Chapter Seventeen: That’s Not How You Feed a Snoggle
A low growl had both men jumping and turning around. The large Snoggle stood at the end of the alley and snapped at them, his large sharp teeth a blinding white in the darkness.
“Let’s get out of here!” one of the men hollered as he climbed over the fence at the end of the alley.
“Wait for me!” the other man said, pulling himself up the fence. “You’re on your own, lady,” he said, then flipped over the fence and took off running.
“Good,” Gresha said, knowing he couldn’t hear her by now. “That’s what I wanted, anyway,” she said, looking at Matrios who had moved towards her. “Did you bring the others with you?”
‘No, but they’re all out looking for you.’
“Good, let them look,” she said as she hid her face in her arms and leaned against the wall.
“Good,” Gresha said with a cry, her voice muffled against her arm. “Did you know about what they had planned to do?”
‘No. Not that I could have stopped them if I had known.’
“Why did they do that to me? My hearts broke when I thought I had lost my sister,” Gresha said with a cry.
‘You need to stop throwing a pity party for yourself.’
“What?” Gresha asked, turning to look at her Snoggle. “Whose side are you on?”
‘Yours. You have been wallowing in pity ever since you had found that your gifts were silent. Everyone has been trying to cheer you up. But you wouldn’t let them.’
“I’m nothing without my gift,” Gresha said with a shake of her head.
‘You are everything to them, with or without your gift. Your gift isn’t who you are, it’s what you are. You’re a Highborn. But firstly, you’re a daughter, a sister, a wife, a…’
“I get your point,” she said, wiping her eyes. “Have I really been that bad?”
His laughter filled her head.
She laughed and got to her feet. “Maybe I owe them an apology?”
‘I say you all owe each other something, after today.’
Gresha laughed when the Snoggle shook his large head, then walked over to him and lifted herself onto his back.
“Let’s go home, Matrios,” she said as she laid against his neck.
‘As you wish, Princess.’
Matrios carried her to the High Royal Suite, where the rest of her family waited, after searching for her with no results. When he scratched at the door, Pilar opened it for him.
“Gresha,” he said when he saw his sister on the beast’s back.
“Pilar,” she said without raising her head.
Matrios walked into the living room and everyone stood when they saw Gresha on his back. Gresha sat up and looked around the room at her family. They all looked at her like they were afraid she would break if they moved towards her.
“I’m not glass,” she grumbled as she slid off Matrios’ back.
“Gresha, where have you been?” Leih asked as he moved towards her.
“Hiding,” she said as she put a hand up to stop him.
He stopped before he reached her. “I’m sorry,” he whispered.
“I am too,” she said, not able to fight back the tears any longer. Gresha fell to her knees and cried.
Leih rushed to her and pulled her into his arms.
“Those emotions,” Masorien said, watching his niece. “I’ve seen them before.”
“What are you talking about?” Gio asked, looking at his brother.
“She lost her powers only because of her emotions. I saw it happen before. The Kryer before Hah-Nah. When she was pregnant, she had these mixed emotions all the time,” Masorien said as he continued to watch his niece.
“Hah-Nah didn’t get them,” Tenyar said, watching Gresha and Leih.
“She wasn’t pregnant with twins,” Masorien said with a shake of his head.
“The Kryer was pregnant with twins?” Pilar asked, shocked.
“She lost them before they were due. But she went through these emotions that affected everyone around her. She didn’t have any other gift other than visions, but she did stop having visions for two months, she had thought she had lost the gift until she had the vision of the twins who would undo the queen,” Masorien said with a shake of his head.
“She was pregnant with twins when she had that vision?” Gio asked, looking at his brother.
“Yeah, she didn’t let many know. She was terrified because she knew they would not live. Though she prayed they would. But they didn’t,” Masorien said with a shake of his head.
“I’m sorry, Sister,” Nahla said as she walked into the living room, a stuffed animal against her chin.
Gresha turned from Leih and held her arms out to her sister. Nahla ran into her sister’s arms and cried against her.
“We’re all sorry, baby girl. We were all so worried about what it was doing to you not having your gift. We knew a scare for a loved one would bring it out,” Gio said as he frowned at his daughter.
“You included Nahla?” Gresha asked as she looked up at her father.
“She actually overheard us talking and insisted on doing it. She wanted to help you as much as we did,” Pilar said, watching his sisters on the floor.
“The Ferris wheel was my idea,” Leih said with a frown.
“What if I hadn’t gotten my gift back?” she asked, looking around the room.
“We were prepared for that,” Gio said as he watched his daughter, “I was right there ready to grab her.”
“Oh my Gods. I can’t believe how stupid I was to believe all this,” Gresha said with a shake of her head.
“You’re not stupid,” Leih said, pulling her and Nahla into his arms.
“I sure feel like it,” Gresha said with a pout.
“There goes the pity party again,” Leih said with a shake of his head.
“Sorry,” Gresha said as she pulled her bottom lip into her mouth.
“We will have to watch out for those emotions,” Masorien said with a shake of his head. “She won’t know she’s doing it unless we point it out to her.”
“I’m all in,” Pilar said with a grin. “I don’t mind telling my sister she’s a party pooper.”
Gresha laughed, “I’m sure you will tell me that all the time.”
“I have a few more months to get away with it, so yeah,” Pilar said with a wide grin.
“I’ll help,” Nahla said with a nod.
“You know I’m in,” Leih said with a smile.
“Good, we’ll all let you know when your emotions are overdoing it,” Masorien said with a smile. “We will keep you from losing your gift again.”
“Thank you. And if I do, never pull today off again,” Gresha said, looking around the room.
“We promise,” Gio said, then held his left hand up and placed his right hand over his left heart.
“Promise,” the others said as they did the same.
