Episode 6 - Stadium

Page 12

in the middle of a battle

The majority of snake warriors and Graden soldiers had disappeared through the portals. A few soldiers remained on the upper tier, firing down at the remaining snakes.

"Where did they come from?" Phyllis asked.

"The stone."

"What stone? The one in your pocket?" She glanced down at Eddie's hip. "I don't understand."

"I'll explain everything when we get out of here."

Phyllis scanned the stands. "There's no telling what we'll face if we take the stadium exits."

"The stream then?" Syd asked.

There were still a few snakes climbing out of the river, but none were near the culvert leading out of the stadium.

"Yeah," Phyllis said. "The stream."

She led the way. At the stream, she leapt in. The water was armpit deep. Eddie jumped in after her and held out his hands for Kai.

"What about Timmy?" she asked.

"Syd, can you take care of him?"

"This kid looks like a tiny Barlow."

"Please?"

Syd climbed into the water. "Can you swim, kid?"

Timmy nodded.

"Okay, stay close."

tunnel

Eddie took Kai around the waist and drew her into the icy water. Phyllis's mechanical eye lit up like a flashlight, piercing the darkness of the culvert. They all waded after her through the tunnel. The stream grew deeper, and soon, Eddie was treading water, Kai's arms clung around his neck.

As Phyllis swam through the gap in the bars, a head popped up from the water next to Ed. Ed screamed.

"Snakes," cried the frog. "Snakes with legs and arms and they cut with big knives and snakes aren't supposed to walk but they are and it's terrible."

"So let's get out of here," Eddie said through his teeth.

They passed through the bars. The tunnel extended another twenty feet. Then they moved out into the night. The waning moon hung low in the sky, urging them to drink Sky Cola.

Phyllis climbed out of the water. Eddie and Kai followed. The parking lot was a hundred yards away down the side of the stadium. Soldiers were there. Gunfire echoed in the night. Two snake warriors raced across the lot and took cover behind a sedan.

"How do we get back to the buggy?" Syd asked.

Phyllis studied the scene. She traced the stream to where it emptied into the river past a row of trees. Two heads bobbed out of the water at the mouth of the stream. Phyllis raised her sword. "What is that?"

"That's the frog boys," Eddie said. "They're not a threat."

Phyllis lowered her weapon. "I can get a better look at the parking lot from the river."

"The water is too swift for the kids," said Syd.

"Stay here then. I'll be back." She leapt back into the stream and disappeared under the water. The frogs cried out as she passed them.

Eddie and the others waited, shivering in the dark. A minute later, they saw Phyllis in the parking lot, slinking between cars.

"What are you doing here?"

Eddie and the others spun around. Three armed soldiers stood behind them on the other side of the stream.

"We're escaping."

One soldier stepped closer. "We can't allow that."

"Don't you know what's happened in there?" Syd asked, incredulous.

"Prisoner uprising. We should have shot all refugees on sight." He took aim. "A lot of good men died because of you people."

A swish of water in the stream below caused a soldier to cry out. "There's more of them."

A squad of snake warriors leapt from the stream, swords ready. They came out on both sides, and one raised its weapon to slash down at Timmy.

"No," Syd cried. He yanked the boy back, and the sword grazed across his shoulder, cutting a deep gash.

"Stop!" Eddie ordered. He stepped forward and glared up at the creature.

The snake blinked down at him, hate in its eyes. It lowered its sword and turned away. It leapt across the stream.

One soldier there was already down. The other two ran backwards, firing at the attacking creatures. A bullet whizzed past Eddie's ear.

"We've got to get out of here," he said. He turned to Syd, who now gripped at his bleeding shoulder. "Can you make it?"

Syd nodded. They ran along the side of the stadium towards the parking lot.

In the lot, refugees and soldiers ran around in chaos. Eddie saw no snake warriors, but the soldiers were trying to herd the refugees, shooting over their heads. The giant woman from that morning raised a boulder over her head and hurled it at a group of scattering men.

Syd down

Phyllis raced towards them in the buggy. She spun the wheel, stopping in a skid in front of them. She spotted Syd, whose arm was drenched in blood, his face paper white. Phyllis leapt out of the buggy, lifted Syd and laid him in the passenger seat. She inspected his wound with horror.

Eddie watched, dumbstruck.

"You have five seconds to get those kids into your car and get over here," she ordered Eddie without looking up. "Or I'm leaving without you."

Eddie sprinted to the convertible. For a moment, his heart sank. Bryce had the keys. No, the soldiers made him leave the keys in the car. He dodged around a shouting woman, threw his car door open and motioned for Kai and Timmy to climb in. "Back seat," he ordered. "And Timmy, don't touch me."

Once they were in, He threw the car into drive, just as a jeep full of soldiers stopped in front of him, blocking his way. "Out of the vehicle," one of them ordered in Hadish.

