Episode 9 - The Sleeper Awake

Page 2

The slot in Eddie's cell door gave a view of a dim space that might once have been an underground amphitheater. Soldiers stood outside, whispering to one another as a series of distant explosions echoed in the wide space.

He gripped the bars in the slot and swore. He'd been stupid, chasing after Ruby. It was obvious she was with the king now. In her text message from the night before, she boasted that she was having dinner with him. Now Eddie was in prison, most likely to be tortured and who knew what else. Who would take care of Kai? Devick and the colonel were off fighting, probably getting themselves killed.

And where was Bryce? Was it Bryce who had knocked Eddie senseless, or was that someone else? Nothing made sense.

"Translator boy," a woman's voice called softly.

Eddie frowned. "Who's there?"

"I'm in the cell next to yours. I am Montrose, Knight of Truth."

"Montrose? How'd you get stuck in here?"

"That's not important. I need to understand something. When we were in Holcomb, why did you ask me if you were the Godsbane?"

"What? What does that matter? I'm not. The Godsbane, the Gahn Shikvaht is here in Cavaheim."

"The king? He's not the one."

"Not the king. The head of the Ord, Jarrock. He's the—"

"He's not the one either," Devick interrupted.

"What? Isn't he? Then who?"

"Why did you ask me if it was you?"

"Huh? I don't know. Some troll said I was. Well, actually, he said I wasn't, but he acted like he wasn't sure."

"A troll."

"How did you end up in here?" Eddie asked.

Montrose said nothing.

A door clicked somewhere away down the corridors. Seconds later, two hooded Ord entered dragging a woman's lifeless body. They spoke to the soldiers, then continued past Eddie's cell. In the dim light, he recognized their captive. It was Galatina, unconscious or worse. One of the Ord released her legs to open the cell next to Eddie's. As he moved back to carry her, another Ord priest ran in.

"Jarrock is coming," he called. "Jarrock is almost here. All soldiers will leave the dungeon now and await further instructions."

The soldiers nodded and marched away down a corridor. The two Ord who had been carrying Galatina laid her down where they stood.

Next came the old man in the hoodless Ord robe who had ordered that Eddie be imprisoned. He moved into the light, his hands clasped over his stomach, and said, "Brothers of the Ord, the High Priest wishes to speak to the prisoner alone. Please withdraw from the dungeon and await further instructions."

The Ord left. Those who had carried Galatina left her lying on the floor. Soon, only the little man remained. When he was satisfied the room was empty, he retreated the way he'd come.

"Why have they all left?" Devick asked.

"Jarrock is coming," Eddie said. "He wants to talk to... I guess he wants to talk to me."

"You." This came from below. Eddie stood on his tiptoes and peered down through the slot at Galatina. Her left eye was swollen shut. She had bruises on her cheeks. Someone had beaten her good. Her right eye was only open to a squint.

"Galatina, what happened to you?"

She coughed. "This is all your fault."

"Why? What's my fault?"

"Everything. The whole world. You did this."

Eddie groaned. "Why do you say that? What do I have to do with anything? I'm not the Godsbane."

"No." She coughed. "Of course not. You... you are his sacrifice."

A chill ran up Eddie's arms. "I'm... what?"

"The usurper took a human sacrifice and sent him into the void... into a place where not even God himself would..."

"The void? What does that mean? What are you talking about?"

Galatina's right eye closed. Her head rested back against the floor.

"Galatina, what does it mean?"

"What are you saying?" Montrose asked. "Who is this woman?"

"She's a prophetess."

"What did she say?"

A figure emerged from the shadow, tall and gaunt, his eyes almost glowing with yellow fire. He walked straight towards Eddie's cell, the little bald man marching after him. Jarrock fixed his eyes on Eddie's.

Eddie edged back from the door, backtracking until his back was against the wall.

The cell door opened with a loud click. It swung wide, nearly grazing Galatina's head. The tall man stepped over her and filled the doorway.

"What is your name?" Jarrock asked. He had a low, silky, sinister voice, and in the dark cell, Eddie could see he hadn't imagined the luminosity in the priest's eyes. They glowed yellow in the darkness.

