The Rogue Knight Page 75

“How scary is he?” Dalton asked.

“He’s not like a giant scorpipede,” Cole said. “He’s scary because he’s smart and really powerful. He can get inside your head. He knows a lot. He said it might be possible for us to get back home. Our hopes might not be completely crazy!”

“Are you serious?” Dalton’s eyes lit up. “Where do we go? What do we do?”

“He wouldn’t explain how, but he told me somebody with enough power could change how it all works—could fix things so we could get home and stay there.”

“Cole, that’s wonderful news,” Mira said. “And did you see Honor?” she asked, not quite keeping her voice steady.

“No,” Cole said, deflating a bit. “I’m sorry, I didn’t. Trillian has her, though—definitely. He says he’ll give her to us if we win a contest.”

“What kind of contest?” Dalton asked.

“He didn’t really explain,” Cole replied. “Jace, Mira, and I have to do it together. All he promised is that we’d have a chance to win.”

“And if we lose?” Mira asked.

“He keeps us,” Cole said. “Like he’s keeping Honor.”

“Meanwhile he’s holding Jace hostage?” Mira asked.

“Pretty much,” Cole said.

Mira tossed up her hands. “I have to try.”

Skye stepped forward. “Are you sure? Without any daughters of the High King, the revolution doesn’t stand a chance.”

Mira shrugged. “I have three other sisters. Without Honor, Elloweer is doomed. I’m not going to abandon my sister if there is a chance of saving her.”

“Then I must insist on accompanying you,” Minimus spoke up. “The Rogue Knight left you in my care.”

“I don’t think you’re invited,” Cole said. “Trillian made it clear the contest is for me, Jace, and Mira alone.”

“The best way to protect me might be letting me go with Cole,” Mira said. “We don’t want to cross Trillian. We’re lucky he’s willing to give us a chance.”

“It might not be much of a chance,” Twitch said. “How do you know the torivor isn’t lying about the contest to get you to come to him? He may not let any of you go.”

“He said he never lies,” Cole said. “Of course, that could be a lie.”

“I’m willing to risk it,” Mira said. “How about you, Cole?”

Cole closed his eyes and tapped his forehead with his fists. He wasn’t sure what they should do, but Mira needed his take at least. “I don’t know,” Cole said, opening his eyes. “I think it’s a real contest. Of course, that could be what the torivor wants me to think. Trillian seems really smart. He was almost polite. He seems bored. He said he wanted to give us a sporting chance. I believe he meant it, but I have no idea how bad this whole contest thing will actually be. It could be a nightmare. But we can’t just leave Jace in there. Honor either. It’s up to you, Mira. If you’re in, I’m with you.”

“Let’s go,” Mira said, walking toward the open gate.

“If you’re not back in a day, I’ll come for you,” Minimus pledged.

“That’s up to you,” Mira said. “Nobody has to come after us. I doubt it would do any good. Hopefully, we’ll see you soon.”

Cole and Dalton tapped knuckles.

“Be careful,” Dalton said. He looked worried.

Cole put an arm around his friend. “Promise me something.”

“Sure,” Dalton said.

“If I don’t make it back, find Jenna. Help her. Don’t give up until you’re home.”

“Okay,” Dalton said thickly.

Cole looked at Twitch. “And you save your village.”

“Will do,” Twitch replied.

“You ready?” Mira asked, standing where the Red Road ended.

Cole slapped the Jumping Sword at his side. “Nope. But let’s go.”

He crossed to her, and they stepped through together. Hina and two guards awaited them on the far side, beside a fancy coach glittering with gemstones. A harness of red leather and gold connected six white horses to the vehicle.

“Welcome, Miracle Pemberton,” Hina said. She made a gesture, and one of the guards opened the door to the coach.

“Where was this for me?” Cole complained.

“You’re not royalty,” Hina responded.

Cole glanced at Mira, who was taking in the glorious surroundings with astonished eyes. “That woman is beautiful,” Mira whispered.

“Yeah,” Cole said. “We had to walk last time.”

Mira led the way to the coach and climbed in. Cole followed her quickly, a little worried they might deny him permission to join her. Hina rode her beefy horse while the guards drove the coach. The crystalline landscape flashed by as the coach whooshed along the redder than red road.

They stopped at the ethereal palace, and Hina led them inside. She guided them up some glossy stairs and stopped outside of an ornate door. “Here is a room for you, Miracle,” Hina said with a slight bow.

“Let me guess,” Cole said. “It’s nicer than mine?”

Mira shot him a wink. Hina ignored him.

“Go to sleep,” Cole told her. “See you in Dreamland.”

Mira went inside, and Hina closed the door.

“You should treat a princess with greater courtesy,” Hina said.

“Like by trapping one in a castle?” Cole replied.

Unruffled, she led him to another door and indicated it. “You may stay in here.”

The room was similar to his previous one. After the door was shut, Cole went straight to the bed. He wondered how long it would take to sleep. The bed was luxuriously comfy, but he didn’t feel tired, so he stared at the ceiling.

Cole wondered what sort of contest they would face. Would it involve fighting? Would it be something intellectual, like riddles or trivia? Could it be a game of chance, like playing poker or something? He made himself smile as he pictured himself and Jace competing against Trillian and Mira in a three-legged race.

After some time, a strong sense of drowsiness washed over him. The sensation was too sudden to be natural, but he didn’t try to fight it. His closed his eyes and effortlessly fell asleep.

He was back in the room with the fancy floor and the exotic furniture. Standing with his hands behind his back, Trillian greeted him with a nod. Mira and Jace were there as well.

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