Gabbie turned her attention towards Alastair. She tsked.
“I told you not to do anything stupid, and you did it anyway,” she scolded as she washed his face and bandaged his cuts. “You burned half of your face!”
“It doesn’t hurt,” Alastair assured her even though it really did. Very, very badly. Digitalis gave Gabbie some cream to run into the burn to avoid scarring, but Alastair could already feel that no matter what Digitalis did, the burn was determined to scar him. He didn’t care. Now he had something to match the scar on his thumb. “And we got Zane back. I say it was worth it.”
Gabbie nodded. Her mouth puckered and she shook. The girl who Zane knew as the strongest person he ever knew, began to cry. Alastair wanted to hug her or tell her everything would be okay. He couldn’t. He was just as scared and just as shocked as her. Soielle was magical, true. Soielle was also dangerous. Children did not get free passes.
Ginger and Zane lumbered over to Gabbie. They all hugged one another as they sobbed and sobbed. Lila grabbed Alastair from behind, and he could feel her tears soak the fabric of his tunic. Lila always cried silently.
Digitalis wearily watched the children. She only knew them for a short time, but she found herself wanted to keep them safe. Maybe, just maybe, her Crisis Point had nothing to do with her town disappearing. Perhaps, she was meant to protect these kids until they fulfilled their own quest of returning home, and along the way, Digitalis could solve the mystery of the missing Pottstown.
The next morning was tough. No one spoke, even when Tipper, Perceval, and Glue Pot woke up. They communicated through dejected and pained glances. Tipper refused to look at anyone. He glared at the ground. Perceval and Zane started a fire and they took turns cooking the food Won and Lerol provided for breakfast. The party munched silently on morsels of meat the children still had no name for. The weight of defeat was thick and clung to their shoulders like heavy cloaks.
“So, um,” Zane tried to say. “You’re all fuzzy blobs now. Just thought you should know.” His smile fell when everyone’s heads bent further down. Zane bit his lip. “You know, I might have an idea.” He snatched his big back pack, the only one of the children who brought one on their expedition to the Mermaid Waterfall, and dug around the tiniest of zippered pouches. “Ah ha!” The boy cheered. He yanked out a small case.
“Oh, Zane!” Gabbie cheered. “Your contacts!”
“You’ll have to be careful with those. They always pop out,” Ginger warned.
“I know,” Zane sighed. “But it’s better than talking blobs.”
Lila and Alastair chuckled and soon the others laughed. It was nice to laugh and let that tension ease out.
“Those are odd contraptions,” Glue Pot said. His eyes widened in shock when he watched Zane slip the contacts on. “Eww!”
“Least I can see. Now, what about toothbrushes and toothpaste? My teeth feel rank.”
“You need something to clean your teeth?” Digitalis untied her pack and divided some power up into five smaller containers. “For now, just wet this up a bit and scrub your teeth with this tonic. You’ll be good as new.”
The party talked and laughed, but Alastair saw. Tipper was not part of it.