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       Reign, p.10

           Chanda Hahn
 
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  Ever held up her hands. “Don’t drag me into this name-calling game, or both of you will lose.”

  Just then, Mei entered the hall of the mirrors, rejoining them.

  Constance moved to a small door near the floor and gave a slight knock. The door opened, and a little white mouse wearing spectacles and a blue robe stepped out.

  “Hello, Constance, Mina, and friends,” the small mouse said in greeting. His high-pitched voice was soft and squeaky. Nan squeezed Mina’s arm in unbidden excitement at seeing the talking mouse. He quickly ran up the closest frame, perched at eye-height for Constance.

  “Hello, Baynard. What is our current situation?”

  Baynard rubbed his small paws over his eyes and adjusted his glasses. “It’s not good, not looking very good at all. They’re disappearing at random.” He ran across the frame and crawled up a wire to the frame around another mirror. “Our sources say that this one is next.” It happened to be the same mirror that Nan had been looking into earlier. Baynard hopped onto the same ledge as the little brown mouse, who moved over so he could sit by her.

  “What’s going on?” Concern gripped Mina. Were the Grimms disappearing?

  Constance rubbed her hands together and then pressed them to her lips. “We’re not sure, but once we heard Mina’s concern about her brother, the Guild has been monitoring the other Grimms more closely. We’ve noticed that they are fading.”

  Mina’s heart beat a little faster at that word. Fading?

  “The watchers seem to have discovered a pattern.”

  “What kind of pattern?” Nix asked, moving to get a better view of the mirror everyone was now crowding around.

  Baynard nodded his head and looked at a small pad of paper that the brown mouse held up for him to see. “We don’t know for sure that it’s a pattern, but all of our research points to Leonard Grimm as the next one.”

  “Next one to do what?” Mina asked, feeling extremely anxious. She wondered what in the world Constance meant by “fading,” but now wasn’t the time to ask. Everyone was busy watching Leonard.

  Mina wanted answers, and grew more frustrated by the second. She was bored with watching this distant relative eat his dinner. He had polished off his sausage and was now working on the sauerkraut. He burped, wiped his mouth with a napkin, and then speared another sausage for his plate. He began cutting the sausage and stabbed a piece on his fork.

  Mina’s stomach was queasy just watching him eat, and she wanted to turn away, to look anywhere else. But everyone seemed to be waiting for something. So she watched the silver tined meat-bearing instrument head to his mouth and those fat greasy lips.

  The fork never reached Leonard’s mouth.

  It dropped suddenly to clatter on the blue plate.

  The reason it never reached its destination?

  The Grimm in question ceased to exist.

  Chapter 14

  “He’s gone!” Nix exclaimed. “Where’d he go?”

  Mina couldn’t believe what she’d just seen. One minute he was there—eating—and the next…he was gone. He’d just blinked and faded out.

  “Did a Reaper get him?” Mina asked, scared of the reply. She knew personally how dangerous it was when a hunter from the Fae plane had a Grimm in their sights.

  “Negative.” Baynard turned to the other mouse by the mirror. “Rewind it, please, Thistle.” The little brown mouse reached up and ran her hands across the glass. The Grimm was once again back in the frame. Thistle paused the glass by placing both paws over the mirror. They were able to get a closer look at Leonard, and in his paused state they could actually see him starting to appear translucent—thinner? Thistle lifted one paw, and we watched the horrendous scene all over in slow motion. He raised the fork to his mouth, and this time Mina watched Leonard’s face. He didn’t look scared; in fact, he didn’t even seem to notice what was happening to him. He was so focused on the food in front of him, he never saw his own doom.

  “What does this mean?” Mina asked. Her voice sounded anxious even to herself. “This has happened before? How often?”

  “Constance, do you mind?” Baynard asked. Mrs. Colbert held out her arm, and he scampered down onto her hand toward Mina. “Mina, I know you don’t know me. I’m one of the Guild, and we take our job very seriously. We are the ones who assign the Godmothers to their Grimms. And lately, like you just witnessed, they are disappearing.”

