Chapter Eighteen: Welcome Home
Gresha and Leih followed the Snoggle down the main road that led into the city. He turned down an alley and hopped over a fence. Leih lifted Gresha into his arms, then jumped over the fence and landed beside Matrios. Matrios looked at them, then continued down the alley.
Leih set Gresha on her feet, then they continued to follow her Snoggle through the city.
“It would be so much easier if we could fly,” Gresha said with a chuckle.
“That was a dangerous trick you did back there,” Leih whispered into her ear.
“I trust Matrios with my life,” she said, looking up at him. “I would think you would too, by now.”
“What if you were wrong about him?” Leih asked as he stopped walking and looked into her eyes.
“Wrong about the blood, or wrong about Matrios?” she asked, watching him.
“Both,” he said with a growl.
“If I was wrong about the blood, then we would have found another way. And I’m not wrong about Matrios.” She said with a smile, then ran to catch up with her Snoggle.
‘Something isn’t right.’
“What’s wrong?” Gresha asked, coming up beside him.
He sniffed the ground, then took off at a run, making Gresha and Leih run after him. He stopped at a sewer grate and howled.
“Down there?” Leih asked, looking at the grate.
“How will we get down there?” Gresha asked, staring at the grate.
“Like this,” Leih said, then bent down and tore the grate out of the ground and tossed it off to the side.
Gresha walked over to Leih and leaned into him. “My strong husband,” she said with a grin.
He smiled as he kissed her, then lifted her into his arms and jumped down into the sewer. Matrios jumped down and landed beside them, splashing sewer water.
“I agree,” Gresha said, wrinkling her nose.
“Agree with what?” Leih asked, looking at his wife.
“This place is nasty,” she said as she looked up at him with a smile.
“It’s a sewer, did you expect it to smell like roses?” he asked with a laugh.
“No,” Gresha said with a shake of her head.
‘I would rather smell Sobriehton blood, then this.’
Gresha laughed and looked at her Snoggle.
‘I need another sniff; this sewer is overpowering.’
“Set me down, Leih,” Gresha said as she tried to get out of his arms.
Leih set her on her feet and watched her pull the kerchief off her arm and hold her arm out to the Snoggle. He had to force himself to not pull her back away from the beast. Matrios licked the fresh blood that ran down her arm. Leih could swear he heard the Snoggle gag.
Gresha watched as Matrios headed down one of the pipes. Leih moved over to her and wrapped the kerchief back around her cut. She smiled up at him, then followed her Snoggle.
Leih sighed as he followed his wife. If he hadn’t come into the training room when he had, she’d be doing this on her own.
They went down several different pipes before coming to a dead end. Matrios stepped onto dry ground at the end of the tunnel and started scratching the floor with both paws and whimpered.
‘There’s a hatch here.’
“He says that there’s a hatch there,” Gresha said as she walked over to Matrios.
Leih looked at the ground and found that there was, indeed, a hatch there.
“How do we open it?” Gresha asked, looking at the almost invisible hatch.
She looked around the dead-end and paused when she saw a panel in the wall. She moved over to it and pried it open; inside was a keypad.
“I found it,” she whispered.
“That’s a DNA Reitro,” Leih said as he came up behind her.
“A what?” she asked, looking at him.
“You can only open the hatch with my mother’s DNA,” Leih said, then took a step back, anger on his face.
“No,” Gresha said with a cry.
Leih punched the other wall of the tunnel, putting a large dent into the metal.
‘What about using a blood relative?’
“Would that work?” Gresha asked, looking at Matrios.
‘It has worked for us this far.’
“Would what work?” Leih asked as he looked between his wife and her Snoggle.
“Using blood from a blood relative of Neesah,” Gresha said as she looked at her husband.
“I’m an only child,” he said, watching them, “and my skin is impenetrable.”
“What about saliva, do you think that would work?” Gresha asked.
“It worked for the Chameleon; we can see if it will work here,” Leih said, then walked over to the keypad. He typed in his mother’s name and when the device for the blood came out, he spat into it.
“Ewe,” Gresha said as she wrinkled her nose.
He looked at her and laughed. The machine made a beeping noise.
“DNA denied,” the machine said, then retracted back inside.
“Damn it,” Leih grumbled as he punched the wall beside the contraption.
‘Maybe I can draw some blood from him.’
“What do you mean?” Gresha asked, looking at Matrios.
‘Snoggle’s have sharp and strong teeth. They can penetrate almost anything.’
“Leih,” she said, looking at her husband. “Have you ever been bitten by a Snoggle?”
