Fable Page 44

She heard herself let out a little whimper, and she closed her eyes as it lunged forward. Something hard thudded against her, and she felt pain around her throat. She imagined it was the snake wrapping itself around her and biting her.

A groan was heard behind her, and then she was falling, falling to the ground. She smacked the marble floor and rolled away. Mina opened her eyes to see that it was Nix who was now wrapped up in a battle for life or death with the cobra. He had something in his hand and he tried to use it to stab the snake, but it was knocked from his hand and skittered across the floor to land right in front of Mina.

It was her knife. Temple was lying on the floor, bleeding, clutching his head where a large cut had appeared, a broken vase lying next to him. The large giant who had barreled through the door was now being flung across the room into the marble wall. Huge web-like cracks spiraled out of the marble in every direction.

Teague had stood up and was laughing hysterically—finally enjoying the battle, it seemed. He looked pleased to have worthy opponents. Mina didn’t give the giant any other thought, but lunged for the glass knife and went to help Nix.

She was almost there when she saw the snake rear its head back for a strike, and then he bit Nix in the shoulder. She heard him scream! It was the most awful heart-wrenching noise, and then she realized it wasn’t Nix who was screaming—she was!

Mina leapt onto the snake’s back, and stabbed it over and over and over again. It didn’t matter; on the first strike, the snake began to writhe in pain as it slowly turned to gold. She dropped the shard of glass and quickly pulled Nix out of the snake’s grasp before he was stuck in a golden snake coffin.

“Nix! Are you okay?” Mina cried out, using her hands to cover up the large nickel-sized holes in his shoulders.

His skin was drying out, and his eyes looked almost white now. “I’m sorry I didn’t come sooner. I’m sorry that I didn’t help save your brother. I’m sorry that I am a poor excuse for a nixie.”

“You said so yourself that nixies are gentle creatures. I should never have asked you to help me on this quest. And now it’s all my fault that you are dying.”

“I was always dying. Now I have done something brave before I died. I am happy.” His breathing slowed, and Mina tried to make him comfortable. Her heart was hurting so badly with guilt she was finding it hard to breathe.

A large roar filled the air, and a table flew past her head. She screamed and covered Nix’s body with hers to protect him, and looked up in alarm. Charlie was wringing the bars of his cage frantically and pointing at the Stiltskin. Temple had finally gotten over his disorientation, because he was opening up his jacket and pulling something else out of his jacket. A golden feather.

A screech echoed through the room, and the phoenix once again appeared, flying high in the air. Temple spun the feather in a circle around the room, and the phoenix flew the same path, creating a circle of fire that split the room in two, with Charlie on one side of the five-foot-tall flame and Mina on the other.

It was just like her dream. Mina watched the phoenix fly out of reach and sit on a tall crossbeam. She couldn’t help but feel sorry for the firebird, and then her heart constricted even more when she realized how little choice Stiltskin’s slaves had in the matter. The firebird and snake didn’t want to be slaves any more than she did. What in the world would a Stiltskin do if he had a Grimm as a slave?

“Charlie!” Mina called out to him through the smoke and flame. She could barely see him through the wall of fire. She had to defeat the Stiltskin, and then she had to save her brother and find a way back to her own world.

She grabbed the shard of glass and ran back to the Fae book. Teague had left the book unattended as he fought the giant. Her eyes looked for him in the room, and she realized that Teague as a Royal had morphed into a giant saber-tooth tiger and was slashing the giant across the chest with his large claws. The giant let out a long, painful roar, and she was distracted once again. There she stood in front of the Fae book and she had it in her hands, but she couldn’t pull herself away from the giant’s plight.

The giant reached out and grabbed the saber-tooth by the back of the neck, and flung it across the room. The cat nimbly landed on his paws and then shape-shifted back into the young handsome Teague, who looked winded and had a smear of blood coming out of his mouth.

“Very good, brother. I am impressed. You have gotten stronger, but you are not strong enough.”

Brother? The word made Mina’s knees weak with relief. It couldn’t be—could it? He said he would never come. That he couldn’t come. She couldn’t help herself; she yelled out his name. “Jared!”

The giant’s head turned to her, his eyes looking very human and every ounce Jared. He had one hand over a deep wound in his side, and he was slowly falling to his knees. She heard him call out her name—“Meehna!”—and then he fell forward onto the marble. But when he finally crashed into the ground, he was completely human and injured.

Teague danced over to his brother’s body and kicked him in the stomach. Jared curled up into a ball, and then, slowly, ever so slowly, he got back up to his feet. His hair was tousled, his clothes torn, and even in his human form, the injuries translated into large slashes crisscrossed across his chest and face. And even though his brother taunted him, Jared never took his eyes off her.

Her heart soared! He’d come for her! He hadn’t abandoned her. She was going to have quite a few angry words with him later, but for now, since her Jared was here, she knew they would be all right.

Jared’s hands going up in the air and his eyes widening in fright were Mina’s only warning that something was wrong. She turned just as Temple’s ungloved hand reached for her arm.

Her arm swung up, and she stabbed Temple in the palm of the hand with the piece of the glass knife. Temple screamed and stepped back, holding his bleeding hand. He stared at the golden glass in horror and then at the blood that dripped from the wound. It was first red, and then slowly, drip by drip, it turned to gold. He pulled out the glass and dropped it in shock.

“No! No! What have you done? How did you know?”

Mina stared at him without any sympathy. “A deal made in blood that can only be broken by blood. Yours.”

“How could you have come by my blood?” He groaned in pain, trying to use his power to reverse the effect of the magic that was turning his arm and shoulder into gold. He was able to change it back for a second, but then he would be overwhelmed and lose the ground he’d gained. He was sweating and fighting it so hard. Mina knew he would lose the battle.

“You gave it to me…freely.”

“I would have done no such thiii—” And he was gone. The most powerful Stiltskin encased in his own golden curse. And she’d done it without the Grimoire.

A loud screeching noise came from the ceiling, and the phoenix flexed its wings and flew in a giant circle. Thank you for freeing me, the voice echoed in Mina’s head. The bird flew over her head, making Teague duck for cover, and in a wink of an eye, all of the flames in the room were gone. The bird came to light on Teague’s book and looked at Mina with large solemn eyes.

“You’re welcome, but now can you help me?” Mina turned to point to Nix, whose shoulder had turned a deep purple color. He was gasping for each and every breath. “They say that a phoenix’s tears can heal people. Is that true?”

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