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The Wishing Map
Chapter Twenty-Four: The Long Night (continued)
Previously: Gina’s Questing Beast had just morphed into a hideous Hadessian Dragon.
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A rumble began within the creature’s bowels, like a volcano about to erupt. “Over there!” Zack yelled, pointing to the Beast’s right hind leg, its nearest limb.
Without hesitation, Gina ran to the leg. Using the 45° verbé Buigor had shown her, she began hacking away at it like a lumberjack, the sword adding its own steel-willed force. Her blade cut a foot and a half into the Beast’s tumorous ankle, slicing through layers of scale and cartilage, opening a garden hose-sized artery. For the first time she realized that the broadsword was not merely her weapon—it was her ally!
The Beast let out an ear-bursting bellow. Gina dodged its huge foot as it changed position. Zack ran, too, to avoid its massive moving legs. In the tumult, under the Beast’s shifting belly and amid its crashing claws, brother and sister lost sight of one another.
Gina scanned madly, trying to spot the wounded leg. Buigor had said that leg-cutting, like tree toppling, took multiple hacks, and she was singularly focused on felling the Beast. There! Blood was spraying from the leg as if it were a broken steam pipe. She dodged the creature’s truck-sized front left foot and dashed toward the wounded limb. Knowing it could move again at any moment, she closed her eyes, secured a two-handed grip, and swung with all her might.
The blade connected, but something was wrong. There was no resistance, no sense of mass. The sword felt weightless in her hands. Then she heard a cry:
For half a second, she thought it had come from the Beast, but when she opened her eyes, she saw Zack standing where, a moment before, the Beast’s leg had been. She’d hacked her brother open with the broadsword! She screamed. Zack screamed. They stared at one another as the universe froze.
And then time started back up again.
Why wasn’t Zack lying on the ground with the sword half-way through him, confirming the unthinkable—that she had killed her own brother?
“Why aren’t you dead?”
“I don’t know.”
“The hauberk! Oh, Zack! Thank God, you’ve got the—“
“No, I don’t. I gave it to you.”
Gina’s face twisted. “But then how—“
“Thank God, you’ve got it.” He pointed at her stomach.
She looked down and, with zen-like detachment, saw the tip of the Beast’s demonic tail protruding from her abdomen. Her emotions pinballed from horror to relief to confusion; she simply could not process the information.
After a surreal moment, Zack reached forward, grabbed her by the forearms, and pulled her toward him, de-shish-kabobing her. The spaded tail whipped away. In a second the Beast would be on them again, yet Gina could not stop wondering, If I’m wearing the hauberk, why isn’t Zack dead?
And where is the broadsword?
Thoughts: Have you ever sensed, while in the midst of one of life’s battles, that some unseen force was in operation?
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