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       Reign, p.22

           Chanda Hahn
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  Captain Plaith’s warning came to her about the maze changing people, but as quickly as it came the memory was lost.

  She stopped ascending, and she was standing in a large room surrounded by glass. Night had fallen, and the stars lit the sky. She needed to do something, but what? Something clouded her thoughts.

  Someone else was in the room, sitting in a large chair. The darkness and a hooded cloak hid his face.

  “You came?” the voice said in disbelief. “I didn’t think you’d come.”

  “Of course I came,” her voice answered the shadow. “I need you…” but she couldn’t, for the life of her, remember why.

  The shadow moved and Mina saw a hand extend toward her. She placed her own in it and let the person move her to stand at his side, gazing out at the darkness visible through the glass.

  “This could be yours.” He gestured to the vast empty space. “If you wanted it, I would give it to you. If you would just promise to stay with me forever.”

  “I’ve no interest in kingdoms,” her voice was raspy, but she didn’t know why. All of a sudden, time seemed to slow.

  “You don’t know how long I’ve waited to hear those words.” He sighed and removed his hood so she could see his face. Jared’s glorious gray eyes stared back at her and her heart swelled with love.

  She missed him so much! She tried to speak, but her voice caught.

  He reached for her and pulled her into his arms. “You’re unlike anyone I’ve ever met.” His hands moved up and down her face as if he were trying to commit her to memory. He brushed the tears on her face. “Are you crying? Have I done something to upset you?”

  “No, you’ve done nothing wrong.” She couldn’t help it. She reached up for him, standing on her toes. He responded by leaning down.

  Their lips met in a kiss. It started out soft and gentle, but progressed into so much more. She could feel his desire to deepen the kiss, so she ran her hands up the base of his neck. He stooped down and lifted her into the air, spinning her and pulling her close into his arms.

  She squealed as he spun her.

  As soon as her feet touched the floor, he lifted her chin to give her a few more pecks across her lips. “I’ve waited centuries for you to come. Will you stay? Will you stay with me?”

  Everything felt so real. He was here, in her dream again. She could feel his physical breath on her face.

  Guilt flooded her, because she was the reason he was gone. If she could change it, she would. She decided right then, that at least here, if she couldn’t have Jared in her world, she would have part of him here in his. It may be the only way she could ever see him again.

  “Yes, Jared, I will.”

  “Jared? Again with this Jared?” His grip moved to her arms and tightened painfully. “You betray me already?” Teague shoved her away.

  “I do everything for you. I kept the others at bay with the hedge maze so you could get here first. But you couldn’t get past a simple hedge glamour. I even ignored the fact that you stole from me, ran away, and killed one of my Reapers. The mercy I’ve shown you has been astounding. I thought perhaps we were destined for each other because of the dreams. I could even have believed we had a chance at love.”

  “Wait, I didn’t mean to say his name,” Mina called out, but Teague shrugged her off, hurt.

  “There’ve been so many questions you’ve avoided since the beginning. Everyone warned me from you. But you are unlike anyone I’ve ever met. Your attitude, the way you talk. It was all so refreshing, so different.”

  He kept blinking his eyes. Mina realized that there was something in the air still clouding her thoughts. Was it affecting Teague too? She moved to the window and pushed it open. A rush of cold air flowed in, making it easier to breathe.

  “But it was all an act, wasn’t it? You’ve been lying to me from the beginning. Haven’t you? We’ve asked and no one has heard of you. Who are you? Is Elle Cinder even your name?”

  A shadow sprang from darkened stairwell and Ferah emerged, running up to Teague from behind. He turned to her in surprise, but his reaction was slowed by the drugged mist she had released into the room.

  Mina cried out as Ferah stabbed Teague in the heart with a knife.

  “Noooo!” Mina wailed, rushing at Ferah. “What are you doing?” She gripped Ferah by the shoulders and yanked her off of the prince. It was happening all over again. Just as she was helpless to save Jared, she was helpless to save Teague.

