Fable Page 43

Charlie’s fingers dug deeply into Mina’s arms, and silent tears trickled down his cheeks. He pressed his little face against the bars to try to get as close to her as he could. Fresh tears poured down Mina’s face, but she ignored them.

Mina stood up and went to the lock on the cage. It looked to be a mixture of a combination lock and a magical seal.

“Unlock it…NOW.” Her voice left little room for argument.

“I can’t. You haven’t finished your tale. You must defeat the Stiltskin to win back your brother.”

“But I already have. I trapped the copper Stiltskin in the Grimoire. What more do you want?” she cried out, refusing to let go of her brother.

Teague walked over to a hidden door in the wall and opened it. On the other side was Temple Stiltskin, and he looked furious. His boots clicked ominously as he walked into the middle of the room and glared at Mina.

“You said you had nothing to do with Reid’s disappearance!” Temple roared, his hands flexing ominously by his sides. “You lied.”

“Not on purpose. He attacked me, and I had to defend myself. I’m not even sure why he was there. I was already on a quest with you,” Mina said, trying to explain.

Temple froze and turned to stare at Teague. “Did you send my youngest brother to fight a Grimm after I had already promised I would steal the boy for you? Why? I made the bargain—I said I would put together the quest for you. Why in all our worlds would you do something so underhanded?”

It was obvious that even Temple was operating in an unhappy work environment. Something was falling apart between them, and it wasn’t the most beneficial relationship.

Teague walked away from his beloved book and raised his hands in the air. “He was tired of being the youngest, the weakest. He wanted fame and glory, and came to me. He offered his services to me, and since our Grimm wasn’t in any hurry to try to save her brother, I thought I would give her a warning.”

Temple raised his hands and let out a truly broken-hearted cry.

Teague looked bored and began to tap his fingers together in impatience. “So Mina, here he is—your tale. Defeat him, and I will give you back what you have lost. Lose, and the curse will most definitely pass to him.”

“NO! You can’t do that!” she spat at him, and stood up to face the Stiltskin, then had a moment’s hesitation.

“Temple, now remember, it wasn’t I who killed your brother, but the girl. That is at least a parting gift I can give you.” Teague smiled wanly.

Temple’s eyes were red from crying, but he turned to Mina with fury burning brightly in his eyes. “I will kill you for my brother!” He flung open his jacket and pulled forth a small vial. He opened it up and dropped a small golden fang into the palm of his hand. He whispered something in the Fae language, and the fang grew longer and longer till it couldn’t be contained in his palm anymore. The tip of the fang reared its head, and a reptilian hood appeared around it. Mina could see two blood-red eyes staring at her as the fang morphed and continued to grow into a large golden cobra.

“One of my pets would like to say hello,” Temple bragged.

She sucked in her breath in fright and looked around the room for a weapon. Anything with which to fight off the cobra. The snake slithered along the ground, now as tall as a full-grown human and intent on making her its next victim. Teague had moved over to a large chair by the book and sat down in it, watching the forthcoming battle with interest. His fingers drummed along the armrest as if he was becoming impatient.

Mina ran away from the middle of the room, and grabbed a large vase and threw it at the snake. It saw the attack and quickly moved out of the way of the vessel, which crashed and splintered along the marble floor. She ran toward the fireplace and grabbed the long fire poker, and spun around just as the cobra lunged at her.

Her hand went up reflexively and she swung the poker, knocking the snake’s attack to the side. He had missed—barely. The cobra was angry and coiled himself protectively before he raised his head, which was as large as a Doberman, and swayed back and forth. His large hood opened in an attempt to intimidate her. It worked.

Her hands shook, and she could feel the handle of the metal poker digging into her skin because of her deathly grip on it. The snake lunged at her again, and she stepped to the side and used the poker to stab furiously at the cobra. She did it—she stabbed the snake, but her aim was off and she missed the head. In retaliation, the snake whipped its tail around and knocked Mina’s only weapon across the floor.

She watched as the poker skidded to a halt by a column. The snake was fast, faster than she had anticipated, and she didn’t have the help of the Grimoire or Jared. But it didn’t mean that she was completely defenseless. She glanced over at the book sitting behind Teague, and an idea began to form in her head. It was a stupid idea, but stupid ideas worked the best—well, at least for her, anyway.

Mina turned and began to lead the snake back toward Teague. It followed. She began to run, and it took after her. She jumped up onto the podium, and as soon as she grabbed the book, two large strong hands grabbed her from behind and lifted her bodily into the air. It was Temple. She had temporarily forgotten about the Stiltskin. This fight wasn’t fair—it was two against one.

Mina screamed as her legs flew into the air and couldn’t find purchase. Temple was stronger than he looked as he began to squeeze her body. She felt like candy, brittle between his arms. She choked and couldn’t catch her breath.

Teague sat unmoving in his chair, not amused. He didn’t even seem surprised when she’d tried to make a play for the book. His fingers drummed across the armrest impatiently.

“Help!” she tried to choke out, but the word died on her lips, and he squeezed again. A rattling noise reached her ears, and she felt her whole world freeze. Temple turned her toward the large man-sized snake and held her out like an offering. The snake slithered angrily toward her, blood dripping from its wound. It was twenty feet away, ten feet away, five—when a loud crackle and burst of light appeared.

Everyone’s head whipped to the large double doors. Bright white light leaked through the cracks of the door as the magic seal was unlocked. There was still a huge crossbeam that physically locked the door, but whoever was on the other side wasn’t letting that stand in the way.

A crashing boom rocked the room, and the chandeliers began to shake. Vases skittered a few inches off the tables. The crash came again and again, and the beam cracked in the smallest spot. Teague stood up in amazement and stared at the door. Temple refused to put her down, but even the snake had turned at the sound of the new threat.

Crash! The doors blew off their iron hinges, and everyone had to duck as pieces of wood, metal, and doorframe flew every which way. The dust had barely cleared when Nix ran into the room. He looked deathly pale, and his hair was turning an odd brown shade. His green eyes had faded to an almost gray color, but that wasn’t what surprised her the most—it was who was on his heels.

One of the largest giants Mina had ever seen lumbered through the broken doors, smashing what was left of them under his feet. He looked like one of the giants who’d been guarding the bridge, but she couldn’t be sure.

“Mina!” Nix yelled, and ran toward her.

The snake quickly turned back and rose up again to strike. This time he was closer to her, and Temple grabbed Mina’s forehead and pulled it roughly toward the ceiling, exposing her neck. She swallowed, and felt the snake’s eyes zero in on the soft skin of throat and her Adam’s apple. It hissed, and its jaw opened wide. Maybe she imagined it, but she thought she saw a drip of venom slide off its perfectly gold fang.

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