Fable Page 28

Mina pulled out the Grimoire, and it immediately turned into a bow and arrow. She notched the arrow and pulled back the string, and sighted on her target. The bird flew between the trees, alighting on one branch and then flying to another one a little closer. It continued the same pattern, as if trying to not startle her. Something felt different this time; she didn’t feel any aggression from the bird. The giant golden bird stopped at the edge of the forest on a branch of the nearest evergreen. His long golden feathered tail almost touched the branch underneath him. Fire trickled from under his wings, as if the bird was made of fire and the feathers were holding the inferno in check.

The fire bird shifted back and forth on the branch, and she spun around, checking behind her for a hidden attack. Nothing. They were the only ones in the forest.

“Why are you here?”

The bird tilted his head as only a bird could and became more agitated.

She held up the arrow again and threatened the bird. “You do anything, ignite a single spark, and I’m having Kentucky Fried Chicken for dinner.”

The bird screeched, and her body erupted in shivers, its call going through her bones. It really was a chilling sound. The bird bent its glorious head and began to peck at his tail feathers until he had pulled the longest feather off and held it in his beak. The bird opened his wings slowly and glided off the branch toward Mina; he dropped the feather on the ground before her and circled back.

The firebird emitted one more piercing screech, and then it shot into the night, leaving a blazing trail of fire behind him. She watched the firebird and looked back at the gift it had left in parting. The feather was mysteriously still burning brightly. She waited to see if it would eventually burn out, but it didn’t. Feeling brave, she picked up the gold feather and ran her fingers over the top, and felt its softness. Apparently being made of gold didn’t change the texture of the bird’s feather. The after-feather, or soft downy part of the feather, still flickered with fire, and even after she gave it a good shake, it continued to burn. She held her fingers as close as she could and didn’t feel any heat. Finally, her curiosity getting the better of her, she touched the flame itself and felt nothing but coldness.

Why? What purpose did the firebird have in giving her a feather when it was obviously Stiltskin’s pet? Stiltskin! Did he follow her here? Did he now know that this was the Godmothers’ headquarters?

Gripping the feather, she ran back toward the cellar and was greeted by a perturbed Jared on his way up.

“Stupid hamster.” He turned on his heels and yelled back into the darkness, “I hope you get rabies, you brat.”

It didn’t take a genius to figure out which Fae had won the challenge.

“Jared? I think the Stiltskin was here.”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean, look at this.” She held out the feather, and Jared studied the burning phenomenon and reached out to touch it experimentally.

“Huh? Cool,” he intoned.

Mina wasn’t taking it as laid-back as Jared. “His pet firebird appeared out here and gave this to me. Do you think he could be here as well? Did I lead the Stiltskin to the Godmothers?”

Jared stepped away from her and lifted his head to the night. Closing his eyes, he turned in each direction before turning back. “No, there are no other Fae beside the bird. Mina, I think he was trying to help you. I don’t think it’s a trap—I think it’s a gift.”

“Yeah, but what does it do?”

“I don’t know. It’s a phoenix feather. History has all kinds of rumors about them. Some say they can bring back the dead, regenerate, give you infinite riches like a philosopher’s stone. But I can understand why this Stiltskin would want one. If he is obsessed with gold and has a golden phoenix, that would make him even more powerful.”

“And this may be my only clue.”

“Or a peace offering.”

“Jared, I’m running out of time. Do you think the Stiltskin figured out I’m reneging on my deal? How long before he comes to collect me?”

“I don’t know, but he won’t get you without a fight. That you can count on.”

“So you’ve decided to help me save Charlie?”

“No, I told you. You have to forget him and worry about yourself. I was hoping the Godmothers would help you find a way to break the deal you made with the Stiltskin.” He reached for her hand and grabbed it, holding it firmly. His hand felt warm and strong, and sent shivers up her arm. “Mina, I’m doing things for you that I’ve never done for any other Grimm in history, and I don’t know why. It worries me, the choices I keep making, and Ever’s right. Maybe I am getting too involved, too close.”

Her body went cold at his words, and she ripped her hand out of his. “What do you mean, you’re getting too involved?”

He shrugged. “Look at us. The more I think about it, the more I realize I made a mistake.”

“You’re my Grimoire, for goodness’ sakes. You are supposed to help me finish the quests! I realize that you’re at odds with your family on this, but are you backing out now because of Ever? I realize that you have obligations and you can’t always tell me what’s going on, but I thought we’d gotten past that.”

“What you’re doing is committing suicide. You’ll be unprotected in a land of Fae. Who knows where you’ll appear there? It’s too dangerous. I won’t let you go there, even for Charlie.”

She stood there in the cold night air. “I’ll find a way to save him, Jared. Maybe Ever will help me.”

Jared snorted. “Yeah, right. As if she can find her way back home. She can’t even find her way to the nearest mall half the time.”

“Well, the Godmothers said I would have to wait until I complete more quests and grow stronger, or use her seam ripper.”

“You’re saying Ever has a seam ripper.”

“Yes,” Mina said slowly.

“When did you see Ever cross over? Think carefully, Mina.”

She was taken aback at the change in subject. “Last year she approached me when the Reaper had stolen the Grimoire and I didn’t know where you were. She used this tube thing, and drew a circle and disappeared.” Mina indicated with her fingers the size of the tube.

Jared was distracted and began to walk toward the parking lot. “It’s a seam ripper, and only a few of them exist. It cuts right through both planes to create a temporary gate, but they are dangerous. Only the strongest of Fae are able to travel back and forth at will, and they become weakened almost to the point of death. Which is why a wizard developed the seam rippers to create gates for the Royals and the ruling Fates. Wherever a gate has been ripped open, it is weakened for a certain amount of time—that’s how the lesser Fae get over here. But these…these are gifts given to a handful of people, and she was not one of them.”

He motioned for her to get on the bike. He started the motorcycle, and they were once again off into the night. Mina had no clue where Jared was taking her and was only slightly surprised when he pulled up to a small rundown motel. Jared flew off the bike, and stormed over to room number eight and pounded on the door. A few seconds later, Ever opened the door, wearing a cute gray dress, and smiled brightly at Jared…until she saw his expression. Then she cast an accusing look at Mina. Behind her, Mina could make out a sparsely decorated hotel room with a few books and a backpack on the bed.

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