  His face was filled with pain and he looked between the two girls. “Betrayed. From the beginning.” He reached forward and pulled the knife out of his chest, letting it clatter to the floor. Seconds later, he fell to the ground.

  What was she supposed to do? Mina pressed her hands into his wounds and tried to stop the blood. Her hands were shaking, but she continued to apply pressure until she felt heat penetrating through her hands. A bright light formed from the center of his chest and grew brighter and brighter until the whole room was a ball of intense light, and it shot out of the tower into the night.

  In the distance, trumpets sounded, as the Fae mistook the light and celebrated the choosing of their new princess. Explosive balls of light she assumed to be fireworks exploded in the sky, casting a sadly beautiful array of colors over the dying Teague.

  Except whatever she was doing was working.

  The bleeding stopped, and the wound slowly reknitted itself, leaving only a small pink scar dangerously close to his heart. But it beat beneath her hands.

  “Teague?” She cupped the side of his face. His deep blue eyes flickered open in pain, and he started to scream.

  Chapter 29

  It was a soul-shattering scream that wouldn’t end.

  “What did you do?” Snatching the knife from the floor, Mina cast an accusing glare at Ferah. She brandished the knife, threatening at the elf.

  The blade wasn’t whole. A piece was missing from the tip.

  Ferah’s blue eyes widened when she saw the piece missing. She fearfully turned to watch Teague as his screams subsided. He grasped his stomach in pain.

  “What? What have you done? You’d better explain quick.” Mina snarled, moving closer to the girl.

  Ferah shrugged. “I was sent here to kill him because of the prophecy. He will be the destruction of the Fae. But the Royals are so strong that only a weapon made from dark magic would work. Or so we thought.”

  Mina glanced at the knife in her hand.

  “It didn’t work.” Ferah stared at Mina with awe. “You healed him somehow, though the tip of Erjad blade is still in him.”

  “What’s happening to him?”

  “This is bad. This is very bad. The blade is made of pure hate. I can only assume it nicked his heart and a piece is still there. It’s changing him.”

  “Stop it.” Mina screamed at her.

  Ferah shook her head. “I can’t. I don’t know how.” She pulled another blade from her belt. “Accept that now I have to finish the job. Otherwise he will kill us all.”

  Mina pulled the Grimoire from her skirt and stood in front of Teague. “I will not let that happen.”

  Ferah smiled ruefully. “Have it your way, human.”

  Mina was only slightly taken aback. “You know who I am?”

  “Of course I know. I told you there’s a prophecy, and I’m here to stop it from ever taking root.”

  “And I’m here to tell you that I’ve seen the future. I’m a Grimm, and the dark prince, Teague—he is my problem now,” Mina snapped. She held the book in front of her as it changed into a long bow. The knife in her hand shifted into a deadly golden arrow. Mina pulled back the string with the arrow nocked and ready to release. “I dare you. Dodge this if you can.”

  Ferah backed away. “Okay. But don’t say I didn’t warn you.” She nodded toward Teague, who had rolled over and was gripping his stomach and moaning uncontrollably. “We will be expecting you to handle the dark prince. If you do need help, you can call on us.” Ferah continued to move away fr
om Mina.

  “Who are you?” Mina kept her sight set on the girl.

  “We are a collection of Fae, dedicated to the preservat—”

  “Stop!” Mina cut her off, her mind seriously spinning. “I know who you are. You’re the Godmothers.”

  Ferah smiled wryly. “So you’ve heard of us? As a farewell gift, and to show you I bear you no ill will, I’ll see to your friend the pixie.”

  “You’ll get no thanks from me.”

  “I wouldn’t expect it. Not when you are the one who will suffer more than any for your choice you made today.” She turned and disappeared down the stairwell.

  Mina waited and watched. When Ferah didn’t return, she released the bow. It shifted back into the Grimoire. She picked up the knife and ran over to Teague to try to figure out what to do. Maybe she could use the knife to cut the wound back open and extract the tip. She looked at the tip that was missing. There couldn’t be more than a quarter inch still inside of him.

