Numa led Godson through the forest, skipping along a she always did, and he followed close behind, still confused by this strange little girl. The map was still wet from the lake, but Numa had insisted on putting it back into the pocket in her dress.
“Can I ask you something, Numa?” he asked.
“Ask me anything,” she said in a sing-song voice.
“Do you think my father will like me?”
“Why wouldn’t he?”
“What if I’m not good enough for him? What if he doesn’t think I’m strong enough?”
Numa laughed. “You should be more worried about us knowing where we’re going.”
“Do you know where you’re going?”
Numa didn’t even miss a skip as she replied, “No.”
Godson stopped and slapped his face. “Then why don’t we just stop and let the map dry?”
“Because the Black Knights will catch up to us,” Numa said casually.
Godson sighed then ran to catch up with her again. And by the time he did, they were at the edge of a swamp. The ground was thick with brown mud and countless vines were hanging from the tree branches above. There were so many vines that they seemed to form layers of green curtains as far as Godson could see. And that was all he could see. Mud and vines.
“Follow me,” Numa said.
“But you don’t even know where you’re going,” Godson said. But he found himself following her into the swamp, gingerly stepping through the ankle deep mud, one squishy step at a time.
“Yet,” Numa corrected. “I don’t know where I’m going yet.”
Godson groaned. “What’s the difference?”
“If we keep walking, we’ll eventually get somewhere. And then I’ll know where we’re going.”
“But that doesn’t make sense,” Godson argued as he pulled his leg out of a tangle of moss and algae. He took another step and felt something bump against his foot under the water. He shrieked and shut his eyes in disgust. “So we’re just gonna walk through this gross swamp even though we don’t even know if this is the right way?”
Numa kept walking ahead of him, unfazed by the gas bubbles popping on the water, the eels slithering across the surface, and the wet vines slapping her shoulders like giant octopus arms.
Then, when they were halfway through the swamp, Godson heard a thump in the distance. He stopped, which was quite uncomfortable, because it allowed a swarm of tiny creatures to swirl around his ankles.
“Did you hear that?” he asked.
“Yes,” Numa said, but she was still moving ahead.
There was another thud. And now it sounded more like a giant splash. And it was closer. Godson searched through the vines for what was coming and suddenly saw a figure emerge from the foliage. It was gray and green, thick as several tree trunks, and as high as several horses. It was shaped like a human, but was dripping with vines and algae on every inch of its body. It looked straight at Godson and roared and the swamp shook from the sound.
“Numa!” Godson screamed.
“I see the light!” Numa replied, pointing ahead.
“We have to go!”
“Follow me!” Numa went on skipping further ahead, as if she’d heard nothing he’d just said. As if that sound hadn’t even registered to her. Godson hurried after her, tripping and splashing into the water several times.
They made it to the ray of blue light shooting up from the water and stood in it, searching for the next toy.
“Where is it?” Godson asked, panicking. The swamp monster roared again and the water shook from its footsteps. “Where is it, Numa!”
Numa looked around casually, but didn’t see anything.
Godson got down on his knees and felt through the water frantically, feeling through slugs, worms, tadpoles, and leeches. But he didn’t feel anything metal. “It’s not here, Numa!”
The swamp monster roared and Godson looked back. It was crashing through the water and struggling through the vines as they wrapped around its body as it came.
“We have to go!” Godson shouted, grabbing Numa’s arm.
“No,” Numa said, staring back at the monster. “The light is here. This is where we’re supposed to be.”
“But it’s coming!” Godson pleaded, pulling on her arm. But she didn’t budge. “Numa!”
She stood there still as a tree and stared the monster down as it came barreling towards them. She wasn’t going to move. And Godson couldn’t bring himself to leave her. So he decided within himself that this would be how they died. Right here in a swamp. Surrounded by leeches and bugs and swallowed by a monster. He stood there, held Numa’s arm, and grimaced as he watched the creature splash its way towards them. And when it was within a stone’s throw away, it roared, stumbled forward, and reached for them. Godson gasped and shut his eyes, waiting for the impact of this giant’s mossy fist.
But the impact never came.
When Godson opened his eyes, the monster was caught in mid lunge, tangled by vines wrapped around its arms, legs, and torso. It was leaning in towards them, only a few feet away, so that now it was eye to eye with them. And when he looked at its face, he noticed that its eyes were covered by a single black vine wrapped around its head.
Numa stepped forward, reached up, and pulled the vine off. And Godson realized that this wasn’t a vine at all. It was a belt. The monster’s black eyes blinked, it looked down at Numa, and Godson swore that he saw a smile curl onto its face. Then it stood straight, pulled the vines off of its body, and turned and walked away.
Numa turned to Godson, gave him the belt, and said, “You’re welcome.”