Chapter Twenty – continued
“We do have a problem,” James said softly. “We want nothing more than to go through and be masked, but, once we leave, the spell on Poppy’s legs will dissipate.”
Rose’s head dipped a little. “I believe we can help you, but it also comes at a cost.”
“I’ll pay it,” Poppy said softly, making Abigail jump a little. The former mermaid had been so quiet since they’d arrived in The Spindle.
“You can never be near large bodies of water,” Rose said. “No beaches, no lakes, not even large ponds or swimming pools.”
“Swimming pools?” Poppy asked. Abigail, too, was curious, so turned her gaze to Rose. “Are they large ponds?”
Rose’s lips quirked a small smile. “Not quite. They are artificial, man made. They are where people swim, perhaps for exercise, or to play and splash in. You will see them, but must avoid them.”
Poppy nodded, a thoughtful look on her face. “I understand. But I may still bathe? I would also like a garden. May I water it?”
Rose smiled softly. “Of course. It is merely anything large enough to be reminiscent of the ocean that will be a danger to you. If you are within a few feet of one, your legs will revert back into a tail.”
“Oh. I see.”
“Are you still willing?”
“Perfectly,” Poppy said without hesitation. “Living in the Pearl Kingdom was always a melancholy life. Serving Princess Merike was not easy, but, as an orphan, I had little choice.”
“When may we go through?” James asked anxiously, his fingers so tightly laced together his knuckles were white.
“Very soon,” Harrison assured him.
“I’ll get the potion,” Rose said as she rose and hurried from the room.
As she left, Harrison’s eyes focused on Abigail, causing a warm stain to spread across her cheeks. She hadn’t expected to be anyone’s focus of attention.
“Lady Olidan,” he said, tipping his head slightly. “My wife and I were unable to stay long at the engagement ball, but we did take note of you and the Duke Murant.”
Abigail’s eyes lowered as her cheeks caught fire. “Y-yes, Master Roderick. The Duke and I intend on beginning our formal courtship.”
She raised her eyes just enough to see a touch of sympathy in his eyes. “Your grandfather used to tell me about you and your sister. Camille, is it? I’m terribly sorry about your mother. I met her a few times, though never escorted her through the portal. She was a lovely woman.” He cleared his throat. “I believe, with Prince James leaving this world, the Duke will become heir?”
Abigail nodded. “Yes, I believe so.”
“Rose and I will arrange to return you to the Glass Kingdom as quickly as possible.”
Abigail dipped her head. “I thank you, Master Roderick. I do need to return soon. James brought us here using a fae wish stone. Will it be possible for me to return the same way?”
Harrison shook his head. “Unfortunately, using the wish stones leaves something of a ripple. Oh, you can’t be tracked through it, but it’s a fairly powerful magic with a signature indicating the user.” He tipped his head towards the prince. “Considering the three of you rushed here so soon after the ripple on this end formed, I’d say you’re in quite the rush to not be noticed. I think it prudent to not give any searchers more information. Rose and I will return you to the Glass Kingdom another way. It may take a bit longer, but it’ll be safer for you and for them.”
Abigail nodded. “Any aid you can provide will be quite welcomed, and I’m truly thankful.” She fingered the glass around her neck. “I am in contact with my sister. I’m sure she can come up with excuses for me.”
Tentatively, Poppy reached out a hand and lightly tapped her knee. “Thank you, Abigail,” she said softly. “We could not have done this without you.”
Abigail smiled at the former mermaid. “Just stay away from large bodies of water. My grandfather used to tell me stories of sailors hunting down mermaids.”
At Poppy’s startled look, Abigail flushed and looked down. She wasn’t usually so careless with her words, but neither was she eloquent.
“Don’t worry,” Harrison said, leaning forward to swiftly save Abigail. “It’s well known now that mermaids are mythological beings.” He grinned and wink, but it was gone in a flash. “You’ll be perfectly safe. The people in the other world are so jaded now, anyways, no one would believe it. Though I’d still steer away from something we call public pools.”
Poppy linked her fingers together tightly and nodded vigorously. “Yes, of course I will.”
“Here we go,” Rose said as she bustled back in, a vial of clear liquid clenched in one hand. She dropped it into Poppy’s hands on her way back to her seat a respectable distance from her husband, who only acknowledged her arrival with a flicker of his eyes. “Drink up and then we can take you to the portal.”
Abigail quickly reached over to help Poppy uncork the vial. The poor woman’s hands were shaking and James’s anxiety was going through the roof on the other side of her. If there was anything she could do to get them through the portal was quickly as possible, she would do it.
With a disgusted face the moment the first drop touched her tongue, Poppy downed the contents of the vial in a massive gulp before inhaling a deep breath and giving out a hoarse cough. On the other side of Abigail, James jumped to his feet.
“Calm down, Prince,” Harrison said, holding up a staying hand. “Your lady is fine. The potion is simply quite potent.”
“It’s disgusting,” Poppy rasped out.
Abigail let out a small laugh. “That’s the fae for you. They’ll make everything look beautiful, but taste awful if it serves no outward purpose.”
“Is it time?” James asked.
With a sigh, Harrison slapped his hands on his knees and stood. “I suppose so. No use waiting. We do need to get Lady Olidan back to the Glass Kingdom as well.”
Catch up on Sisters of String and Glass
Check out Queen of the Garden of Girls