Friday, October 07, 2005

 

the child, one hundred seven


'They took Walker?' said Joy. 'But why?'

'He must have run back towards the valley,' said Starr. 'Perhaps he thought he could just return to the Master's house,'

'But I thought Mac said that the guards wouldn't be in any condition to fight,' put in Lucy.

'And they aren't,' Mac agreed. 'But in the blindness of his anger, Walker could have been easily taken even by blind men.'

Starr and Stone exchanged glances. Now Mac himself was using - even overusing - the word 'blind.'

'But why would they capture him?' Joy asked. 'Wouldn't they have still thought he was one of them?'

'He disappeared the same time we captives did,' said Linda. 'Likely the guards put two and two together, and came up with the truth.'

Forest was frowning heartily, thinking. Suddenly, the boy turned to Stone and said, 'You know Walker pretty well, right? How angry do you think he was when he left here?'

'As angry as I've ever seen him.'

'Angry enough to betray us?'

The question was like a punch in the guts. Everyone froze for a moment, pondering it. And then they came to urgent life again, grabbing up the last of their gear. 'Out. Quickly. Now,' said James, grimacing at the pain it cost him to say just those three words.

'We can't go down the way we came up,' said Forest. 'If he gave us away, he would have told them how to get here, right? So how do we...?'

'This way,' said Malachi. He led them out of the cave's mouth and off to the left, through a line of trees, and then on up the mountain side. Forest supported James, following right behind Mal. Morgen and Mac formed the rear guard, obscuring their trail behind them as they went. The rest hurried along just behind Forest, their hearts racing, trying not to panic.

'He could compromise the whole mission,' said Forest. 'He knows the names. He knows everything.'

'Not quite everything,' said Stone.

'Meaning?' asked Jack.

Stone himself was surprised at what he said next. 'He doesn't know the deep dungeons. If we can get in there...'

'Stone!' cried Lucy. 'Are you mad?'

'Oh, don't start with that,' put in Jack.

'If we can get in there,' Stone repeated, 'we can hide, do a bit of scouting on our own, then go after the people Walker found for us.'

'But they'll be expecting us to go after those people,' Lucy objected. 'They'll know the exact names.'

'I can't help that. We can't just leave them. Not with them so close to freedom!' Stone paused, then added, 'We can't just leave Walker either.'

'After he...!' said Lucy.

'We don't know that he's betrayed us. Yes, we have to assume he has - but we don't know, not for sure. At any rate, we can't just leave him. If nothing else...' And again Stone paused. 'If nothing else, I need to stand before Walker and look him in the eye - and ask his forgiveness. And give him my forgiveness, as well.'

Starr's fingers squeezed his, and she smiled up at him.

Malachi came to a halt then. 'Here we begin the descent,' he said. 'And from here, silence. No talking.'

They all nodded. And with Mac and Morgen still hiding their tracks behind them, they slipped through the woods and down the mountainside to reach the plain below.

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