Nan’s eyes widened as she recognized the small Chinese woman as well. She nodded.

“She goes by Meira here.”

Mrs. Wong smiled at Nan. “I’m a brownie. You can call me Mei.”

Anders ran across the polished floor toward Constance in obvious distress, squeaking and making odd noises. Her brows narrowed and she frowned. Apparently, Constance could understand them. “What happened, Baldander?”

The creature answered.

“I see. That’s horrible!”

She looked to Nix. “Are you okay? Would you like to go to the healing garden?”

Nix shook his head. “I’ll be fine. I won’t leave Mina.”

“As you like. Let’s get them dry.” Constance nodded to the puddles that were forming under their feet.

Mei waved her hands over the girls’ clothes and, within seconds, they were dry.

Mina filled Constance in on their earlier events—the accident and Teague’s warning. Both Mei and Constance were stumped.


“We shall have this incident investigated immediately,” Constance said.

“Mina,” Mei said softly, “on the tail of our recent discovery, this is worrisome indeed.”

“The reason I’ve brought you here, Mina, is so you can meet with the leader of the Guild and we can discuss a development. Come with me now; Nan and Ever can stay here.”

“No, they come with me. I’m not letting Nan out of my sight, until I know that no one is going to mess with her memories.”

Constance’s eyes squinted, her thoughts impossible to discern.

“All right. But you mustn’t interfere with the Guild’s decision, Mina.”

“I won’t. As long as I agree with their decision,” Mina added. She slowly stepped in front of Nan, in a protective manner. Mei caught Mina’s eye and gave a subtle wink.

A small smile flew across Constance’s lips. “We shall see. Mei, notify Ken and the others to put more wards up and send a team to investigate this interloper. We can’t be left vulnerable,” Constance warned.

“Yes, we’ll get right on it,” Mei answered before disappearing out into the hall.

“Follow me please.” Constance gestured toward the girls.

Nix stepped in line behind Nan.

“Nix, you don’t have to come,” Constance said.

“Yes, yes I do,” he said.

“Very well. This way.” Constance pointed toward a gray metal door at the back of the room, the rings on her fingers glinting in the light.

They followed Constance out the door and down a hallway. The temperature started to drop and Mina’s heart felt heavy. She could tell just from these two signs which way they were heading.

“Nan, close your eyes and give me your hand,” Mina whispered.

“What?” Her small voice sounded so distant and unsure. “What’s happening?” Even now she was affected by the dangerous feelings assailing her. Nan gripped Mina’s hand tightly. Nix slipped in front of Mina and took her hand, taking lead. He used his own body to block the Troll’s unnatural gaze.

Ever sucked in an audible breath and shivered. “What is that?”

Constance turned to warn them, but nodded her head for Nix to continue leading Mina and Nan past the troll. Mina’s skin prickled and she could feel the hate radiating from the large gray troll who was slowly turning to stone.

“He’s been trapped here for the last twenty years, when Teague last attacked the GM’s headquarters,” Mina said. “As long as you don’t look the troll in the eyes, you can pass him. Most everybody is used to ignoring him.”

“I’m scared.” Nan’s hand shook in Mina’s. “I feel…I feel…I need to get away from here.” She pulled her hand away, and Mina knew the moment Nan opened her eyes and saw the troll. She froze on the spot—her mouth opened in fear, her eyes locked onto the troll. Tears started to pour from her eyes and her body trembled.

“Nan, don’t look.” Mina yanked on Nan’s hand, but she wouldn’t budge.

Nix rushed forward and wrapped his arms around Nan in a strong hug, burying her face in his chest, breaking the visual connection. His arms rubbed up and down her back in a comforting way. He whispered soft, encouraging words to her. When he was able to move her, he guided her down the hall and around the corner.

Mina kept her eyes on the ground and followed, only pausing when she thought she heard something. It sounded like the troll had spoken—but that was impossible.

His lips were sealed shut.

Looking at the troll from the side wasn’t as dangerous as a straight on. So Mina stopped and looked at the monster. He hadn’t changed since she’d seen him a few months ago. More of his face had turned to stone, but his eyes still moved.

He blinked a few times and tried to turn his head to look at her. The sound came again. It was coming from the troll.

Mina stepped closer, keeping just out of his line of sight. He was trying to speak to her. She leaned in to listen as the troll tried again.

“Soooooon!” the troll hissed.

Chapter 13

That one word made Mina’s whole body quake in terror. No one else seemed to hear the troll’s veiled threat since they had moved on and down the hall. She picked up her pace and joined the rest of the group.

Constance stopped in front of a large bolted door surrounded with golden seals. “Before you go, Mina, there is something I need to mention.” The Fae music teacher turned to look toward Ever, Nan, and Nix. “You are taking on the responsibility of deciding how much you want to endanger your friends. Do you understand that?”

Mina swallowed but nodded. It was a hefty burden, but at least they’d be together. If she left them here, she had no idea what they’d face. And they wouldn’t know what she was up against either.

Constance raised her hand, and a glow emanated from her palm. The seals mirrored the glow until Mina heard a set of clicks and the sound of metal sliding into its casing. Constance pushed the door open, and a soft white light poured from within.

“Come,” she beckoned. Nan hesitated only a second before entering.

Mina, Ever, and Nix followed and spread out to surround a small glass table which held on it an inscribed and gilded wooden box.

Constance waited until the door behind them had completely closed before she spoke. “Nix please lock the door, I need to put up a ward so nothing escapes.”

He turned the deadbolt on the door and Constance—Mrs. Colbert—sang a scale of disharmonic notes. The letters on the box lit up, and Mina heard another click as if the box had unlocked.

Nan looked scared, but her curiosity got the better of her. “Escape? What’s go—”

Nan froze. Mrs. Colbert finished waving her hand in the air and let it fall to her side.

“What did you do? Unfreeze her now!” Mina rushed to her friend and checked to see if she’d been harmed.

“She’s fine and will unfreeze momentarily. We just need a minute without her to discuss our terms before we proceed.”

Mrs. Colbert gently opened up the lid and then pulled the sides open to reveal a hundred small compartments, each covered with a unique symbol. Her fingers flowed across each of them as she searched for the one she wanted.

“Aha!” she said softly. As she pulled open the small compartment, a tendril of light began to trickle out of the box. She wound it around her finger, and it solidified into a small golden charm. Quickly, she closed the drawer, as another tendril of light wanted to escape after the first one.

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