  Could she use Fae magic to wish it out? She closed her eyes. With everything in her, she focused on the words. “Please. Come out of Teague.”

  Nothing. Her own heart clenched in pain.

  She tried to hold Teague still as he continued to thrash and scream. Desperate, she lifted the knife above his chest and prepared to re-open the scar. Teague chose that moment to open his eyes.

  What she saw in them terrified her to her very core.

  His eyes flashed from blue to gray to blue again. Dark veins ran across his face and chest. Hate radiated out from him. His hand shot up and gripped her wrist, squeezing hard. He pushed her away, and she fell backwards onto the floor.

  Teague pushed himself up from the floor and stood over her. He exuded power from every pore. She could feel it flowing from him, and it made her shake in her glass slippers. She tried to crawl backwards, away from him, but he stretched out one hand toward her. By magic, she was lifted into the air. She panicked as he moved her in front of the glass windows.

  “You are a liar and a deceiver. Every last one of your kind will be punished for trying to kill me.”

  “No, I didn’t. I saved you!” Mina explained, but Teague was having none of it.

  “You saved the elf. I saw you in the forest. You did it so she could come and kill me. You were the bait. Very effective and pretty bait, I do have to admit.”

  The tower lit up as another crackle of fireworks lit the sky, creating a mirror ball effect of colors in the room.

  “Teague, listen to me. You’ve been poisoned. Ferah stabbed you with an enchanted knife and a piece is still inside you. Its dark magic is turning you evil.”

  “Evil? I’ve never felt better or more powerful! Watch!” Still holding her suspended in the air, Teague blinked. Every window in the towers shattered, blasting outward and raining shards of glass on the maze below.

  “And now you will pay for your betrayal. An assassination attempt on me is considered treason. But I’ve seen how you handle our Reapers. So how about the rest of your family? Hmm? I will hunt them down, toy with them like play things, and make them pay for your sins.”

  “No!” she gasped out. “Please, they’ve done nothing wrong. I was only trying to save you. To help you, because I care about you.” She continued to struggle. Through the broken window, she could see guards racing from the palace to the tower. The King and Queen followed closely behind them. It seemed the exploding windows were evidence enough that something was not right.

  “Then who’s Jared?” he snarled.

  “It’s you!” she cried out. Tears poured out of her eyes as she realized she wasn’t getting through to him. “You’re right. I’m not who you think I am. Elle is not my name. It’s just the name of a girl in a story, a fairy tale. But I did come here to save my family.”

  His eyes bored into hers searching for the truth, but he must’ve believed all he saw were lies. His face came within inches of hers, and he reached up to touch a strand of her hair. “Instead, you’ve doomed them.”

  She was running out of time. Mina reached into her pocket for the Grimoire but her hand wrapped around something different. Something cold and cylindrical in shape.

  “I will stop you,” Mina threatened, as the cold air brushed against her neck. Teague was slowly turning her in mid-air. He stood in the middle of the tower, and she glanced back over her shoulder to see that he had moved her through a jagged opening where a window had been.

  It was a very long drop down. She wouldn’t survive.

  “I can’t wait to see you try.” He laughed cruelly and, with a flick of his wrist, sent her flying out of the tower.

  She gasped and tried to claw at the windowsill as she flew past, but she sliced her hands on glass. As she fell, she gripped the seam ripper within her bleeding hands and prayed. She stared into the night sky, alit with fireworks for her betrothal to Teague, and her heart broke. As much as she tried, she couldn’t change the past.

  It always had to come to this.

  She wasn’t scared, because she knew she’d done this before and lived. Calmly, she pushed the gem on the seam ripper. A great beam of light engulfed her, making an arc as she fell. Teague leaned over the ledge, an expression of utter disbelief on his face, as she fell through the portal—mere inches before the ground.

  As she passed through he screamed in rage—swearing that he would find her.

  Chapter 30

  Mina landed with a painful thud on a cold stone floor. Her eyes were blinded with specks of light and she had to blink a few times before she could see. She rolled over and saw that the gate to the Fae plane was still open. It seemed to be closing…although very slowly. She looked around the room—a crucifix hung above a small cot beside a chamber pot and a simple table. She heard a rattling cough nearby.