  “How can you let this happen?” Mina accused Constance.

  “We didn’t know what was happening at first. Our Godmothers were simply reporting that they couldn’t find their charges. But when you informed me about seeing Charlie flicker out, I knew it had to be more. We checked the looking glasses, but they can only hold a few minutes’ worth of history. All we saw were empty mirrors, frozen in time in the last place the Grimm was.”

  “Do they reappear somewhere else?” Nix asked.

  The mouse shook his head sadly. “All of our research shows that they’ve just ceased.”

  “What do you mean ‘they’ve just ceased’?” Mina cried out, fearing she already knew the answer.

  “They no longer exist. It’s like they are being erased from time. All we know for sure is that something seems to be following the Grimms’ line and wiping each of them out,” Thistle explained softly.

  “So you’re saying that because Mina is a Grimm, her branch of the family could be next? That Charlie, her mom, and she could be in danger of disappearing like that?” Nan pointed to the empty mirror.

  “Unfortunately, yes.” Thistle hung her head.

  “But you’re not certain it will target her family? It’s just a hunch? It could skip over her family entirely?” Nan’s voice rose in pitch with each question.

  “It won’t,” Mina spoke up.

  Ever turned to Mina. “It could be a fluke. Maybe it will stop. There’s no guarantee that the rats are right.”

  “They’re not rats. Baynard is part of the trusted Guild of Fae Godmothers, like me,” Constance spoke up sternly. “We are doing the best that we can.”

  “Well, maybe your best isn’t good enough. Maybe she needs a new Godmother,” Ever hissed.

  “Ever!” Mina warned.

  “No, she’s right,” Mei agreed solemnly. “I don’t know if I’m capable of protecting her. That’s why I pushed for allowing her friends to be a part of this. She needs help.”

  “It’s too late. I’m already starting to fade. It’s happened to my brother and now me. Tell me you know what’s causing this!” Mina spun toward Constance and Baynard.

  Constance sighed and looked to Mei. “I was afraid of that. Something has altered the course of the tale.”

  “Which tale? This doesn’t sound like any I know of,” Mina said.

  “Your whole life is one long tale, starting back to the very beginning with the Grimm Brothers. That is the beginning of your tale; you are in the middle of writing it.”

  It wasn’t the news she wanted to hear. “And you’re saying that someone has altered my tale? How can that be?”

  Baynard spoke up. “From what we’ve gathered, something big happened and altered the course of the Story. It may have to do with your ancestors. Do you see those mirrors that are yellowing and are covered with dust?”

  “Yes, what about them?”

  “They were not like that a week ago.

  “What?” Nix, Nan, and Mina said at once.

  “Something or someone has altered your history. It’s only a matter of time before this occurrence catches up to our current timeline.

  “How do I stop it?” Mina asked. “How do I stop something that I can’t see?”

  It was little Thistle that spoke up. She scurried down the wall and ran up Nix’s arm. “You can’t. Not at this time.”

  “Then she’s a sitting duck. Not any duck—probably a Peking duck.” Nan ran to her friend and wrapped her arms around her. “Don’t worry. I will hold onto you. I’ll never let you go.”

  “No, she has to go,” Th
istle piped up again.

  “You just said there was nothing she could do,” Nix intervened. “Make up your mind.”

  Thistle tapped her foot impatiently. “You’re not listening. I said there’s nothing she can do at this time. She can still stop this.”

  “How?” Mina and Nan chimed together.

  “There’s nothing you can do in the present. You have to go back in time.”

  Chapter 15

  “That’s outrageous,” Mina whispered.

  “That’s impossible,” Ever gasped.

  “That’s awesome!” Nan cheered.

  Ever looked the most startled at the prospect of time travel. Her face had paled. “It can’t be. I don’t believe it.” She kept casting Mina sideways glances and frowning, but Mina was quite used to the odd looks from Ever.

  The thought of going back into the past terrified her. What if she messed up—stepped on a butterfly and the following chain of events destroyed the world? Wasn’t there a movie about that? There was no way she could do it.