Leih turned and stared at her and her beast. “I was born here, Short Stack. I had never seen a Snoggle until Matrios.”
“Right,” Gresha said with a nod. “Would it be okay if Matrios bit you?”
“What the hell?” Leih asked, staring at them.
“To draw blood,” Gresha rushed to say said before her husband got the wrong idea. “You know, see if his teeth can penetrate your skin.”
“Hmm,” Leih said, looking between the two, “worth a shot,” he shrugged.
He walked over to the Snoggle and held his arm out to the largemouth. He could swear the dog got a disgusted look on his face as he took a deep breath, then chomped down on his arm.
Matrios whimpered and yelped as he jumped back.
“Are you okay?” Gresha asked as she moved closer to her Snoggle.
Leih looked down at his arm. Not even a scratch.
‘His skin is harder than my teeth. I almost broke them, they hurt.’
“Oh, my poor puppy,” she said as she rubbed the side of his head.
He growled and looked at her.
‘I thought I said only your sister can call me a puppy.’
“I know, but it got your mind off your sore teeth, didn’t it?” Gresha said with a laugh as she leaned down and kissed his nose.
“We need to get back to the surface and let your father know how far we got,” Leih said as he watched his wife with her Snoggle.
“Right,” Gresha said as she turned to him with a sad smile.
Leih moved over to her and took her into his arms, then kissed her. She sighed as she leaned into him. No matter how sad she is, he can always make her feel even the slightest bit better.
“You did what now?!” Gio demanded after he listened to his daughter and nephew.
“It was my best chance, Daddy,” Gresha said, looking at her father.
‘I didn’t like the idea myself.’
“Oh, hush you,” Gresha said as she turned to her Snoggle.
“What did he say?” Gio asked, looking at the Snoggle.
Gresha huffed. “He was never keen on the idea himself. I begged him to do it,” she admitted.
“Smart dog,” Gio said with a nod towards the Snoggle.
Matrios growled at the word dog and Gresha laughed, then walked over to her Snoggle and scratched his nose.
“Better get used to it, Matrios. Everyone is going to call you a dog,” she said with a smile.
‘As long as they don’t call me a puppy.’
She laughed as he growled, then kissed him on the top of his nose.
“Okay, so how do we get through the DNA Reitro?” Masorien asked, watching his family.
“We tried saliva, and that didn’t work,” Gresha said, looking at her husband.
“We can’t penetrate my skin to get blood,” Leih said with a frown.
“And Nahla isn’t her daughter, so that’s out,” Tenyar said as he held his hand to his chin and tried to think of something that would help.
“What about the black knife? That would penetrate my skin,” Leih said, looking around the room.
“No,” Gresha said with a growl.
Leih walked over to her and pulled her into his arms. “You can keep the knife from killing me, Short Stack,” he said with a smile.
“Not going to happen,” Gresha said as she looked up into her husband’s green eyes.
“She’s right, Cousin. We’re not going through that again,” Pilar said as he watched his cousin and sister.
“Gresha’s powers are unpredictable right now,” Masorien reminded them.
“I agree,” Gio said with a nod.
“Then we’re back to square one,” Leih said with a shake of his head as he pulled his wife into his arms.
“What about Pilar?” Gresha asked, pulling out of her husband’s embrace.
“What about Pilar?” Gio asked, looking from his daughter to his son.
She looked at her father. “He’s Neesah’s nephew. Which gives him…”
“Neesah’s blood,” Leih finished for his wife and turned to look at his cousin.
“Brilliant idea,” Gio said with a grin.
“Told you your daughter’s a genius,” Masorien said with a smile.
“It won’t be that much,” Leih said as he looked around the room at everyone.
“What if you added mine to the mix?”
Everyone turned to the newcomer. “Stalson!” Gresha cried out as she ran across the room and into his arms.
“Hey, Gresha,” Stalson said, hugging her close.
“Where have you been?” she asked, pulling back from him.
“Out looking for me.”
Gresha turned and sucked in a breath as both her hands flew up to her mouth. “Clairie!” she cried as she flung herself into the woman’s arms.
Claireisa held onto her princess so tight, Gresha couldn’t breathe. But she didn’t care. Her family is all back together again.
“Where did you find her?” Gio asked, watching his daughter with the woman.
“In the sewers,” Stalson said with a laugh.
Claireisa pulled back from Gresha but didn’t let her go. “I tracked Neesah and her spies to the sewers but came to a dead end.”
“So did we,” Leih said as he watched the queen’s bodyguard with his wife.
“Where have you been?” Pilar asked, watching Claireisa. “You disappeared right after…” He stopped talking, not able to finish his sentence.
