They brought the water back as fast as they could. The deer-woman was ashen. Her eyelids fluttered at the sound of Lacey and Devan pushing through the little crowd that had gathered at her bedside. Cooper looked up shaking her head. So much blood—the bandages on her chest were dark red.
Lacey pulled the stopper out of the waterskin. “Stand aside Cooper.”
The people around her gave her skeptical looks, or piteous—like she was a child unable to accept the inevitability of death.
Only Ezerelle’s eyes showed understanding. She pushed weakly at the waterskin. “I have had enough of magic wells. Just let me go. I have been….for so long. The burden is too much. I am almost free.”
Lacey hesitated. Ezerelle was cursed by more than just the well. She was a Founder. She never aged. Couldn’t die. But here she was dying. And it sounded like that was what she wanted.
“What are you waiting for, Lacey?” Devan bumped her elbow.
“Nothing,” she said. She couldn’t not save Ezerelle. Founders were the caretakers of Eridan. What would Eridan become if there were no Founders? Even if nobody ever saw them, obviously they were still here—doing something.
Lacey lifted up the bandages and poured water over the ugly wound. The water shimmered, and she wasn’t quite sure if it shimmered of its own accord or from the sunlight shining through cracks in the walls. Then she let Ezerelle sip the rest of the water a little at a time.
Ezerelle didn’t protest any more. She swallowed what she could. Her skin was cold to the touch and her body lacked almost any strength. She was much farther gone than Devan had been when Lacey used the water on him.
The crowd was hushed as the people around her waited, maybe starting to believe just a little.
When the water was gone, Lacey waited with them. Finally, color started to return to the deer-woman’s cheeks and she let out a breath she hadn’t realized she’d been holding. She took Ezerelle’s hand. It felt warm again.
Lacey laughed out loud. “She is going to be ok I think.”
Cooper and Ms. Tona both started checking Ezerelle. The raccoon-woman let out and excited chittering when she lifted the bandage to find fresh pink scar tissue. The wound was healing.
Ms. Tona wiped her brow with a look of amazement on her face. “What…where did that water come from Lacey? The Wishing Well?”
“That isn’t how that well works. This was a spring, in a cave. Maybe connected to the same waters as the well. I don’t know.”
The news spread out from Ezerelle’s bedside, people started murmuring, a few gave uncertain chuckles, and then Berellan shouted: “She’s going to live!” and a cheer roared through the entire camp.
Everyone was relieved that the deer-woman would live, human and Wished alike. Nobody wanted a death to be the start of the tenuous new truce that was forming. Hands clapped her on the back. Ms. Tona, who served double duty as the village healer and schoolmistress, was trying to ask Lacey specific questions about the spring water and its effects. But Lacey could barely hear what she was asking over the noise of everyone talking at once.
“Did the water somehow replace her lost blood, do you think? Maybe it is very rich in iron,” Ms. Tona said in a raised voice that was just short of shouting. Ms. Tona never shouted.
“But it also knitted her skin together faster than it should have, fascinating…” Ms. Tona continued, but her words were lost in the din.
“The water did something strange the first time I touched it,” Lacey shouted, trying to be helpful. “The water is warm, but it did more than warm my hands, it warmed all of me.” She thought maybe Ms. Tona was trying to find a logical, scientific explanation. There very well could be. But for now Lacey was happy to just call it magic, because Ezerelle coming back from the brink of death was magic.
“But there could be side effects.” Ms.Tona’s eyes darted to the furry features of the nearest Wished, Tiny Tee.
She was right. Magic or science there could be a cost. Everyone in the Wished camp knew the cost of using the well. Lacey crouched down to check on Ezerelle, who still had not opened her eyes.
“She’s just sleeping,” Cooper said, her eyes shining at Lacey with amazement. “She will be fine.”
Lacey hugged Cooper, and the startled raccoon-woman squeezed back after a moment.
“Everything will be OK,” Cooper whispered. “Thanks to you.”
Nothing seemed different about Ezerelle, and furthermore nothing was different about Devan, who had also been healed from the waters, except he was not the same mean boy who used to tug her ears and call her monster anymore, and even if that was a side effect of the healing water, it was certainly not a bad thing.
She was about to say something to Ms. Tona when Mama pushed her way to Lacey’s side.
“I am so proud of you!” Mama kissed Lacey on top of the head. “My little—my big Lacey!” She changed mid-sentence, as Lacey stood up.
Lacey gave a sheepish grin. It was about time Mama noticed how tall she was getting.
“But, now that the crisis is over,” Mama said, looking this way and that, “Where is your sister?”
A shadow fell across Lacey’s heart. “Ella? Isn’t she at home?” she asked, fearing the answer.
“She went missing about the same time Devan returned.”
And the same time Goeden went missing.
“It’s why we came. And for you too, of course. After Devan’s story the Envoy convinced everyone we needed to fight the monst—these people to rescue our lost children.”
Mama was just being generous, the Envoy would never include Lacey as a reason to fight. But Lacey wasn’t worried about that now.
Mama’s searching was getting more frantic. She turned back to Lacey. “She has to be with you. She saw you and followed you. Right?”
“No, Mama,” Lacey said, cringing as she saw the way her mother’s face crumpled, like the day Papa left. “Ella isn’t here.”
A small moan escaped Mama’s lips. “She must be hiding then. All this must have frightened her.”
“Lacey…” a small voice spoke, and Lacey looked down to see that Ezerelle was reaching up a hand.
“Ezerelle!” Lacey crouched down again, clutching the hand to her heart.
“The girl, your sister. It was Goeden’s plan. I had no idea he was really going to do it.”
It felt like the floor dropped out from under her, Lacey’s stomach lurched at the thought of the vile rat putting his hands on her sister. “What did he do?” Anger started to rise in her again, but this time it was anger with a purpose. She was going to find Goeden and put an end to him once and for all.
YOU ARE READING
Lacey is a bat girl. Seven years ago, her mother wished at the well in the heart of the Wish Wood, transforming a young bat-ling into a human girl--mostly human. But Lacey is growing up, Mama has a real daughter now, the kids in town tug on her poin...