February 4, 2016 | Posted in The Mermaid & The WolF Adventures

MeaZea laughs, loud and breathless. “Maybe that’s why they do it! They want to get adventurers like us frustrated, so we just go home and give up on our quest.

Or maybe, she thinks, maybe it’s just that they can’t talk in straight words any more? What would it be like, only being able to talk in riddles? What would it be like, to never say exactly what you mean?

WooFZee grumbles a bit more but doesn’t really take the conversation anywhere. He says the riddle, twice. “What can run but never walks. Has a mouth but never talks. Has a head but never weeps. Has a bed but never sleeps.”

And hearing it again, that’s all it takes. The words make sense this time around, when MeaZea isn’t distracted by thoughts of the strange boy. She points over the edge of the cliff, at the too-blue river. “He gave us the answer again. It’s the river. Always running, with a mouth and a head, with a bed of stones beneath it, with no time to rest or pause. I don’t think he’s trying to confuse us. Whatever’s happening, it’s just because he wants us to –“

A crash fills the air. The mountain above them breaks, sending a barrage of stones down upon the duo. MeaZea screams and throws her arms up in the air – only to find herself thrown from WooFZee’s back. The wolf covers her up with his own body, trying to shield her as much as possible from the onslaught of boulders.

She curls her hands in his fur, closes her eyes, and hopes for the best.

The best, it turns out, is exactly what they get.

Not so much as a single pebble touches WooFZee’s back. In fact, when he finally gathers up the courage to open his eyes again, the wolf realizes that they aren’t on the mountain anymore. They’re in the forest, at the edge of the river. Down here, the water isn’t quite so clear. The stones are dark and murky, like they’ve been scuffed up something awful.

The boys voice again.

“I come at night without being fetched.”

The sun blinks out, like a blanket has been thrown over it.

“By day, I am lost without being stolen.”

One by one, the stars blink to life.

“I am like a jewel – but I am like no diamond.

In the waters of the sapphire river, the boy’s image appears. He looks sad, with red rimmed eyes and furrowed brows. He picks up one hand and presses it against the water, only to have his palm stop, like he’s pressing it against a sheet of glass.

“It’s him,” says MeaZea, softly.

WooFZee places one paw on the water, over top of the boy’s hand. It won’t push through. A cold chill washes over his body. “The answer is a star. I’ve heard it before. Back when I was just a pup. It’s a star, and this is a mirror, and we need to find a river. That’s what these riddles mean.”

“How do you know?”

“Because once a star falls, it can never return to the sky without help.”

 

Katelynn E Koontz – Author