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       Fairest, p.19

           Chanda Hahn
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  She used the Dead Prince Society as a distraction and rushed through the emergency entrance doors. Since most of the hospital staff had gone to take pictures at the front of the hospital, she found it a fairly easy route to take. She bypassed the elevator and took the stairs two at a time to Nan’s floor. Mina opened the stairwell door and listened for sounds of hospital staff. There were none. She slipped onto the floor and tiptoed down the hall, pausing when she had to cross the waiting room.

  As she expected, most of the night staff was at the window looking out onto the scene below. She could hear them whispering furiously deciding how they were going to take turns and go down to get autographs. Nurse Diedre and Dr. Martin were nowhere to be seen among the window gawkers.

  Mina was just going to have to take a chance that they weren’t about. As she moved silently toward Nan’s room, Mina began to doubt herself and her plan. Maybe she should have just called the police and told them someone was going to try and kill her best friend. But then, what if they didn’t believe her? She shook her head in frustration. She would have been taken in for questioning and asked how she knew all of this. What was she going to tell them? That a boy in a mirror told her a Grimm Reaper was going to kill Nan at midnight? It wasn’t happening.

  “I knew you would try and sneak back in,” A gravelly voice spoke close to Mina’s ear. “You shouldn’t be here.”

  She turned to see that Nurse Diedre had come up behind her. Her grey hair was still pulled into a tight knot. Her plump arms reached out to grab her, but Mina ran forward. She ran down the hall away from Nan’s room, hoping to lead the Fae away. The nurse was right on her tail. Mina turned down a flight of stairs and through another hallway, ignoring yellow signs and construction tape. She ducked through a set of double doors and ran through two sheets of plastic and froze. The smell of sheetrock, dust, and paint assailed her nose. She had unintentionally run into an unfinished wing of the hospital.

  It was a long wing, with tall metal beams, half-finished walls, and supplies stacked randomly around the room. Looking around for cover, she saw a large pallet of sheetrock. Mina ducked behind it and tried to make her breathing softer. A few seconds later, she heard the same double doors open with a creak followed by the swishing sound of plastic slowly being moved to the side.

  She could hear Diedre looking for her, her feet slowly moving across the cement floor. But then something changed; the sound became louder, and the floor vibrated with each step. She could hear breathing, and it was loud. Mina peeked around the corner of her hiding place and could see billows of dust floating up on the other side of the room where Diedre was. No, wait. It wasn’t dust; it was smoke.

  Mina heard a gurgling sound as if something was snuffing and breathing loudly. She froze in extreme terror, her mind trying to put together what she saw with the laser pointer with what she was hearing. It wasn’t good. A metal clang rang out, and Mina looked across the room toward where the sound originated. She could barely see the crowbar that had fallen to the floor. Her heart raced and thudded loudly in her chest.

  She didn’t need to see what was hunting her to know that Diedre had transformed into her Fae form, and she was coming closer to Mina’s hiding spot. Mina crawled on her hands and knees and moved over to a large pile of wood beams seconds before Diedre came around the corner.

  From her new hiding spot, she could see the Fae, and it terrified Mina. She was a dragon. Not the pretty fairy tale kind, but more of a shorter, stockier version. It walked and slithered on four legs and moved very much like a lizard. It was silver and black, and it coughed puffs of smoke. The dragon leaned down and sniffed the area that Mina had moments ago vacated.

  She was doomed; there was no way that Mina could kill the dragon, especially when she didn’t have the Grimoire. At most, she could maybe harm it or distract it while she got Nan out of the hospital. But she was running out of time and out of hiding places. The dragon was beginning to pick up speed in its search. As if it was the one becoming more desperate.

  Her hands were clammy with nervousness, and it finally dawned on Mina what she had going for her. As she watched the dragon maneuver the large room, she found its weakness. The dragon wasn’t very fast. The ceilings were too low to use its wings and so it was forced to amble around on its four legs. If she ran, she could outrun it.

  She ducked on the ground and began to crawl across the room to where she had seen the crowbar fall. Mina’s hand reached out to grab it, and she saw the tool belt next to it, left by a construction worker. Grabbing a hammer, Mina counted to three and tossed it as far as she could in the corner away from the double doors. It clanged loudly, and she heard the dragon roar in excitement and rush to the corner.

  Mina was finding it very hard to breathe as the room was becoming dense with smoke. But she took a deep breath, and as soon as the dragon passed her, she took off running toward the double doors.

  The dragon turned its deep blue, angry eyes on Mina and changed directions to chase after her. Mina screamed in fright when she reached the doors and pushed them closed as soon as she exited. Turning, she could see the dragon bearing down upon her through the glass slits. Clenching her teeth, she thrust the crowbar through the metal handles of the door just as the dragon tried to bust through the doors. Mina fell onto her backside in fear and watched as the large metal doors held firm. Smoke billowed out beneath the door every time she pushed against the crowbar, but they didn’t budge. A large blue eye pressed against the door pane and looked at her angrily.

