After surviving a kidnapping and battling with spriggans, Matilda Whipplethorn finds her life in a suburban human house pretty boring. She’s been excluded from school because of her fire-making abilities and her former friends are afraid of her. Salvation comes in the form of a life-threatening illness. Her tutor, Miss Penrose, needs a medication and there’s only one place to get it, the spriggans. Matilda heads back to the antique mall to save Miss Penrose even though it just might cost her everything.
Lrag came back in with a fairy bouncing around behind him. He was the same height and build as Soren but had none of his slow, considered movements. His smooth skin was painted to resemble the rough bark of a ponderosa pine, instead of Soren’s bird’s-eye maple.
“Where are we going? Which lair? Bentha is ready,” he said with his eyes darting around the room.
“I’m going to regret this,” said Farue.
The ponderosa plucked one of the dozen spiky pine needles off his head and brandished it. “Which lair? Lead the way. Bentha can take on two spriggans with one supremely skilled arm tied behind his back.”
“Aren’t you Bentha?” I asked.
He sidled up to me and winked. “I am. You’ve heard of me. I’m gratified, but not surprised. My reputation precedes me.”
Daiki groaned. “Control yourself, Bentha.”
“Control is my middle name.” He slashed the air with his sword and bowed low to me. “So you’re the kindler. A pleasure.” He kissed my hand.
“Alright. Alright,” said Farue. “Break it up. Bentha, did Lrag brief you?”
“I’m aware of the mission. I will restore my honor and save the children.”
“We will save the children,” said Daiki. “Your honor is of no importance.”
“Honor is the most important thing. A ponderosa cannot live without honor!”
“Can he live without speaking?” asked Farue. “Pipe down and listen. We start at the apothecary cabinet. That’s where the spriggans usually store their merchandise. Agreed?”
We all nodded, except for Bentha who spun in a circle and bowed.
“Matilda, I’m going to have Lrag put a spell on you,” said Farue.
I looked at Lrag, whose lip was twitching. I didn’t know what kind of spell he could do, but I wasn’t crazy about the idea. “I don’t think so. I’m good.”
“You don’t trust my spells because you think I’m a troll?” asked Lrag, stomping across the room.
“No. No. I’m just, you know, very careful about spells in general.”
“Don’t worry. This is one of Lrag’s gifts. He can make others invisible,” said Daiki. “He can also burst eardrums, but we’re not so interested in that today.”
“You can make others invisible, but not yourself?” I asked.
Lrag cracked his knuckles and nodded.
“I don’t know how useful a gift that is.”
“Tell me about it,” he said. “Are you ready?”
A.W. Hartoin is the author of the Mercy Watts mystery series and the Away From Whipplethorn fantasy series. She lives in Colorado with her husband, two children, and six bad chickens.