After a few minutes, the rest of the party caught up to us. Ferbish put me down gently and snarled at Brenden. “I don’ts know what he’s up to but it ain’t good.”
Grigor scowled. “What do ye mean, Ferbish?”
Ferbish sniffed. “Don’t ye smell it, Grigor?”
Grigor stuck his nose in the air, making pig-snorting sounds. “Aye that! Why you…”
Grigor picked up Brenden and held him by his collar. “What should I do wif him?”
Ferbish glared. “Tie him up. We’ll leave him here while we figure outs another way.”
I looked at Francisco and Holly. Worry crawled along their faces. They were as puzzled as I was.
“Stupid gargoyles,” Brenden sputtered in a hoarse voice under the choke of Grigor’s grip, “you don’t understand. I have it all figured out.” He coughed and pleaded they’d let him down so he could explain.
Ferbish didn’t move. He just tapped his chin, obviously trying to think of what to do next.
As Brenden wiggled and struggled for each breath, Ratskin spoke, “Let him go, gargoyle. He speaks truthfully. I know his plan.”
Under the darkest stare I’ve seen from Ferbish, he gave a nod to Grigor. Grigor dropped him and Brenden tumbled in the dirt. The shorter gargoyle pointed at him. “Ye better not try anyfing funny or I’ll drown you in the moor meself.”
Brenden gasped for a while, gaining air in his lungs. He finally said, swallowing, “I know what this looks like…”
“Yeah,” Grigor interjected, “like ye wants to kill off the little Miss here and her friends! One sniff from Myrrh Mist and they’re goners.”
“What?” I whispered.
Ferbish explained, “Remember I told ye Grigor and I work in the mines. We dig for crimerife—a crystal that gives witches powerful magic.”
“Aye that,” Grigor cut in, “and the queen pays a lot to those who can get to it. The crystal gives off a stinking mist. Only the strongest can breath it wifout fainting.”
Ferbish took over, “That leaves gargoyles, trolls, dwarves, and giants who mine. And if the Moor of Dread is full of the mist, it means one fing.”
“Witches,” Grigor whispered.
“Or worse,” Ferbish spat. “Don’t matter no how. Humans, fairies, non under-realmers die in the mist.” The gargoyle froze as if he was just hit with a pumpkin.
Sniffing Brenden from the top of his head to his backside, Ferbish announced, “It’s as I was finking earlier. He’s not a fairy!”
Fear blew over Brenden’s features like a coming thunderstorm. He answered, “Hogswallow. Do you not have eyes, gargoyle. I’m in shadow. No one but fairies do that in the Under Realm.”
Grigor’s eyebrows rose as if that made perfect sense. Which it did to me. But Ferbish’s eyebrows furrowed even more. “Enchantment.”
“Enough,” the dwarf spoke, waving at Ferbish. “We’re wasting time. This here fairy is just that. And he has a plan to get through the moor unharmed.” Ratskin motioned to Pigeon and said, “She’s a raven. They can cast a shield around the humans and this fairy. As long as they follow close beside her, nothing will happen.”
Ferbish thought this explanation over a bit then grumbled, still not satisfied. I felt bad for Brenden. No one liked him and if it weren’t for his plan, we’d be stuck in the Under Realm, hiding from my grandmother forever.
Running over to Brenden, I took his hand, pulling him to his feet. “Are you okay?”
Brenden squeezed my hand. “I guess I’ll live. Thank you, dear Athena.”
Looking at Ratskin, he said, “And thank you, dwarf.”
“I don’t need yer thanks. I need to be on me way,” Ratskin grunted impatiently.
“Okay then,” Brenden clasped his hands together, pasting on a smile. “It’s time. Holly, Athena, and you there.” He pointed at Francisco who rolled his eyes and sauntered over. “Miss Pigeon, if you don’t mind.”
Pigeon stepped forward, looking down as if embarrassed. I didn’t know what to expect, but I guessed this was why she was called a fearsome ally. I didn’t think radiating a shield was fearsome, but at this point I was grateful she had a skill to help us.
