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The Wishing Map
Chapter Eleven: …and Found (Continued)
Previously: Two immense black widows had begun to push their stingers into Gina’s eyes just as Prince Jenblevó entered the cave…
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“It is our cave,” said Feyrdú, “the one we—”
“Yes, I know. That is why I knew you would be here,”replied Jenblevó. “It is the one we came to to escape the rain. When we were children. We were trapped—”
“For nearly a day, a glorious day, the most perfect day that ever has been!”
“Yes! We looked at cave stars for hours—”
“And gave them ridiculous names!” Feyrdú’s eyes shone.
“Yes, and we huddled together under the blanket our friends made for us.” Jenblevó tossed his lance to the cave floor and began stroking the spider’s bellies. Their sixteen eyes closed in ecstasy. “We spoke of the future…”
“And of our name prophecies.” Feyrdú jumped down next to him. “You, the ‘Tower of Courage.’”
“The one who ‘Fights Beside You.’”
“You were only a little girl then, a sweet, beautiful girl, yes, but—”
“But now I am—”
“A woman! A woman who would fight and torture and kill for what is hers!” He turned and asked, “Is she not magnificent?”
“Who, the Dragonmeer J’nah?” asked the prince’s messy-haired friend.
“No, you splay-footed wuckle! The Lady Feyrdú!”
Aviar landed at the entrance to the cave, filling the opening. He was too large to fit inside.
Zack slid down his wing and entered on his own. The grotto was dark, but his eyes began to adapt. Jenblevó’s friend was holding a match-sized torch, and there were equally tiny torches nearby. A girl was lying on the floor of the cave with her hands and feet bound by what appeared to be fine silver threads. Could it be Gina? And then Zack recognized the pink monster slippers. He was also pretty sure he recognized Gina’s blue terrycloth robe, though the colors were muted by the low light. But where the top of her body should be there was a surreal aggregation of creatures: a squirrel by her neck, two huge spiders on her cheeks, and Prince Jenblevó on her chest…passionately kissing a pixie girl!
“Gina?” Zack called.
“Gina?” What if she’s dead?
Then a muffled voice answered, “Ack?!” and the pink monster slippers twitched.
Once Jenblevó and the others had cut through Gina’s spider-silk bindings and cleared her face of its temporary occupants, she was free to go, but she didn’t. Instead, after slowly rising to her feet, she collapsed onto her knees. Zack tried to lift her, but she had neither the strength nor the will to rise again. Her eyes were clouded and yellow. She can’t see!
“Oh, Zack…” Her voice trailed off like a snuffed candle. And then she did something that completely astonished him: she held out her arms as if she were a little girl waiting to be picked up. He dropped to his knees and hesitantly embraced her, fully expecting her to push him away. Instead she collapsed into him. It felt sort of good and sort of creepy all at the same time. Good—because for the longest time he’d wanted to recapture the affection that used to exist between them. And creepy—because, in his mind, that affection had always been her job. She had done the hugging, she had done the comforting, but now…
He patted her on the back as she sobbed into his shoulder, her arms wrapped around him in an awkward clench. He saw the pixie prince Jenblevó and his tousle-haired comrade staring in disbelief. Then he heard Jenblevó ask, “Is this the great girl knight, J’nah?”
After several more minutes, Gina loosened her grip. “I can’t…”
“Can’t see?” Zack was afraid of what the answer might be.
“Not…well, a little…like…under water,” she muttered fearfully.
“The poison,” Feyrdú replied. “It will drain.”
Now what? Jerking his head toward the entrance to the cave, Zack said, “We need to talk to Aviar. He’ll know what to do.”
“What?” Gina asked, slowly rising to her feet. “Who?”
She used Zack’s shoulders to steady herself; her arms and legs felt like dead tree limbs. Her head and neck throbbed in a dull after-surgery ache. Oddly, her eyes did not hurt; the poison had deadened the pain. She stared in the direction Zack had nodded. All she could make out were two large trees at the entrance to the cave.
Zack took his sister’s arm and pulled her toward the opening. She moved like one of those post-twilight-sleep patients leaving Mom’s dental office. Then Zack looked up and said, “This is Aviar…uh, I mean…this is the Servant of Uol and Master Hunter, Aviar, Lord of the Sheyar. Aviar, this is my sister, the, uh, Lady J’nah of Middleton.”
Gina reached between the two trees. No one seemed to be there.
Suddenly a head the size of her bedroom lowered itself into view. It nudged Zack with its massive beak and said, “You’re learning, manlet.” Then it turned a basketball-sized eye toward her. “Arrrrhrrrr-erhrrrm-hum…greetings in the name of Uol, Lady J’nah of Miggletom. May your nest be forever filled with fledglings.”
And Gina fainted.
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Thoughts: Have you ever been, for good or for bad, at the complete mercy of another person?
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