Fable Page 33

Instead of standing still, waiting for Stiltskin to find her, she thought she needed to start looking for him or the palace. She started walking and kept getting distracted as some new species or flower caught her eye. Mina stopped and sniffed a flower, and it smelled like…blueberry pie, but better. Curious, she walked over to another bright orange flower and took a careful sniff. It smelled like a mix between snicker doodles and butter pecans.

Even the insects that buzzed around the flowers were larger than any she had ever seen in her own world. There was a yellow bumblebee the size of her fist. She watched as the bee came to land on a large lily, but no sooner had the bee landed than the flower closed up and ensnared the bee. Mina swallowed nervously and decided to give all flowers a very wide berth. Jared was right—even though his world was beautiful, it was also dangerous.

Mina walked along a path until she came to a fork in the road.

“Now where?” she groaned, and accidentally bumped into the branches of a nearby bush. Small lights the size of fireflies lifted off the small berry bush and began to dance around her head.

Captivated, Mina reached out to try to touch one of the lights. One of them flew closer and almost alighted on her finger before flitting away just out of reach. She smiled and kept walking until she heard the most wonderful voice. Melodic, wistful, full of longing. The worry she had felt moments ago was forgotten as the desire to follow the song and dancing lights grew.

Her feet moved on their own accord, and she followed the song away from the fork in the road, onto a different, almost indiscernible path that led deeper into the woods and toward a large lake.

Mina was enthralled. Never before had she seen or heard something so glorious, so enchanting, so unnatural, and something told her she needed to possess it—if only it would stop moving over the lake. The song grew louder when Mina paused and hesitated, urging her on.

Her sneaker dipped into the water’s edge, and she lingered momentarily as the cold seeped through the canvas, but it wasn’t enough. Shaking off any hesitation, she listened to the song and stepped farther into the water. She could always dry her shoes later, but right now, right this moment, she needed to obey the song more than she needed anything else, and nothing was going to stop her.

A few steps later, the water was up to her knees, but she was undeterred and waded farther into the stream. She could swim; she wasn’t afraid. Moments later the water was up to her waist, and a triumphant smile reached her lips. The smile only lasted for a second, replaced by fear as something large grabbed her around the legs and pulled her under the water.

She didn’t have time to scream as an icy chill wrapped around her and she plunged deep into the dark water. The dancing lights fading from above the water no longer seemed so beautiful. Now they seemed deadly as they illuminated her watery grave.

Mina tried to struggle and kick at the thing that grasped her foot, but it held her like a vise. A momentary illumination from the light gave Mina a glimpse of what had captured her, and the image terrified her to the core.

It was a young woman. Her skin shimmered like scales, and her long hair, the color of seaweed, flowed past her waist. But her huge cat-like eyes were black as night, and they glared hungrily at her.

Mina’s mouth opened to scream in terror. Water rushed past her lips, and she unconsciously swallowed. She panicked and tried to swim up to the surface, but the sea witch clung on and pulled her lower. Mina could feel herself starting to black out, and unlike moments ago when her mind was muddled with an enchantment, now she had control of her full faculties, and she did the only thing she could do. She let the cold seep into her bones until she felt the familiar tingle of power. It could have been her body shutting down and losing feeling in her fingers, but she didn’t think so. She didn’t have much time.

She reached into her jeans pocket, which was a struggle in itself, and pulled out the shard of glass and held it in the sleeve of her jacket. She swung the shard of glass downward and missed the monster. She tried again and again, and on the third try, she stabbed the water witch in the hand.

The witch ceased in her struggle to overpower Mina. She became paralyzed and released her hold on her. Mina watched as her attacker sank into the darkness below, her body slowly turning to gold as if Stiltskin himself had touched her. The witch sank with her hand outstretched, her last moment of humanity slowly slipping away. Instinctively, Mina tried to grab the woman’s hand and swim upward with her, but she couldn’t. The witch was dead weight and pulling her down farther. Left with no choice, Mina had to let go of the witch’s hand, and she watched as she slowly disappeared into the darkness below, a golden carcass.

Remembering her predicament, she tried to swim toward the surface, but it was too far, and she was so tired. She shouldn’t have wasted those precious seconds trying to save the monster that was trying to kill her. Now she was going to die anyway. Her eyes started to close, and she saw something green rocket through the water in her direction. She had just enough time to realize it was another monster…and it had come to finish her off.

Chapter 20

Her mouth was dry and her eyes were crusted shut. Her hands felt like giant hammers pummeling her face as she tried to wipe away the offending crud to open them. Something hard and cool was pressed against her mouth, and she pinched them shut against the unknown liquid being forced down her lips. She heard a sigh of frustration before green fingers appeared over her nose and gave a slight pinch.

Mina gasped in alarm, and her mouth opened. The cup was back at her mouth, and she felt something cool and minty fill her mouth. Don’t swallow. Don’t swallow, she told herself, and when the cup moved away, she turned her head and spat out the liquid. She tried to knock the helping green hands away, but her own body had trouble obeying her commands. The green hand came to her mouth again, and she used every bit of effort to bite at the offending fingers.

“Hey. Ouch!” a male voice grumbled.

Mina turned her muddled head to stare at the green-skinned young man. His green hair was medium length, just touching the edge of his neck, and flowed back and forth as if it was being tossed in an invisible current. He was lean and well-muscled, like a swimmer. He wasn’t wearing a shirt but long green pants that looked to be made of grass or seaweed.

“Wh-who are you?” Her voice was wrecked, and she had to lick her lips and swallow a few times before she sounded normal.

The young man turned, shaking his injured finger in the air, and gave her a wary look before answering, “Nix.”

“You saved me, didn’t you?” She couldn’t tear her eyes away from his skin, which out of the water looked very human, except for the greenish tint. If he moved, the light would catch the faintish shimmer of his scales.

“Yes, I almost couldn’t revive you, so I’m sorry if you’re a little sore.”

Mina was wondering why her chest felt like an elephant had been sitting on it.

“Thank you…Nix, is it? What an odd name.”

“It’s a perfectly good name for a nixie.” He looked offended and held out his bitten hand, and small translucent webbing appeared between each of his fingers. When he was positive they were all intact, they disappeared again.

Whoa! she thought. So this is what a nixie looked like.

Nix looked at her again, and this time stood up and moved even farther away from her, then sat closer to a water-filled hole in the ground. He sat on the edge and put both of his feet into the water, and stared at her from a distance.

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