Fable Page 39

Inside the bubble, she bounced and moved and was bashed around by the rocks, but nothing could pop the bubble. She was still holding her breath, and a few seconds later they cleared the rocks and dangerous falls. Her bubble appeared above the water, and then a few seconds later the transparent horse was once more securely underneath her. He was swimming quite happily along the stream.

“Holy waterfalls! Let’s not do that again…ever!” Mina gushed, holding onto Red for dear life, scared that he would disappear again.

Nix was farther up, and she heard him laugh out loud. Mina looked underneath her and was surprised that the kelpie now resembled a hybrid of a horse and seal. Its long tail was powerful and beat against the river currents rapidly. She was cold and wet, warmed only by the heat from the kelpie itself. She was now extremely grateful that they had traveled by land most of the way. Within minutes they drew closer to where the palace lay hidden.

There was a slight buzzing and pop! as they passed through an invisible barrier and the glamour dropped, and there before her was the Fae palace. There wasn’t a storybook in all creation that could capture the beauty of the palatial structure. The palace walls shimmered as if they were covered in mystical fairy dust. The arched gate was made of silver and gold, and a sun and moon were prominent in all of the decorations and flags that adorned the castle. Even from a distance she could see the sun and moon shapes embedded into the stone bridge itself. Even the street was made of marble pieces in the shapes of silver moons and golden suns.

Mina’s heart began to beat wildly when she saw one of the giants harassing and arguing with the driver of the carriage. Apparently, he was not welcome, and a second later a scream and a whoosh was heard as the carriage, driver, and chimera went flying into the air off the bridge and into the water.

Within seconds two pairs of green eyes glowing in the shadows appeared from beneath the bridge and started toward the shocked driver, who was struggling to make it to shore. Nix leaned over and whispered trolls to her. Mina didn’t need the prompting; she knew exactly what they were. The chimera was able to quickly get out of the water, and flew to the bridge and took off running, but the Fae carriage driver was not so lucky.

The kelpies had stopped around the last little bend of the river before the palace and carefully treaded water, keeping their distance from the trolls and their victim. Within seconds the sound of gasping and splashing water disappeared, followed by a scream. A long minute later, the green eyes popped back up under the shadows of the bridge, signaling the trolls’ return. They were now even more watchful.

“What do we do now?” Mina whispered, shivering either from the cold of the water or the fear that penetrated her whole body. “I don’t have the Grimoire to help me. I have nothing to capture them in on this plane.”

Nix rubbed his hand through the kelpie’s mane and studied the layout of the palace. He looked concerned as well, but gazed at her in disbelief.

“Are you kidding? Mina, look at me,” he commanded.

Shivering with uncertainty, she looked into Nix’s green cat-eyes and saw utter faith.

“You don’t need a weapon,” he said softly. “You are your greatest weapon.”

She closed her eyes and let his confidence and words soak into her very core. He was right. If this Fae believed in her, then she wasn’t going to let him down.

“Let’s do this before I change my mind,” she said firmly. “Now, how do we get in?”

Nix’s face lit up with excitement, and he rubbed the back of his neck. “Okay, I’ve got a plan, but I don’t think you’re going to like it.”

She stared at him through narrowed eyes. “Nix,” she said in warning tones.

His cheeks turned that odd brown color again, when he blushed. “Um, it requires us to swim underwater from here under the bridge, past the guards, up to an underwater duct that leads to an indoor waterfall that empties into a bathing chamber.”

Mina quickly calculated the distance and knew there was no way she could hold her breath that long. She looked at Nix’s blushing face and back at the water, and she knew exactly how he was planning on getting her that far.

“Uh-uh, I would rather go through the front door and tackle the giants than have to life-saving-suck-kiss you for five minutes. How in the world am I going to explain this to…” Her cheeks also turned deep red as she imagined explaining this to Brody. And then she remembered she wasn’t dating Brody, and she wasn’t even sure how Jared would feel about her kissing someone. He probably wouldn’t even care. She thought of Charlie in a fiery prison, and that clinched it.

She wasn’t going to let her own modesty and shyness keep her from her goal. She was in another world, playing by different rules, and if she wanted any normal chance at a relationship…with anyone…then she needed to finish these quests. All of them.

Nix wasn’t offended in the least by Mina’s rejection of him. In fact, he looked a little relieved himself. “Well, I might be able to distract the giants from the gates, and you can run across, but the trolls would be on the bridge in seconds flat.”

“Okay, okay. I like your way better. Under the bridge and under the water it is.”

He shrugged and wouldn’t look her in the eye. “All right, then. Life-saving-suck-kiss it is.” He pinched his lips together and quickly turned away, but Mina could see his shoulders rising and falling in rapid succession. He was laughing at her. And then she realized how absurd it sounded and started laughing, too.

Even the kelpies seemed to pick up on their laughter and started to dance in the water. Which drew attention to their area of the lake.

“Uh-oh.” Nix calmed down instantly. “They know someone’s here.” The trolls’ green eyes were moving in their direction. And even the giants had moved to stare out across the water.

“We need to move quickly,” Mina hissed.

“Yes, it’s now or never.” Nix slid off the kelpie, and Mina followed suit. He quickly leaned in and pressed his head to the white kelpie, and she knew he was trying to give him instructions. A moment later the red kelpie stepped out of the water in full horse form and began running toward the bridge, then stopped right before it. Rising up on his rear hooves, he was a magnificent creature and the perfect distraction. The white kelpie did the same thing and took off in the water toward the trolls, dancing and frolicking mere feet from them, taunting them mercilessly.

Nix held Mina close in the reeds, hiding until he knew that both the trolls and the giants were distracted.

“You ready?” he asked.

She nodded her head mutely.

“Take a deep breath and hold on to me. If you need oxygen, just tug on my hand. And remember, we can’t show ourselves and come up for air until we are safely in the palace. Do you understand?”

“Yes,” she whispered.

Nix counted down. “Three—two—one.”

And she took a deep breath, and they were under, Mina swimming hand in hand with Nix toward the bridge. He kept trying to pull her deeper toward the bottom of the lakebed so they wouldn’t be seen, but every instinct in her body wanted to avoid its murky depths at all costs.

He motioned with his hands downward, and she finally kicked and followed him down just as a commotion of water flew past them. Mina turned and could see the white kelpie take off toward the reeds, where they had just come from. They were almost to the bridge, and she could look up through the water and barely see one set of green glowing eyes. Had the other troll followed the kelpie? She had hoped for both trolls to follow the horse, but she was still happy if only one did. That meant one fewer monster to try to kill her if they got caught.

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