of them liked to sleep, and Paltar immediately ruled them out—Nanna didn't do that much. She was too energetic. Others picked at some seeds on the ground, as undignified as Nanna often ate. But would she really eat seeds? He also got a hunch that the way she'd been eating wasn't just the result of her lack of manners. Maybe geese just couldn't eat properly. He laughed, and at the sound, several geese stared at him. One even let out a warning hiss.

Was it Nanna? Or was it not?

She couldn't give him a sign, if he understood Reod correctly. So was he just guessing in the dark? That couldn't be right.

They had spent so much time together. How could he not know which one was Nanna? It was maddening.

"Is there really a way to tell?" he muttered to himself.

There had to be. Unless this was all an elaborate joke by Reod, who was watching him with an amused twinkle in his eye.

"Take your time," he cooed.

Paltar glared at him. If he just turned Nanna back, he wouldn't even have to do this! But somehow he knew that Reod wouldn't be so easily persuaded.

"Do you need a hint?" the wizard asked.


"If you ask me nicely, I could give you a little help."

Paltar paused for a moment. Did he really need Reod’s help? And would it really help or just confuse him more? He hesitated.

"Fine," he sighed. "Please, Master Reod, give me a hint on how to solve this ingenious challenge of yours."

He tried to keep his voice from dripping with sarcasm. Apparently, it was good enough for Reod.

"Good, good." He grinned at Paltar. "You should know that your lover is in that pen. No tricks, no nothing."

"That's it?"

"Of course. You doubted my words, did you not? So you can rest easy. She's here." Reod chuckled. "She just can't tell you."

Paltar gritted his teeth, but he didn't argue with Reod. He just had to find her. And he wasn't going to put up with Reod's games.

That was bad enough.

Instead, he shifted his focus back to the pen. Was this how Nanna had lived before? No, he couldn't imagine her in a flock of normal geese. Had she been alone all this time? He never got around to asking her. There were still so many things he didn't know about her, and many things he hadn't told her about himself. Hopefully, they would be able to talk about it all again in the future. But for now, he had to turn her back. He had to lift her curse, no matter how. There was no other way.

He took a deep breath. He couldn't panic, not now. He had to think.

If Nanna could speak, she would surely scold him, because she already had an answer.

"Come on, Paltar," she would say. "What are you doing? Daydreaming again? Just use your thread magic!"

Just thinking about her made him smile, even though his heart ached.

Then he realized something. He really should try to use his threads to find her. After all, he knew their bond was strong—and he wouldn’t have a bond like this with the other geese. He looked at Reod. Would he allow this solution?

Did it really matter?

After all, this was not a fair challenge. They would recognize each other instantly if they could talk to each other. Since she was limited to the behavior of a normal goose, it wasn't that easy. She didn't react when he called her name. She couldn't. So this was the only way to find her.
He took a deep breath and closed his eyes. For some reason, it took a little while to see his threads come to life—and the one that connected him to Nanna, a big, scarlet rope, led right into the pen. All he had to do was get a little closer, open his eyes and see—

"That’s cheating."

Reod's cold words cut through the air, and with them it felt as if Paltar's ability was suddenly cut off as well. It was not that their thread was severed—that would hurt much, much more, he was sure—but the wizard seemed to have put his ability to sleep somehow, and as Paltar dashed forward through the flock of geese, he saw the thread disappear before his eyes, before he could even make out which goose it was leading to. As the geese fled from him, he came to a stop.

"Why did you do that?" he turned around to the wizard.

"Oh, that would be too easy, wouldn't it?" Reod grinned at him. "This is not a test of your mind. Instead, you should think with your heart."

His heart? Paltar almost laughed. It was a romantic idea, sure—but the last time his heart had told him something, everything had gone wrong. What if Nanna didn't return his feelings? Or worse—what if he didn't recognize Nanna and kept her in her bird form forever? He couldn't live with that thought. No, he had to think—he had to find her. With his heart, perhaps, but rather with his whole being. It wasn't an easy task.

That was all that mattered.

"I'll find you," he murmured, crouching down among the geese.

"No matter what, I'll find you."

He only hoped that his words reached her ears, whether she could react to them or not.