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The Wishing Map
Chapter Nineteen: The Naim Games (Continued)
Previously: Zack was stunned to discover that the terrifying apparition who’d halted the naims’ civil war was his sister Gina.
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“Shoo!” the apparition shouted. “Go and make up with each other. I don’t want to see anyone left in this field—not one—or I shall surely smote them! Now go! Shoo!”
The naims hurried away as quickly as they could. Many were detained by the need to help their battered and bleeding comrades. They’d forgotten about taking sides, and were struggling together to escape the terrible vengeance of the Queen of the Fae.
“And one more thing,” Gina-Rhema warned ominously, “If you ever make war on each other again, this planet of yours will be reduced to a tiny burnt out cinder! I am the great and powerful Rhema! Gort berenga! Now go before I change my mind!”
Zack watched as naims he’d come to know and care for hurried into heartwood trees, many glancing back at him with undiluted hatred, and he wished the lances really had killed him.
Despite all that had happened, little Bud shot a longing look at Uncle Zaggy. Zack saluted him with a naimish stomp, which sent a shriek of pain up his leg.
Sniggle, who was carrying Bud in his arms, risked the wrath of Rhema to say, “Yer are nay friend ter naims, Master Zaggyzim. Yer are a liar an’ a deceiver!”
This hurt worse than the arrow that had pierced Zack’s neck or the spikes that had slashed his shins, but what he saw next was the most devastating thing of all: Tuber was being carried off the field by Slipstreak, Thistlecress, and four others, including tiny Reetie. Zack had never seen a dying person before, but he knew Tuber was dying.
Tuber’s eyes were half-open when Zack arrived at his side. He motioned for the others to put him down. They laid him in a cluster of bluebells.
Tears welled up in Zack’s eyes. “Tuber, I…I’m sorry.”
“Nay, yer spake traith, Master Zaggy. I ne’er knowed I had Story in me till now—not just in the wood, but in me! Now I know there’s Story in everyone. Tell ‘em!” he begged Reetie, Thistlecress, and Slipstreak. “Tell ‘em!” He coughed up a mouthful of blood. Thistlecress wiped his chin with her own blood-stained tunic, and tried to hush him. “Nay, I got ter speak! Tell ‘em there’s power in Story…” Blood jetted from his mouth as his chest spasmed. Reetie put her head on his chest. “…power ter heal,” he went on, “and power ter hurt.” He stroked Reetie’s hair. “Tell ‘em ter use their stories ter heal!”
“I’m sorry, Tuber,” Zack wept, “I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry. This is all my— ”
“Nay, Master Zaggy. I was dead afore. It’s only now as I’m alive.” Then he closed his eyes, and a strange smile settled on his face.
“He wielded nay weapon,” Slipstreak said, forcing back tears. “On’y tried ter stop others from using ‘em.”
The wind departed from Tuber’s lungs. He was dead, but the strange smile remained. His carriers lifted him up and bore him away in silence…
as Zack stood watching from the middle of the empty clearing.
Thoughts: Have you ever been responsible for a wrong so great that you doubt you will ever forgive yourself?
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