“You were told I would come?” asked Jill, confused. Her sore throat reminded her how she’d screamed when the villagers threw her down the well. It seemed days, ages ago.
The monster nodded, its heavy, shaggy head dipping low in a bow of respect. “You are the one who will bind the south wind and end the drought.”
Jill had no idea what the creature was talking about, but she didn’t move, didn’t speak, didn’t dare deny it. It still might decide to eat her.
“Do you have the binding?” the creature’s face moved close to her own. It smelled like sweet spring water. The twin-moon eyes glowed so bright it hurt to look at them.
“Binding?” Jill asked.
“Ah, yes, there it is,” the creature’s long snout nearly brushed the spool of thread in Jill’s hand. “But why have you left so much of it in the tunnel?”
“I-I… I wanted to be sure of finding my way back,” Jill said.
“You will need all of it,” the creature said. “You must wind it up again.”
“But…” Jill began, glancing back to the dark tunnel behind her.
“Wind up the binding,” the creature ordered.
Jill thought about crawling back down the tunnel to collect all the thread, and then coming here again, and she could not bear it, to traverse that unending darkness two more times. Instead, she went a little ways down the tunnel, where she could still see the light of the creature’s eyes behind her, wound up the thread as far as she could, and pulled.
The thread was strong, and would not come, not until Jill pulled with all her might. Then she felt it snap, and she began winding the dusty strand onto the spool. When the broken end finally appeared, Jill knew there had been a great deal more thread before it was broken. She hoped the creature hadn’t meant that she would need all of it. How could it know how much thread had been there to begin with?
Keeping the spool hidden tightly in her hand, Jill went back to the room with the pool.
“I have the thread,” Jill said.
“Now climb on my back,” the creature’s long body snaked out from the water and coiled in a loop at Jill’s feet. When Jill sat behind its head her feet no longer reached the ground. Its scales were wet and cold, like a fish, and it had no arms or legs, only a long tail and rows of narrow fins down it’s side, and a long glowing stripe all down its back. Jill gripped a handful of the gleaming tendrils that waved like a mane around its head.
The creature dove into the water, and Jill, startled, let out a breath of air.