‘And I’ll keep an eye on them while they keep an eye on you.’
Gresha laughed as she looked at Matrios. “Sounds good.”
Gresha looked at the piece of clothing in her hand. It was the scarf her mother had worn, when they had gone to the Mountain, that one Christmas and played in the snow. It’s the only thing in her mother’s closet that hasn’t been washed since the last time she wore it.
‘I’m sorry, Princess, it’s been too long.’
Matrios looked from the scarf to Gresha’s sad face.
“It was a long shot, anyway,” Gresha said as a tear slid down her cheek. “Neesah was right, I’ll never find my mother without her.”
‘Don’t think like that.’
Matrios nudged her arm with his large nose.
“It’s true,” Gresha cried.
Matrios nudged his head between Gresha’s arms and looked up into her face. Gresha laughed, looking down into his big brown eyes.
‘She didn’t know you would own your very own Snoggle.’
Gresha could swear she saw him grin again. She laughed and lowered her arms around his neck, then laid her cheek against his large head and closed her eyes.
‘The scents of your mother are just too old.’
Gresha’s eyes popped open, and she moved back away from Matrios, an idea in her head.
‘I don’t like that look on your face.’
“Too bad,” Gresha said with a grin, “I have an idea.”
‘Don’t like the sound of that.’
“Matrios, can you track someone’s scent using blood?” she asked, looking into his eyes.
She watched as his large head nodded up and down.
‘If I smell their fresh blood, no more than twenty-four hours old, I can use it to track where the rest of the body is.’
“Good,” she said with a smile.
‘You don’t have fresh blood.’
“Yes, I do,” she said, then reached into her pocket and pulled out the pocket knife Leih had handed her to use, to get the bullet out of Tenyar. She kept forgetting to give it back to him.
‘What are you doing?!’
The tone of his voice in her head sounded like panic. She reached her hand out and scratched the side of his face, between his eye and ear.
“I’m going to give you my mother’s blood,” she said with a smile.
He stopped talking in her head when she opened the knife and sliced open her arm. She cried out as the blade sliced through the top of her forearm.
His growl in her head had her looking up at him. “This will work,” she said with a smile. “I have my mother’s blood flowing through me, just as much as I do my father’s.”
‘I don’t know.’
“Sniff it,” she said, holding her throbbing arm out to him.
She watched him tentatively sniff her arm. He made a face, then sniffed it again.
‘I can smell the Earth blood in you as well as a lot of Sobriehton blood.’
“Is it enough?” she asked, still holding her throbbing arm up to him. Her arm hurt so much, but to find her mother, she will endure the pain.
‘Too much Sobriehton blood.’
She watched as his large head shook and frowned, then lowered her arm. This was her last chance to find her mother. Her eyes lit up as she looked at him.
’I really don’t like that look.’
She smiled and held her arm back up to him. “Taste the blood if that will help.”
His tongue lolled out of his mouth as his eyes squinted at her. She chuckled. She would swear if he was a man, he would be wrinkling his nose at her.
’Are you trying to make me sick?’
“Please, Matrios. This is the last thing we have to find my mother with,” she begged, holding her arm out to him.
‘If this is your wish.’
Gresha watched as his largemouth opened and clamped down over her arm. He was so delicate with her arm, making sure his teeth didn’t puncture her skin. She giggled when his tongue swept over her arm.
“Gresha!” Leih screamed from across the room.
Gresha turned and looked at her husband. “Uh, oh.”
Leih skidded to a stop beside her and grabbed her arm. Matrios growled when Leih tried to pull her arm out of his mouth.
“Let her go!” Leih bellowed.
‘I’m not done, he will tear your arm on my teeth.’
“Stop Leih,” Gresha squealed.
Leih let go of her arm and stared at her. When he saw the blood drip from the beast’s mouth, he grabbed her arm again. Gresha held the pocket knife up in front of her husband’s face to show him she had cut herself. He let go of her arm and took the knife from her.
“What the hell, Gresha?” he asked, staring at the bloody blade.
“It’s my last resort,” she said, then turned her head back to Matrios.
“To feed your dog your arm?” Leih asked, staring at them.
Matrios growled at the word dog and let go of Gresha’s arm.
Gresha laughed, “I don’t think he liked the use of the word, dog.”
“I don’t care…” He stopped talking when he saw the deep cut on her arm and nothing else around it, except Snoggle slobber.
“My mother’s clothes are too old to get a scent. So, I thought my blood would give him her scent. After all, I do have her blood in me,” Gresha said, smiling up at her husband.
“That was very dangerous,” Leih said as she pulled a handkerchief from his pocket and tied it tightly around her arm. “You don’t know what a Snoggle would do if he smelt blood.”
Gresha burst into laughter and scratched Matrios behind his ear.
“What’s so funny?” Leih asked, watching her.
“Snoggles don’t like the scent of Sobriehton or Earthling blood. Or the taste. He only did it because I begged him to. If he were standing here as a man, he would be wrinkling his nose and gagging.” She laughed when the large head shook like he was trying to get the image and taste from his mind and mouth.
“Why do they eat Sobriehtons then?” Leih asked, eyeing the beast.
“They don’t,” Gresha said with a smile. “They will kill one to protect themselves and each other. But they prefer to eat animals. Better flavor, I guess.”
‘You’ve got that right.’
Gresha laughed with a smile. “Did it work?” she asked, looking into his eyes.
‘The taste is in my senses as well as the smell.’
He turned and walked to a door and scratched at it. Gresha opened it and they moved through the hall. Leih stayed close to Gresha as they followed Matrios down halls and out into the open. He went down the trail that led to the city, then stopped and sniffed the air.
‘I have a scent I’ve never smelt before.’
“He smells something,” Gresha said with a smile.