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The Wishing Map
Chapter Nineteen: The Naim Games (Continued)
Previously: Zack and the naim child Bud were pierced by lances, but for some reason didn’t die. And then a terrifying voice shook the glen.
⇔ ⇔ ⇔
The voice was high and commanding, causing every button-eyed face, even those of the wounded, to turn toward the edge of the clearing.
Taking advantage of this shift in attention, Zack slid little Bud out from under his layered shirts, and handed him to Noddie. Bud too was untouched by the lances, but the arrow was still in his knee. Noddie glared at Zack, then broke off the head of the arrow and yanked out the shaft. Bud shrieked, but almost no one heard, because at that same moment the terrifying voice from the edge of the clearing boomed:
“How dare you harm my servant! How dare you even think you could!”
Zack turned and saw for the first time the apparition that was commanding the attention of twenty thousand naims.
“It’s her!” voices murmured from all around, “It’s Rhema!”
She was ten feet tall and seemed to hover above the ground, her long dark garment blending into the wooded surroundings. Her head was shrouded, leaving much of her face in shadow. What could be seen, however, was weirdly beautiful. Her visage was shot through with all the colors of the rainbow; Zack remembered the story of Rhema bringing color into the world. Her face fragmented into a thousand shapes as she spoke. She had myriad eyes, penetrating in their duplicity, and her mouth seemed to exist in seven or eight places at once.
“You have drawn his blood and said unto yourselves, ‘Let us slay him and defy the Queen of the Fae.’”
“Nay, great lady!” Lyffwin protested. “We did not—“
“Silence!” the Faerie Queen roared, causing Lyffwin and many others to crumple to their knees. “You shall not harm my servant Zachary Zinn, for it was I who sent him to test you, and you have failed the test!”
“Zachary Zinn?” Zack thought. How could she know about—
“I am Rhema, and you shall fear me!”
“Y…yes, Queen Rhema,” the terrified naims stammered.
“You shall allow my servant Zinn to leave this place! You shall obey my command or I will smote you! For you are my enemies now! And my wrath is eternal!”
“Yes, Great Queen,” said Bulgy. “As leader, I will personally see ter it that—“
“Oh, shut up! You especially annoy me! You and…” She spotted Lyffwin crawling away on her hands and knees, and pointed at her with her long fingerless sleeve: “…and you! Both of you shall leave and never come back! Got that?”
“Y…yes, Great Queen,” Lyffwin and Bulgy stammered.
“You have polluted my precious,” she told Bulgy. She pointed at the knife in Lyffwin’s hand. “Is that a dagger I see before me?”
“No…or rather yes, great lady, but…” Lyffwin dropped the knife.
“You are a spot on my creation! And I say unto you, ‘Out, out, damned spot!’”
Bulgy and Lyffwin hurried from the clearing, followed by their cohorts. Rhema watched them leave, and then turned her multi-faceted face toward the rest of the naims. “The future,” she began, sounding as though she were presenting a memorized speech, “is not assured. We must not assume that everything will happen exactly as we hope. The parents and teach—um, I mean the naims—who are gathered with us here today know better. Not everyone soars forth on the wings of the future, some drag themselves backward on the elbows of the past!”
“Gina?” Zack muttered.
Thoughts: Have you ever used deception to solve an unsolvable problem?
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