“I went to pay my respects to Gwyneth and say a final farewell, before we all lost our memories, and found the door wide open. I tracked the spy who had taken Gwyneth and found that Neesah was responsible. I tried tracking where they had taken Gwyneth’s body but came to a dead end. So I hid when the memory bombs went off, and have spent the last twenty-odd years searching for Gwyneth and staying out of sight,” Claireisa said with a smile. “You don’t know how good it is to be able to talk to you all.” She looked at Gresha. “Especially you, princess. When you came back to the Station as Gretta, I almost had a heart attack. You look so much like your mother.”
“When our memories returned, I went in search of Claireisa. When I finally found her, she was shocked to see me,” Stalson said with a grin.
“Even more so when he pulled me into his arms and kissed me,” Claireisa said with a laugh. “We have spent the last few days going over the trails. But still, nothing. They all end in the sewer.”
“That’s because there’s a hatch we’re trying to break,” Leih said with a nod.
“So we heard when we came in,” Stalson said with a nod. “Add my blood to the mix, maybe that will help,” he offered with a grin.
“That just might work,” Pilar said, smiling at his family.
“What’s this I hear that you’re pregnant?” Claireisa asked, smiling at Gresha.
Gresha grinned and nodded. “Twins.”
“So Stalson said,” Claireisa said with a smile, then hugged Gresha again.
They all moved further into the living room and sat. Stalson and Claireisa stared at the Snoggle in shock. Gresha explained to them how she came to own a Snoggle and Claireisa smiled, then told them that she has always known that the princess could tame the wildest beasts.
They discussed what their next moves will be in finding their queen. They were still discussing everything when Gretchen and her family walked in the door.
Nahla ran into the room and skidded to a stop. “Clairie!” she shrieked, then ran into Claireisa’s arms.
“Nahla,” Claireisa said with a sigh, holding the girl close.
“What’s going on?” Garrett asked, looking around the room at everyone gathered.
“We have a trail to finding Gwyneth,” Gio said, looking at his brother-in-law.
“That’s great!” Gretchen said with a hint of excitement.
Matrios got to his feet, then walked over to Gretchen and sniffed her. Gretchen stared down at the huge beast.
“What is he doing?” Gretchen asked, watching the beast walked around her, sniffing her.
“Matrios?” Gresha asked as she got to her feet.
‘I smell your mother.’
“Oh,” Gresha said, looking at her aunt, “he smells my mother on you.”
“Well, I would think so,” Gretchen said, watching the large animal.
“I used my blood, so he could sniff mother out. But I have too much Sobriehton blood. It took a lot for him to get her scent,” Gresha said, then pulled the kerchief off her arm.
“Gresha!” Pilar said as he sucked in a shocked breath and walked over to her. He looked at the deep cut in her arm that was still bleeding.
“Gresha,” Gretchen said, staring at the cut.
“That was dangerous,” Gio said as he walked up behind his daughter. “You didn’t say you had done this.”
“It was my only hope,” Gresha said with a frown.
“Why don’t you use my blood?” Gretchen said, holding her arm out.
“Of course,” Gresha said with a smile, “I can’t believe I hadn’t thought of that.”
“Of course, they’re twins,” Leih said, slapping his forehead hard enough everyone heard it. “I should have thought of that.”
‘I can get more off her.’
Gresha smiled at Matrios. “Matrios is in agreement.”
“Of course he is, he’s a Snoggle,” Pilar said as he watched the beast.
“Contrary to popular belief. A Snoggle hates the smell and taste of Sobriehton blood,” Gresha said with a smile.
Gresha laughed, “or Earthling.”
“What do I do?” Gretchen asked as she watched the beast who was still sniffing her.
‘Should only need a prick of her finger. I can already smell your mother.’
“Should just need a prick of blood,” Gresha said, smiling at her aunt.
“Oh. Easy enough,” Gretchen said, then reached into her purse and pulled out a needle, then pricked her finger.
Matrios sniffed her finger, then lapped the blood as it dripped down her finger. He took off out the still-open door so fast, everyone stared after him in shock.
“Guess he caught something,” Gresha said as she headed for the door.
“Not you,” Pilar said as he lifted her into his arms.
“Pilar,” Gresha grumbled.
“To the hospital for you. I’m closing that gash in your arm before it gets infected. We can catch up with the others after,” he said as he carried her out the door.
“Leih!” she called out as she looked at him over her brother’s shoulder.
“Don’t worry, I’ll watch out for Matrios,” Leih called out to her.
“Don’t you guys do anything without me!” Gresha yelled as Pilar carried her through the corridor.