"I'm... I'm Eddie."

The man stiffened, his hands closed into fists. "Eddie," he repeated.

"Uh, yeah."

"Did you know your name is part of the incantation for gaining universal power?"

"Um. No. What incantation?"

Jarrock didn't answer. He stood, studying Eddie, not moving for over a minute. His eyes grew distant. Finally, he said, "This is destiny, fulfilled. You, a boy without an ounce of spark. You are the true answer to the question I've been asking for years."

Before Eddie could say anything, he turned to the smaller man. "Dar'ja, where did he come from?"

"My lord, I'm told he came to the city this morning posing as a scholarly pilgrim."

"Was there anyone with him?"

"A man, a savage woman and two children."

"Bring them all to me."

"What about the raiders attacking the city?"

"Ignore them. What I need is here."

Jarrock turned back to Eddie, his eyes smouldering. He studied Eddie as if appraising a meal.

A minute later, Dar'ja returned. "I've sent a squad of soldiers and four Ord to retrieve his companions."

"Good," Jarrock said without turning.

"My lord, the west wall is burning. There are fires throughout the city. We must keep Cavaheim under control until the fires of Kaj'jic rise."

"I won't be waiting until then," Jarrock said. "I believe I have everything I need now. I can perform the ritual tonight."

"But my lord, are you sure you—"

The little man made a choking, gurgling noise. He groaned once and fell forward into the cell.

Jarrock turned. His companion lay face down, a blossom of blood spreading, soaking the back of his robe. Jarrock stared down at Dar'ja as the little man twitched where he lay.

"What sorcery is this?" Jarrock hissed.

Beyond Dar'ja's fallen form lay Galatina, still unconscious on the floor. No one else was visible.

"Who is there?" Jarrock demanded. His question echoed across the dungeon.

No one answered.

He held his hands up defensively. He shuffled towards the door, stepping over the bleeding remains of his companion. Eddie watched, petrified.

The attack came the instant he passed through the door. A knife thrust at the robed man from the side by an unseen attacker. Jarrock spun just in time to avoid a jab in his armpit. The knife caught his robe but missed his flesh. Jarrock turned and sent a blast of red energy from his empty palm. The light was blinding.

He must have missed his prey because he retreated, back-stepping from the cell and sent another burst of red energy. A high war-cry pierced the air.

Curiosity forced Eddie to move. He stepped around Dar'ja and peeked outside his cell.

Devick crouched low, facing the priest, one hand planted on the ground, the other gripping her knife, her eyes fixed on Jarrock.

Jarrock let out another burst of red lightning. Devick sprang to the side, rolled, then raced at the priest, her knife swinging in a downward arc at the man. He dodged aside, but the knife caught him in the arm. Jarrock wailed. He jerked his arm away and shot another burst of red at Devick. She dropped and rolled and came at the man again, her knife raised.

Rather than fight, Jarrock closed his eyes. He brought his arms close to his chest and bowed his head. Devick was almost on him when Jarrock threw out his arms. A shockwave blasted out in all directions, knocking Devick back into the wall. It knocked Eddie back into his cell. He tripped over Dar'ja's arm and fell on his back.

Devick leapt to her feet, ready to come again.

"Not now, you bitch," Jarrock cried. He sent one more blast of red energy at the warrior. As she sprang to the side, Jarrock retreated, running away back into a shadowy corridor.

Devick glanced once at Eddie as he climbed back to his feet. Then she raced away after her prey.

Eddie remained alone with the two fallen bodies, one of them dead. He stared at the blood, still spreading, darkening the little man's robe.

"Your fault," Galatina whispered.

Eddie stared at her. He stammered for a moment. "How is this my fault? You said I was a sacrifice."

"A willing sacrifice. An eager sacrifice."

"And where did I go? What's this void you mentioned."

Galatina spoke softly, her right eye open a crack.

"What did you say?" He knelt down beside her and put his head close. "What did you say? Where did I go?"

"The past," Galatina whispered. Her eye shut and her head fell back.

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page published 8/3/2017