In past episodes Mike has survived challenge after challenge and now has arrived at the base of the willow tree and met his first she tinker. Will he survive this challenge? Let’s find out!
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Mike brushed off the twigs and dirt from his sleeves and tugged his jacket straight. His tumble landing from his ride from the crazy blue jay had left him shaken, disheveled, and in no way prepared to meet the woman he might marry. He had envisioned so many things differently. If he could have done this again he would have been brushed and groomed and come bearing some sort of gift.
The chance to make that sort of good impression was gone and it was all he could do not to curse at his bad luck. Especially not with a she tinker eyeing him while holding a spear.
“Answer me! What are you?” She demanded.
“The name’s Mike Finnegan, and I’m a tinker, like you,” he answered, holding his cane between himself and the armed she tinker. From above in the canopy of the willow Mike heard a gasp and the low hiss of several voices whispering back and forth.
“Impossible, all the he tinkers were killed with the curse.” She lowered her eyes ground the butt of the spear in the dirt.
Now it was Mike’s turn to be surprised. He knew that there had been some sort of calamity ages ago, but only hearing fragments here and there from sparrows visiting the house, he never had learned enough to put the pieces together. The shock of her statement startled him, he had to know more. “Listen, I am what I say. You have to believe me, I never knew about any curse. Could you tell me more?”
She pounded the spear against the ground and her face twisted in anger as she once again stared him down. “How can you claim to be a tinker and not know this? Are you a spy for those filthy leprechauns?”
Mike stepped back. “No, I swear it!”
Another tinker stepped out from somewhere behind him without a sound. Her hair hung in two dark braids over either shoulder and she had the air of importance about her. “Enough Iszel, I’ll take it from here.” The honey haired tinker bowed and stepped back a few paces.
“Well, well, what have we here,” she muttered to herself as she stepped closer to Mike. She looked closely at his cane, being careful not to touch it, and then into his eyes. With an outstretched finger she traced a line along his brow. “What you say is true, I find no deceit in you.” She smiled and the gesture sparked a warmth within him. “Welcome Mike Finnegan to Willow Keep, the last home of the tinkers. I am Queen Caliee.”
She turned to the other she tinkers who had assembled. “We shall show our guest every courtesy while he is with us. Iszel, if you will show him to a room, I’m sure he’s weary from his travels.”
Iszel turned to the queen, never taking her eyes from him. “Are you sure he can be trusted?”
“I know you have sworn to protect me and this keep. I trust him to be what he says. Now show him into the keep.” She glanced around. “The longer we linger out here the more notice we’ll attract.”
“Yes, ma’am.” Iszel nodded and bowed before turning back to Mike. “Alright, come with me and take care to stay on the path. We’ve taken measures to ensure our safety, I’d hate to see you caught in one before hearing what you have to say for yourself.”
“Yes, of course,” Mike agreed and followed her steps carefully. He knew what he was capable of as a tinker in terms of creating traps and he’d hate to trigger any by accident. Iszel marched on ahead, head high, back straight. He thought finding the she tinkers would answer all of his questions, not bring an avalanche of even more questions.
Iszel led him to a hidden passageway concealed by an outstretched root of the tree. From within he could see an elaborate system of pulleys and gears that would raise and lower the root to allow entrance. Whoever had created all of this was surely a genius that he wanted to meet. The passage slanted down toward a tall door flanked by two armored tinker guards who eyed him with curiosity.
Inside the doors was a great hall with pillars arching overhead formed from the roots of the tree. The floor was set with smooth polished stones. Several she tinkers in the hall stopped what they were doing to watch him as he passed by.
They traveled down several different corridors before arriving at a door. “You should find everything you need in here, rest and get cleaned up. Someone will come for you in a while.” Iszel said as she ushered him inside.
As soon as he entered the room she shut the door and he heard a key turn in the lock. “Hey, what’s the meaning of this?” he shouted and banged on the door. There was no answer.
To be continued…
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