(I will be using this picture for the next few weeks since I do not have time to do new artwork)
(Link to Part 16)
I didn't rest for long. Maggie landed beside me and went to her knees, and her wings drooped. I felt badly about everything, and didn't want to be more trouble. So I pushed myself over and sat up.
Edmond came over and rubbed against my arm and I almost went back down, but I was glad to hear his purr.
"Glad to see you're okay, Edmond," I said with a bow of my head in his direction. "Maggie --"
"We have to go." She sounded apologetic. "I need to get you somewhere safe. Somewhere with others to keep watch."
"To the city?" Edmond asked. I couldn't tell from his tone if this would be good or bad.
"I have friends there." She frowned "And I have enemies as well. And then there is the Council. I'd rather not go to them with this yet."
"They are bound to know something is going on. A storm like that one had to draw attention. And I felt something very powerful where you two went --"
"A dark path," Maggie said, using her staff to struggle back to her feet.
"Dark path," Edmond repeated, his voice softer. "You're lucky you didn't get sucked in --"
"We got in and back out," Maggie replied. She offered me a hand and smiled -- but I could see a hint of panic in her eyes.
"Wow," Edmond said. He sounded shocked. And he looked worried, with his ears back and his tail twitching.
Maggie pulled me to my feet. I looked back over the brook towards the distant trees and felt as though something dark and dangerous lurked there, ready to come after me again.
Or maybe I was paranoid. I feared what I would be like after a week here. A month sounded far too dangerous. But I had already stayed so long that I couldn't go back home. I was changed in ways I couldn't begin to name. When I thought about it, I felt as though I tingled. I wanted to talk to Maggie and understand what as happening, but right now the best I could do was put one foot in front of the other. I wanted to think
We began trudging over the slick, wet grasslands. At the top of the first hummock, I could see the remains of the cottage. When we reached the next rise, I saw something astounding; Davis was there, waving an arm to the tree, which stood up again, tottered briefly, and then seemed to settle.
By the time we were in hailing range, the broom was busy sweeping away the path and Davis was inside straightening stuff up.
"Sorry," I said looking at the damage, though much of it had already been repaired.
"Nothing that can't be fixed," Davis said. He glanced my way. "Mark --"
"I know. I'm a magnet for trouble."
Maggie told him what had happened, his eyebrow raising when she got to the part about the Dark Path. I repeated everything that had been said, but they were both shaking their heads in worry by the end.
"I'm taking him to the city," Maggie said. She sounded more certain than she had after we escaped the Dark Path. "We all know there's something more going on here that we aren't seeing. I'm going to get him to town where I can get help."
Davis glanced my way, his eyes narrowed. "I'll take Mark on the cycle. Otherwise you'll have to walk, and I don't think that's safe. Edmond, you want to ride in the pack on the cycle or let Maggie carry you?"
I thought Maggie was going to argue for a moment, maybe because Davis had made the decision without asking her. Then, however, she glanced my way and gave a quick, emphatic nod. Apparently the idea of getting me to the city as quickly as possible seemed like a good idea to her.
Edmond must have been waiting to see how this played out. "I'll go with Maggie. I like being able to see," he said. "Even if we are flying. And you might need an extra set of eyes on this one."
Because even I wasn't naïve enough to think we'd be safe in the sky.
We ate a quick meal before we took off, and Davis took care of a few more things at his cottage. I heard him puttering around, not as upset as I would have been, though once when he was in the bedroom something crashed and I thought I heard the start of a curse.
"Davis?" Maggie asked.
"It's all right," he called back out. "We'll leave in a few minutes."
The place felt calmer, and the last of the birds and pixies rushed out from under the bed and headed outside again. When we stepped outside, the night had only a few fleecy clouds and the sunset looked pretty. I tried to appreciate the peace and the beauty, but I still felt spooked by even the slightest breeze.
Davis went off towards a shed with a distracted nod. I had the feeling he couldn't wait to get rid of me, though at least the cottage looked almost back to normal, and even the tree looked good.
Maggie scooped up Edmond who gave a resigned sigh as he draped himself across her shoulders. She smiled at me and patted the cat's head. "I'm going up to look around."
She took off and I waited for Davis. He rolled the cycle out of the shed and pushed it up to where I crossed to him. I wondered why he hadn't just called it, like before.
"Climb on," he said and swung up before I answered. I swore the cycle gave a little shiver. Probably as upset about what was happening as everything else around me.
I don't know what made me pause and look into Davis's face, but when I did, I backed away in haste.
"Maggie! It's not Davis!"
The thing on the cycle growled and changed.
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