  She swallowed back her fear, dusted herself off, and ran back upstairs toward Nan. Praying that the doors would hold until Nan was safe. Once she was back on the fourth floor, she walked quickly down the hallway, noticing the red and blue lights flashing on the wall when she passed a window. Someone had finally called the police. And now with police on the premises, all she had to do was get Nan out of the hospital and somewhere safe. She could try and track down the Reaper again and get the Grimoire back on a different day. She knew that the Reaper wouldn’t give up; she would eventually try and kill Mina. But by then, Mina would have found a way to kill a dragon.

  Mina came to room 413 and quietly opened the door slipping inside. The room was dark and the drapes closed with just a flicker of red and blue lights dancing on the ceiling. She couldn’t hear any music, which meant the impromptu concert was officially over. Walking over to the bed, Mina stumbled over something on the floor. She reached around in the near darkness to move the object, and her hand came in contact with a warm leg, and it was attached to a body. Mina pulled her hand away quickly and looked up to see that Nan was still asleep and her heart monitor was still quietly beeping.

  Slowly, she moved around the bed and reached for the light switch next to the hospital bed. Her hand shook with fear. Quickly, like pulling off a Band-aid, she flicked on the light and looked at the body on the floor. It was Dr. Martin. There was a large lump on the side of his head and blood on his forehead.

  Mina reached down to touch Dr. Martin’s neck to feel for a pulse, and he moaned softly. He was still alive! A soft beeping sound came from across the room, and Mina looked to the corner to see a man sitting silently in a chair watching her.

  He was dressed from head to toe in black with a long leather jacket that reached the floor. The man reached over and touched the alarm on his expensive watch, shutting it off. She looked at the clock in the room and back to the man in the chair. It was midnight. He slowly stood up and walked toward her, his hand reaching for a long wooden object leaning against the wall.

  She shook her head in confusion. Not understanding and not believing who she saw. She recognized him. It didn’t make sense.

  He clicked a button on the side of the wooden staff and a sword shot out. “You are just in time,” Karl spoke gruffly. “For the reaping!” He swung the sword at Mina’s head.

  Chapter 24

  Mina fell backward, tripping once again over the prone form of Dr. Martin. Karl smiled cruelly and easily pushe
d the hospital bed with Nan on it out of the way, exposing a direct path to Mina. What could she do? He could, kill any of them at any moment. She could only do one thing. Stall.

  “Why now? Why didn’t you kill me earlier when you had the chance? I mean, come on now, you had me and let me go. That doesn’t sound like you are a very good Reaper,” Mina taunted, forcing herself to sound braver than she was.

  Karl stopped and bared his teeth angrily, and then he did something unexpected. He laughed. A deep menacing chuckle that only got louder and louder.

  He stopped laughing and smiled at her. “It has been quite a few years since I killed my last Grimm, and truthfully, I wasn’t expecting to almost run one over.”

  He moved to the left, and Mina mirrored his movements by moving to the right, keeping out of reach of the sword.

  “Well, obviously, we are not all dead,” she taunted again, eyeing the blade.

  “I had caught wind of a new one arising and was hunting the Grimm.” Karl eyed her up and down carefully. “I wasn’t expecting one so young. For you to actually lie and tell me you were this girl,” he nodded to Nan sleeping in the bed, “was brilliant.”

  “If I had known who you were, I would have instantly killed you in the woods instead of delaying my kill.” He reached into his jacket and pulled out a black leather bound book. Mina stiffened when she saw it. It was the Grimoire, although it looked different since it had changed shape to accommodate its new master.

  “That’s mine,” Mina demanded.

  “Was yours.” Karl waved the book around. “It’s probably the only thing that saved you that night. I hadn’t planned on finding this. I didn’t recognize what I had, and when I finally figured out it was the fabled Grimoire and that you had lied about who you were, it was too late. Someone had alerted the rangers to where we were. So I took my prize and let you escape. But I knew that if I baited you, and killed this Nan Taylor, you would come to me.” He opened his hand in an inviting way and pointed to Mina. “And I was right: here you are.”

  “So you are the one imprisoning the Fae in the book,” Mina accused.

  Karl shrugged his shoulders nonchalantly. “They all had it coming. Actually, all of the Fae have it coming, including you.”

  “What about Jared? What did you do to him?” Mina yelled.

  Karl looked at her confused. “I didn’t capture a Jared. Well, not that I know of,” he laughed.

  Her mouth pursed in thought. She was out of time. She heard a commotion in the hallway that was coming closer, and so did the Reaper. Karl yelled loudly and raised his sword high in the air when the door burst in and Nurse Diedre rushed in jumping directly into the path of the sword. She screamed and halfway changed shape midair right as the sword cut down onto her silver-scaled shoulder. It imbedded deep into bone. Her scream dissolved into a roar of pain as she collapsed to the ground. The sword had broken in two; half stuck in the dragon Diedre, the other half held pathetically in a very nervous Reaper’s hand.

  The old nurse, beaten and battered, pulled herself up and changed fully into her dragon form, backing the reaper into the corner. He tried to dive right, but she clawed at his jacket and ripped open the pocket containing the Grimoire.

