“Where can we hide?” I asked, glancing at Barnaby.
He turned to me, bewilderment writ on his face. “Your question echoes in my mind — a repeated query.” He glanced around, and hugged his arms across his chest as if a cold draft had come upon him suddenly. “But with other companions,” he ended in a whisper.
With a start, he turned and stared into nothingness, then turned again as if hearing sounds none of the rest of us could hear. After a moment, he shook his head and returned his gaze to me. “My mind,” he said, pointing to his nose. “there is great turmoil there. I pray you forgive me.”
I reached out and placed my hand on his shoulder. “See us safely from this place and it is done.”
He nodded, placing one hand upon mine, and motioned for us to follow. Angelo picked up Emad once more and Bob took up Raucous, though he looked as if he would collapse at any moment.
As we made our way to the far end of the dungeon, we passed several other open cells
“Through here,” he said. “At the other end, you will have a short sprint to the broken gate. I will attempt to distract the master and his loathsome pet long enough for you to escape”
“Peaches?” I asked, hoping there was not a second monster here.
Barnaby looked at me strangely. “The old ship’s cat? Nay, I believe he drowned with the captain nigh on forty years ago.”
“The land shark, then.”
He paused in thought. “There is a memory of some other time thread, I am sure of it.” His pause was slight, but important. Time skips changing memory, changing reality. “I am curious why you refer to the horrid beast as such, but it is an apt comparison. The monstrous thing is not bright, and is easily distracted by sound. We do not believe its eyesight is great.”
He took a torch from the wall just inside the door and lit it from his lamp. “Now hurry, and go swiftly. I know not the mood of Phineas.”
I wanted to protest, but my friends were in no fit state to face a deranged wizard, if that was truly the threat. I grew more unsettled.
The torch illuminated a passage that ran straight further than the torchlight would reach.
“Come on,” I said, taking the lead. Better movement than stagnation. They followed after me.
The door closed with a snap, cutting off all light and sound from the dungeon.
At the far end of the passage I found a wonderful surprise. My gear sat in a small pile, as did that which the others had brought with them off the ship. There was even a large battle axe which I assumed was Angelo’s. To my surprise, the twin hammers that the gods had recently gifted Bob were there as well.
I placed the torch in a sconce and we donned our packs and grabbed our weapons. The fact my mace lay here, and no one was injured as far as I could tell, meant that someone who was not wholly evil had staged our things for this escape.
Perhaps too much a coincidence. Were we being driven from this place in order to protect something or someone? To my surprise I found the journal from Phineas’s workshop, the one that had been shriven and marred before it fell into the time flux where it became rejuvenated. I tucked it in my pack. This whole situation bore greater scrutiny, but I fear the time had already grown too short.
The door at the end of the passage was obviously dwarven, even I could see that much. Bob was fascinated, as I expected, yet he did not understand the how the mechanism worked.
The buzzing in my head continued to grow as did my fear of discovery. Something horrible was in the offing and we needed haste.
After too long a time, he stood back, and dropped his hands. “I cannot figure this,” he said his voice weak. “My mind is filled with bees and the secrets of this design stymy my abilities.
This was not even the hidden side. Why would one make an exit so difficult? On an urging I had no rational reason for, I stepped around Bob and looked at the device. And like a sudden glimmering of sunlight breaking through the clouds, I knew I had to be the one to work the lock.
The door opened by means of several small slides and levers, each worked in a specific and complex order. Mathematically the permutations were in the tens of thousands. I studied the contraption for two heartbeats, then in a series of quick motions worked the mechanisms. As the lock clicked and the door opened a fraction, my vision shifted to other times, other paths, where I had done this exact thing. Then I glanced at my gear and realized that the reason my mace was here without any being injured was because I had staged the gear here.
“Ingenious,” Bob muttered as I stepped back. “I wish I had the time to draw this before we flee.”
I patted him on the shoulder. “Another time, my song. Let us get to safety before we talk of such.”
He nodded and pushed the door open. The morning sun was yet young, and a heavy mist shrouded the land. The air smelled of carrion and electrical discharge. Motioning the others to remain where they were, I ventured out of the small door and found myself near the gate. We had run out from under the castle and emerged next to a small outbuilding. The gate stood before me just as it had the last time I saw it.
I paused. Barnaby had said we would find the gate wrecked. I recall it had remained intact with a portion of the western wall instead had been breached while all around the outer reach the flickering blue of the warding had glowed.
Now as I peered out through the fog, several things were made clear to me. Firstly, the gate was indeed intact, and the western wall lay in ruin. Secondly, the shimmering blue of the warding was missing. Thirdly, and more important than any of the other things, the land shark lay in the courtyard, dead.