The woman turned to me. Her cheekbones and eye shape appeared similar to Mr. Black’s but she had a cruel twist to her scarred lips.
As she stepped toward me and cupped my chin, fear ran down my spine, freezing me in place.
“I did nothing with him.” She turned my face from side to side. “Say, whatever were you planning to do with yourself when you became a full adult?”
“I’ll tell you if you explain where Mr. Black is.”
“He’s safe. On a mandatory vacation.”
Did she expect me to believe that?
“What? You think reapers don’t take breaks?”
“No, that’s not what I’m saying. I thought he might be in trouble because of me.”
A derisive snort escaped her thin nose. “Oh, he’s in trouble all right but it’s nothing that requires punishment. If anything he may even get out of his punishment early.”
“What do you mean by that?”
“I told you, now you tell me.”
I grimaced. “A doctor. I want to be an ER doctor.”
Her pale arms stretched out as she theatrically yawned. “Boring.”
“In what way is it boring?”
“Well, for one, you can only use science to bring people back from the dead. Aaaand... that pretty much makes it boring. Now, let’s get you back to the mine.”
She rolled her eyes. “I’m not like my brother, I don’t have all day. Except that I kind of do, but I don’t want to spend it with you.”
“When will Mr. Black return?”
“In two of your days.”
I eyed her. “You better not be lying to me.”
“Heh.” She patted my cheek a few times like she wanted to slap me. “Or what? What if I am lying to you? You’re a miner, Kelly, not a reaper. What do people in your realm say? Oh, yeah. ‘Get real.’”
She laughed and started walking off. I ground my teeth and followed.
When I reappeared half of me was relieved that Mr. Black would return in a couple days and the other half wanted to punch his sister in her reaper mouth. I also didn’t want to face the fact that she was a little, well, right. I wasn’t a reaper. What I knew about their world barely scratched the surface. Plus, I needed to focus on my goal, save Matt and the other children from Nenvari’s clutches. After that, if I discovered she wasn’t telling the truth, I’d deal with her somehow. In the meantime, I had other issues I needed to take care of.
I trotted over to Korren.
“I’m curious about something. It’s obvious to me that the magic I’ve seen in my weapons and armor is powerful. The dark fae can use them outside of the mines, right?”
“If you’re inquiring about taking your items home with you, in the impossible to think of scenario where you do return, then no. It is likely that Prince Nenvari would only allow you to leave with your realm’s children and your clothes. Possibly not even your memories would survive the trip back.”
“That’s not what I was asking. I want to know if you have a way to charge my bow without relying on mining’s kinetic energy?”
Her eyes narrowed. “Yes. We do, but it’s not for you.”
“We don’t allow the miners here access to that magical technology.”
“What if a miner already has access to them?”
Her eyes narrowed. “Then I’d have to ask the miner how they acquired these items.”
“And if said miner found them in a jadinfray hole?”
“Jadinfrays should be rounded up and torched. Do you know how many items they’ve hidden within their caves, thought lost for all eternity until some child comes along and picks it up?”
I grinned. “Since said miner already has some why not sell more to them?”
“I can’t; however, if you find any more items that shouldn’t exist in the mine, I might exchange said item for a recharge cube.”
“Awesome! I’ll hold you to that.”
I looked to my mine, took a step forward, and stopped.
If I did go down there, I’d only end up dead and back in the in-between with a reaper I didn’t trust.
“Hey, Meeks! Do you guys have a break room?”
“Yes. But no, ye can’t use it.”
“Then where am I supposed to read my book?”
He stood and pulled out a second chair from his inventory. “Ye can sit next to me if ye like, Miss.”
With a smile, I did as he suggested and retrieved my new book. Finally, I had the chance to read it.
Merchant Meeks sat back down and picked up an emerald green novel with the title, “The Earl’s Secret Seduction.”
My book sounded way more entertaining.
I turned to the first page.
“Welcome, dear child from another realm, to the beautiful School for Industrious Magical Learning, The Garden of 1000 Kindnesses.”
I closed the book and took a deep breath.
So not cool! I was stuck mining here while Matt was basically Harry Potter?
Calm down. It wasn’t like he wanted to be a wizard, or whatever they call them down here. In fact, it could be as bad as a concentration camp.
I kept reading.
“‘... and you will enjoy a lovely private suite with your own bathing facilities and weekly massage?’ What is this! A spa?”
I closed the book again. “This is a lie, right, Meeks? It’s actually a torture chamber, right?”
“No, miss. It be right. What? Are ye not happy yer brother is gettin’ treated well?”
“No, I am. It’s just that this whole time I assumed a place with a name like that had to be disgusting and cruel. This sounds too good to be true.”
“Speakin’ from experience. When things seem too good to be true there’s often a hidden cost or a heavy debt that must be paid later. And that’s all I’ll speak on the matter.”
I kept reading. The book described a beautiful campus with friendly staff and too many perks. The only thing they asked the children to do was learn magic. That rang my suspicion bell.
Why kidnap children and force them the learn magic? What was in it for them? Besides, kidnapping in the first place seemed idiotic. Did they not realize how many children would jump at the opportunity to go away to a magic school?
I guessed that the fae couldn’t understand us humans. And then I guessed that their country might have few magic users and fewer people willing to learn so they’d decided to import and raise wizards for themselves.
If that was the case, then why humans?
Perhaps learning magic had a high cost so they decided to shove it off onto another realm’s people.
I couldn’t figure it out and boredom overwhelmed me after trying, especially when the next section was an introduction to basic magic.
When I turned to that part I found most of the pages already torn out. My heart sank.
“What is this!”
He flew over to me and I waved the book at him while pointing to a chunk of missing pages.
“What? I didn’t do it. It was probably like that when you received it.”
“The only spells here are basically useless. What is this? How to light a candle? How to chill the air around you? And these several pages are stuck together. It’s almost like you don’t want me to learn magic.”
His wings buzzed furiously. “Hey! I said I didn’t do it.”
That was when I remembered that I’d taken the book out just before the reapers appeared. Could one of them, or even Mr. Black’s sister, have ripped them out?
With a mental call, I put the book back in my inventory. I supposed I had better confront her.
“Hey! Where are you going? Apologize for your accusation before you leave.”
“I’m sorry,” I called back while running to my wall-mine.