Cabot moaned and lied down again. Jumping up, Salim grabbed a small stone bowl, and brought it over to him. He was just about to spoon and glob of green goop into Cabot’s mouth when Cabot spluttered, sitting up again. “No more of you drugs, sir! I am fine, see?” He demonstrated his wholeness of health by putting both feet on the ground and… crumpling to the floor. “See? Perfectly… fine…” he murmured pitifully. Salim helped him back onto the table, and Cabot returned this kindness by grudgingly taking the medicine.
“Listen, Jay,” Cabot started, after gulping down the medicine. His face had changed into an expression of sincerity that looked completely alien on his face—his eyes were wide, and he had none of his usual smirk. “You’d be better off just leaving someone like me to his… just desserts. I’m sorry for what I’ve done, but the past is in the past. I don’t expect to be seeing you any time soon.” He closed his eyes and fell fast asleep.
Jay didn’t know what to make of it, and Shep’s curious gaze at him didn’t help. His face felt hot and he felt so confused. Is Cabot turning good? Did he mean what he said? Why did he kidnap us—twice!—if he wasn’t the… villain? It was a strange thought, but Jay knew deep down that it was what Cabot had always been to him—the villain. What would happen if he turned out good? Will I ever be able to trust him? But Cabot had said that he expected never to see Jay again. Perhaps he will avoid me now, he thought hopefully.
Eventually, the sun set. Shep said, “The Enchantress will be taking us back to her ruins soon, Jay. You had better grab your things.”
Jay grabbed his knapsack from the room where he had slept last night, and when he came back down the stairs, he heard Shep and Salim talking.
“D’ya think you’ll be headed back down this way again?” Salim asked. “It’s been nice havin’ you around.”
“I’m glad I could be of help,” Shep said with a little bow. “However, I don’t think it’s likely that we’ll be coming back.”
Salim looked disappointed. “Well, I know it’s pretty out of the way. We don’t get none too many visitors down here, this bein’ the edge of nowhere an’ all.
“If I ever find myself passing even slightly close by, I’ll be sure to go out of my way if it means staying here at your inn,” Shep said with a smile. He turned to Jay. “Are you ready? We’ll be transported soon.” They gave a final farewell to Salim and then walked outside to round up the sheep.
“Why is the Enchantress doing this? It seems awfully nice.”
“I can’t rightly say,” answered Shep, pulling at his beard. “Perhaps it is because I had asked her to. However, she does not always do what you ask.”
“You just asked her to give us a free trip to anywhere and back?” Jay asked, aghast.
“Why wouldn’t I? Because of Cabot’s meddling, our belongings and the sheep—the very things that she asked us to obtain on our journey—were scattered around the country! I told her that she was needlessly prolonging the quest.”
“Then what did she say?” asked Jay, and then, “Why was Cabot working for her anyway?”
“Ah, two questions with the same answer. When we were arranging the initial terms of the agreement, the Enchantress warned me that there would be trials and hardships along the way. I assume that Cabot was her plaything to give us those trials. Cabot wanted my immortality, and she wanted to bug me. Their motives aligned, but she wasn’t really interested in helping him. The Enchantress tried to tell me that our scattered belongings and Sheep were just another hardship, but I… convinced her otherwise.” Shep drew his eyebrows together and pursed his lips.
“Yes, about the whole immortal thing:” Jay said, “what?”
Shep sighed. “Yes, I am immortal. No, I do not wish to tell you more than that.” He narrowed his eyes at Jay as if daring him to ask another question.
But Jay wanted to know one more thing: What Shep was hiding. He usually didn’t act like this. Perhaps he’ll let something slip if I keep pressing him, he thought. “I can’t remember the agreement that well. Can you refresh my memory?” he asked.
Shep screwed his eyes up to look at the sky. “I know what you’re doing but you’re not going to get anything out of me until it’s time for you to know. However, I will tell you the story again anyway, just in case there was some shred of honesty in your inquiry. The Enchantress was going to kill the population of Gozgarden castle. They had said impolite things about her when they thought that she wasn’t looking. She was about to slaughter them right in front of me when I stepped up. I asked her to forgive them; I told her that they were just petty animals and their words should mean nothing; I flattered her, and finally, she relented. She agreed not to kill them, but rather, she turned seven of them into sheep and scattered them throughout Trevon. She assigned the task of finding them to me because she knew I loved them so much. The rest of the castle of Gozgarden remains frozen to this day while the province crumbles—a country without a king.” Shep’s face looked stricken.
Her voice shattered the sad silence, saying, “What a heart-breaking rendition of that story.” Jay jumped and spun around. It was the Enchantress. “But really, Attolicus, Flattery? I had thought you were above such mean methods of persuasion.” She pouted.
“It was truthful flattery,” he responded slowly as he turned to face her, “but flattery nonetheless.” There was a sparkle in his eyes.
“Ah, well, I suppose if it was truthful,” she said, her voice a high, airy soprano, “then I can perhaps forgive you.” She flashed a glowing smile, and winked at Jay, who didn’t know quite what to do with his hands. “I suppose it’s time for your free passage back to my temple. But don’t think you get to squeeze favors out of me every time you leave your baggage back in the Scattered Isles. I’m not a mail service,” she huffed.
Jay blinked, and just like every time the Enchantress transported him, he found himself in another place, with no hint that he had been standing several hundred miles away the second before. Fleta, the Trolls, and Reyus were sitting on cracked blocks of marble, waiting for them. Fleta was examining her nails uninterestedly. Jay cleared his throat a little and she flinched, almost falling off her marble perch.
When she recovered, Fleta muttered, “I wish her teleportation came with a little warning noise or something, so that people don’t just show up on you from nowhere.”
Jay noticed she looked a little battered. “You okay?” he asked. “Did everything go alright?”
“Not as planned, no,” she said.
The Trolls popped their head over a fallen marble pillar and laughed. “There’s the understatement of the year,” Gilfred snickered.
“What happened?” asked Shep. He was surveying the surrounding landscape. The Enchantress was nowhere to be seen.
“That nice old lady that I assumed would take care of Reyus here?” Fleta nudged the king-turned-sheep resting next to her. “It turns out that she did want to take care of him after all.”
Gilfred giggled darkly, “And boy was she going to take care of him.”
“I fail to see the problem in that,” Shep said, regarding Fleta curiously.
“It turns out she was a demon,” she winced.
“A what?!” Jay exploded. Fleta fell off her marble block again.
“A demon,” she said, reproachful as she dusted herself off.
Jay gaped at her.
Shep shrugged. “It happens. It’s more common than you would think. Especially among politicians.” Jay could hardly believe his ears, but Shep pointed towards a speck on the horizon and said, “If I’m not mistaken, that’s Roma.” He pointed in the opposite direction. “And over that way should be Gozgarden. Our eventual final destination. What do you think Marc has been up to?” He asked cheerily.