Advice the Autumn Crone Gave Me On Climbing the Wall
By Annette Marie Hyder
(from the Night Fairytales series)
Twotongue undid Gnar's ropes with clumsy fingers. There are some who find it easier, always, to bind than to set free. But he got the job done nonetheless and even felt emboldened by his success to offer a suggestion as to the route they should take in the exit from the camp that he now felt to be as necessary as putting the snakes to sleep and removing the Great Wolves bindings had been. Twotongue also had a compelling urge to remove the magical bindings dampening Gnar's powers but that was beyond his ability.
So he did what he could for the handsome and princely wolf, explaining that the cairn, an artificial hill, in the distance to their left was a one-use escape route from the camp erected by the Verms should it become necessary to flee at once and comprehensively.
The girl and Erhaiel watched from their spot close to the trees edging the cairn. The cairn looked perfectly normal and innocent to them and they watched with intense interest as Gnar and the fawning Verm approached.
And then all underworld broke loose.
"HAARRSHHHH! HAARRSHHHH! HAARRSHHHH!" came the call of the sentry who had come to relieve Twotongue.
"HAARRSHHHH! HAARRSHHHH! HAARRSHHHH!" came the reply from all the Verms close by.
"HISSSSHISSSSHISSSS! HISSSSHISSSSHISSSS! HISSSSHISSSSHISSSS!" came the call of many, many snakes woken from branch-rocked dreams.
Twotongue swiftly began the incantation to initiate the opening of the cairn and bowed deeply to allow the Great Wolf to enter first when the door appeared seamlessly in the jumbled rock face and opened inward without a sound. Howls of fury and hisses of rage flew like stones past their ears. Gnar insisted he go in first — the honor!
Gnar did bat an eye, both of them, when his Girl and Erhaiel suddenly materialized from behind the cairn and into his line of sight. But he took it in stride as if they had arranged to meet midst curses and hisses. He ushered them into the passageway and entered right behind them and he sent a stern forbidding to Twotongue of any harm befalling his Girl and Erhaiel. With a jealous glare for the two interlopers, Twotongue sealed the door with the final and irrevocable spell with no thought to the fact that he had now sealed himself off from his home, his kith and kin, with no hope to ever return.
"Gnar!" his Girl threw herself at him, her arms around his neck, and hugged him in a most satisfactory way (he didn't even wince when she squeezed the still-fresh stab wounds in her enthusiasm). "I was so worried for you, Gnar!" she said. And then, fresh emotion charging her voice, "You're bleeding!"
"Good to see you, too, Girl." he grinned his most wolfish grin and managed just in time to stop his tail from waving.
There was no noise from the outside. No indication that just moments before there had been all the rage of hell on their heels. Gnar looked at the passage before them and at his companions: his Girl (her arm still around his neck but gingerly now — not wanting to let go but not wanting to hurt him either), a three-color-whiskra, and Twotongue, his very own bitten-beholden Verm.
The passage looked to be carved from opal and reflected many colors, glowing softly and pulsing with its own light.
He looked back at his companions and then he and they all started talking at once: "Why did you follow me?" "Why did you leave me?" "How did you find me?" "What did the Verms want?" "Why is he with you?" "What would you have me do next?" "Where did you come by a three-color-whiskra?" "May I introduce myself?" "Do you remember the small dragon?" "To protect you." "To rescue you of course!" "With the help of Erhaiel." "Bitten-beholden." "Do you have a map of this passage?" "He came by me, so to speak." "Yes. indeed." "The flame stone."
At this last, quietly mentioned by Gnar, everyone stopped talking and stared.
To be continued.