Wednesday, October 19, 2005

 

the child, one hundred twelve


It was not a pleasant place, this deepest dungeon, not by a long shot. First and foremost, just as Stone had mentioned so many times before, there was the mire. Nearly two inches deep! There was nowhere to sit, nowhere to lie down, nowhere to put down their packs - not without getting themselves and their things all coated with the mire.

And the place stank! Lucy and Linda especially spent the first hour or so holding cloths over their noses, trying not to breathe. After that, the smell became more tolerable.

'Probably because it's killed our sense of smell,' Jack remarked.

Forest and James spent quite a while consulting together by themselves, occasionally calling over Stone or Lucy, Morgen or Jack. And finally, they called everyone over.

'All right. Here's our plan,' said Forest. 'We split up into the six teams as originally planned, and we go for our people.'

'But what about...' said Stone.

James held up his hand in a 'hear him out' gesture.

'I know, Stone. On the one hand, you don't have someone to get out. And then on the other hand, maybe you do.'

Stone frowned. 'Meaning?'

'Well,' said the boy, 'you know, with Walker getting captured... Well, maybe the reason he didn't find a sixth person for you to rescue, is because the Master knew it would come out this way, with Walker himself needing rescuing. Maybe you and Starr will wind up needing to free him. Of course,' he added, turning to the rest, 'we'll all need to be looking for him. Each of the people he found for us lives on a different level of the dungeons. So each of our teams can search the level where we're assigned, to see if Walker is also being held on that level. As for you, Stone, Starr - we'll leave it up to the two of you what you want to do. Hunt for Walker on all the levels, or try to find someone down here to rescue, someone that Walker missed.'

The big guy nodded, as did the woman at his side.

'Now,' Forest went on. 'We'll need to keep in touch. Once a day, I'd like us to touch base with each other. James and I talked this over, and it seems to us that the easiest way to keep in touch, unless we come up with an even easier way later, is for the team on the top floor to come down to see the next team below them. Exchange information, and the top floor team goes back up. Next team, then you go down to meet with the team below you. And so forth. Each team waits to hear from the team above, then relays to the team below. Once a day, without fail, right after nightfall. Clear?'

Nods all around.

'Fine.' Forest looked at James, then at the rest. 'Don't get caught. Don't give up. Keep loving, keep seeking the Master. Pray for us, pray for each other. Pray for each person we're going to take out of here. Pray for Walker.' A pause. 'Love. That's the vital thing. The Master's love. Amen?'

'Amen,' they chorused softly.

'I love you all,' Forest went on, and there were tears in his eyes. 'If anything goes wrong, get out. Head for... well, for the cave, I guess. But don't go in blindly. Scout it first to be sure it's not a trap. And if you can't get out, rendezvous here, at this room. Right?'

They all nodded.

Forest drew in a large breath, then blew it out again. 'Well. Let's go for it then.' And he smiled. 'For the Master's love.'

'For the Master's love,' Starr echoed back.

And with hugs and handshakes, the others melted away into the darkness to move cautiously back up the stairs. Leaving Stone and Starr alone.

Alone had never before felt so very, very alone.

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