“Alcatraz,” Bastille said. “I know you want to protect your grandfather. But this is suicide.”
I waited a few moments for Sing to complete his task. Then I knelt down beside the door and looked through the knothole. Blackburn was raising a mallet, as if to break Grandpa Smedry’s arm.
“You can’t resist forever, old man,” Blackburn said.
I activated the Firebringer’s Lens.
Immediately, the Dark Oculator looked up.
I smiled, watching Blackburn turn with a confused expression on his face. At that moment, he was sensing a very powerful Oculatory Lens in the hallway outside. He took a step toward the door.
“Now,” I hissed. “Run!”
Bastille didn’t need further command. She took off down the hallway, as did I. However, she obviously held back so that she didn’t outstrip me.
I held the Firebringer’s Lens before me, and it spewed forth its powerful line of light. I ran on, aiming it at the side of the corridor.
“You’re leading him away!” Bastille said. “You’re using us as bait.”
“Hopefully bait that escapes,” I said, ducking around a corner, then pausing to wait. The Firebringer’s Lens continued to blast.
A door slammed in the distance. “Smedry!” a voice bellowed. “You can’t run from me! Don’t you realize that I can sense your power?”
“Go!” I said, taking off at a dash. Within seconds, we were at the section of the corridor with the broken floor.
“Charles!” I yelled down through the hole. “Trouble is coming your way! I’d run, if I were you!”
And then I took the Firebringer’s Lens and tossed it through the hole. It bounced against a few books, then came to rest on the floor, still shooting a piercing-hot laser of heat up into the air, burning the ceiling, threatening to start several of the bookshelves on fire.
I grabbed Bastille by the arm, tugging her around the corner and into the Forgotten Language room. Sing jumped as we entered. He had—for some reason that he never explained—propped both of the unconscious men in chairs at the desks.
Anthropologists are funny that way.
Now, I would like to take this opportunity to point out that I didn’t take the opportunity to point out anything at the beginning of this chapter. Never fear; my editorial comments were simply delayed for a few moments.
You see, that last chapter ended with a terribly unfair hook. By now it is probably very late at night, and you have stayed up to read this book when you should have gone to sleep. If this is the case, then I commend you for falling into my trap. It is a writer’s greatest pleasure to hear that someone was kept up until the unholy hours of the morning reading one of his books. It goes back to authors being terrible people who delight in the suffering of others. Plus we get a kickback from the caffeine industry.
Regardless, because of how exciting things were, I didn’t feel comfortable interjecting my normal comments at the beginning of this chapter. So, I shall put them here instead. Prepare yourself.
Blah, blah, sacrifice, altars, daggers, sharks. Blah, blah, something pretentious. Blah, blah, rutabaga. Blah, blah, something that makes no sense whatsoever.
Now back to the story.
(And whoever put in that cliffhanger at the end of the last chapter needs to be reprimanded. It’s growing quite late here, and I really should be getting to bed, rather than writing this book.)
I crouched inside the Forgotten Language room with Bastille and Sing. I kept my Oculator’s Lenses off, hoping that without them I wouldn’t have as strong an aura. Sure enough, watching under the door, we saw a dark shadow pass by, and I felt a slight surge of power as an activated Oculatory Lens passed by. (Fortunately, Blackburn didn’t appear to have a Tracker’s Lens of his own.) His shadow didn’t stop to check the Forgotten Language room, but instead continued on toward the stairwell.
“We have very little time,” I said, looking back at the other two.
We burst from the room and ran back toward the torture chamber. By the time we arrived, I was feeling a little out of breath. Having never had to rescue anyone from torture before, I wasn’t accustomed to so much running. Fortunately, Sing wasn’t exactly in shape either, and so I didn’t feel too bad lagging behind Bastille.
Once I reached the guard chamber, I noticed Bastille standing beside the door with the peephole. She gave the handle a good rattle. “Locked,” she said.
“Move aside,” I said, walking up to the door. I rested a hand on the lock, jolting it with a bit of Breaking Talent. Nothing happened.
“Glass lock,” I said. I moved my hand up to the door’s hinges, but they resisted too.
Bastille cursed. “The whole door will be warded against your Talent. We’ll have to try to break it down manually.”
I eyed the thick wooden door with a skeptical eye. Then, from behind me, there was a click. I turned to see Sing leveling one of the biggest, baddest handguns I’d ever seen. It was the kind of gun that took most men two hands to hold—the type of gun that used bullets so big that they could have doubled as paperweights.
