Fable Page 40

She was at her limit and quickly tugged on Nix’s arm. He immediately turned and wrapped his arms around her, and pressed his lips to hers.

Sweet air rushed into her mouth, and she let him control the breathing and speed at which they exchanged carbon dioxide and oxygen. It seemed like the polite thing to do. He gently tapped the side of her neck three times, signaling for her to count and start swimming. She immediately understood and took one last breath, and they were off.

He still swam slightly faster than she did, and she probably could have done better if she hadn’t started doubting herself all of a sudden. Her plan was stupid, she wasn’t strong enough, and even if she got inside, she didn’t know how to save her brother. She felt herself slowing down, and Nix continued to pull on her in desperation. He saw that she was freezing up and kept shaking his head at her.

It was no use; the doubt continued to flood her mind like a creepy hypnotizing song. She looked at Nix and shook her head, and pointed up toward the surface. His eyes went wide in horror, and he shook his head.

She couldn’t help it. There was no way she could win; she might as well let herself get caught by the trolls. Maybe they would take pity on her and just put her in jail. It was better than death. She was weak—she wasn’t brave. She was useless, a poor excuse for a Grimm. The words kept coming, and the song never stopped. If she just let go of Nix’s hand, he could escape, and only she would be caught. Yes, yes. That was what she must do.

Mina felt herself let go of Nix’s hand, and she kicked toward the surface, toward the green glowing eyes of the troll that was waiting for her under the bridge.

A voice blasted into her consciousness. DON’T LISTEN! It was Nix’s voice, she could tell, and she could see the struggle it was for him to speak to her. He grasped his head in pain, but then took off after her like a fish through water. He grabbed her bare foot and pulled her down into the water right before she almost broke the surface.

She kicked and struggled against him, but he placed his hands over her ears, and she could see him concentrate.

Don’t listen. It’s a trap, a siren. They’re like a sea witch, but worse. Look at me. I can get you through this. Trust me!” He reached forth and pressed his lips to hers, forcing more air into her lungs.

It came as such a relief that she didn’t even know she needed air until that moment. The desolate song of fear, doubt, and hopelessness made her completely forget to breathe.

Look there—do you see it?

Mina tried to follow his direction and could see a statue buried deep in the water. It was the statue of a beautiful woman at the bottom of the river, her arms held up in the air as if she was waiting for an embrace from her lover.

That’s the siren. Turned to stone by one of the trolls. She is the guardian of the deep water. As long as you can ignore her song, we will make it. He stopped talking into her mind, and she knew that his energy was waning. Nix pulled her, and she kept swimming. They swam right past the stone statue. Mina couldn’t tear her eyes away from it.

She wouldn’t have made it if it weren’t for Nix. She wondered what terrible song the siren had tormented him with; he seemed in pain but otherwise fine. Soon they could no longer feel the siren’s touch. Overwhelming feelings continued to plague her, but not so much that she couldn’t deal with them.

After two more stops for Nix to help her breathe, they finally made it to an underwater aqueduct. He waved her over and pointed to the small circular entrance that looked barely big enough for her to fit into. She couldn’t see inside. It was pitch black. Her hands shook, but she uncovered the jar with the phoenix feather and handed it to Nix. When it was obvious that she wasn’t going to enter first, he leaned forward for one more shared breath between them and turned to swim up the tunnel, using the light of the feather to guide him.

Mina pulled a small green stone out of her pouch and followed suit, being careful to stay right on Nix’s heels. This tunnel was smaller than the caverns she had previously swum through, and she felt herself become extremely claustrophobic. Nix swam farther, and then turned and swam through a tunnel that went upward. Mina had just braced herself and pushed off after him when something grabbed her foot and pulled her back down.

She fought against whatever was grabbing her and tried to hit it with her fist, but the thing wouldn’t let go. The flow from her green stone illuminated the deathly face and familiar black hate-filled eyes of the sea witch.

The hag’s face smiled widely to reveal several sharp pointy fangs, and her hand swatted the stone from Mina’s grip. She dropped it, and the glow disappeared, leaving her in complete darkness with the monster.

Chapter 24

Panic overcame Mina as the darkness threatened to swallow her whole. Was this her grim end? She tried to swim away again but felt the witch’s hands grasp her legs. Pain laced through her where the crooked claws raked against her skin. But it was that painful slash which reminded her of her own weapon. She reached toward her thigh and pulled out her glass knife, and frantically tried to stab the witch, but she couldn’t see her and missed.

A yellow glow filled the small space as Nix reappeared. He looked horrified and rushed in to help Mina. But now there were too many bodies and not enough room to maneuver. Someone or something kicked her hand, and she dropped the knife. She was also out of air and needed to find some…now. She tried to push off and kick up the tunnel again, but the witch grabbed her and pulled her down. Mina tried to push her off but then felt the witch stiffen and freeze. Her snarling face froze in a mask of horror and pain as something stabbed her in the back. The witch’s scream died on her lips, and her black cat-eyes clouded over, turning gold.

The witch sank, freeing Mina, and she couldn’t help but stare at Nix’s horrified face as he held her Stiltskin-empowered knife. He had saved her, but had killed his own mother. He slowly sat down in the tunnel and buried his face in his hands. Mina tried to motion that she needed air, but he wasn’t paying attention. He was lost in his own misery. She grabbed his shoulder and shook, but he went limp and stared at the knife in his hands.

Frustrated, she pushed off and swam as hard as she could toward the tunnel that Nix had gone up. This one had to lead out; it was her only chance. She kicked until she felt a sucking current that began to pull her up. She was no longer swimming but being carried forcefully along a pipeline. Her head broke the surface of the water, and she had just enough time to breathe and duck as she was swept into a tunnel and then down a long slope. Faster and faster she traveled until she could see an opening, and then a drop.

Didn’t Nix mention something about an indoor waterfall that led to an inner bathing pool? He just didn’t say how big it was. Squelching any scream or sound, she tried to hold it together as she was thrown over the drop. This time she was prepared for the fall, and it wasn’t more than thirty feet before she plunged into the small pool. She was careful; she kept her head under the water and tried to look up and through the reflection for signs of life. There was a shadow, but then it moved away.

Mina kicked along the bottom of the pool and found a statue of a mermaid on a pedestal pouring water out of a jar. Keeping her head low, she hid behind the water feature and peeked around. Since it was nighttime, there weren’t as many Fae around. She saw someone in a robe walk past, and she quietly slid back down into the water and made her plan. The hall was dark; torches lined the walls, casting eerie shadows along the marble floor. Luckily, there were tons of potted plants, statues, and décor for her to hide behind.

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