Eddie shook Galatina. "Wake up. Galatina, wake up. I went to the past? What does that even mean?"
Galatina remained unconscious on the floor. Eddie shook her again.
"Translator boy," Montrose hissed. "Open my door."
Eddie turned. Montrose's sharp eyes peered out at him through the slot in her door.
The keys remained in Eddie's door where Jarrock had left them. He pulled them out and unlocked Montrose's door. She pushed out and looked around. "I must find my weapons. But first, tell me what this woman said to you."
Eddie stared down at Galatina, confused. "It doesn't make sense."
"She said I wasn't the Godsbane. I was the sacrifice. And the void I walked into was the past."
Montrose stared at him, her face turning white. "Are you certain?"
"I'm not certain of anything. She's passed out and I can't ask her to explain."
"The past," Montrose repeated. The woman's usual stony expression had given way to bewilderment. She placed a hand on the stone wall to steady herself. "Can that be true?"
"No," Eddie countered. "Of course not. It's—"
Eddie spun around. Through a narrow passage between two cells, three figures emerged. The first one to step into the light was Bryce.
"Bryce? You're okay?"
They ran together and clasped each other's hand. Bryce leaned forward and slapped him on the back. "You're in one piece. That's good. We were afraid they'd torture you or something."
"We?" Eddie leaned to look behind Bryce.
Ruby approached, followed by the king. He didn't have his crown or robe, but he wore the same armor he'd worn on the palace steps.
"Ruby?" Eddie stared, unable to take his eyes off her.
"It's..." Ruby pressed her lips together. "It's good to see you again."
"Uh, yeah. And I see you brought him?" Eddie nodded at the king.
"Basha? He's with us."
"Don't you mean you're with him?"
Ruby's brow furrowed. "What are you talking about?"
"It doesn't matter. It's good you're safe. I'm safe. You're safe. Me and Bryce should get out of here now. There's a little girl we need to find."
"Oh, my God, that's Dar'ja," Basha said in Starrik, standing at the open cell door. "What happened here?"
"Devick. She stabbed him and chased Jarrock off."
"Chased him off," Basha repeated, scoffing. "That's not possible. Who's Devick?"
"You mean the Vayna?" Ruby asked. "The warrior chief?"
Eddie didn't bother asking how Ruby understood Starrik. "That's the one. I came here with her and a few others this morning. They're all looking to free someone from prison. I came here for Bryce." He turned to Bryce. "I found you."
"You mean I found you," Bryce countered.
"You and I should get out of here," Eddie said. "Jarrock sent priests after the group I came with. We need to save Kai."
"Sounds good to me. Ruby can come with us."
"Really? She seems happy where she is."
Ruby looked angry. "What's wrong with you, Eddie?"
"Nothing's wrong with me. Sure, Ruby can come along. We can bring her boyfriend too. Having a king around will have its advantages. It might get cramped in the car though."
Ruby stared at him. She scoffed bitterly. "We don't have time for this. I'm not going anywhere until I know Jarrock can't hurt anyone."
"I think Devick has seen to that," Eddie said.
"Who's Devick?" Bryce asked.
"A Badass, pissed-off warrior chief who's ready for a fight," Eddie said.
"Well, we should make sure she gets Jarrock," Ruby said.
"What can we do?" Eddie asked. "I'm not sure I want to get zapped in a crossfire."
"What are you worried about?" asked Bryce. "Their weapons don't hurt you."
Montrose, who had been listening to their conversation, cut in. "Why don't their weapons hurt you?" She said.
Eddie shrugged. "They just don't. At least, not so far."
"I'm coming with you," Montrose said.
"You'll help us fight?" Ruby asked.
"I will do what is expedient in the moment," Montrose said. "I never make promises."
"Okay, well, whatever," Ruby said. "Eddie, which way did they go?"
"I didn't agree to go after them."
"I don't care. You're coming."
Eddie and Ruby scowled at each other. "Fine," he said. "They went down that corridor on the far end of the dungeon."
Basha had been staring down at the body of Dar'ja. As Ruby led the group away, he called, "Wait, where are we going?"
They walked down the corridor, Ruby and Basha taking the lead. Eddie stared at Ruby's back as they walked. There was so much going on. A prophetess told him he was responsible for the mishmash event. He'd gone into the past. How do you go into the past? And how does that destroy the world? Did he kill his own grandfather or something?
