“Yeah, let’s head back.”
He shook his head and she laughed.
Dakotah raised the Lake and they managed to clamber back into the canoe, which had reappeared at the boundary between the icy Minnesota lake and the mysterious fey one. They picked up paddles and set off.
Dakotah’s soaked clothes were cold, but the fey air wasn’t, which helped a little. Pete shivered as she paddled. He picked up his pace so the exercise would warm them both.
“I should join rowing,” said Pete.
“You even allowed to do another sport?”
“I need a time turner,” she said, then fell silent at the reference to their previous conversation, when she’d wanted to forget everything they’d been through together.
“I’m gonna find you something really cool in the fey world,” said Dakotah. “Somethin’ to say thanks.”
“No,” she said, turning around to face him. “I’m going to find it. And not just one thing, a bunch of them.” She turned back around. “And while I’m at it, I’m gonna do the same in the rest of the world.”
They paddled on. After five more minutes Pete stopped paddling and pointed.
He squinted into the gloomy horizon. “Home?”
But it didn’t look right. Normally their destination came up relatively quickly, out of the foggy air. This thing in the distance was a black shape in the sky, something that really made Dakotah realize the vastness of the lake. And it was moving towards them, much faster than he liked.
“Turn,” Dakotah ordered. Pete obeyed immediately. They went sideways (and arbitrary direction on the Lake, but at least not right toward the…thing). It was no use. Within minutes the shape was close enough to discern.
“What…is it?” asked Pete.
That was his closest guess and he wasn’t too far off the mark. A winged lizard-like animal flew toward the canoe. It had moist-looking skin patterned in black and orange, and a wide, blunt mouth. Its tail was short, looking as if half of it had been bitten off. As it approached, it opened its mouth and out fell burning coals. They hit the water of the Lake and sizzled. It banked, swinging its body right for the canoe, revealing back feet tipped in claws.
“Holy shit!” said Dakotah.
The claws came right for him and he threw himself the floor of the canoe.
The salamander screeched in pain as it swooped away. Burning coals rained onto the canoe.
Dakotah looked up to see Pete standing, wielding a paddle.
“Don’t stand in a canoe!” he yelled over another screech. He plucked coals from the floor and dropped them into the Lake.
“Well, how do I fight it?” Pete didn’t even look at him. The salamander was circling back.
“Heroes can summon a weapon for the task at hand.”
“What, like a sword?”
“No, a gun, you nerd!”
Pete actually laughed. “Duck!” she yelled. He did, but he didn’t see what she did because he was blinded as she activated the Divine Light. The Light filled her and spilled outward. Her body moved, the canoe rocked wildly, and he grabbed her legs to steady her.
The salamander wailed its annoyance. He covered his head as more coals bounced down.
“Shit.” Dakotah looked up and saw the paddle she’d been wielding had cracked in two.
“Its tail got me across the chest–“
She stopped talking as they both saw the same thing. Her sweater was disintegrating.
“Take it off!” Dakotah yelled. She sat and pulled the sweater off, and her shirt too. In a sports bra, they both stared at her stomach for a moment.
“It’s fine, I don’t feel anything,” she said. “Its skin is like acid.”
A cry in the distance reminded them of the danger.
“We ain’t gonna fight something like that,” Dakotah said. “We need to get outta here.”
“Relax,” said Pete. She closed her eyes, and in a moment an 81mm mortar materialized in the canoe.
“What the fuck?” asked Dakotah.
“I play Halo,” Pete answered.
“You a baller, Abe.”
She loaded the mortar and aimed it. “Duh. Your powers are weird. Can you breath coals if it’s near?”
“I don’t wanna.”
She didn’t answer. Ratcheting up her Divine Light, she waited for the salamander. When it came in close, she launched. The canoe was an unsteady launch point, but Dakotah watched in awe as the shot caught the salamander in its left wing. It cried in pain, the sound reverberating across the water. Then it hit the Lake with a crash.
“You paddle!” said Pete. “I’ll see if it surfaces!”
He obeyed without question.
They dragged themselves out of the canoe and into her bedroom. Dakotah didn’t bother to check the canoe for damage just yet. He let the Lake fade away until it was just the two of them, both soaking wet and burned, adrenaline racing through them.
Pete put her fingers to her ears. They probably rang just as loudly as his.
He was about to speak when the door opened and Pete’s mom stepped in. “Did you see the rain? It’s pouring like–”
She stopped when she saw them.
Dakotah saw the situation like she saw it and blushed.
“Ok, thanks for your help, Pete. See you.”
He scurried out the door and back home.
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