The Rogue Knight Page 65

“That was the first time I’ve ever been shot at,” Dalton said. “I feel bad for Sultan. That has to hurt!”

“Come on,” Oster urged.

As Cole followed, from above and behind, he heard the sound of the bed sliding into place. He kept glancing back until he saw Minimus catch up with the group.

“We should be in the clear now,” Oster said. “Only a couple of the other knights know about this passage, and they have their hands full with the Rogue Knight. Once we’re outside the castle, we should make for the lower stables. If we can get you on good horses, I expect you can ride clear of all this. Any idea where you’re going?”

“To find Trillian the torivor,” Mira said.

Cole cast a quick, nervous glance at Dalton, still curious what his friend knew about Trillian. Dalton leaned his way and whispered, “He’s a caged monster. Sort of like the Ellowine boogeyman.”

Oster stopped walking. “Today I’ve heard some things that weren’t meant for my ears,” he said. He held out a hand toward Mira. “I understand you’re Miracle Pemberton. And it sounded like Trillian has your sister, Honor. But if Trillian has claimed her, the story ends there. The torivor is imprisoned at the Lost Palace for a reason. He is one of the most powerful beings in the five kingdoms. Maybe the most powerful. Trillian can send servants beyond his borders, but he can’t leave. However, if you enter his domain, you’ll be at his mercy.”

“I appreciate the advice,” Mira said. “We’re going in that direction, though. The rest we’ll figure out on the way.”

Oster shook his head and started walking again. “If you avoid the Lost Palace, that route carries some benefit. Not a lot of people will want to follow you to the northeast. For the sake of my peace, please give it a lot of thought before approaching the Lost Palace. Talk to some locals. Learn what perils await you. Consider alternatives.”

“I can tell Mira about Trillian,” Skye said. “We won’t rush into anything.”

They continued forward. Oster glanced back at Mira. “Are you really the daughter of the High King? Weren’t his daughters killed?”

“He staged our deaths and stole our shaping abilities,” Mira explained. “It stopped us from aging.”

Oster didn’t ask more questions.

Cole matched Dalton’s pace and spoke softly to him. “What’s the full story on Trillian?” he asked.

Dalton sucked in a breath. “Oster covered the basics. I don’t know much more, just stuff I’ve heard at the Silver Lining. People in Elloweer love secrets—they hide behind illusions, they use passwords, they trade rumors. But they don’t want to know more about the torivor. They just want him locked away. Based on the little I’ve heard, this guy is a walking horror movie.”

“And we’re going right to his door?” Cole said. “Great.”

What were they going to do when they got to Trillian? Couldn’t they survive one crisis before racing to another? Cole felt a distressingly familiar tension as he considered the road ahead.

“I want to walk,” Brady complained after a short time.

“We’re in a hurry,” Joe said.

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“I can hurry!” Brady fussed. “I’m not a baby!”

Joe set him down. “If you walk slowly, I’ll pick you up again,” he warned.

Brady scampered ahead until he was right behind Oster. The floor of the corridor sloped downward. Damaged masonry and dried mud along portions of the floor hinted that the passage wasn’t used very often. Something scuttled in a shadowy corner.

“We made it,” Oster said. They had reached a huge door of corroded iron set in a rusty frame. Oster threw back three bolts. “No telling for certain who is on the other side. Ready?”

They all became legionnaires.

“That’ll do,” Oster said, leaning and straining to pull the large door. Minimus lent a hand, and the door groaned open.

From the doorway Cole saw only darkness. Skye extended a hand, and a dim globe of light drifted into the room, revealing a dirt floor and a bunch of old plows and farming tools.

“Where are we?” Skye asked.

“Smokehouse basement,” Oster said. “This door is hidden by a seeming, as is the trapdoor up in the smokehouse.”

They filed into the room. It reeked of dust, soot, and old metal. Oster went up a creaky flight of steps, unfastened a bolt, and opened the trapdoor. “All clear,” he said.

They went up into the smokehouse. The place was deserted. Cole could taste smoked meat in the air. Oster peeked out the front door. “Nobody in sight,” he said. “They aren’t here to sack the town. They want the Rogue Knight, and he’s keeping them busy up at the castle.”

Sultan collapsed. Suddenly, half of them were no longer legionnaires, including him. He lay motionless, facedown.

Crouching beside the fallen illusionist, Joe examined the wound under his shoulder. The shaft protruded from near the top of the armpit. “He’s lost a lot of blood,” Joe said. “His shirt is soaked. The seeming masked how bad this is.” Using a knife, he cut away the material around the quarrel. Jace edged in as close as he could, looking over Joe’s shoulder. Twitch kept his distance. “It must have hit a blood vessel. Hopefully, not the main artery, but he’s in bad shape.”

“He needs Band-Aids,” Brady advised.

“Come here,” Cole said, leading Brady away from Sultan.

“I hate it here,” Brady whispered. “People always die.”

“We’ll try to help him,” Cole said, watching worriedly.

Joe leaned close and probed near the wound. Sultan flinched and growled in pain. Propping himself up one arm, Sultan looked around the room with wide eyes. “What happened?”

“You passed out,” Joe said. “You’ve lost a lot of blood.”

“You had better go,” Sultan said. “There’s no time for this.”

“You’ll die if we leave you,” Joe said, taking some bandages from a pouch he wore. He packed the bandages around the wound. “I don’t want to try to pull the quarrel out yet. I’d break off the shaft, but it’s too short and thick to snap easily. Cruel little dart. Try not to jostle it.” He tied the bandages in place with twine. “Let’s hope the pressure slows the bleeding.”

“Thank you,” Sultan said.

Joe helped Sultan up. “Come on. We’re going to get you to those horses.”

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