Episode 8 - Pilgrims

Page 5

Democritus arranged for them to have rooms at a dorm outside the university gate, one room for Devick and Kai, the other for the colonel, Eddie and Timmy. The moment Eddie and the other two were alone, Eddie pulled out the device Chandra had given him.

"Won't the Ord notice if you deactivate their surveillance," the colonel asked

"According to Chandra, the bug network is unreliable. It won't surprise them if a few go down. They'll eventually send more."

Eddie pushed the button on the device. Three small objects, previously invisible, fell from around the room. Timmy picked one up. A metallic scorpion lay curled up in his palm. "Cool," he said.

"You should check on Zeke and the others," Eddie said.

The colonel pulled a radio from inside his jacket and held it to his ear. "Zeke, you there?"

"Colonel, have you made it in?" replied a buzzing voice through the radio.

"We're at the university now. We're going to a rally this evening at the king's palace. What's your status?"

There was a moment of static. Then, "I think I've got the hang of this flying car. Professor Gordon and I have made a few circles over the area. The Vayna bastards refuse to get in it though."

"They'll come around when it's time to attack."

"I hope you're right. We've retreated to a position over the ridge. We'll wait to hear from you."

The colonel described the city layout to Zeke, giving careful details about the palace and the Ord building. Eddie added details, including the approximate location of the prison. A knock at the door interrupted them. The colonel stuffed the radio back in his jacket.

"Who is it?" Eddie called.

Democritus entered. "I have bad news. Master Farook is currently missing."

"Missing?"

"He has not been seen since last evening. A few staff members and students are similarly unaccounted for. We have people searching the city now."

"That's... too bad."

Democritus smiled. "Don't worry. Farook is an eccentric. He may have taken a group on an impromptu field trip. He does that."

Democritus gathered the group and led them to the cafeteria. It was an uncomfortable experience, all the scholars eyeing Eddie and his group. One wizened old man attempted to start a conversation with Devick, using every language and dialect he could think of. Devick stared at him, her face deadpan. The old guy eventually gave up and tried speaking with the colonel. He knew some English, and he asked the colonel about his reality of origin. The colonel was polite and answered what he could.

A large man rushed in, took a plate of food and sat next to Democritus. He was breathing hard.

"What's wrong, Marius?" Democritus asked.

"Still no sign of Farook or the others," Marius replied. "And some fear that raiders within the valley may be responsible for his disappearance."

"Raiders?"

They spoke in hushed tones. Eddie leaned in to hear.

"They say there's a giant in the valley," Marius continued. "The giant and his companions injured an entire battalion of soldiers who had gone to investigate."

"A giant?" Democritus mulled this over. "I'd say that is impossible, but in these uncertain times, who knows."

"That's what I thought. But that's not all. Two nights ago, an Ord priest disappeared out on the rim. Last night, two more went to investigate. Neither returned."

"You're serious?"

"That's what I'm told. And they say the giant's companions may have infiltrated the city. They might even be responsible for the battle at the prison this morning. Some are saying they might have kidnapped Master Farook and the others."

Democritus looked uncertainly at Eddie. Eddie kept his eyes on his food.

Democritus frowned. He leaned closer to Marius and continued in Ancient Greek. (Eddie understood every word.) "Did they describe the giant's companions?"

Marius frowned at the change of language, then nodded. "Two women. One was young, and she moved like an acrobat, leaping about in great flips and kicking soldiers in the head. She threw knives at the attacking soldiers, hitting every target she aimed for. And there was also..." Marius cleared his throat. "They say there was a creature that looked half-man, half-toad. He could leap as high as a tree they say."

"What did the women look like?" Democritus's eyes flashed on Devick for a blink.

Marius shrugged. "Normal, I guess."

"Anyone else?"

"No, just four of them, including the giant."

Democritus relaxed.

When they'd finished their meal, Eddie told Democritus that his group was in need of sleep. As soon as the scholar left them at the dorm, the colonel gathered them together.

"We have no contact in Cavaheim, it seems," said the colonel. "We're on our own, at least for now."

"Maybe we'll figure something out at the king's speech," Eddie said.

"I'm counting on that. In the meantime, I think we should all get sleep."

"If we don't get answers at the rally," Devick said after Eddie translated, "I will go looking for my own answers."

"The nighttime is the Ord's time. They'll be out by then."

"No," Devick said. She took Chandra's surveillance jamming device from Eddie. "The nighttime is my time."

"Eddie," the colonel said. "You've traveled with an Ord as your prisoner for some time. It's possible you might be spotted if he's there tonight."

"I was thinking the same thing," Eddie said. The Ord, and any prophets in the city."

"Prophets?"

Edde scratched his neck nervously. "Yeah, I've got this weird thing where when anyone with a prophetic gift sees me, they... kind of go crazy."

The colonel stared at him. "That's a problem."

"I know."

"You'll need a disguise."

"I got something," Timmy said. He ran to a bin beside the front door. "There's all kinds of stuff in here. The school guy said this was full of stuff left by people who have stayed here before." He pulled out a broad-brimmed leather hat and a pair of sunglasses. "I guess this is a lost-and-found."

Eddie accepted the hat from him, but he wouldn't take the sunglasses from Timmy for fear of touching the boy. "Set them on the table." Eddie put the hat on, adjusted it, then pushed on the sunglasses. He looked up at the colonel. "How's this?"

To his surprise, the colonel had turned white. The man exchanged a look with Devick, who looked equally unnerved.

"What is it?"

Devick stepped forward and grabbed Eddie's right hand. She inspected his fingers?

"What? What are you doing?"

"We met someone a few days back who looked a lot like you right now," said the Colonel. "Same hat, same sunglasses, same height and build."

"What does that have to do with my hand?" He repeated the question in Vayna.

"There was a man with only two fingers on his right hand," Devick said.

"Do you have a brother?" the colonel asked. "One who is missing fingers?"

"Not that I know of."

"He had a gruff voice," the colonel added.

"Doesn't ring a bell."

The colonel remained still. Finally, he nodded. "Okay. Well, that settles our disguise problem. I suggest we get some sleep before tonight."

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page published 7/10/2017