He didn't see Phyllis or the buggy. He didn't have to. She was fleeing now, back to the turnpike to save Syd and warn Melbourne what had happened.

Eddie studied the soldiers in his way. He was backed against the river. They saw no way out for him. But they didn't know about this car.

He threw the car in reverse. The back tires popped over the concrete wheel stop. He gunned it, glancing once at the astonished soldiers, then back to the black water. The car flew over the bank and hit the water with a jarring splash.

"We're gonna drown," Timmy cried.

"Not in this car we're not." He backed into the center of the rapid river, cranked the wheel so they faced downstream, and roared away.

They drifted down through the city. The astonished face of an old man with a fishing pole tracked them as they passed. They drifted under bridges, along a row of riverside stores and cafes, drawing stunned gasps from joggers running along a riverside path.

"This is all my fault," Eddie muttered.

"What's your fault," asked Timmy.

Eddie frowned. He glanced at Timmy in the rear view. The boy huddled next to Kai, his face stunned with wonder.

"Where's your parents, kid?"

"I don't know."

"How'd you get in the stadium?"

"Soldiers took me and put me there."

"Where were you before?"

"I— I don't know."

Eddie groaned. He couldn't abandon the kid, but he didn't want to deal with him right now.

"Where's Bryce?" Kai asked.

"He's..." He couldn't finish.

Where should Eddie go? He couldn't stay in Graden. He'd hoped this place would be a refuge, but he wouldn't find anyone here who wasn't hostile to an outsider. Should he go back to the Turnpike? He might be welcomed there by Melbourne. But he had led Melbourne's son into a trap. And what would Melbourne say if he found out Eddie had done a favor for the Lamia?

He wanted to follow Bryce, but would he have time to save him? Four nights. They'd have a mass sacrifice in Cavaheim in four nights. Could Eddie do anything about it?

A gunshot shook him from his thoughts.

"Eddie," Kai screamed. "They're following."

He turned. A jeep now ran parallel to them on a riverside road. A soldier stood in the back, waving his arms at them, a rifle in one hand. It was like the chase with Cornelius the troll all over again.

Eddie gunned the engine. The car raced forward, but the jeep easily matched their speed.

"Get down," Eddie ordered. He heard Kai and Timmy tumble onto the floor. He glanced at the soldiers. The one standing wasn't shooting. He was waving his arms. Why?

Then the jeep slowed and stopped. Eddie craned his neck to watch them. Why had they stopped?

He turned back to the river. The lights of the city stopped ahead, giving way to darkness. Had he reached the borders of the city? Maybe they couldn't follow—

The river ahead reflected moonlight for only a few dozen feet. Then there was only darkness. The river ended here. There were falls ahead.

Eddie slammed on the brakes. This slowed the car only a little. The river current had them. He tried to throw the car into reverse, but the gear shift jammed. The car slowed a little more. Then he was at the edge. The car teetered there for a moment, then toppled forward.

toppling forward

All was black weightlessness. Eddie's stomach lurched. He was falling, plummeting—an eternity in three seconds of freefall. It was over. Eddie yanked on the steering wheel, bracing for impact.

The steering wheel gave in his hands, easing back towards him. As it did, the car lurched out of its dive, G-force jarring him into his seat as the car swopped up and ran parallel to the water below.

Eddie stared, unable to speak. They were flying. The car could actually fly. Eddie let out a strangled cry of triumph.

"Whoa," Timmy whispered behind him. Kai gasped.

They were moving fast now, much faster than the car could move on the ground. By the light of the moon, Eddie saw that they were moving through a narrow rocky cove. It emptied out into a much wider body of water, waves cascading over its surface.

"I have a flying car," Eddie whispered.

But that wasn't true. This was Bryce's car. Bryce, who was now a prisoner because Eddie had told Galatina about the dragon rider's weapon.

It took Eddie a minute to figure out how to handle the car. The controls were simple. Pull back on the steering wheel to climb. Push forward to dive. The car did not appear to fall if Eddie eased back on the gas. It hovered, even when he was only moving a few miles an hour over the sea.

Eddie climbed back up so that he was above the level of the city, flying in a wide arc around it. Graden was big. The seaside end of the city ran down towards a wide harbor. As Eddie gazed down on the immense city, the light of the beacon spinning on the tower momentarily blinded him.

"Where to now?" Eddie muttered to himself. He wanted to help Phyllis and Syd escape, but going down there would only put the kids in danger. Phyllis could handle herself. She'd get Syd out alive.

Eddie scanned the sky. The big dipper was clear, pointing eternally at the North Star.

Bryce was north. Ruby was north. Eddie turned the car to face Polaris.

"Where are we going?" Kai asked.

"We're going to help Bryce," Eddie said.

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page published 4/27/2017