Jarrock held Timmy up by the throat, examining his face. "This child is not like his friend, but there's something strange here. He has no aura."
"Let him go," Eddie demanded.
"No, I think I'll take him with us. You'll cooperate with me, or I'll crush this child's skull."
"Where are we going?" Eddie asked
"To my tower, of course. It's where we go to finish this world."
"I thought you weren't doing that for another three days."
Jarrock shook his head. "I could wait for the fires of Kaj'jic, but I believe I have everything I need here now. A prison full of peasants with spark, the words of the spell, and now I have you, Eddie." He spoke Eddie's name without an Ord accent, pronouncing it is if he knew fluent English. It made Eddie uneasy.
"Would you at least let my friends leave? Let Timmy go. And Ruby."
"You are not in a position to bargain. You will—"
With a crash, a stone from the far wall flew out of place and smashed beside the door. A huge hand yanked more stones back, creating a huge hole. Cornelius the Troll shoved his way through, followed by Bethany, Bryce and Jane.
"Are we interrupting something?" the troll asked.
"Cornelius!" shouted one of the prisoners against the wall, a young girl.
"Ganny," Cornelius said, turning. "You okay? Did they hurt you?"
"He did," Ganny said, pointing at Jarrock. "He's the asshole in charge."
Cornelius's eyes narrowed. "Is he now?" He advanced, stepping around bodies.
Jarrock dropped Timmy and put up a warding hand. Cornelius froze. He frowned and glanced down at his legs.
"A warlock, huh?" Cornelius muttered. "I hate warlocks."
"Hey," Ganny complained.
"Most warlocks," Cornelius amended. He grit his teeth, and his left leg inched forward. Slowly, he advanced towards the high priest.
Jarrock held up both his hands, gesturing with effort to hold the Troll back. Cornelius slowed but did not stop. He nudged forward, his face full of determined rage.
Jarrock's smug composure faded. As the troll reached the center of the room, Jarrock growled with frustration. He moved one hand up and beckoned towards the ceiling. The beams creaked, then snapped. The stone above them shifted. Cornelius brought his hands up just in time to stop the whole structure from collapsing in on everyone within. He roared with effort as tons or rock shifted, filling the room with gray dust.
"It's time to go," Jarrock said. He took Eddie's arm from one of the Ord, closing it in a powerful grip. In his other hand, he took Timmy and drew them to the door.
Eddie clawed at Jarrock's arm, but the flesh, once weak against Devick's blade, was now like marble.
"Let no one escape," Jarrock ordered his priests. Then he dragged both Eddie and Timmy away.
* * *
Ruby climbed to her feet. It was difficult to breathe with all the dust. The torches lining the walls flickered.
"Ganny, get out of here," Cornelius ordered, straining under the weight of tons of stone.
She frowned. She grabbed Mai by the arm. "Come on, princess." They moved towards the open hole but stopped short when they found the way blocked by a row of Ord priests.
"Out of the way," Ganny shouted.
The priests stood, their eyes hidden in their hoods, their grinning teeth gleaming.
Bryce rushed the line, kicking one priest in the knee. He raised his hand to strike, but a priest caught him by the arm. Soon, they had him pinned to the floor. "Get off of me, you bastards!"
Ruby watched all of this. She was powerless. She wasn't a fighter. She'd never been. But if she didn't do something, she would be crushed under the rocks above.
Let go of fear .
Ruby took a breath and stepped towards the priests. One held up his palm, a glowing green ring aimed her way. He let out a pulse of light. Ruby surrendered to impulse, allowing her body react. She dodged to the right, and the light passed by her.
She continued forward. More pulses of light flashed at her. One hit Cornelius, and he grunted with discomfort. She didn't know what she would do when she reached the priests. She only knew she had to try. Soon, she was close enough to touch them. A priest swept a hand at her. She ducked, then punched him under the ribs. He doubled forward.
She had no time to savor the small victory. More hands moved in. One priest caught her around the waist and drew her back. She was about to elbow him in the face, but another caught her arm. They closed in on her, groping hands all over her body.
Draw power from your enemy .
She considered what she'd just seen Jarrock do. He'd held that poor Vayna woman by the throat, power visibly flowing from the woman, up his arm. Ruby had done the same thing by accident when fighting Kardhoom.
Ruby closed her eyes and reached out with her mind, finding a dull glow in the bodies of those around her. She ignored the violations of the men's hands and focused on their cores. The glow moved up their arms, through their hands, and into herself. One of men tugged her shirt aside, his hand moving up her stomach, unaware of what he had lost.
"No," Ruby said without emotion. Then she moved. She twisted her left arm around, wrenching back at the hands pinning her, yanking under elbows and pulling them with the strength of a machine. Joints snapped. Men screamed. She kicked back repeatedly, breaking legs, sending men howling in pain. The priests all stepped back. The instant she had space, she moved like a whirlwind, punching, leaping, kicking a man in the face. In two seconds, all the Ord lay howling in pain or unconscious.