Jutting her arms out, she uttered some strange sounds, almost like squawks, and a purple mist emanated from her hands, covering me, Francisco, Holly, and Brenden.
When she finished, she nodded quickly at Brenden.
“I still don’t trust him,” the larger gargoyle muttered.
He put his face up to our purple shield inches from Brenden’s. “I’m watching you.”
Brenden drew back, uneasy. I didn’t understand what was up and hoped Ferbish’s worries were silly as the dwarf said.
Next, Ferbish gave a few directions on how to get through the marsh. “Follow me and don’t look around too much. Don’t leave the purple shield of this raven or…” He jerked a finger right to left on his throat. My body felt like noodles as my heartbeat quickened.
“Aye that,” Grigor agreed.
We trailed after Ferbish, making sucking sounds with our feet, plodding in the marsh. As we walked further, the fog grew to the point I could barely see the gargoyles ahead. The purple shield blew the mist away from us as if it was a round blow dryer. I could hear my heart beating in my ears. It felt as if eyes watched us from all around. I wanted out of there. Fast.
Trudging through the mist, hours passed, but then I saw a tiny orange light shimmering up ahead.
“Hey, what’s that?” I asked. “Is it the end of the marsh?”
Ferbish turned his head toward me, uneasy. “The end is a half mile more, Miss.”
“But what’s that light?” I asked. It grew larger as we approached. “Is that a harpswing?”
“Athena,” Francisco said. “There’s no light. It’s just mist.”
“Yeah,” Holly agreed. “Where do you see it?”
I pointed at the orange pink light as it glowed brighter and brighter. I could feel its power as warmth, pulling me toward it. “Why can’t you see it?” I whispered.
“Athena,” Brenden spoke urgently in my ear. “Are you feeling well?” He grabbed my arm.
Shaking him off, I sprinted toward the light without thinking about the consequences. Once I stepped out of the shield, an overwhelming warmth as if I’d been dipped in golden energy surged through my body. Feelings of invincibility and euphoria swept through me as I breathed in the luscious licorice scent. My favorite candy. I’d never felt so good in my life!
“Athena!” Brenden shouted. “No!”
“I’ve got her,” Ferbish chased after me.
But I was too strong for a mere gargoyle. Giggling, I scampered just up ahead of him, whizzing through the mud as if it were grass just out of his grasp. “Can’t catch me!” I sang.
But as I neared the light, I noticed it turned into a glowing rock the size of a coffee table. Jumping over boulders, I yearned to eat it. Just a taste. That was all.
“That’s crimerife!” Ferbish yelled. But I could barely hear him.
Glancing back, almost in slow motion, I spied Ferbish still chasing, but someone else, a strange person I’d never seen before burst out of Pigeon’s purple shield. He was tall with dark gray skin, long silver hair and magenta eyes. His face was beautiful like a dark angel. It reminded me of Brenden’s but older and more fierce with sharper angles to his nose and chin.
I knew he’d capture me if I wasn’t fast enough. I had to have the rock. The crimerife. One bite. One touch. That was all. He couldn’t stop me.
As soon as I slid my fingers over the cool, luscious stone, my head spun as if I’d jumped off a fast twirling swing, making my stomach lurch.
Tumbling, I crashed into the mud. My head whirled so fast. “Ahh!” I cried. “What’s happening?”
With great force, the strange man pushed Ferbish to the ground and barreled toward me.
He scooped up my body as if I were a doll.
My eyes were so heavy, but I could sense him. It was as if I was in a dream, watching everything.
The sky was almost blue now even though I knew that was impossible. I wanted to stay like this. In the light. With him.
As he carried me, I could see a scroll work pattern on his chest and along his arms. I read it even though I shouldn’t have been able to.
Brenden, The Cursed.
For all eternity.
Show him no mercy.
Next update will be Monday, December 31th.