  Mina saw it fall out and skitter across the floor. She dove for it, but so did Karl. Right when he grabbed the Grimoire, Diedre bit down on his leg. He screamed and reached into his jacket for another of his reaping weapons--a wickedly curved blade which he stabbed into the dragon’s nose.

  Mina didn’t look back; she didn’t have time. She fumbled and pulled Dr. Martin up to a standing position and rolled him onto the foot of Nan’s bed. He was barely on. She unplugged Nan from the machines and began to roll the hospital bed toward the opened door. Giving thanks, that the new hospital rooms were large enough to accommodate a moving bed and a large dragon.

  She swung the bed into the hallway and looked back toward the door to see a large gust of flame erupt out of the room. She could hear the sound of fighting and smell the smoke of the dragon. Mina needed to get people out of the hospital and fast. On the wall was a red fire alarm, and she pulled it. Immediately, the alarm went off, and the few night staff that weren’t downstairs watching the police commotion outside began to evacuate the hospital rooms. Thankfully, Nan’s room was the only one occupied down her hallway. When a nurse began to run toward the room filled with fire, the dragon, and Reaper, Mina intercepted her.

  “Hey! Don’t go down there, there’s a fire. I managed to get them out, but I need you to take them.”

  The nurse, whose name tag read ‘Mandy’, looked down the hall to where Mina pointed. Her eyes widened in fright and her training kicked in; she grabbed the bed and began to push toward the emergency exit. Mina could see patients that were strong enough to walk, being escorted toward the stairs. Others were lifted and carried.

  Looking down the hall, Mina saw the nurse wave to a young man who did a fireman lift on the doctor and head down the stairs. Mandy scooped up Nan and carried her down herself. They were the last to exit the floor. Satisfied that they would be safe, Mina ran back toward the room.

  The floor rumbled under her feet, and then a wall crashed outward as Diedre and Karl fell into the hallway. Karl stabbed the dragon again, but Diedre used her large claws to rake down his stomach. Unbelievably, he wasn’t sustaining as much damage as the dragon. The dragon bit his arm, and a loud metallic crunch was heard.

  Mina grabbed a fire extinguisher from the wall and ran back into the burning room. She used the extinguisher to clear a path to look through the fiery rubble. Somewhere in this wreckage was the Grimoire. Smoke burned her eyes, and she dropped to the ground to stay below the rising smoke.

  There it was. The Grimoire was in a pile of debris by the wall. She used the extinguisher on the wood that was burning right above the book, hoping it wouldn’t catch fire. She grabbed the book and hurriedly made her way out into the hall. She saw that the fire had now spread down to the other rooms and that Diedre and Karl were now fighting in the waiting room.

  Mina held the Grimoire in her hands and could almost feel the book take an audible sigh. “You ready?” she asked the book.

  “It’s about time,” Jared spoke loudly next to her. “I thought you were going to forget about me.”

  She looked over her shoulder and saw Jared in head to toe black. “I should have abandoned you. You deserve it.” He was about to say something else when a painful roar filled the air.

  Mina began running toward the sound and saw that the dragon had Karl’s blade embedded deep in her belly, but she had pinned him to the ground with her sheer weight. If she moved to remove the knife, Karl would escape. If she stayed where she was, slowly but surely the knife would bury deeper into her abdomen. The dragon roared in pain, and began to bite at the Reaper’s arms, making very little progress.

  “Why isn’t he dying?” Mina cried out.

  “The Reaper is an iron giant. Her dragon claws, teeth, and fire won’t be enough to kill him.”

  “What can kill him?” Mina wailed.

  “No one knows, but she will kill herself trying to protect us,” Jared said sadly. He looked upon the old dragon, and his eyes had a glassy look to them, like he was crying.

  “Do it!” the dragon roared out in a high gravelly voice. Mina looked over to Diedre whose mouth formed very distinct words. “Do it now! Use the book!” She commanded.

  Karl began to panic when it heard the dragon speak and tried to fight. He bellowed and shifted into a man larger than an Ogre but with thinner arms and legs. His skin became translucent and silver. He yelled, screamed, and punched the dragon, trying to get away. The Reaper was fearful of being imprisoned in the book.

  “Why is she doing this? Tell her to stop and move away.” Mina opened the book, but Jared shook his head.

  “She won’t. He is too strong for either of us, and we can’t weaken him. If she released him, we would never catch him to entrap him in the book. It’s the only way.” Jared stared at the
dragon regretfully and walked over to her. He touched the scales of her side, and Mina heard the dragon sigh with happiness.

  “I won’t do it,” Mina decided, tears running down her cheeks, feeling intense loyalty to the dragon, who only moments ago she thought was the reaper. She had assumed the dragon was trying to hurt her, but in reality, she was trying to scare her away from the hospital. Now, she was protecting them.

  Jared turned on her angrily. “You will. If you don’t, you dishonor her death and it will be for nothing.” He continued to rub the dragon’s scales and even went so far as to touch her bleeding silver snout.

  Karl reached down and grabbed ahold of the handle of the jagged knife and began to push it further into the dragon. The dragon roared out in pain. Jared tried to grab the knife from Karl, but the dragon swung her wide head and knocked Jared across the room, out of the reach of the giant.

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