Wednesday wracked his brains for answers that would allow them to get to the castle on time while his great-gran rubbed her chin and cocked her head to the side thoughtfully. The feathers and rattles tied to the top of her staff rattled with her movements.
“Meena,” she said in a quavery voice, “the fates see a lot clearer when you attend to your task. Is someone mortally wounded?”
His mother sighed, but gave their Great Ember a look of loving exasperation. Great-Gran had drafted her to be her eyes, and wasn’t shy about pulling age or rank.
Wednesday’s mother led her over, carefully, and the child stopped squalling as he watched them approach. Wednesday didn’t blame him. His great-gran may be shorter than most, but she had a presence about her that reminded one of a mountain strong enough to make even the wildest wind think twice before shrieking anywhere near its peaks.
“Wednesday, what have you got here?” His mother asked, realizing he hadn’t been alone for the first time. She frowned down at the child as though he presented a particularly difficult riddle she wasn’t quite sure she ought to solve.
The child looked up at them, eyes wide, his fit of temper forgotten for the moment. Wednesday’s mother leaned down to look him in the eye.
“What is this little dollop of goo you’ve got here?” His mother gave the child a warm smile, while their Great Ember sniffed the air about the child as though she could discern what was there by the power of its scent alone.
The child returned her smile with the crooked grin of his own. Then, he pointed to himself. “Glop,” he said proudly.
Wednesday frowned. “I’m not certain—”
But they both moved past him, and his mother helped the child to his feet.
“Glop is a fine name. But what’s that you’ve got?” She gestured down to the stuffed bear that was looking more than a little worse for the wear. Which was saying something, considering how it had looked when Wednesday had first seen it.
The child held up the bear that was now dripping some sort of slime along with its stuffing. “Gahtoof,” he proclaimed gravely.
Wednesday’s mother glanced at the bear before giving him a worried look. “It isn’t . . . poisonous or contagious, is it?” She murmured under her breath. The child either didn’t hear or ignored the question as he launched into an impassioned speech about that nain of his. His great-gran cocked her head to the side and listened, nodding every so often as though she understood what he was saying.
“No,” Wednesday said. The bear’s name troubled a shard of memory he couldn’t quite grasp. Where had he heard it before? “It just wants cleaning. And detoxification.”
She gave him a skeptical look, but reached for the bear anyhow. “It’s nice to meet you, Glop and Gahtoof. Perhaps we could give you both a nice ba—”
Great-gran moved with a swiftness that belied her age. She clamped one of her withered hands on Wednesday’s mother’s arm with a fierceness that surprised them.
“This one has been here before,” she said, certainty burning in her milky eyes.
. . . TO BE CONTINUED . . .
© 2015 by Danyelle Leafty. All rights reserved.
Come back to the UnderWhere next Thursday to see what other complications arise. After all, it isn’t often that a child finds his way into the UnderWhere on his own–if you aren’t counting a small, stuffed bear that is more slime and stuffing than bear by this point. It isn’t by accident that a Great Ember is there to meet him either, or so we would hope.
*Author’s Note: This story of a monster and his boy in a faraway place called the UnderWhere has been the most stubborn and intractable of stories in recent storytelling. It first ambushed me nearly a year ago, and after that initial meeting refused to say a word. Being an author, I soldiered on. The Story, of course, watched with hooded eyes, smirking to itself as it watched follow false road after false road. After nearly a year of this back and forth, it either grew a sense of conscience or exasperated enough to finally start talking.
And, oh, how it has been talking. As Storyteller, I must accept the fact that I will never be able to perfectly capture each thread and texture of it. There will be bits and pieces I either fail to convey adequately or forget to tell entirely, although I shall do my best to tell the story as best as I can. But the more I trek along in this UnderWhere, the more its world and history unfolds. It isn’t often that the world itself catches my whimsy and wonder. Though the path to this point has been long, it was worth it for all that’s coming.
If this is your first time, be sure to check out the first installment. And, if you’d like, dip your toes into the other stories. On Mondays, we’re exploring the moon with an enchanted flower and her–well, that would be telling. On Tuesdays, we’re off to the Garden with Gwyn who is hopefully avoiding the wrath of the Ruby Queen, and on Wednesdays we’re meeting with Mira as she discovers her destiny to become the Queen of the Nearly Dead Fae. No zombies. Promise. 😉
Have a great weekend!