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Ch 33 - A bargain paid in blood

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Rhianna followed Gran and Teasel into the woods. When they reached the stone marker the brownie visibly relaxed, no longer looking like her was walking on glass. The glow of his chain faded as well.

Gran paused at the marker and crouched down to trace the spirals etched into its surface. "I haven't been here since the burial."

Rhianna wasn't sure what to say. Sorry the girl who isn't me died? The stab of jealousy made her feel guilty. The girl had been her sister. What would it have been like to have a sister—to not grow up rambling all over the country with a crazy mother?

Teasel bowed his head in respect, and Rhianna did the same.

"These patterns were not here before, did your kin make them, Teasel?"

"No, Blessed One."

"No need for titles. And it's been a long time since my horse ranch was blessed by your queen."

Teasel shrugged and tossed his hair out of his face.

"Is the stone haunted?" Rhianna asked.

Teasel squinted at the stone. "Not by a spirit as you humans like to think. But the magic and the potential, they are tied to the stone."

"The deal our ancestors struck, Rhianna, was that each new girl child born into our family would trade a part of her essence with Fairy, giving life to this world in exchange for the magic and blessing of the horse goddess.

Making Rhianna just a part of a whole that was long gone. The world began to grow dim again, but in the dimness she saw something glowing on the forest floor.

"Do you see that?" she whispered.

Gran spun around on her heel, not knowing which direction to look.

Rhianna pointed at the glow under the ferns. "It looks like a glowing seed."

"I don't see anything," said Teasel, "but that doesn't mean it's not there. You should pick it up, it must be a gift from the gods or a benevolent land spirit.

Rhianna bent down to pick it up. As soon as it lay in her hands the glow faded. It was a small choke cherry pit. She couldn't imagine what she was going to do with it, but she didn't want to be rude. She tucked it in her pocket.

"Let's keep moving," Gran said, kissing two fingers and laying them on the stone.

Teasel led the way and they moved through Fairy on a strange path. The landscape changed abruptly in places, as if a single step had taken them miles.

Finally they came to an enormous body of water. It was still and calm like a lake, but extended as far as the eye could see, like an ocean. Teasel stood by a swathe of sand churned up by hoof prints, which lead straight into the water.

"Is there a boat?" Rhianna asked.

He shook his head.

"Where did they go?"

"Under most likely." Gran shaded her eyes looking out across the expanse.

"Under!? They've drowned her!" Rhianna balled her fists up. The next time she saw Grayson or any of his darklings...

"Probably not, Fairy operates by different rules, remember. They have just taken her to their nest."

Rhianna walked to the waters edge, noticing for the first time the water was black like a sea of ink. As she stands there, the eerie quiet if broken by a musical sound. High above her a vee of white swans flapped their wings producing a lilting harmony. A single feather detached from the last swan and sailed down toward her, glowing like the seed.

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