  “What does she need to do?” Nan jumped up and down in excitement.

  “Well, it’s going to take some preparation,” Constance said. “Baynard, how long would it take to get Schumacher in here to disassemble one of the looking glasses?”

  “I believe it would take two days to craft at least. But there’s no guarantee we could land her in the right spot or time.” Baynard turned and whispered to Thistle who took off running up a pipe that went into a wall and into the next room.

  The Guild had clearly decided on a course of action without her. They were going to send her back in time. Constance, Mei, and Baynard began to walk among the mirrors and study each of them. It seemed they were looking for a certain one.

  “I think we should use one of the oldest. They are the strongest and have garnered the most magic over the years,” Mei said.

  Constance nodded her head. “Yes, but we also need to make sure that we don’t destroy its powers in the making. This could get tricky.”

  Mina was temporarily forgotten by the Guild as they plotted their next move. Nan, however, was thrilled at the idea of Mina going back in time. She immediately started to pressure her with all kinds of demands. “Okay, make sure that you bring me back souvenirs, and if you see one of my family members, you should leave them with a set of winning lottery numbers. No, that won’t work. Lottery wasn’t invented back then. Wait, what time are you going back to?”

  “It doesn’t matter,” Mina said heatedly. “I’m not going.”

  “What do you mean you’re not going? If you don’t, you’ll disappear!”

  “We don’t know that for sure.” She knew it was a stupid thing to say—but at that moment she was feeling very overwhelmed. This was not a task for a seventeen-year-old girl. There had to be someone else who could go back and fix whatever was wrong with the timeline. Some other Grimm.

  She was about to ask Mei who else could go when she turned and met Nix’s angry emerald eyes.

  “Don’t even think about backing out. You have to do this!” he demanded. “It’s not just your own life that you have to save.”

  “Nix, I don’t know if I can.”

  “So what? At least you try. Mina, if it wasn’t for you, I would have given in to the darkness and become a Sea Witch…or I would have faded and died. If something in the past keeps you from coming into my life, I’m a dead man. Please do this! Please try and save—not only your family—but me as well.”

  “You have to! You have to try and save Charlie and your mom!” Nan jumped in, cheering her on.

  “No, send someone else! I’m not strong enough to do this.”

  When Ever met Mina’s eyes, she looked resigned. “You have to.”

  “I can’t, Ever. I don’t think I can.”

  Nix dropped to his knees and grabbed her hand. “Mina, I beg you please!”

  “I’m sorry Nix. Please don’t ask me again.”

  Mina ran from the hall of mirrors with no clear direction in mind. All that mattered was getting away.

  Chapter 16

  Loud footsteps followed Mina, and she turned expecting to have to dissuade Nix from pressuring her to go back in time.

  Instead she was confronted with Ever. Her eyes narrowed and her lips pinched in stubbornness. A flicker of agitation flew across her face. She was far past upset.

  Mina stood there with her hands on her hips. “Spit it out.”

  “Nix,” Ever said. “He helped you. He saved you.”

  Mina gave her a scorching look, but Ever ignored her. “I owe him nothing. My debt was paid before he ever came to the human plane.” Mina glanced around, still confused that he hadn’t followed her. “Where is Nix?”

  “I told him to not interfere and that I would try and reason with you,” Ever said defensively. “I won’t let you hurt him.”

  Mina was taken aback by her venomous tone. Ever’s invisible pixie wings fluttered behind her, stirring up her dark hair. Another sign of her heightened emotion.

  “I’m not going to hurt him,” Mina replied. “He’ll be fine. He’ll be better off if he never meets me. He’ll still be a Nixie. There’s no proof he would have turned into a Sea Witch. At least he’d still be alive.”

  Ever snorted. “He would have made a terrible sea witch. He’s too kindhearted.”

  “You should be worrying about me.”

  “Mina,” Ever said, trying to keep her voice calm and even. “Nix is human now thanks to you. He’s defenseless against the dark prince’s power.”

  “Yeah, defenseless like me.” Mina rushed out angrily.