But the thing that nagged at the forefront of his mind was Ruby. She was much bossier than he remembered. Maybe it was because she was almost a queen. What had happened? Their conversations and texts over the past weeks had been rare, but they'd been nice. How did things go so wrong now that they met in person?
"They've probably headed down towards the prison," Ruby said, stopping at an open door that lead to a dark passage.
"That tunnel is a death trap," Basha said. "If there's an Ord in there, we won't be able to dodge their attack."
"Can't you order them not to attack?" Ruby asked.
"It depends on the Ord, and whether they see me in time."
"Put the translator boy in front," Montrose said. "I want to see his immunity."
"My name is Eddie."
"Yes. Eddie, you go in front."
"That won't be necessary," Ruby said. "Skylar."
A tiny figure buzzed down the corridor, over Eddie's shoulder and stopped in front of Ruby, hovering.
"What is that?" Eddie asked, alarmed.
"Skylar, can you find out if the passage is clear?"
The tiny figure, some kind of steampunk fairy, saluted and zipped away. Thirty seconds later, she reappeared and gave a thumbs up.
"Did you see anyone in the prison?"
Skylar nodded. She held her arms up to indicate something massive.
"Lots of people, or one big person."
Skylar held up two fingers.
"One big person."
Skylar held her hands up with index fingers extended atop her head.
"One big person with horns."
"That must be the troll," Eddie said.
"Troll?" Bryce said.
"Something I heard about earlier. There's a troll that's attacking the city."
"Huh. You don't suppose it's big ugly from out in the desert."
Eddie frowned. "That hadn't occurred to me. I hope not."
Ruby frowned. "If he's attacking the city, he's on our side."
"Might not be on the side of Eddie and me," Bryce said.
"Are we going or aren't we?" Basha asked. "I wouldn't mind sitting this one out if there's a troll."
"We're going," Ruby insisted. She marched away down the dark corridor alone. "Skylar, can you light the way?"
There was only room for them to walk single-file down the pitch-black passageway. Eddie walked behind Bryce, in front of Montrose.
"I hate this," Basha said in the darkness. "Up to now, I've tried to stay out of the action."
"Sorry, Elric," Ruby said. "It's time to step up."
"Who's Elric?" Bryce asked.
"That's what Basha called himself when he helped the resistance," Ruby said.
"Why Elric?" Eddie asked.
"Something from the internet," Basha answered. "There's a manga with—OOF." He grunted.
"Sorry," Ruby said. "The floor is uneven here."
"Shouldn't I be leading?" Basha said. "You're a girl."
"And you're a geek. What's your point."
"I hear fighting ahead," Eddie said. "Maybe you two love birds should keep it down."
"We're not love birds," Ruby complained.
"Not yet," Basha added. "OW! Stop that."
The procession continued in silence. Muffled shouts echoed down the corridor from ahead. A man cried out in pain.
"What do you think's going on up there?" Bryce whispered.
"Devick's up there," Eddie muttered. "You think she's causing all that?"
"We're about to find out," Ruby said. Eddie had to stretch to peer over Bryce's shoulder. Ruby's fairy held a glowing wand in front of a heavy wooden door. Ruby whispered to her.
"Okay," Ruby said. "I'm going to..."
Another man screamed, just beyond the doorway.
"Maybe we should go back," Basha said.
"And maybe we're needed here." Ruby said.
"I'm no fighter."
"No, but you're the king. You can use your influence."
"No, I say we go back. We have to—"
Ruby threw the door open.
Everyone was silent. "There's..." Ruby started. Her voice had gone high. "There's... bodies here."
Basha stepped through after her, followed by Bryce. When Eddie stepped out, he found a broad corridor of rough-hewn stone. The bodies of soldiers and Ord lay all around.
"What happened here?" Basha asked in a whisper.
A wail of horror came from down the corridor. An instant later, a soldier appeared from the shadows, moving full speed. He tripped over the arm of one of his fallen comrades and dropped his sword. He regained his feet and continued running, abandoning his weapon.
"What the..." Eddie began, watching the soldier go. He turned around...
...and found himself staring up at the face of the same troll who had menaced him in the desert weeks before.
Cornelius stared down at Eddie, his face contorted with surprised rage.
"You," he growled.