Chapter Twelve

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Part III

Chapter Twelve

I’m certain the past week has been the longest in creation: seven whole days without training and assignments. Torturous. I’m allowed back at the Guild tomorrow, but Tora gave me an assignment tonight after I convinced her that my suspension technically ended when the sun went down.

So that’s how I wound up stalking a young couple through an abandoned park. It doesn’t seem like the best location for a first date, but since I’ve never actually been on a date, what would I know? The boy and girl pick their way through the overgrown grass. The boy stops, leans against a rusted pole, and reaches for the girl’s hand. She lets him pull her closer. He whispers something in her ear, and she laughs softly. Very sweet, except that something is about to attack them.

I scan the surrounding area. What fae creature will be stupid enough to try to attack these humans tonight? I imagine my bow and arrows, invisible but ready to appear the moment I call to them. My fingers twitch in anticipation.

Movement at the edge of the park catches my attention. A small, pale green head with pointed ears is visible just above the top of the grass. Large luminous eyes shine through the darkness. A pixie. Several pixies, in fact. They form a line that snakes through the grass toward the broken playground equipment.

This can’t be the threat I’m waiting for. Pixies are annoying, but they’re not dangerous. And they’re far more interested in humans’ possessions than in humans themselves. But I allow my glittering bow and arrow to take shape beneath my fingers anyway. No harm in being cautious.

I watch the pixie heads bob up and down as they skip toward the slide. Reaching it, they climb over one another in their excitement to reach the top. With a delighted squeal, the first pixie launches itself down the slide on its stomach, expertly avoiding the hole halfway down. I can’t help smiling. Pixies aren’t that bad, I guess. They’re actually kind of cute when they’re not sticking their fingers into your ears at night or trying to steal your stuff.

The second pixie leaps off the top of the slide, pumping its little fists in the air as it whooshes toward the ground. It flies off the end of the slide, right into the clutches of a hideous goblin.

A goblin? My attention snaps back to the task at hand. This must be why I’m here. I raise my bow and arrow, pull back against the tension in the cord, and let go. The arrow zings across the park and lands in one of the goblin’s hairy arms. I let loose another, and another, each arrow appearing the moment the previous one is spent. The goblin slaps at the arrows, flinging the tiny pixie into a nearby bush in the process. The goblin lets out a grunt, then scans the park with his bulging orange eyes. He finds me—and launches himself in my direction.

Time to play.

As large as a grown man, the goblin’s size slows him down. I’ve easily jumped out of his way by the time he skids into the tree I was just standing beside. His head swivels, searching for me once more. He snaps his fingers and a rock appears in each hand. I send another arrow his way, but it bounces off the heavy belt around his waist. Long, pointed ears shudder as he hurls the rocks at me. I duck and miss the first one, but the second hits my thigh.

Flip, that hurt!

I find myself on the ground—a bad place to be when a great hairy monster is coming after you. Gritting my teeth against the pain, I roll onto my back and reach with my mind for a dagger. It appears in my hand a second later, and I fling it at the advancing goblin. The blade sinks into his chest, just above his heart.

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