Episode 9 - The Sleeper Awake

Page 4

Eddie took a step back and stumbled on a fallen Ord. He stared up at the brutal face of the troll whose eyes were piercing points wreathed in the red of glowing coals.

"Uh," Eddie said.

"You're the brat that started all of this. You're the one who broke the world and took my swamp."

"Um, no I didn't."

"You're the one, the Godsbane. You're the one I came here to kill."

Ruby stood in front of Eddie. Eddie wanted to ask what she was doing, but he couldn't find his voice.

"He's not the Godsbane."

"Out of the way, lassie, or you'll be collateral damage."

"It's true," Montrose said. "He is not the Godsbane."

The troll glared at the truth knight. "And are you prepared to back that up with proof?"

"It is also true that he broke the world."

"Hey!" Eddie turned to her.

"He is the usurper's sacrifice... a willing sacrifice. And he walked the path that shattered reality."

Cornelius stared down at Eddie. "This true, lad?"

Eddie's face was as white as snow. "I... I don't... remember anything."

"Convenient," the Troll said. "Well, your memory won't trouble you no more." He swung his fist towards Eddie over Ruby's head—a fist bigger than Eddie's torso.

"Cornelius, wait!"

The troll stopped short and turned.

Beside him stood the colonel and a familiar woman in leather. Eddie blinked at her. "Jane?"

"Cornelius, he's not the one that stole Ganny or my Loretta. I met him a couple days before they took Loretta, and he had muskrat pox. Not a Godsbane or any such nonsense. Just a weak kid adrift in this world."

Cornelius pointed at Montrose. "She says he made this whole mess."

"He came to this city for the same thing we all did," the colonel said, stepping forward. "He wants to rescue the captives. And it looks like he's already started." He nodded at Bryce. "Hello, son."

"Hey, Mister Martin."

Ruby remained planted between Cornelius and Eddie. She looked the troll in the eyes. "We're wasting time. The one we want is Jarrock, and he's here somewhere."

"And Devick was after him," Eddie added. "She cut him and chased him."

"Where?" the Troll asked. "Where's Jarrock?"

Ruby turned to Basha.

"Don't look at me. I've never been in this prison."

"Okay, so we need to find him," she said. "I have a horrible feeling that lots of people will die if we don't stop him now."

"We should split up," suggested the colonel.

"Agreed," said Cornelius. He pointed at Eddie. "But don't go too far, laddie. When this is over, you and I will have words. And if you find my Ganny, you'd better protect her."

Eddie still found the troll's direct gaze to be paralyzing. He nodded.

"Colonel, go back the way we came and check the side corridors. Fabio, grab a sword and go with him."

"Who's Fabio," asked Basha.

"Jane, take the car thief with you and take this passage." Cornelius glared at Bryce. "Arm yourself, boy." He pointed at Eddie and Ruby, then at Montrose. "You two whelps go with this blabbermouth. She looks like she can handle herself in a fight. Go on down the last passage."

Montrose took a fallen soldier's sword and swung it experimentally. "And where will you go?"

Cornelius grinned. "Bethany, you here?"

The girl Eddie had met earlier stepped out of the troll's shadow and nodded.

"We're not taking any corridor at all." He punched a stone wall. The mortar crumbled and huge rocks tumbled all around. He glanced back at the group. "Go!"

Ruby looked down at a fallen soldier who still gripped his sword's hilt. She hesitated, then pried it from his fingers. Eddie didn't bother with a sword.

"Come," Montrose said. She led the way on down the corridor.

"Does this mean you will fight with us," Ruby asked.

"I will defend you both," Montrose said. "And I am interested in finding Jarrock. I have questions. Is that enough?"

"It'll do."

The corridor was empty and silent. They followed it, weapons raised. "Skylar," Ruby whispered. The fairy dropped into view as if appearing by magic. "Scout ahead. Look for Jarrock. Look for prisoners."

The fairy saluted and zipped away ahead of them.

"Where'd you get the fairy?" Eddie asked.

"She's a fixie."

"Oh."

"She's a smart robot. She repairs things."

"Oh."

"I must have mentioned her before."

"You might have."

"Shh," Montrose warned.

They went quiet. The only sound was the hissing from a rusted iron grating low on one wall.

"It's warmer here," Montrose observed. "In fact it's hot."

"Maybe the furnace is nearby," Eddie suggested.

"Look at this prison. It was not designed for comfort. There is no furnace." Montrose crouched beside the grate and held out her hand. "It's coming from here."

"I don't think we'll find Jarrock through there," Ruby said.

"But we will find something. There's a mystery here. We would be wise to investigate." She wedged her sword's blade behind the grating and pulled at it. It dragged across the floor with a heavy scraping noise. Eddie leaned in and helped her pry at it.

"That's enough. Eddie, go in there and investigate."

"What? Why me?"

"If the Ord attack you, you will not be harmed."

"It's hot."

"Come back if you get burned."

Eddie glared at her, then shrugged and crouched down. Beyond the iron grating was a low passage. Red light flickered at the far end. He crouch-walked to the end and found a ladder leading down into a glowing red space.

Eddie hesitated. Montrose wouldn't let him back until he had answers. He climbed onto the ladder and cautiously descended, waves of heat pushing up at him.

Ten rungs down, he found himself in a cavernous space blazing with red heat. It was at least a hundred yards in diameter and fifty yards deep. At the bottom, lava churned and spat as it rushed in a river of fire beneath him. The flowing colors and hypnotic flow left Eddie mesmerized. He remained for several seconds until the heat grew unbearable.

The ladder he stood on descended to a platform that ringed the cavern. Above, a lattice of heavy steel beams held up broad stone, a grid that formed the bottom of the prison. Huge gears the size of Ferris wheels hung on all sides, connected to the beams. Eddie couldn't fathom what it was all for.

He climbed the ladder, returned to the others and described what he saw.

"Gears," Montrose repeated. "Gears holding this whole prison in place?"

"Well, I don't know if that's what they're for."

"Gears that, if they turned, would drop the entire prison and its inhabitants into a river of lava."

Eddie frowned. "That's a possibility."

"Why would they need something like that?" Ruby asked.

Montrose pushed the grating back. "Perhaps this is where the mass sacrifice is to take place. They will not take the prisoners from here. They will simply drop them into the fire."

"I thought that was happening somewhere else... some lava fountain," Eddie said.

Montrose continued down the passage. Eddie and Ruby followed.

"If they dropped this whole prison in the lava, wouldn't all this stone block the river?" Eddie wondered. "It was moving pretty fast."

"That's possible," Montrose answered. "It could destroy this whole city."

A pinprick of light raced towards them up the corridor. Soon, Ruby's fixie hovered in front of her face once more. She pointed back from where she came, then held her hands over her head, her fingers lined up down the center.

"I don't know what that means," Ruby said.

"I think she's referring to Devick's hair," Eddie said.

"You found Devick?"

Skylar nodded and urged them to follow.

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page published 8/10/2017