Fable Page 45

“Yes, but even if I heal him, he will still die on this plane.”

“So there’s nothing you can do?” Mina cried out. A warm arm wrapped around her shoulder, and she could feel Jared coming to aid her.

“No, there’s nothing I can do. I am truly sorry,” the bird said, using tones of her mother’s anguished voice. “But I thank you again for our freedom.”

“Our?” Mina looked around, confused.

“Your bravery not only freed me, it freed all of those entrapped by his malicious deals.” The phoenix’s voice became deeper, more masculine. The timbre of the familiar voice made Mina go weak in the knees. The voice of her father. The bird looked toward the Stiltskin, who was surrounded by gold orbs that grew and grew until they took the shape of their true form.

A small gold bubble phased into a young tree nymph who looked around the room and took off running down the hall. An even larger orb phased into a dazed and confused griffin. Another released an ogre, a small fairy. One after another, hundreds of orbs shifted, and Fae of all races and sizes began to walk among each other, hugging one another and rejoicing in their freedom. Then the most amazing thing happened as each and every one of the freed Fae bowed toward Mina in respect.

Teague walked back and forth, his anger spilling off him in waves. “No, no, no! You shouldn’t be bowing to her—I’m the one who freed you. I sent the Stiltskin into her world so she could defeat him. I’m the one who instigated the quest! You should bow to me!”

The menagerie of freed slaves ignored Teague and departed through all available exits, out of the broken windows, the destroyed walls into the courtyard, and even into the palace itself, eager to leave and not be enslaved again. The phoenix called out to her in one truly earsplitting scream of joy and then vanished into the night.

But there was one golden orb left. It was the last to be released and the slowest to be freed. The final orb floated farther away from her, to the middle of the floor, and slowly phased into the form of a man who looked familiar. It couldn’t be…could it?

He looked confused, dazed, and stumbled over a broken column. His dull brown hair and small moustache couldn’t hide the wide fear-ridden brown eyes as the man stared at the Stiltskin statue in horror.

“No, it can’t be,” Mina choked out and froze, her hand going to her heart as she tried to call out his name. She hadn’t seen him in almost nine years, so she couldn’t be certain, was too scared in case she was wrong. Mina tried to say something, but his name died on her lips, barely a squeak. “Father?”

But he was gone; he made his escape, like the others, into the night. She was about to run after him into the Fae world, but she couldn’t—not yet. She had a duty here…now. A quest to finish, and she couldn’t be sure it was him. Maybe she only imagined it was him because the phoenix had just spoken to her using his voice.

“Come on, Mina,” Jared’s soft voice whispered into her ear. His arm wrapped around her and she buried herself in his embrace.

“You came?” She started to cry soft, silent tears.

“I’m not supposed to come back. My mother the Queen forbade it—she said it was too dangerous for me here. So I was banished to your world, never to cross over, for fear of my life.”

“Why did you come? I-I thought you were angry at me for coming, and you said you wouldn’t follow.” She started to hiccup.

Jared’s gray eyes bored into hers. His face filled with emotion, and his own eyes looked to be just as tear-filled. “Do you really not know the reason why I came? I came back for you. I’ll always come back for you.”

He pressed his forehead to hers. His nearness tickled her senses, and she couldn’t help but hold him even tighter. Jared gently tipped Mina’s chin up, and he leaned down to press his lips to hers in a soft kiss that quickly turned into desire. So many pent-up emotions and unsaid words spilled out between them in a kiss to top all kisses. Never before had she lost all sense of time and place as her lips sought after those of her protector, her friend and her Fae prince. All thoughts of Brody disappeared as her world encompassed Jared and Jared only.

He pulled away, and he was visibly shaking from the intensity of their kiss. “Mina, I want you to know that I’ve felt alone for a very long time. I was incomplete, and nothing could fill that void. Until I met you. I’ve known for a long time, but I wasn’t sure how you felt about me. At times I thought you hated me, but I wanted to tell you that I, uh, Mina, I lo—aaaarrgh!”

Jared’s body tensed up in pain, and he fell away from her. Mina tried to grab him and pull him close, but something stabbed her in the side. She looked down and saw her torso covered with blood, but it wasn’t hers. She looked up to see a large knife sticking out of Jared’s stomach. Teague stood behind him with his hand wrapped around Jared’s throat, his eyes glittering evilly.

Chapter 26

Jared’s eyes were squeezed shut in pain, but he refused to make a noise.

“Teague, no, let him go,?? Mina begged. Jared’s eyes opened wide, and he shook his head from side to side, telling her to keep quiet.

“That’s right. Mother dearest sent him to the human world to keep him from me.” He still had the knife inside Jared, and he hadn’t pulled it out yet. That knife was the only thing keeping him from bleeding out. “She knew how much I needed him,” Teague raged wildly.

“I don’t understand!” Mina cried out, her hands clenched at her side in anger.

“It’s easy, Mina. I want power! I want you to finish more quests so I become more powerful. Use the book. Use my book to entrap them all.” Teague giggled madly. He was becoming unstable. She could see him flinching and blinking like an addict searching for his next fix.

“I can’t,” she whispered.

“Yes, you can. It’s easy. It’s the same as your book. Just open its pages and finish the tale.”

Mina slowly walked through the rubble of the room, toward the podium. She kept glancing between Charlie, who was being very brave and watching from inside his cage, to Jared, whose face had now broken out in a sweat. He was doing his very best to stay calm and not worry her, but his eyes kept flicking to her brother.

Why would Teague want to hurt Jared? Why would he need her to use the Fae book? Was it all part of his giant plan to gain more power? Why was Jared so worried about Charlie?

“Not until you release my brother,” Mina said firmly. She knew that no matter what happened, he needed to be safe.

Teague’s eyes narrowed, and he wiggled the knife inside Jared, who groaned and bit his lip to keep from crying out.

Mina stood tall, the tears still coming, but she refused to waver. “LET MY BROTHER GO! I defeated your quest! I want my brother, now!”

“Very well.” Teague waved his finger, and the lock clicked off Charlie’s cage. The small boy ran to Mina and clutched her around the waist. Mina knew that now was not the time to be distracted again. She pulled Charlie with her and looked upon the Fae book for the very first time.

She had been told that at one time there was only one book, and that a Fae had split the book in two: one with the power for good, the other for evil, and that whatever quest or tale the Grimms completed on the physical plane, it would magically appear in the Fae book. Here she had the chance to look upon it with her own eyes, and she gasped.

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