“Brenden?” I breathed, trying to fight the sleep that was beckoning to take me. I could feel him jostling me as he scampered back to our protection. Tucking a piece of his hair behind his ear, I stared at his beautiful magenta eyes and dark gray skin in a complete daze.
“Shush, Athena,” he whispered.“You’ll be fine once we get back to Pigeon.”
He was right. As soon as we entered the purple smoke, my head cleared and my stomach settled. I breathed in the clean air. But when I looked up, I saw Brenden, the fairy in shadow, holding me with his light gray skin, black hair and dark eyes. Had I been dreaming? “W-What happened?” I asked.
Brenden scowled. “You could have been killed, Athena! What were you thinking?”
“Yeah,” Francisco said,hands on hips, “for once, I agree with sour pants. I can’t believe you did that! I’m so pissed right now.”
“But she’s fine, guys,” Holly interjected. Yay for my bff sticking up for me! “Aren’t you?” she asked.
Brenden set me down as I took another breath and grinned. “I feel great! In fact, I haven’t felt this good since before I changed into a drakkan. I think I don’t need the shield.”
Brenden shook his head. “You need it. Your witch side longs for the crimerife and will do anything to seize it all the while hurting your human self. Too much crimerife is deadly, even for witches. That’s why they don’t mine it.”
By this time Ferbish came barreling toward us. He pulled Brenden away from our protection and then hurled a powerful punch to his jaw, sending him sprawling.
Brenden stayed where he was, only slightly moving from his fall.
“Come on, whoever ye are. Punch me back, if ye dares.” Ferbish bent over with his arms out, ready for an attack.
“Ferbish, stop!” I yelled.
“Yeah,” Holly agreed. “No fighting, guys.”
Pointing at Brenden, who was cowering in the mud, Ferbish yelled, “That ain’t no fairy, Miss. Look at him. He should be dead right now, but he ain’t.” Ferbish’s chest moved in and out furiously.
“He’s even stronger ‘an me, but I can takes him.”
Ratskin intercepted Ferbish. “Go no further with this madness, gargoyle. We are less than an hour away from the witching hour, and I promised me missus I’d be home in time fer supper. We have a wee bit to go. Once I open the gate, you have me blessing to hang this Under-realmer by his ankles and let the Balor bats eat him. Until then, we must be on our way. Understand?”
“Aye that,” Ferbish spat. He yanked Brenden by his wings and hollered, “Grigor, gets the rope.”
Brenden winced in pain.
“You can’t be serious, Ferbish,” I yelled, so worried they were going to hang poor Brenden. “He didn’t do anything wrong!”
Ferbish’s eyes almost popped out of his face. “He lied, Miss. He ain’t no fairy and until we know what he is, he will be shackled.”
I let out a sigh when I realized they were only going to bind Brenden’s hands. “Will you untie him if he proves he’s our friend?”
“When we gets you to the Middle Realm,” Ferbish offered, “then I’ll let him go. But he stays here. He ain’t going wif you until he confesses who he is.”
I thought about what I’d seen earlier—how different Brenden looked. No one else seemed to notice the change or they would have said something. But I didn’t want to confess it. Not yet. Otherwise, who knew what Ferbish might do to him?
“Who are you?” I asked, crossing my arms.
Brenden made no motion to answer. He only hung his head and didn’t look at anyone.
I knew in my heart that I wasn’t dreaming when I saw Brenden as a totally different person. He definitely didn’t look like a fairy. But what type of race was he? And why wouldn’t he answer? I thought about what I’d read on his body—that he was hated and that people were to show him no mercy. I wondered if he was a criminal. A murderer!
Letting out my breath, I said, “Fine. Tie him up. Maybe he’ll tell us after his wrists hurt.”
I was upset he wouldn’t confess. But one thing I knew–he had saved me, and when I looked into his eyes, I saw a person who wouldn’t do anything to harm us.
Finally, after what seemed like several silent hours, we arrived at the edge of a forest. No one said anything but I knew what was in everyone’s mind. Did we have a traitor among us? I didn’t want to believe it.
An icy wind whipped through my clothing, sending shivers down my body as I spied the gate. By that time, I’d put on my hood, not wanting anyone to see my un-shrouded self. The gate actually looked like a fence in one of those haunted house movies. No one would be able to climb over it.
Thankfully, we were free from the mist and Pigeon went back to her shy ways at the back of our pack.
With a jingle and a rusty clang, Ratskin clicked open the gate.
I glanced at Francisco and he shook his head like we shouldn’t go in there. I agreed, but what could we do? It was Brenden’s plan, and I didn’t have another way out of this never-ending dark world.
As if on cue, the sky began to redden like the opening of a deep wound.
Ratskin gave us a really creepy look. What the hell was going on?
A man came out and greeted Ratskin, giving him a pouch and a friendly pat on the arm. The shifty eyed man cackled and said, “The witching hour is upon us. Farewell, Ratskin, and do send me compliments to ye lovely wife.”
Ratskin nodded and ran off without a good bye or even a nod to us. Nothing.
“Good bye to you,too,” Holly yelled after him, waving.
Francisco said to Brenden, “Dude, you’re not seriously asking us to go in there with that strange guy, are you?”
As the sky grew darker, bathing us in the Under Realm eerie red light of dusk, Brenden swallowed, not saying anything. My hair stood on end. I didn’t like the frightened look on Brenden’s face.
Happy New Year! May 2019 be the best ever!
I’m out of town so the next update won’t happen until next week,
Monday, January 7th.