Episode 3 Chapter 22

Oboe steadied Zither on her shoulder, eyeing the knight who ordered them to come with him. He was tall and scary, with chainmail that rattled and a harsh grumbly voice. This human made Oboe think about all the mean things Theo said about knights. Where was Theo? He was supposed to meet them at the trolley station. Meeting this guy instead made her feel like something had gone wrong.

“Hurry up,” the human said as he herded them up the stairs somewhere inside the university.

“Keep your lid on, you tin can,” Thistle said as he helped with Zither. “Going as fast as we can.”

 The students stared as they passed. Oboe wondered if there’d been some mistake. It felt like they were trespassing even though they were told to come. It was a relief to see Theo waiting for them at the top of the stairs.

“There you are,” he said. He looked ruffled, which did not put Oboe at ease. “Sorry that I didn’t meet you outside. Things aren’t going as planned. I need to brief you before we go in there.”

“What’s going on?” Zither said.

“We have a shot at getting the ban undone,” Theo said. “The volunteer we have for you to enchant is Duke Ambergrail. I need you both on your best behavior. He’s the one who ordered the ban.”

“He is??” Oboe said. “What should we do?”

Theo held up his hands to calm her. “Same as before. We cure him and prove you aren’t a threat. We have to be careful, though. He hates fairies.”

“Obviously,” Thistle said with a grimace.

They followed Theo into the next room. It was white and smelled like stinging soap. A mobile of crystals hung from the ceiling, rotating on clicking wheels and gears. A robed doctor helped a shriveled young human out of a chair and into a big bed.

 “That’s him?” Zither said, leaning on Oboe. “The human that took our territories away?”

“I guess so,” Oboe said, nervous. The man was glaring at them while Theo went to talk to him. “We can fix this. Make it right again.”

Zither’s gaze grew firm. “You’re right,” he said. He let go of her and balanced on his own hooves.

“He’s ready,” Theo said, coming back. “You can start your preparations.”

Thistle set down his wicker backpack and rooted through it for his tools. He took out a long clay dish etched with runes and got to work. He uncorked a decanter of river water and poured. A mix of herbs were sprinkled on top and then it was time to add the spell. Oboe watched her friend concentrate on the water. Thistle’s brow knit, his antennae twitched, and the water turned golden.

“Your turn, kid,” he said.

Zither took the dish in his palm and limped toward the bedside. The knight kept a hand on his sword nearby. Ignoring this, Zither closed his eyes and curled his fingers over the water to mold the magic. He lifted his free hand and a dark red bubble surfaced to float between his fingers. 

Something was wrong. Thistle’s dreams were never like this. Even the nightmares Thistle made were like a warm blanket, something you could slip in and out of. The magic in Zither’s hands was angry. Sticky, like hot tar. She needed to say something, but the words caught in her throat.

“Stop!” Oboe said. “That spell isn’t right!”

“What the hell?” The duke said.

Zither bolted. The knight drew his sword, but before he could swing Zither hurled the clay bowl in his face. Zither lunged at the duke and pressed the dream into his head before Theo or anyone else could act. The knight pulled him off, tossed him to floor and aimed his blade to kill.

“Wait!” Theo said, stepping in the way. “Hold your strike!”

The doctor raced to the duke’s side, but it was too late. The duke thrashed for a moment and then slumped into his pillow, unconscious. The crystals dangling over the hospital bed twitched and flickered. Zither’s spell made them dance and rattle. 

“Devil damn the lot of you!” The doctor said. “I knew this would happen, and I trusted you anyway! Look what happened! He won’t wake up!”

“What happened?!” Theo said, and turned to Zither. “What did you do?!”

Zither was still too weak to stand. He laughed instead. “Making things right. He thought he could treat us like garbage? Well, I made him pay for that!”

Oboe grabbed Zither and slammed him against the wall. The smug look on his face made her angrier than she ever remembered being. “Are you stupid!? This was our chance to help you! Help all those fairies too!”

Zither’s fur bristled as color returned to his body. “We were never going to change the mind of that man.” He gripped Oboe by the arm, strong enough to fight back now. “Better that I make him suffer for thinking he can push us around!”

She hurled him across the room, where he crashed face first through a table of medical tools that all clattered to the floor. The noise got the attention of more humans, who burst into the room. The whole pack of humans got hold of Zither before he could get back on his feet. He bucked, and fought, until they managed to lock his hands in iron shackles.

“Summon the watch,” the doctor said. “I want these creatures dealt with.”

“No!” Thistle said, trembling. “No, no, no no, no, no! If this gets out, the humans are going to take it out on us fairies! You can’t let anyone know!” 

The doctor shook his head. “You don’t get a say in this, sylph!  Now sit down until they get here and decide what to do with you!”

“This is my jurisdiction,” Theo said. “Let me handle this.”

“You’re the reason this happened!” The doctor said. “I’m done listening to you!”

The humans drew closer to Oboe, brandishing another set of shackles. The knight pointed his sword.

“She’s innocent,” Theo said. “You don’t have to restrain her.”

The knight glared. “As innocent as the other one, I’d wager. Not taking any chances.”

Oboe backed away. She wondered if she ought to run, or maybe fight. She looked at Theo, who looked terrified as the other humans shoved him into a chair. There was no way she could fix this, but she didn’t want to make it any worse either. She held out her arms.

“I won’t fight you,” she told them as they cuffed her wrists. “I’m your friend.”

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