The Rogue Knight Page 50

Dalton leaned against the wall, and Skye squeezed by him. She opened the door and stepped through. Beyond the doorway, Cole saw a guard watching from behind a door made of iron bars. Skye’s seeming didn’t flicker. When Dalton stepped through, he grunted softly, but his fake persona held as well. Cole went next, followed by Jace, who closed the door.

“Leona?” the guard asked.

“We’re heading out,” Skye said.

From above and behind, bells started wildly clanging. The flames of the candles on the wall turned red. Cole tried not to react, but he knew the ruckus must be for them. Leona had awakened or had been found.

“Uh-oh,” the guard said from beyond the door of bars. “That’s the general alarm. Nobody in or out until we get the all clear.”

“But we have to go out,” Skye said calmly. “We’re searching for an escaped slave. He may have sensitive information.”

“That could be,” the guard said. “But my orders come from the top. A lockdown is the surest way to keep anybody from escaping. I need an all clear before anyone passes.”

The wooden door behind them opened, and Cole’s heart leaped when Gustus came through. The chameleon-eyed man looked taken aback. “What is this? Leona, I sent you ahead!”

“General alarm, sir,” the guard said. “This passage is closed. Nobody has come through here in the last couple of hours.”

“Well done,” Gustus said. “But we need to quietly make an exception. We have strong reason to believe an escaped slave is already outside our perimeter. We’re going out to bring him in. There isn’t time to wait. Every moment counts. Open the way on my authority.”

“You’re in charge, sir,” the guard said, opening the door. Skye moved ahead, and the guard walked with her to a solid iron door, which he opened with a key. Cole passed the guard in silence.

Behind Cole, Gustus paused beside the guard. “Though necessary on occasion, bending protocol like this sets a bad precedent,” Gustus said. “Don’t speak of it to anyone.”

“Understood, sir.”

“And don’t let anyone else through. As far as I’m concerned, this never happened. I’ll never admit to it.”

“Understood, sir.”

“Excellent. Keep a sharp watch.”

They continued down the hall with Gustus at the rear. After finally turning a corner, Skye collapsed against a wall, panting. Her seeming vanished, as did Jace’s. Gustus disappeared. Skye was bathed in sweat.

“You improvised that?” Dalton asked in astonishment. “You held together an unanchored seeming through a scrubber?”

“That was heavy lifting,” Skye said, her eyes closed. “I almost lost my hold on everything at the end there.”

“I don’t know if any of the enchanters here could have done that,” Dalton said. “Maybe the head enchanter on a good day. You even made it look like the door opened.”

“The guard needed to see Gustus come through the scrubber,” Skye said. “It put his authenticity beyond question.”

“I can’t believe we made it,” Dalton said.

“We’re not in the clear yet,” Skye said, pushing away from the wall. “They’ve raised the alarm. They won’t want us to get away.” She started walking. “Come on!”

Chapter 20

HIDEOUT

They exited the crypt without difficulty. Full of weathered tombs and diverse monuments, the cemetery looked more like a forgotten statue garden than a graveyard. With the bells of the Silver Lining still clamoring in the distance, Skye cloaked them in seemings, this time grubby people in worn clothing.

“I can do myself,” Dalton offered.

“I’ve got it,” Skye said. “Without the scrubbers to interfere, I’d like to think I could handle four temporary seemings from my deathbed.”

“Where to now?” Cole asked.

“I did some scouting this morning,” Skye said. “One of my old hideouts was untouched. Nobody has used it in years. We’ll go there. Until we arrive, let’s spread out. They’ll be looking for a group.”

Jace hung back, and Cole strolled off to one side. Dalton stayed near Skye, and Cole resisted the temptation to join them. He could wait a little longer to hear everything that had happened to his friend since they last saw each other. The first priority was to avoid getting caught.

There weren’t many other people in the cemetery. A few old folks stood contemplatively beside graves. One elderly woman shuffled along a lane using a cane. Cole wondered why he only saw older people. Was it because they didn’t have to work? Maybe they had more close friends and relatives who had passed away. Or maybe it was just coincidence.

Skye and Dalton exited the cemetery through a small gate. Cole doubted it could be the main entrance. He followed them through the gate and along a walking path. Glancing back, he saw Jace trailing well behind.

As they continued into the city, Cole walked on the opposite side of the street from Skye. Jace continued to hang back. With each block they traveled, Cole felt himself unwind a little more. It looked like they had made a clean getaway.

Up ahead, Skye and Dalton stopped at a street corner. After a glance from Skye, Cole realized she was waiting for him. He crossed the street and joined them. A few moments later Jace caught up.

“We’re almost there,” Skye said. “I don’t think we’re being followed. Stay with me.”

She proceeded along the street, then turned down a shadowy alley. After going a short ways, Cole could see that it was a dead end. A large black dog lay in the corner near the far wall of the alley. As Skye approached, the dog raised its head and growled. She kept coming, and the dog growled more intensely, showing teeth.

“Skye?” Cole asked uncertainly.

“Trust me,” she said, stepping through the dog. Reaching up high, her hand disappeared into the wall and came out with a key. After feeling lower along the wall, her hand sinking a couple of inches into the bricks, she inserted the key and pulled open a door that had been masked by illusion.

“The dog looks good,” Dalton said, walking through it.

“A friend made it,” Skye said. “It’s permanent. You can’t open the door without disrupting it, and I can tell if it has been disrupted by anyone besides me. Nobody has bothered it.”

“Who would mess with a growling dog?” Jace asked.

“Especially in an alley with no entrances to homes or businesses,” Skye said.

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