Sing pulled out another gun, identical to the first, with his other hand. Then he took aim at the door handle—which sat directly between Bastille and me.
“Oh, put those antiques away,” Bastille said testily. “This isn’t the time for—Gak!”
This last part came as I grabbed her by the shoulder, yanking her with me as I took cover behind a table.
Sing pulled the triggers.
Wood chips sprayed across the room, mixing with shards of black glass. The booming sound of gunshots echoed in the small chamber—or at least the booming sound of three gunshots echoed in the small chamber. By the time Sing fired the fourth shot, I’d been deafened and couldn’t tell whether or not the rest of the shots made any noise.
I couldn’t hear any trees fall either.
When it was over, I peeked out from behind my table. Bastille remained stunned on the floor beside me. The door stood shattered and splintered, the remnants of its handle and lock hanging pitifully, surrounded by bullet holes. As I watched, the broken, bullet-shattered lock finally dropped to the floor, and the door quietly swung open—as if in surrender.
Now, after all our discussions of “advanced” weapons and the like, you probably weren’t expecting the guns to do much good. I certainly wasn’t. One thing to remember is this: Primitive doesn’t always mean useless. An old flintlock pistol may not be as advanced as a handgun, but both could kill you. Sitting there, I realized why Sing was insistent upon bringing the guns along, and why Grandpa Smedry had let him do so.
It seems to me that some people underestimate good old-fashioned Hushlander technology a little too much. It was nice to see something from my world prove so effective. Locks made from Oculator’s Glass might be resistant to physical damage, but they certainly aren’t completely indestructible.
“Nice shooting,” I said.
Sing shrugged, then said something.
“What?” I asked, still feeling a bit deaf.
“I said,” Sing said, speaking louder, “even antiques have their uses every once in a while. Come on!” He waddled over to the door, pushing it open the rest of the way.
Bastille stumbled to her feet. “I feel like a thunderstorm went off inside my head. Your people really use those things on the battlefield?”
“Only when they have to,” I said.
“How can you hear what your commanders are saying?” she asked.
“Uh … helmets?” I said. The answer, of course, didn’t make any sense. But I didn’t care at the moment. I rose to my feet, rushing after Sing into the room. Inside, we found one guard on the ground, unconscious from Blackburn’s use of the Torturer’s Len
s. Grandpa Smedry still lay tied to the table, Quentin in his chair.
“Alcatraz, lad!” Grandpa Smedry said. “You’re late!”
I smiled, rushing to the table. Bastille saw to Quentin, cutting the ropes that tied him to the chair.
“The manacles on my wrists are made of Enforcer’s Glass, lad,” Grandpa Smedry said. “You’ll never break it. Quickly, you have to leave! The Dark Oculator sensed you using the Firebringer’s Lens!”
“I know,” I said. “That was intentional. We distracted him with the Lens, then came in to get you.”
“You did?” Grandpa Smedry said. “Whooping Williams, lad, that’s brilliant!”
“Thank you,” I said, placing two hands against the wood of the table. Then I closed my eyes and channeled a blast of Talent into it. Fortunately, it wasn’t warded as well as the door had been, even if the manacles were. Nails sprang free, boards separated, and legs fell off. Grandpa Smedry collapsed in the middle of it, crying out in surprise. Sing quickly rushed over to help him to his feet.
“Muttering Modesitts,” Grandpa Smedry said quietly, looking at the remnants of the table. The manacles and their chains hung freely from his wrists and ankles, for the other ends had been affixed to the now-defunct table. Grandpa Smedry looked up at me. “That’s some Talent, lad. Some Talent indeed…”
Quentin walked over, rubbing his wrists. He had a few budding bruises on his face, but otherwise looked unharmed. “Churches,” he said. “Lead, very small rocks, and ducks.”
“Oh, he won’t be able to say anything normal for the rest of the day,” Grandpa Smedry said. “Sing, my boy, would you help me with…” He nodded downward, toward his leg—which, I now noticed, was still impaled by the torturing knife.
“Grandpa!” I said with concern as Sing reached down gingerly and pulled the knife free.
There was no blood.
“Don’t worry, lad,” Grandpa Smedry said. “I’ll arrive late to that wound.”
I frowned. “How long can you keep that up?”
“It depends,” Grandpa Smedry said, accepting his tuxedo shirt from Sing. He put it on, then began doing up the studs in the front. “Arriving late to wounds requires a bit of effort—holding this one back, along with all the pains Blackburn gave me with his Torturer’s Lenses, is already fatiguing. I can hold on for a little while longer, but I’ll have to start letting the pain through eventually.”