Outside their little ring of light, Carling couldn’t see anything. What the little torch did reveal within that circle did little to raise Carling’s comfort level. The channel was narrow. The water beneath them was inky black. The mangrove trees on either side grew tightly together, forming a virtual wall. Their branches intermingled overhead to form a tight ceiling. The air around them smelled of fish and rotting vegetation. It was so still, Carling couldn’t feel even the tiniest breeze to offer relief from the humidity.
As they rowed, Carling kept her eyes on Wigglesworth and the dark line of the channel in front of them. They struggled to keep up with the Fairy. Before long, Carling’s shoulders began aching each time she pulled the paddle through the water. On occasion, she asked Kelfy to switch sides to give her arm a rest. That worked quite well if they did it together.
They were gliding along through a particularly narrow part of the channel when a large fish jumped out of the water and landed in the boat at Carling’s feet. Startled, Carling screamed and pulled her feet back, tucking them beneath the seat. She started batting at the fish with her oar.
Wigglesworth stopped flying ahead and turned around. Kelfy stopped rowing.
“What’s the matter?” said Kelfy.
“There’s a huge fish in the boat!”
Leaning over her shoulder and seeing the fish flopping about made Kelfy laugh heartily. Carling glared at him but resisted the urge to shove him for laughing at her. She didn’t see what was so funny.
As soon as Kelfy caught his breath, he said, “Hold still. I’ll take care of it. Fish are my specialty.” Keeping his body low, he worked his way over her seat to the front. As quick as a cat, he grabbed the fish and threw it back in the water. “There you go, although I must say, it goes against everything I believe in to throw back such a big fish.”
Carling let out a loud sigh of relief and pivoted in her seat to face Kelfy. “Thanks, Kelfy. Sorry I screamed. It just surprised me.”
He gave her a gentle hug. “Oh, that’s all right. I think you’re very brave. In fact, I think you’re just perfect.”
She didn’t see the roll of his eyes. Rather, Carling noticed the flutter in her heart. She felt her face get hot. She enjoyed the attention from this handsome young man and was glad he couldn’t see the blush in her cheeks in the darkness. She cleared her throat, turned back to the front of the boat and grabbed her oar. “Let’s get going,” she said as she dipped the paddle into the water too deeply.
At long last, the channel opened into a huge bay. Overhead, thousands of stars twinkled in the sky. Wigglesworth circled back and landed on the bow of the boat in front of Carling.
“Here we are,” he said with a smile. “Now the real adventure begins.”
“I hate it when you say that,” grumbled Kelfy.
“Carling and Kelfy,” said Wigglesworth from his perch in front of Carling, “you must pay careful attention to the colors that appear in the water when your oars break the surface. As I mentioned, the water in the bay is luminescent. The organisms in the water will glow when disturbed. The colors will change as we get closer to the location where the Stone of Integrity rests. When you see the water sparkle with tiny, purple lights, stop.”
Carling and Kelfy slapped their oars on the water. Carling watched the water, curious to see what would happen. Her mouth dropped open when she saw the water sparkle with little, white, lights just as Wigglesworth said. “Oh! That’s so beautiful,” she said.
“Yes, it is,” said Wigglesworth with a smile. “The Fairy King would only choose a beautiful hiding place for the stone.”
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