Reckless (Mirrorworld #1) - Chapter 48
Will let go of Clara’s hand. He looked at him, stunned, as Jacob stepped out from between the walls, but there was no rage on his brother’s face, no hatred. The jade-skinned stranger had disappeared, though Will was still wearing the gray uniform.
He went up to Jacob, his eyes fixed on his chest as if he could still see the blood gushing out after the Goyl’s bullet hit him, and then he hugged him, clutching him hard as he used to when they were children.
“I thought you were dead. And I knew it couldn’t be true.”
He stepped back and looked at Jacob as if to make sure there was nothing missing.
“How did you do it?” He pushed back the gray sleeve and touched his soft skin. “It’s gone!”
He turned to Clara. “I told you Jacob would figure it out. I don’t know how, but he always could.”
“I know.” She smiled, and in her eyes Jacob saw everything that had happened.
Will touched his shoulder where the saber had cut the fabric. Did he know that the stains were his own blood? No. How could he? It was pale Goyl blood.
He had his brother back.
“Tell me everything.” Will took Clara’s hand.
“That’s a long story,” Jacob replied. And he would never tell it to him.
Once upon a time, there was a boy who set out to learn the meaning of fear.
For a moment Jacob thought he could see a trace of gold in his brother’s eyes, but that was probably just the pupils catching the morning sun.
“Take him away. Far away.”
“Look at this! I’m richer than the Empress! What am I saying? Richer than the King of Albion!” Gilded hair, gilded shoulders — even Jacob had trouble recognizing Valiant. The gold stuck to him like the sticky, foul-smelling sap the tree had always discharged over Jacob.
The Dwarf pranced past Will without even noticing him.
“I have to admit it,” he shrieked at Jacob. “I was sure you’d cheat me. But for this I’d even take you back into the Goyl fortress. Do you think it’ll harm the tree if I dig it up?”
Fox also had a few flakes of gold in her fur. She stopped dead when she saw Will.
What do you say, Fox? Does he still smell like them?
Will picked up a small clump of gold that the Dwarf had brushed from his hair.
Valiant still hadn’t noticed him. He noticed nothing.
“I’ll have to take the risk!” he panted. “For all I know, you might just shake all the gold out of it if I leave it here. No, there’s only one thing left to do.”
He nearly fell over as he ran off again. Will just stood there, wiping the snow from the tiny nugget in his hand.
Take him away. Very far, so I can’t find him.
Clara exchanged a worried look with Jacob.
“Come on, Will,” she said. “Let’s go home.” She reached for his hand, but Will rubbed his arm as if he could once again feel the jade growing on his skin.
Take him away, Jacob.
“Clara’s right, Will,” he said, taking his brother’s arm. “Come on.” And Will followed him, although he turned his head once more, looking back as if he had lost something.
Fox followed them to the tower, but she stopped in front of the entrance.
“I’ll be back soon,” Jacob said to her as Clara and Will stroked her fur in farewell. “Make sure the Dwarf collects his gold before the ravens get here.”
Magic gold attracted Gold-Ravens, and their cawing could drive you insane. Fox nodded, but she hesitated before she turned, and the concerned look she cast was for Clara, not Will. She still hadn’t forgotten the Larks’ Water. When would he forget? When they are gone, Jacob.
He climbed up the rope ladder first. On the floor of the tower room, between some acorn shells, lay a dead Heinzel. The Stilt had probably killed it. Jacob pushed the tiny body under a few leaves before helping Clara through the hatch.
The mirror caught them all in its glass, but it was Will who stood in front of it and gazed at himself as though he were seeing a stranger. Clara walked up beside him and took his hand. Jacob, however, retreated unit the dark glass could no longer find him. Will turned to him, a question in his eyes.
“You’re not coming with us?”
Not everything was forgotten. Jacob could see it on Will’s face. But he had his brother back, maybe more than ever.
“No.” He shook his head. “I can’t very well leave Fox, can I?”
Will looked at him. What did he see? A dark corridor? A saber in his hand?
“Do you know when you’ll be coming back again?”
Just go, Will.
Far away, so I can’t find him.
But Will left Clara standing and went to him.
“Thank you, brother,” he whispered, embracing him.
Then he turned, and stopped once more.
“Did you ever find him?” he asked.
Jacob thought he could again feel Hentzau’s golden eyes finding his father’s face in his.
“No,” he answered. “Never.”
Will nodded and Clara took his hand, but it was Jacob she looked at as his brother pressed his hand onto the glass.
And then they were gone, and Jacob saw just himself in the warped glass.
Fox was waiting where he had left her.
“What was the price?” she asked as she followed him to the carriage.
“The price for what?”
Jacob unhitched the horses. He would take them to Chanute, as compensation for the packhorse he’d lost. He could only hope that the Goyl would treat his mare well.
“What was the price for your brother?” Fox shifted her shape.
She was wearing her own dress again. It suited her so much better than the dress she had worn in the city.
“Don’t worry about it. It’s already paid.”
She knew him too well.
“Like I said. It’s paid. What’s the Dwarf up to?”
Fox looked toward the stables. “Collecting his gold. It’ll take him days. I was really looking forward to seeing him covered in stinking pollen.”
She looked at the sky. It had begun to snow again. “We should head south.”
Jacob felt under his shirt for the imprint of the moth.
“You have maybe a year.”
“Well? A lot could be done in a year. In this world, there was a cure for everything.
He had only to find it. Somewhere.