“Is Devan with you?” Lacey asked. She wasn’t sure why she expected him to be. Devan was frightened of Blayd. She had been hoping they were together ever since they both disappeared. She didn’t think it was good for Devan to be in the Wish Wood alone right now.
Blayd shook his head and then tipped his nose in the direction of the well.
“He is at the well?” Lacey felt her heart lurch. She should have known! He hadn’t just run away, he had run to reach the well first. She cursed his stupid selfishness.
“We have to stop him. I don’t know what he wants, but it won’t lead to anything good for him.”
As if in agreement, the trees groaned. Whatever wind was blowing them must be at the canopy level. Down on the forest floor everything was silent and the fog continued to pile up around them. They couldn’t see the ravine anymore let alone anyone on the other side. It was eerily silent. The others must have moved along north already to try to find a way around.
It was time for her and Blayd to move too.
Blayd was of the same mind, and took off, falling to all fours as he ran. Lacey followed. She didn’t need him to show her the way. She still felt the tug at her heart, even though she kept pushing it away.
I don’t need to wish, she repeated over and over in her head. She did not need a wish to save Ella; she did not need a wish to have her family back and her friends safe. She was going to do it herself. With her own two hands, or whatever else she needed to get it done—but no wishes!
The closer they got the more urgent the tugging became. Lacey was getting used to resisting the siren song. Her heart was singing it’s own song. A song of strength and hope.
The trees clustered together, and the fog became so dense Lacey could only see Blayd’s tail swishing in front of her as they ran. Finally, she could see nothing but white. It was like the fog was a giant extension of the Night Mother, glowing with her light even though the moon was no longer visible through the canopy of trees. It made her feel safe and warm, like when Mama wrapped a blanket around her on a cold night.
The last time Lacey had run through the Wood like this, she had slammed into trees and injured herself. This time she was not blind. Her eyes saw nothing in the white glow of fog, but her ears showed her everything. She dodged the trees and kept heading straight toward the well.
She knew she had arrived, when the well’s song became a scream in her heart, burning with desire for a wish. Lacey kept her own desires in the front of her mind. Get Ella, get Devan, and get away from here. That’s it. No wishes.
She slowed to a walk, breathing to calm her racing heart. She stepped out of the fog, into a clearing.
Blayd was standing ahead. Behind her the fog was like a white wall, held back by a ring of trees. There were no trees inside. Only her and Blayd—then she saw Devan.
“Devan,” she called out in relief. He was sitting on the ground with his back to them.
Blayd grabbed her arm and pulled her back as she started walking toward him. She saw his gaze resting on a spot to Devan’s left—a small pile of dark stones in a rough oval shape.
All the times Lacey had imagined the well, it had never been something so small and insignificant. She had always thought it would be something different. A shining monument to wishes. A giant and sinister foe—but it was just a bunch of rough-hewn, moss-covered stones barely making a bump in the forest floor. Beside it, was another stone, round and flat, almost invisible under a layer of moss that had melded it to the earth over time. It was the capstone that was meant to cover the well.
Devan laughed strangely. He was crouched beside the well, hunching as if to protect something small and delicate before him. “It’s already too late,” he said. “I wished to have my mother back, and the well granted it.”
Blayd whined a thin high sound that was probably only perceptible to Lacey’s ears.
“You mean…your mother who died?” Lacey asked.
She arced around the clearing cautiously, keeping her distance, but moving so she could see what was in front of Devan. It was almost invisible. It was the same mottled grey and black as the forest floor.
A rotting corpse.
Lacey sucked in her breath, and then regretted it as the stench wafted her way. “Oh, Devan.”
She had been so focused on how selfish and mean he was to her all these years. She never even stopped to consider that he might just want his family back—he was no different from her.
The well was truly cruel. Lacey flung her anger against the siren song that clawed at the edge of her senses, and felt it hesitate.
Ignoring Blayd’s panicked waving for her to come back, she stepped forward, reaching out her hand. The well surged again, more insistent with every step closer, and it took all her strength not to aim her hand toward the well, as she approached. “Devan, take my hand and come away.”
Blayd growled and barked from where he stood, but didn’t move an inch closer.
“Keep that beast away from her!” Devan screamed. Spit dripped from his lips and his eyes were wide with madness.
“Blayd, relax. Quiet. Everything will be just fine.” Lacey moved forward again.
Then, she saw the rotting thing on the ground move. Lacey stopped, her feet glued to the ground. She felt like throwing up.
The thing was alive.
A/N: OMG! We are getting so close to the end now. I am so excited. And here, as promised, is Devan's wish. I know some of you were starting to wonder just what it was that he wanted so badly. Now you know. What do you think?
And hey, did you notice Little Lacey is sitting at the #28 spot in Fantasy right now! I am so excited. I hope I crack the top 10. That would be so awesome. So, if you think this story belongs in the top 10, please vote and comment--you could make the difference and really make my day!
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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...