She laughed in relief as the shape shifter began to lick her face profusely. This was the Baldander that lived at the Godmother’s Guild! He hopped a few times and then jumped into the air again, transforming into a dragon.

Nan gasped behind her.

“Hello, Anders,” Mina laughed.

“What is it?” Nan asked, coming outside to pet the dragon.

“It’s a shape shifter,” Ever explained. “Normally, they don’t show themselves to people. This one must be defective.”

“Or he’s got good taste in friends,” Mina answered with a mischievous grin.

Nan scooped up the temporarily forgotten letter and handed it to Mina. “Who do you think it’s from? Is it from your Godmother? I still think that is the coolest thing to have a fairy Godmother. You deserve it so much. I’m actually a little jealous.”

Mina knew it would be from Constance since Anders was the one to deliver the message. She was, after all, the only teenager in history without a phone. The summons made sense…sorta. As long as the Baldander could keep a news crew or passerby from noticing his shape shifting from a raven to a dragon, blowing puffs of fire and lying around near the top of the building.

She opened the envelope and read the simple message.

Come quick to GMRC. We have answers.

The Baldander will lead you through the waterways.


~ Constance

It wasn’t the news she wanted, but it couldn’t be ignored. Mina headed back inside to get dressed. Ander voiced his opinion at being abandoned outside with a tiny roar.

“What does it say?” Ever asked, crossing her arms with evident worry.

She tossed the letter on Nan’s pink bedspread. It wasn’t like it was a secret. Ever read the note and looked up at her. “Do you want backup?”

Nan was just now reading over the same note. She turned and placed her hands on her hips. “Of course she wants backup. We’re not giving her a choice.” She linked her arm through Ever’s and gave Mina her try-and-talk-me-out-of-it stare.

“Fine,” Mina muttered. She grabbed a pair of Nan’s pants and a blue top that was set out, throwing Anders a stern look. “I sure hope you know your way in.”

Anders flew in happy circles as they headed downstairs to get a cab. It took some time and a lot of bribing but they finally convinced him to turn invisible and get into the vehicle. But once in, he scampered around the back of the cab. The girls kept squealing when he ran across their laps or legs and—of course—they received odd looks from the driver.

Mina hadn’t had time to dry her hair, but by the time the taxi dropped them off at the old Green Mill Recycling Center, it was dry. The taxi driver wouldn’t let them go off by themselves without some significant warnings about being out alone when it was getting dark.

“I’m the reason you don’t go out at night,” Ever snapped.

The elderly taxi driver took one look at her heavy eye makeup and black clothes and promptly closed his mouth, took the money, and drove off.

The last time Mina had been here, Jared had led her around the back of the building to a cellar door and broken in. She felt the memory in the pit of her stomach. But Anders led them away from the building and toward the water’s edge where a large caution sign stood. Something about unstable terrain. The girls held onto each other as they made their way down the rocky embankment.

Anders, visible again, shifted into an otter, dove under the water, and disappeared.

“I really hope he doesn’t expect us to follow him,” Nan asked. “Do you know how to get in?”

Ever shook her head. “Do I look like Godmother material? Ha, no. I brought Nix here, but I prefer to stay away from them.”

“What about the front door? What would happen if we knocked?” Nan asked.

“I’m not sure. There was another way in that Jared knew about, but they closed it off once he became—you know—evil. I’d say follow the Baldander,” Mina answered.

Ever looked around. “Something’s not right. There are more wards in place than last time. She pointed up at the branches of the nearest copse of trees. Mina noticed how still this grouping was compared to the others.

“That means there’s a ward, like a warning system in place. Like motion detectors. If they get disturbed, the Godmothers will know,” Ever explained.

The ground suddenly rumbled underneath their feet, and the water began to recede, away from the embankment.

Five feet—ten—fifteen—twenty—thirty. The water continued to move and part, as if two invisible hands were pushing it back to reveal a hatch in the middle of the lake floor. Anders popped out of the wall of water on the left and danced excitedly by the door.

“I guess that’s our cue,” Mina said, taking off toward the entrance. Nan and Ever followed closely behind. The closer they came to the metal hatch, the higher the wall of water looked. It was eerily similar to a biblical story, and Mina slowed down to study the river carefully. If it was released back, it could literally crush them beneath the water and they’d most certainly drown. But she couldn’t focus on that. She needed to reach the door and make it down the hatch before whatever magic was working stopped.

Nan slipped on the riverbed and fell on her rear. Anders’s movements became more frantic, but she promptly got up and ran for the door.

Mina made it first and turned the hatch wheel, but it wouldn’t budge. “Ever help!”

Both girls tried to turn it together. Nothing happened.

Water started to spill slowly back into the lakebed, soaking their shoes.

Nan, muddy and covered in sand, reached the wheel and tried as well. Anders looked confused and upset. “It’s stuck!” Nan yelled out. Fear was all over her face as she gauged the distance back to shore. The water wall clearly wouldn’t hold much longer. “We need to run for it!”

Ever shook her head, her face red from exertion with all the straining. “We won’t make it.”

“What are you talking about? You can fly!” Nan choked out.

“I’m not leaving either of you!” Ever screamed. “Back up now!”

Mina and Nan let go of the door. Anders crawled up into Mina’s arms and they watched as Ever closed her eyes and concentrated on turning the hatch handle. She got it to move, but even once turned, it wouldn’t open. Her forehead glistened from sweat. They could hear the giant door groaning, as it glowed brightly from Ever’s magic.

“Ever, hurry!” Nan screamed and wrapped her hands around Mina.

The door flew open, splashing water everywhere and revealing a downward staircase that was quickly filling with water.

“Go now!” Mina yelled, carrying Anders down the stairs into the darkness. Nan and Ever were on her heels. “Ever, can you get the door?”

Ever turned and used magic to pull the door closed just as the wall of water broke. The hatch fell back down, but didn’t latch because of the rushing water pouring into the stairwell.

Mina dropped Anders and ran for the hatch wheel. The force of the river almost swept her away. She held her breath and dropped her head under the water. Bracing her feet against the frame of the door, she pulled with all of her might. It felt like eternity, and her hands kept slipping, but if she didn’t close the door and stop the water, they would surely drown. Another pair of hands closed over hers and together they were able to turn it until they heard a click. They’d sealed off the onslaught of water.

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