The Enchanted Press Part 12
Sen returned just as I finished my message to the High Queen, my jaw and chest tight from the effort. Duncan was also fatigued, his black eyes glassy and remote as if he’d retreated to a dark corner of his mind.
For a heart-stopping moment, I feared the PTSD had affected him. With brows drawn together, I leaned forward on my stool. “Duncan,” I called waving my hand in front of his face.
“Duncan,” Sen cried.
With a shudder, Duncan came back to himself, an overabundance of feathers falling off him like fluffy rain. He looked like a half-plucked chicken. “Sorry Sen,” he said, brushing a heap of them on the floor. “All this stress… I’m molting.”
With a sympathetic smile, Sen rounded up some birdseed and a bowl of water for him. Even without her powers, she could carry hefty loads easily.
No sooner had Duncan’s food appeared when a steamy bowl of corn chowder, a warm loaf of pumpernickel bread and a flask of mead plopped down in front of me. My mouth watered at the sight. It smelled delicious.
“Thank you,” I said, tucking in.
“What happened to your frog companion?” Sen asked.
“I don’t know. He took off last night when I was at Gepetto’s.”
“That doesn’t surprise me. That son of his is an awful child.”
With a mournful nod, I thought of Patience’s dead body and Gepetto’s dire circumstances. How much longer could my old friend carry on this way? I dropped my spoon and pressed my fingers together. Suddenly, I wasn’t as hungry anymore.
Sen must have noticed my sudden melancholy because she dropped a hank of butter beside the bread and quickly changed the subject. “You should eat, Shirley,” she said with soft-hearted understanding.
“The crickets aren’t the only ones watching out for Gepetto.”
My anxiety lessened a little at this statement, relieving its painful clench on my stomach and allowing room for a little food. I sipped at the broth.
“When was the last time either of you slept?”
“It’s been a while,” Duncan said while pecking at his food.
As I cut a portion of butter and spread it across some bread, I snorted, grateful for a lighter topic of conversation. “You were dead asleep when I arrived at your shack this morning.”
Duncan paused from eating and set a beady eye on me. “I had just dozed off,” he said with a short laugh. The tension holding his shoulders fast against his head decreased allowing gravity to press them back down closer to where they belonged. It’s amazing what a warm meal and good company can do for the soul. “Had to look after everyone else most of the night,” he added with a deep sigh.
Sen gave an appreciative nod and topped off his water. “It’s been the same for everyone not affected by the sickness.
“How are the younglings?” I asked.
“That’s good. What will happen to them?”
“My sisters and I will look after them. Don’t worry, Tims,” she added with a wink at my troubled expression. “The Twelve Fairies is much more than a pub.”
I smiled sheepishly and surveyed the room, wondering where the secret chambers were located. “I should have known.”
Sen followed my gaze. “You won’t find them without me or one of my sisters. We may have lost our wands but the magic we used before that is still active.”
Hoping she’d divulge a few fairy secrets, I looked at her expectantly. She told me nothing. Disappointed, I turned my attention back to my meal and found I’d lost my appetite again. All I could taste was the failure of my incomplete maps of the Kingdom.
Please don’t blame me for the lack of fairy godmother information. As I stated earlier, dear reader, fairies are selfish at sharing where they live and their ancient knowledge.
Sen and Duncan shared a laugh. “Surely, you’re not still sore about your maps, Shirley?” Duncan said.
By way of a reply, I shoved a piece of bread in my mouth and chewed slowly. They laughed harder at this. Once they sobered, Sen returned to the business at hand.
“You two should rest up before you leave tonight.”
“We can’t leave tonight—the gates close at dusk,” I argued.
Sen chuckled, raised her hands and swept them through the air, motioning to the four corners of the place. “I told you this place was more than a pub?”
Once Duncan and I finished our food, Sen led us up the same stairs she’d used earlier with the younglings. Candles set every few feet in the wall lit our way. Sen and I could see in darkness, but Duncan and other patrons required a light source.
It may have been early afternoon outside but the stagnant light from the small windows in the pub didn’t accommodate a clear view of the steps. We made our way up the first flight, (Duncan flew part of the way before resting on my shoulder) then stopped on a small landing at the base of a second set leading up into semi-darkness.
One candle flickered half-way up the paneled wall, its pale rim of light glowing like a feeble sun. Thick shadows danced along the ceiling and floor, playing with the light like ripples across a lake.
I began to wonder why we’d stopped and stood crowded together on the landing when Sen alighted on the newel post beside me and tapped out a complicated rhythm on it. “Look out below,” she shouted as the floor opened up beneath my hooves.