The Ord priests at the opposite door wasted no time. Ruby sensed their attack before it came. With her back to them, she dodged to the left, and a green bolt of light shot over her shoulder.
Bryce stood up beside her. "Damn, girl," he said.
"Get one of their rings," she told Bryce.
"So you can use it."
"You think I can?"
"Tonight, you can."
Another blast of light shot at her. She dodged it, then ran forward, dodging around the bodies of the fallen. As she neared the first priest, she leapt into the air, kicking him in the chin. At that moment, she considered the impossibility of what she was doing. She'd never trained as a fighter. Where did this power come from?
In her instant of doubt, she faltered. Instead of flipping back to land on her feet, she fumbled and hit the ground on her stomach. The last remaining priest gathered his wits and aimed a palm at her back. Before he blasted her with his power, a knife shot across the room and caught him in the throat. Ruby glanced back. The girl who had come with Cornelius stood there, her arm outstretched, looking stunned at what she'd just done.
Skylar dropped in front of Ruby. Ruby was so surprised, she nearly took a swing at the Fixie. Skylar's face was filled with concern and awe.
"Are you okay?" Ruby asked.
Skylar nodded and pointed at Ruby.
"I'm fine. I need you to go find Jarrock and Eddie. Let me know where they're going."
Skylar nodded and zipped away down the corridor.
Ruby climbed to her feet. "Everyone needs to get out of here now."
"That's what I've been saying," Cornelius complained, grunting under the weight. "Ganny, go!"
"Not just out of this room. Out of this prison. It's set up over a river of lava, and Jarrock's going to dump the whole building into it." She spotted Mai. "Mai, how many prisoners are still here?"
Mai was too stunned to speak. Ganny answered for her. "Prob'ly a hunert."
"Could you take this conversation outside, Lass," Cornelius said. "I need to set this down soon."
"Right," Ruby said. "Everyone out, now." She rushed across to the hole in the wall.
The remaining prisoners ran out through the hole Cornelius had made. Bryce stood by Ruby, waiting. Ruby noticed that Montrose was gone. When had that happened? Soon, the only ones left alive in the room were Cornelius and Jane.
Jane knelt beside one of Jarrock's victims, weeping.
"Jane, lass, get out of here," Cornelius grunted.
"He killed my Loretta. Killed her and her ma."
"Jane, you got to go."
"He killed her," Jane wailed. "He KILLED her! I've got nowhere to go."
"I'm sorry lass," Cornelius said, and his harsh voice had a hint of tenderness. "He killed her, but he didn't kill you. You can still make him pay."
Jane's head shot up, and the two exchanged a look. Then she tucked her hands under her partner's arms and dragged her away to the hole in the wall. "I'm sorry, Petunia," she whispered. "I couldn't protect your girl."
The moment she was out, the troll pushed away from the center. Rocks shifted. Plates of stone rained down. He retreated half way before the entire ceiling collapsed on top of him.
Roiling dust clouds filled the air, and everyone retreated from the opening. "Boss!" Ganny cried.
For a moment, Ruby saw nothing but dust. Bryce doubled over in a fit of coughing. Ruby held a hand over her mouth. When the dust abated enough to see, she found herself in a room similar to the one they'd just left. Through the open door, soldiers peered in, looking stunned.
Ruby didn't hesitate. She marched to them and stopped within easy reach of their drawn swords. "You need to get all the prisoners out of this prison now."
One soldier overcame his shock. He scoffed. "Why should we listen to you?"
"Because Jarrock is about to drop this whole place into a river of lava."
He frowned and turned to his companions. "Jarrock wouldn't..."
"Yes he would." This came from a voice behind the soldiers. They spun to find Basha, their king, standing tall, the colonel beside him with his rifle. "Jarrock has gone mad. If she says he will destroy this prison, you can be sure it will happen."
The soldiers stood straighter. "Free the prisoners, sire? But what about the Ord?"
"The Ord are our enemy. Kill any who try to stop you."
"You're siding with these raiders. Sir, we can't just—"
"We're at war, soldier," Basha shouted. "The Ord have conspired against this whole city. They would see it destroyed."
Mai spotted the colonel. She cried "Grandpa," and rushed through the soldiers. She grabbed him in a desperate embrace.
"We don't have time to debate," Ruby said. "I've got to go. Everyone, get out of here. Save the prisoners and run."
"What about Eddie and Jarrock?" Bryce asked.
"I'll go after them."
"I'm coming." He pulled the Ord ring's band around his hand.
"Are you sure?"
Behind her in the collapsed room, a hand reached out from the rubble. With a growl, the troll crawled out of the wreckage. "I'm coming too."