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Where to next?
Nove didn’t know why she thought that at such a precise moment as that. But, as she strained to keep the bridge upright with her magic, all she could think of was how all of it was Merlin’s fault.
“Sekani!” Nove screamed, legs shaking and teeth clenched so tight she could taste blood. “Please!”
Sekani didn’t answer from below the collapsed bridge held aloft by Nove’s twinkling blue magic. The light of his lantern had long since disappeared, and Nove felt her heart beat in a staccato rhythm that made her want to retch.
That, and the crushing weight of her magic.
“I can’t hold it much longer!” Just as she said this, the remnants of Brightly Bridge dipped and she had to widen her stance to raise it high over her head again. “Come on!” Tears and sweat slipped down the bridge of her nose as she tipped her head forward, nausea sucking her belly in. “Sekani!”
The bridge dipped again and Nove fell to her knees.
Curse Merlin and his stupid quest! Why couldn’t he give me one of his spare staffs instead of making me search for the items to make my own?
The bitter drip in her mind turned into a full-blown waterfall. Brightly Bridge had been a seven days walk from Camelot. And all for an emerald gem larger than her head. Of course, Merlin considered it worth it, but Nove did not.
Especially when her brother was down there, searching for the top piece of her staff, while she held a bridge up with waning magic.
“Sek!” Nove shuffled forward on her knees, the bridge cracking above her, and peered into the abyss below.
The cave that held her gem was silent as she struggled to pierce the fog coating it with her narrowed blue eyes.
Sekani still did not answer.
Fear sent a sour taste into her throat and more tears rushing down her face. Already, her magic was pushed past the breaking point. How much longer could she last?
Her body answered for her. Blood started dripping from her parted lips and slipping into her Cupid’s bow from her nose.
The onslaught of rain pounding down on the rocks did not help.
“Please!” She screamed into the dark, blood staining her teeth and making her voice sound garbled.
This was not a good sign.
A large chunk of the broken bridge fell away from the rest of it and fell into the chasm, shattering on impact.
“Oh, King Arthur of Camelot.” Nove cursed, feeling her ears pop and more blood dribble from them.
She couldn’t do this. And Sekani… when she had shown up on his cottage doorstep with a plea for help on her quest, she had never imagined she would send him into a dark cave.
To his possible death.
August, his wife, might find herself a widow.
And Nani might become fatherless.
Nove cried out into the dark again, “Sek!”
A light flashed in response.
Nove let out a cry of relief as her brother poked his unruly head of curls out of the cave and stared up at her.
“I have it, Nove! Here!” He peeled back his cloak to show her the shining gem.
It was rough and uncut, but seeing Sekani made her think it beautiful.
“Come back up!” She told him, a sob making her words sound small and sad.
He nodded and edged along the path leading down to the cave.
But he was still too far down. Nove felt it in her bones he wouldn’t make it.
“Run, Sekani!” She shrieked, trying, but failing, to rise to her feet. To pour more magic into the bridge.
Another hunk slipped free and dove for the abyss, cracking down, down below.
Nove did not want to think about Sekani’s body hitting the dried up path an old lake had made.
Sekani picked up his feet at her command, clutching the gem close, and Nove silently pleaded with her magic to stay firmly in place.
Nove did not expect it to fail her so quickly.
In an ear-splitting crack, the bridge tumbled down, sending Nove keeling backwards and crying out at the painful snapping sensation in her brain. Once she caught her bearings, she sprung back up and stumbled to the edge, blood smeared all over her face and neck.
Dust flared up, settling around her like a fog, as she desperately searched for Sekani.
She couldn’t find him.
“Sek!” Nove screamed, her head pounding and her throat raw. “Sekani!”
A flash of emerald caught her eyes and she let out a gasp, thinking it was her brother holding up the gem to assure her he was okay.
But once the dust settled, and the rain lessened, she saw that the gem was just wedged between two chunks of rubble.
And Sekani was not there.
Nove leaned back on her haunches, tears leaving salty trails through the blood coating her face.
Maybe she should have been thinking about her brother and the fact that he was crushed between at least two tons of rock.
But that wasn’t what she was thinking about. She was still thinking that all of this was Merlin’s fault. And that she wondered why a gem was even worth it.
“I’m so sorry!” She sobbed into the wind, her words garbled.
Nove’s head shot up, and she shakily drew tall on her legs.
The sun split through the clouds and she saw her brother standing on the other side of the chasm between them, a grin on his face and blood in his hair.
“After we get the gem, where to next?”
Diamond Bar, California
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