Episode 5 Chapter 17

Theodore staggered back, trying not to fall out of the boat while some sort of bug dive bombed him. He tried waving it away and got bit.


“No free rides!” Its leafy wings flittered like book pages while shaking a twiggy little arm at him. It was a pesky, the smallest variety of fairy he was familiar with. “Get out of my boat, or I’ll drown you!!” This one was like an enraged butterfly.

Theodore checked that they were still alone. “Shhh! Stop yelling! Please! I’m sorry. I meant no offense.”

“I’ll yell wherever I want!” The pesky was screaming now. “Make your own boat if you want to be quiet! This is my boat!! You don’t tell me what to do!!”

Doors and windows opened on the far side of the dock. Fauns, leshy, and pooka were leaning out of their homes to see what the racket was about. Theodore’s blood ran cold.

“I need to get to the island!” Theodore pointed across the lake. “I can pay you. Just… lower your voice.”

“Oh yeah?!” She perched on the bow of the skiff, arms crossed. “I don’t service boat thieves! You people are worse than scum! Scum!!”

The locals were muttering. It was only a matter of time before someone called for the guards.

“I can pay!” He said. “I’ll pay double!”

She tilted her head, as skeptical as if he had claimed to be the King. “Oh yeah? Let’s see the cash. Four thalers to cross the lake.”

Theodore fumbled with his wallet. This was actually cheaper than a trolley fare. “Here.”

“Do I look like a bank to you?? Exact change or you’re swimming!”

At this rate, it might come to that. “It’s a tip! Please hurry!”

She zipped over and snatched the bill from his hand and did a quick orbit around his head. “Welcome aboard the ferry. I’ll be your Skipper, Pollywog. Don’t fall out of the boat or I’ll leave you to drown.”

“Whatever!” Theodore looked back to see another firework whistle into the air. “Just go!”

Pollywog, taking her time, stuffed the money into a lockbox and fluttered down to the stern of the skiff. She pushed, and Theodore fell backwards into the deck as the whole vessel shot across the water like a rocket. Mist sprayed through the air as they hurtled so fast that Theodore lacked the strength to sit up.

“This is too fast!” Theodore said, shouting over the wind in his face. “This isn’t safe!”

“My boat, my rules!” Pollywog said.

Eyes locked on the sky, Theodore saw Furies closing in around them. “Never mind!” Theodore said. “Faster! You need to go faster!”

A fury landed heavy on the bow and sent the whole skiff rocking. The vessel slowed into a coast, and lake water slopped onto Theodore’s head. He sat up, and faced a scowling bird guard.

“What happened?!” Pollywog said. She fluttered to catch up, but hid behind Theodore with a yelp the moment she noticed the fury. “It’s the sprigs! Don’t let them see me! I can’t go back to jail!”

The fury crawled closer, on hands and talons. Two more circled overhead. Theodore scrambled backwards, the boat pitching back under his weight.

“Yield.” The fury drew a copper dagger from his waist, his face like an owl’s. “Or else.”

Ahead, Theodore could see the island surrounded by briar thorns. He folded his spectacles into his breast pocket. The Inner Circle was so close, but was it close enough?

“I can’t.” He said, and jumped overboard.

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