The Rogue Knight Page 61

“What do you know of the threat to the northwest?” Skye asked. “The monster Morgassa.”

“I haven’t heard that name,” the Rogue Knight said. “I know of the monster. Although the creature is coming in this direction, I understand that it remains several days away.”

Cole heard voices from up the stairs, followed by the sharp clang of metal against metal. Silence followed.

“This way,” the Rogue Knight said.

They curved up the stairs to a large room where several guards lay dead. An iron door stood open, leading to another staircase. More voices could be heard from above. After a few moments, hurried footsteps tromped down the stairs. The Halfknight came into view.

“The way to the highest cell is clear,” the undersize knight reported. “The three guards up top surrendered and are being imprisoned.”

“Well done,” the Rogue Knight said. “Lead on, Minimus.”

They followed the small knight up the winding stair, past several iron doors with peepholes that opened from the outside. Cole wondered who else was kept in this high-security tower. Were there any possible allies here who could help them out? Could any of the kids from Arizona have ended up here?

Cole’s thighs were burning with exertion by the time they reached the top of the stairs. Oster and the other knights awaited them there.

“My knights will now return to the bottom of the tower and prevent anyone from coming up. I will be down before long to arrange our defenses.” As the knights descended the stairs, the Rogue Knight regarded Oster. “You have the key?”

Oster unlocked the iron door at the top of the stairs, and Cole shifted into position to peek inside. Would they have Honor chained up? Had she heard the guards fighting? Did she know rescuers were coming?

When Oster heaved the door open, the Rogue Knight moved in front of Cole, blocking his view. The Rogue Knight directed Oster to stand aside and deferred to Mira. “After you.”

Mira went through the doorway, followed by the Rogue Knight. Cole came in after them.

The cell was not what Cole had expected. The room had carpets on the floors, tapestries on the wall, and a canopied bed. One wall supported shelves full of colorful books. Many toys were scattered about: a wooden rocking horse, a pretend sword, several marionettes, dozens of marbles, platoons of toy soldiers, a drum, and a few stuffed animals. A number of chests and trunks housed other mysteries.

On the far side of the room, seated at a low table, was a boy of six or seven years, drawing on a small blackboard with a hunk of chalk. He looked up at Mira and the others who had intruded on him, more curious than startled.

Cole and Dalton exchanged a look of confusion. The prisoner was a little kid?

“Hello,” Mira said in a kind voice.

“Hi,” the kid answered. “Who are you?”

“I’m Mira,” she said. “Do you stay here alone?”

“Most of the time,” the boy said. “Zola brings my food. Vince comes by. And those other guys sometimes. Are we going somewhere?”

“Maybe,” Mira said. “Why do you ask?”

“All the new people,” the boy said. He pointed at the Rogue Knight. “That one is a fighter like Vince.”

“Yes,” Mira said.

“Do you kill people?” the boy asked the Rogue Knight.

“Sometimes,” the Rogue Knight said.

“Your side got bashed in,” the boy said. “Somebody tried to kill you.”

“That’s right,” the Rogue Knight said.

“Are you a good guy or a bad guy?” the boy asked.

“He’s mostly good,” Mira assured him.

“Vince has to fight a guy today,” the boy said. “Sometimes good guys have to fight.”

Cole realized that Vince must be the Dreadknight. He hoped nobody told the kid what had just happened.

“How long have you been here?” Mira asked sweetly.

“Lots of days,” the kid said. He started drawing again.

“Do you like it here?” Mira asked.

The boy shrugged. “It’s better than the other place. I thought I would get to go home, but not yet.”

“Where is home?” Mira asked.

“Ohio,” the boy said. “My town is called Springboro.”

Cole’s eyebrows shot up, and he and Dalton looked at each other again. Another kid from their world!

“Where was the other place?” Mira asked. “The worse place?”

“Dreamland,” the boy said. “It was scary there. The skeletons wanted to eat me.”

Mira paused. “What’s your name?”

“I’m Brady.”

Chapter 24

INMATES

Cole could hardly believe his ears. Was this really the kid who had created a wilderness full of killer skeletons and giant cheesecakes? A semblance of Brady’s babysitter had told them he was dead. That the monsters had finally gotten him.

“Was there ever a girl here called Honor?” the Rogue Knight asked.

“Or Nori?” Mira added.

Brady wrinkled his nose. “Nope, the only lady is Zola.”

“How old is Zola?” Mira asked.

“She looks like a mommy,” Brady said.

“How did you get here?” Mira asked.

“They came to Dreamland and got me,” Brady said. “At first I thought they were Blind Ones. They dressed and acted like Blind Ones. But they didn’t kill me. They took me away from Dreamland.”

“We were there too,” Cole said. “In Dreamland. People call it Brady’s Wilderness. We met Amanda.”

“You saw her?” Brady exclaimed, excited.

“She helped us,” Cole said.

“Is she okay?” Brady asked.

“She’s fine,” Cole said.

“I didn’t want to leave without her,” Brady said. “The guys who took me wouldn’t go back.”

“Did they bring you here after Dreamland?” Mira asked.

“Not at first,” Brady said. “They told me if I let them, they could make the dream end. I didn’t want those dreams anymore. I gave away my dreaming. I thought I would wake up and be home.”

“They made the dreams stop?” Mira asked.

“It worked,” Brady said. “My dreams never happen anymore. No giant cookies. No magic toys. But no bad guys either. None of it happens.”

“They took his power,” Twitch murmured.

“After they took away your dreams, they brought you here?” Mira asked.

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