The Rogue Knight Page 84

“We’re coming,” Dalton announced.

Everyone else agreed.

“Then we’ll ride until nightfall,” Honor said. “Our guide predicts we will arrive in less than a day.”

“We surely can,” Spark chirped. “Just rely on your fearless leader.”

“I thank you all for coming to my rescue,” Honor said, mounting her horse. “I made a grave misstep getting caught by Trillian. You saved me from my folly. I’m indebted.”

“We’re just happy you’re all right,” Mira said.

Cole noticed how naturally Honor assumed command of the group. Her presence made it feel like they had been leaderless until now. She rode at the front near Spark and chose a good spot for them to camp as the light failed.

“I’ll watch over you tonight,” Minimus volunteered.

“Nonsense,” Honor said. “We’ll share that duty. You must sleep sometime.”

“Actually, my lady, I require very little rest,” Minimus said. “Watching through the night is a simple matter for me. I would not endanger you with empty boasts.”

“I’ll keep watch too,” Spark offered. “I don’t sleep either. And I see all directions at once. A good leader keeps an eye on his flock.”

“We’ll be well guarded,” Honor said.

“Our enemies will run screaming,” Jace joked. “Nobody would tangle with a little dot of light.”

“Mighty infernos begin with a spark,” Spark cautioned.

“Can you become an inferno?” Jace asked.

“I can alert the dwarf,” Spark said sheepishly.

“Then he can unleash an inferno indeed!” Minimus said stoutly.

“I’ll cloak us in an illusion as well,” Skye said. “We should rest undisturbed.”

As he bedded down next to Dalton, Cole gazed up at the foreign sky. Two dim moons shared weak light. Stars and galaxies clogged the firmament like luminous dust.

“I saw the Big Dipper,” Cole said.

“Here?” Dalton asked.

Cole explained about the simulation of Mr. Barrum’s house.

“That must have been nice to feel like you were home for a while,” Dalton said. “Except for almost getting chopped up by an ax.”

“It was good and bad,” Cole said. “I saw things from our old life. I saw a normal house. I saw a soda can. I even saw the light from a TV. Funny thing is, I’d almost forgotten about TVs. I’d almost forgotten about a lot of that stuff. Maybe it was because I was tiny, or because I knew it wasn’t real, but it didn’t feel as much like home anymore.”

“It was the house of a guy who freaked you out when you were little,” Dalton said. “You would have felt different if you were at your own house.”

“You’re probably right,” Cole said, not fully convinced, but not wanting to belabor the issue.

“I don’t miss TV either,” Dalton said. “But I miss my family. I miss our neighborhood. Playing soccer. I even miss school.”

“Yeah,” Cole said.

“What if we never get home?” Dalton asked.

“We’ll find a way,” Cole said. “At least we know it’s possible.”

“We won’t give up,” Dalton said. “We’ll try everything we can. But what happens if we find Jenna, and the others, and we can’t find somebody who can get us home to stay? What if we can’t fix this? What if our families won’t ever remember us? What if we’re stuck here?”

Cole stared at the stars. He had a lot of the same fears. He didn’t trust his voice, but he had to say something. “I guess we make the best of it.”

“You’re smart to help Mira,” Dalton said. “She’s pretty great. Even Jace is a good guy once you get used to him. We’re on the right side.”

“True,” Cole said. “I just hope we can survive helping them. We had some close calls the last few days. I hope I didn’t lure you to your death.”

“Don’t say that. I chose to be here. I was alone, Cole. I hated it. This is way better. I feel like myself again. We’re doing the right thing. We have to try.”

“I feel the same way,” Cole said. “It’s just freaky.”

“What? Trying to fight some demon lady who can enslave our minds? Getting chased by evil soldiers? It’s unbelievably scary. But the only other choice is to give up.”

“Not going to happen.”

“I’m not quitting either. So here we are. Good night, Cole.”

“Good night.”

Despite his comfy naps, the exertions of the day had left Cole weary. He shifted onto his side, pillowed his head on his arm, and tried to sleep.

The following afternoon, their first view of Fog Lake came from a low ridge not far from the shore. They all reined in their horses and gathered together to regard their destination.

The shoreline nearest them meandered along, damp hard mud in some places, pebbles in others, little peninsulas jutting out here and there. The far shore could only be glimpsed in the gray distance. Flat and white, the lake itself was a perfect bowl of motionless mist. No vapor rose higher than the shore, leaving the air above clear, but as far as they could see, no gaps marred the smooth surface.

“Weird,” Dalton said, drawing out the word. “How does it all stay in place? Shouldn’t some of the fog float away?”

“All day, every day, for centuries, it has been the same,” Skye said. “I’ve never seen Fog Lake, but most people in Elloweer know of it. Farther north is the much larger Fog Sea. It marks the northern edge of Elloweer for miles and miles. None have ever crossed it.”

“Do people go into Fog Lake?” Cole asked.

“Callista does,” Spark chirped.

“Not for many years,” Skye said. “The lake lies too close to Trillian to attract many visitors. It was never safe, riddled with unseen pits and other dangers. Superstitions abound about Fog Lake.”

“There are many drop-offs and steep places,” Spark squeaked. “And some mist grifters, but we’ll steer clear of them. Callista never has visitors. She’ll be so surprised!”

“Will she be angry you led us to her?” Honor asked.

“Not when I have permission from Trillian,” Spark said. “Callista trusts his judgment.”

“What does that say about how much we can trust her?” Dalton grumbled.

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