  “Ugh, there’s so much I could—” Ever shook her head. “It’s your own fault. You returned the Grimoire to the Fae plane, you gimp. And destroyed…Jared.”

  “I didn’t know that would happen, because no one ever told me anything.”

  “Listen to me, Mina. Nix is good. Saving him is the one good thing you’ve done since I’ve met you. You betrayed Jared, and now he’s gone. I won’t let that happen to Nix. Someone has to protect him from you.”

  “What do you mean? By not going back, I’m not going to hurt Nix.”

  Ever sighed and rubbed her forehead. Her shoulders slouched forward in defeat. “Look you don’t understand. You have no choice. I see that now—so clearly.” Her eyes grew misty with tears. “And I’m going to hate myself forever for saying this…but if you don’t go back, I’ll never forgive you.”

  “Ever, what are you not telling me?”

  Ever rubbed her arms as if to ward off an invisible chill. “You’re a Grimm. You can’t help that. Even if you don’t mean it, you will eventually betray us all. But I care about Nix, and I…I want what’s best for him.”

  “I do too. You have to believe that.”

  Ever dropped her head, refusing to make eye contact. “I wish I could. All I can tell you, Mina, is if you do what the Godmothers tell you, you’ll save your family.”

  “How can you be certain?”

  She lifted her head and tears ran freely down her face. “I just have a feeling. Call it Pixie intuition if you must.”

  “Ever, that’s not enough.”

  “Why can’t it be enough?” She turned to kick the wall. “Gah, you were just as infuriating back then.”

  “What do you mean ‘back then’?”

  Ever blew out a deep breath and ignored the question. “Don’t try and argue with me. Get your tush turned around and go back to the hall of mirrors. You have a quest to finish and a family line to save. More than you can possibly know is riding on this. If you don’t mess this up, you have a chance of righting more than a few wrongs.”

  She wanted to ask more, but Ever vanished around the corner.

  Confused but determined, Mina retraced her steps and found the hall of mirrors. Nix sat on the floor, his head leaning against a smooth wooden frame. Nan kneeled in front of him, trying to coax him out of his depression. Constance and Mei were busy detaching a mirror from the wall and lowering it o
nto a rolling cart.

  Mei patted the antique mirror and gave Mina a wide smile. “I knew you’d come around. You are not one to let others suffer. Yourself? Yes. Others, no.”

  “I had to have someone talk some sense into me. I seem to have lost all my own for a minute.” Mina walked over to look at the mirror they had removed from the wall. The frame was made of crystal clear glass inlaid with diamonds and pearls. It looked to have been well taken care of over the years. “That’s beautiful.”

  “It’s very old. Probably the oldest mirror here.”

  “Whose is it?”

  “Don’t you worry about it.” Mei ran her hand across the frame and a sparkle followed her hand. “I know we are asking a lot of you. You have met every challenge so far with great strength and determination. I’m proud of you.”

  “Mei, I’m scared,” Mina admitted.

  “I know, sweetie. I’d question your sanity if you weren’t.”

  “What if I go and I can’t get back? What if I get stuck there…or killed?”

  Mei shrugged her shoulders. “There’s no guarantee, Mina. But we hope you can stop whatever is doing this to the Grimms.”

  Mina sighed. “What do I have to do?”

  Constance came and placed her hand upon Mina’s shoulder. “Do you still have the seam ripper?”

  “Yes.”

  “Good, because you never know when you might need to jump from plane to plane. Keep it with you at all times. We will do our best to get you to the right time.”

  “What do I do when I get there?”

  “You blend in. Try and find whatever caused the anomaly and fix it. But you will only have a short amount of time before you are transported home. A few days at most—but possibly as little as hours.”

  “And what if I can’t find the problem?”

  “Then you and your family are doomed.”

  “Okay then. No added pressure or anything,” Nan chimed in, coming to stand beside her. She met Mina’s eyes, her face full of understanding. “You know I would go with you if you asked.”

  “No,” Baynard answered. “We don’t have another mirror. We can’t send you both back.” He’d reappeared from a ledge above them, Thistle at his heels.

 
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