  “Were ist da?” a fearful voice called out from above her. She’d learned that much in German class her freshman year. Who’s there?

  “Me,” Mina groaned and pushed herself slowly off of the floor to address the man lying in the cot.

  He looked pale and sickly. His hair was slightly curly and damp from sweat. “Sind Sie ein Engel?”

  “Huh?” Mina had to pause and listen to his thick German accent. Was she an Angel?

  “Nicht,” she said, slightly proud that she remembered.

  The man sat up. “Wie heißen Sie?” What is your name?

  “Wilhelmina Grimm.”

  His pale face went even paler. Rubbing his hand against his chest, he stated excitedly, “Wilhelm. Wilhelm Grimm.”

  This time it was Mina’s turn to be shocked. She was in the room meeting her great-great-great-grandfather.

  Wilhelm started to laugh, but his laugh quickly turned into a coughing fit. The door opened and she immediately recognized Jacob from sketches of the brothers she’d seen from history books.

  He rushed in and quickly tried to calm his brother to stop the coughing. Lifting a wooden cup to Wilhelm’s lips, he gave him something to drink and then had Wilhelm lie back down. Jacob adjusted the covers around his brother and pulled the wooden chair up beside his cot.

  Wilhelm gestured to her and began to whisper excitedly to Jacob, who turned and apparently noticed her for the first time.

  He looked angry, and his tone of voice conveyed it well. “Warum sind Sie in das Zimmer meines Bruders? Sie gehören nicht hierher. Zu verlassen!”

  Mina couldn’t catch all of it, and she kept stumbling in her reply. Finally, she just gave up. “I’m sorry. I’m not good at German.”

  “English then?” Jacob’s eyes narrowed and he crossed his arms. “My brother insists you are his guardian angel.”

  “No, I’m not his guardian angel. I’m his granddaughter.”

  “False. Wilhelm has no children.” He smiled in triumph, believing he caught her in a lie.

  “No, he doesn’t have any children yet.” She sighed and worried about how to explain what was happening. She was about to point out the portal to the Fae plane hanging in the air that he had walke
d right under, but Jacob was distracted by Wilhelm’s coughing again. “What’s wrong with him?”

  Jacob ran his hands through his hair in defeat. “I bring him to Halle to see treatment for his…,” he moved his hand to his chest, “…heart and chest. He is sick and does not get well. I fear to lose him.”

  Mina felt her breath catch in her throat. This was it. It was Wilhelm. If he died, then his lines of descendants would never be born. Her father. Herself. This was why some Grimms were disappearing. Somehow, through it all, she had come to where she needed to be.

  But could she save him? She wasn’t sure, but she had to try. Mina stepped forward and very slowly placed her hand on Wilhelm’s chest. Just the touch of her hand made him sigh, and he reached up and placed his other hand on top of hers. She was misty-eyed. How many people got to travel back and see their ancestors? None.

  Jacob watched her like a hawk, and it was okay. She let him.

  The power didn’t come as easily to her as it did on the Fae plane. In fact, it wasn’t coming at all. It was impossible to find. And then she sensed it. It was just out of reach…so close…on the other side of the gate…that hadn’t quite closed yet. So she did the undoable. She pulled from the Fae plane and the magic came, making her hands glow with power. She pushed it into Wilhelm’s chest.

  He gasped and sat straight up.

  Jacob grabbed her from behind and tried to yank her away.

  “No! Not yet.” Wilhelm cried out and his other hand reached out and grabbed hers, keeping them pressed against his chest. A few seconds more, and he took a deep breath and smiled. “I can breathe. The pain’s gone,” he said in heavy accent. “You are angel.”

  Mina smiled and reached out to give him a very special hug. “No, you’re my angel. I’ve so much to tell you, but there’s so little time.”

  A loud noise came from the gate. Mina looked over in horror as a long black robed hand stretched through the glowing hole reaching out as if testing what was on the other side.

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