Fable Page 35

Mina dropped the first glowing green stone under the opening to the cave and was surprised that there was an actual bottom. It stopped there and continued to glow. She swam a few yards down the tunnel to her left and dropped another green stone. She swam a few more yards before deciding to retrace her path back up into the cavern again for another breath. This was going to take awhile, and she was tiring quickly. Mina repeated the actions, breathing, following the same tunnel until it came to a dead end, and then replacing the green stones with red ones to mark the lack of exits.

She had started down the right tunnel, following her same pattern of dropping green stones, when she found another hole in the ceiling of the tunnel. Could it be an exit? Could it be another cavern with air? She kicked her legs and swam hard for the opening, and broke the surface with a huge gasp. There was air. Yes!

But this cavern was the same as the other, filled with glowing stones and completely empty. She didn’t want to spend too much time dawdling, so she took another breath and kept swimming. She swam to another fork in the tunnels and another dead end. Mina needed air and more stones, so she retreated to the second cavern and refilled her bag of red and green stones. She could do this, she thought to herself. If there were caverns with air all around down here, she might just make it out…alive.

Mina was on her fourth tunnel when she began to start feeling lightheaded and dizzy. This was becoming too much for her. She was about to swim back to another cavern air pocket when she saw a bigger opening and more light coming from above. Was it a way out? She pushed off the ground and swam hard for the beacon of light above her. It looked different, so she prayed for it to be an exit.

Her head broke through the water, and she felt a cool breeze against her face. She smiled in relief. Treading water, she wiped her eyes, only to see that she hadn’t exactly escaped. It was just another larger cavern filled with even more glowing stones. Her heart plummeted. She was still trapped.

Something moved in the corner, and Mina’s intrusion startled it. At first she thought it was a snake, or a pile of leaves because of the way it rustled and moved, but a head slowly raised itself off the floor and turned to look at her. There was no mistaking the black cat-like eyes of a sea witch. It hissed at her and began to crawl across the floor in her direction. Mina screamed in fright and dove under the water to try to swim away from it.

It was a terrible choice. She didn’t get a great breath, and her fear and adrenaline were making her escape clumsy. Mina took off down a tunnel that she hadn’t marked with stones. She looked back behind her and saw something green plummet through the water on her tail. It was fast—faster than she could swim. She knew it. There was no way she could out-swim it; she was going to have to fight it.

She turned and pulled out the knife off her thigh and waited for the witch to come to her. The witch’s black eyes filled her with terror, but Mina held the blade in front of her and continued to tread water. The monster barreled straight at her, its long claw-like hands reaching for her, when something shot out of the darkness and smashed the witch into the wall.

Mina had never heard a scream like the one she heard under the water. It was awful as the two beings fought against each other. It was Nix. He was smashing the witch against a cavern wall, using his full weight to keep her pinned. He was physically bigger than the sea witch, but it was obvious that since he didn’t feed on innocents, he wasn’t as strong as she was.

His voice pounded into her head. The tunnel to the left. Hurry.

She grasped her head in pain, but she didn’t waste the time Nix was buying her. Mina swam as hard as she could to the tunnel, and, sure enough, she could see it: the exit. It was an opening twenty feet across and ten feet high. But it seemed so far away. Her lungs burned for air, but she focused on her goal and kept swimming. Her legs felt like lead weights and her arms like Jell-o. But she continued swimming until she passed through the opening and headed upward. She could see it. The sky. It danced across the water through a sea of glass. Her heart sank when she realized it was farther than she could hold her breath. Even now, bubbles were escaping from her lips, and she was out of strength.

Her body’s lack of oxygen was causing her to hallucinate, and all of a sudden she could see Brody’s smiling face floating in front of her. She reached out to touch it, and it disappeared, to be replaced by Jared’s angry one, yelling at her.

Swim, Mina! Fight—don’t give up!

“I’m tired, Jared. I can’t. I’m so tired,” she mentally called back before her body betrayed her and her muscles cramped underwater, and she felt herself sinking lower and lower.

NOO! She heard a scream and was unsure if it was her own hallucination of Jared or someone else. Something hard and rough grabbed her around the waist, and she was being propelled through the water faster than she had ever gone in her life, straight for the light. But Mina knew she wouldn’t make it. Her body went limp, and her eyes had closed on their own when something warm pressed against her lips.

She didn’t have the energy to fight, and was surprised when her mouth was forced open and life-saving oxygen passed into her mouth. She opened her eyes in surprise to find Nix’s lips pressed to hers, kissing her. No, breathing for her as he continued to swim upward. Her hands reached up to grab his face and hold it to her mouth hungrily as if her life depended on his kiss—which it did. His kiss fought off the darkness of death, and her mind began to function again. She was kissing a monster!

A few seconds later they broke through the water, and she pulled away from his lips to breathe on her own. Nix carefully held her and swam toward shore. Mina only had the strength to roll over on her back and let him pull her to safety. He had now saved her life three times.

Rocks brushed against her feet and she tried to stand up, only to fall to her knees in the rocky shallows. Nix held onto her arm and tried to support her weight. He desperately pulled her away from the water, and even though they were on the shore, he didn’t stop. He tried to coerce her to move, but she couldn’t. Mina collapsed on the ground.

She felt warm arms wrap around her, and then she was being lifted through the air. Nix had picked her up and continued to run away from the lake as far as he could. A short time later, he found a small clearing in which to stop, and he gently put her down. He was out of breath and collapsed on the ground, watching the path behind them, looking for a pursuer.

Mina rolled on the ground, her body shaking from the cold and the near asphyxiation, and stared at Nix’s muscled green back in utter confusion. She thought he had abandoned her to die, that he didn’t want anything to do with her or the Grimm curse. If so, why did he save her…again? But her thoughts continued to dance as she felt herself slipping into an exhausted sleep.

Mina awoke with a start and listened carefully to the sound of footsteps treading quietly past her. She tried to move her arm, but it was numb from her sleeping on it awkwardly. Instead, she played opossum and watched through lowered lashes as the sound came again and a shadow passed by her. Her heart skipped a beat when her vision was filled with a green silhouette. She immediately thought the sea witch had found her, but then she sighed when she realized that it was just Nix. He had found a stick and climbed one of the odd twisted trees.

His tall, nimble green body slithered up the tree, proving that he was just as agile on land as he was in water. Nix swung the stick with ease at the nearest branch, and two pieces of fruit fell to the ground and rolled along the grass. He dropped the stick and began his descent.

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