The hotel clerk frowned when Angel and Ryder were brought in. He didn’t like dealing with customers on better days – they forced him to look up from his book – but when they came in like this, he’d usually have to do math, or something else that was complicated. He didn’t like to think much.
“We might need a bigger room,” Daniel said.
“You need a condo,” the clerk said. “I’ll call the building and get you one.”
“Are we going to pick up a new person every time we get a book?” Sophie said.
“Hopefully not. I don’t think that we could fit them in the room,” Daniel said.
“A book!” Angel said. “I have a book, but I left it in the forest. It was like that book. It talked, of course. I can’t read. Do you want me to go get it? I haven’t spent much time with it. I just found it and I only spent a few minutes with it, but it talks and it probably wants to leave the forest just as much as I did. I forgot it in the excitement.”
“Yes, let’s go get it. We should be able to come back by nightfall, with the horses and Angel flying ahead. Maybe you should fly ahead, above the treetops and get it quick. Scream, ‘EASTER EGG!’ if you encounter too many Gateguards to deal with yourself or you get in trouble.”
So they went right back to the forest. Angel flew fast ahead, enjoying the cool wind that only she could experience on a calm day like this. She did a barrel roll in mid-flight successfully, happy in the way her hair flew around. She liked this so much that she flew past her glen, and had to backtrack a while before she found it.
She decided not only to take the book (Magician), but also her backpack, a small sack, and a big wad of newspaper she’d saved. She put her wand in her backpack.
On the way back to the others, she ran into fifteen Gateguards.
“Nice try,” someone said in a deep tone. “No casting spells for you.” They put duct tape on her mouth. She tried to yank it off, but they’d wrapped duct tape around her wrists, too. She struggled, but they forced her to go into a cave, a small cave, with a slab of flat stone in the middle. It was made of sedimentary stone.
* * *
“Where is she?” Sophie asked as they rode into the clearing.
“She must have headed back already,” Daniel said. “We should stay where we are. She’ll come looking for us, and she knows this wood better than we do.”
“What if she’s in trouble?” Hannah said.
“Then she would have screamed, ‘Easter egg’,” Daniel said.
“I suppose.” Hannah still looked doubtful. She knew that there was more to this than anyone saw.
* * *
Angel lay struggling on the stone slab. She heard the Gateguards talking.
“We can leave when she falls asleep,” they whispered in some weird language. “We’ll come back for her when we’ve got the right items with us.”
Angel was very glad for her acute hearing. She faked being asleep, breathing slowly with her eyes shut. She kept listening, very carefully, but the cave was making her more tired. There was something odd about it. The fact that she didn’t want to know what items the Gateguards were talking about kept her awake, though, and also the fact that if she fell asleep, she probably wouldn’t find out, anyway.
“Hey, she’s asleep already,” they said in the weird language. “That was fast.”
Angel heard them leave. Anyone could, even though they tried to be quiet, with the large, blocky feet of theirs.
First Angel wriggled her tiny hands out of the duct tape bracelet, then she removed the tape from her mouth. She tried to get off the stone, but a spell surrounded it.
She started casting a spell that she sort of made up on the spot, which she didn’t know she could do…
Air and water
Earth and light
Turn the day
Into the night
And above all cloud
Or under deepest sea
Find my pet
Bring her to me.
…and fell back on her bed.
* * *
“It’s been fifteen minutes. Do you think we should start looking for her?” Hannah asked.
“Yes,” Daniel said. “This is a little extreme.”
“Where should we look?” Sophie asked.
“I have a sinking feeling…” Hannah said, then she teleported to exactly that place.
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