“For an operation like this, we go with our strengths. I’m a police man, not a thief. A bit of a klutz, and you are right, you are not trained. Besides, Roland, can you make yourself invisible?”
“What? Yes. Not for long. About a day. It is very draining.”
“Yes, but it is draining, in my case on the battery.”
“I don’t do invisible, but I try.”
“Just keep in mind. You are not Rambo. Your mission is to free the hostages, not blow up the enemy in ever more cinematic ways.”
Katie put her arms around Lockhart’s middle and hugged him, and he hugged her. “I don’t want to lose you,” she said.
“And I don’t want to lose you,” he responded. “But I can’t make decisions based on that. Sometimes you or I will be in danger and the other will just have to suck it up.”
“I would not expect it to be otherwise,” Katie said, and thought about how comfortable she felt. Lockhart thought about how hard that might be for him in the future.
Alexis and Boston came out first and took a good look around. There were no guards, and more than likely the snake people never considered a jail break. Boston stepped out front while Alexis directed the crowd to hug the wall and move slowly. They were in the shadows, and Alexis meant to keep them in the shadows.
“Why are we moving so slow?” a young woman asked in her normal voice. Alexis threw something at the girl and all they heard after was “Mmmph, mmph.”
About twenty yards from the door, and not yet near the entrance, Alexis got everyone to kneel down. She risked moving and threw her hands toward the other side of the cavern. Everyone heard the sound of clattering rocks. Three men rounded the corner from the entranceway, and they immediately went to investigate what might be making that noise.
Boston kept up with the group and kept her wand at the ready, but she was still so new at this magic business, she did not think of any of the things Alexis did. When three more men came from the entrance way, carrying their spears, Alexis tired herself out trying to make their attention focus on where they were walking and on each other.
“Hey!” There were two more behind them. Alexis stood.
“Run,” she yelled, and the people ran toward the entrance as everything erupted into chaos.
Boston laid down a line of fire that was enough to make the men back up, but not enough to stop them.
The eyes of the statue fired lasers at her, but Boston felt herself grabbed from behind and hauled out of the way just in time.
The five men on the stairs shouted. Lincoln was there, followed by seven bird-men who also let out sounds of distress and anger.
Elder Stow had his sonic device out and the stairs began to tremble, but Alexis was still there, waving the others on, and she yelled. “No. Benjamin is on the stairs. Get Benjamin first.” Elder Stow was invisible, but it was not too hard to figure what was happening. The sonic vibrations stopped, and Lincoln shoved his way toward the entrance before the men could recover.
The bird-men came to the bottom of the stairs, and afterwards, the people could not say if they flew or just exited the stairs quickly. They certainly knew the bird-men were armed when streaks of power began to fire at the fleeing people.
At the same time, a great roar came up from the crack in the ground.
The bird-men looked stymied. Somehow, Elder Stow had the people, including Lincoln, covered with a screen against the energy weapons. Whatever power was being projected by the eyes of the idol could also not break through.
Roland and Boston came at the back of the line, and Elder Stow last of all. Decker was behind a rock. Four men by the entrance were dead, and the people all ran out into the fresh air. When Eder Stow became visible again, Decker exited, and Alexis yelled for the elder.
“Be prepared to raise your shield again. We don’t know if the Balok will follow us.”
“Or the Sevarese,” Lincoln added, before he paused to kiss his wife.
“Fire drake,” Roland explained to Boston, and whoever was listening, and then he thought to include Lockhart. “It came up from the crack in the earth. It is a creature of fire.”
“It chased the birds and the men back into the cell room where they were holding the people prisoners,” Boston added. “The bird men, whatever they are, and their energy weapons don’t have any effect on it.”
“Sevarese,” Lincoln said.
“Bird men?” Katie asked.
“Later,” Lockhart insisted even as he decided there was no way they were going to fit everyone on the horses. They would have to go on foot, the hard way, and hope no one tried to stop them.
The people all gathered around a big bonfire in the night. They were not far from Kish, but it was too dark to continue, and they imagined they would make it by mid-afternoon on the following day.
“At least there are too many of us to be taken again by the men,” Lothar said while Alexis checked his wound once more and saw that it was healing properly this time.
“Men are not what we are worried about,” Lincoln said and Lothar nodded as more than three dozen men came out of the dark, armed with copper headed spears and copper knives.
“And I was only watching the skies,” Decker said.
“And Roland?” Lockhart asked, but Roland and Boston were busy kissing.
“Hey Lockhart!” Lockhart heard the voice before he saw the man.
“Etana?” Lincoln had to ask, and Etana nodded while he shouted something else.
“Boston!” She stopped and she and Roland both looked at him, but they looked like their minds were not able to focus on what they were seeing. “You two need to set a date,” Etana said. “Or we need to throw a bucket of water on them,” he said generally to everyone, and waved so his men relaxed.
“Speaking of buckets of water,” Alexis interrupted and patted the seat between herself and Lincoln. “Do you have any idea what we have been through?
“You are going to need a bucket of water to put out the fire drake,” Lincoln said.
“Yeah, all that and you weren’t even there yet,” Lockhart joked, but Katie touched his sleeve as the sound of a Sevarese fighter went overhead.
The travelers discover the sky has fallen and Nuwa, the Kairos, has to resurrect the pillars in the pledge of the gods to hold back the storm of war beginning to rage across the star systems. Meanwhile, things heat up between Boston and Roland. Something must be decided as they travel down “The Sulk Road.”