Bryce offered Ruby his hand. "You okay?"
"Bryce? Is that you?"
"In the flesh. I didn't know my nephew's babysitter could fight. What was that? Taekwondo?"
"No, it was—"
A shriek of terror echoed down the corridors. "Jarrock," someone cried. "Jarrock is here!"
An explosion shook the walls. A shockwave of red light whooshed up the corridor.
Ruby stood frozen, staring down towards her fellow invaders.
"Ruby, what is it?" Bryce asked.
"We've got to get out of here."
"Sounds good. Where are we going?"
She picked up a spear. She was about to step out into the corridor when Skylar appeared, her hands raised to ward her off, her face looking terrified. Ruby stepped back into the shadows.
One of the gray cloaked invaders rushed passed her, his face terror-stricken. A brilliant pulse of red light flashed from behind him and paralyzed him. He toppled forward. Ruby pressed herself against the wall and waited for whoever had attacked to come.
"Ruby, where do we go?" Bryce whispered
Ruby stuck her head out into the main corridor and looked for the attacker. No one was there.
Skylar pointed back down the corridor, then made a cutting gesture across her throat. She shook her head.
Ruby nodded. She watched Skylar. The Fixie listened, then flew out and snuck a peek around the corner. She gave a thumb up.
"What is that thing?" Bryce asked, staring at the Fixie.
"A friend," Ruby said. She snuck out into the corridor, took the hands of the fallen invader and dragged him back into the shadow.
"Just leave him," Bryce said.
"You'll need his cloak," Ruby whispered.
They pulled the man into the shadows and removed his cloak. Bryce pulled it over himself.
"Get a spear," Ruby said.
He did. "I don't know if I can throw this if—"
"You don't throw it. You aim it. It works like the Ord Priest's rings."
"But I don't know how to use those either."
Ruby took one last look into the corridor, then ran back the way she'd come. "Neither do I," she said. She looked up. "Skylar, can you find us a way out of here?"
Skylar saluted and zipped away into the lit corridor.
"You're friends with a fairy?" Bryce asked, clutching a spear.
"She's a Fixie, and she's the best friend a girl could have."
Skylar reappeared and waved them back the way Ruby had come. They followed. The Fixie raced out of sight, then back and continued to urge them on. Ruby charged after her, Bryce taking up the rear. When they reached the stairway leading up out of the prison, Ruby turned to climb. Skylar zipped down in front of her and shook her head.
"But that's the way out," Ruby said.
Skylar pointed further down the corridor into the darkness.
Ruby followed. Soon they were in total darkness. Ruby stumbled into a wall. "Skylar, I can't see."
A pinprick of light lit the dark. It zipped around the air above them, disappeared around a corner, then reappeared.
"This way," Ruby whispered.
Around the corner, there was light. Ruby ran down the hallway. She was halfway to the next turn when a soldier stepped out in front of her. Ruby raised her spear. It obeyed her intention, firing a pulse of yellow light that hit the soldier square in chest. His armor clattered as he stumbled backwards into the wall.
The next turn led to a short passage and a heavy oak door. Skylar perched on the door latch, her hand buried in the keyhole. When Ruby and Bryce reached her, the door gave a loud click. Skylar withdrew her hand and nodded.
Bryce pushed the door open. Beyond was a long narrow passage that seemed to go on and on disappearing in darkness dozens of yards away. Skylar lit her torch and zipped off into the distance. Bryce and Ruby followed.
They ran for minutes without slowing. "This can't be part of the prison," Ruby said.
"Do you know where we're going?" Bryce asked.
"I haven't got a clue."
Bryce grunted. "So what just happened back there?"
"I met some people who wanted to free the prisoners. They were going to arm them and raise an army."
"Someone showed up they didn't expect."
"Jarrock. He's the leader of the Ord, and from what we just saw, he must be very powerful."
"What happened to your friends?"
"It didn't go well for them."
"So, no revolution in Cavaheim?"
"I guess not. Those were the only people here who wanted to stop the king. Now they're finished."
The corridor went on. "Seriously, where are we going?" Bryce asked.
"Some place safe, I hope."
"Is there such a place?"
"I don't know anymore."
Finally, they reached another door. Skylar waited for them. She pointed at the latch and gave a thumb's up.
"Thank you, Skylar," Ruby said.
Skylar bowed mid-air.
Ruby eased the door open. She found herself in yet another stone corridor, this one hewn from granite.
She looked up and down the hallway. "I know where we are," she said. She tiptoed one way and found herself facing the palace dungeon, guards lining one short bank of locked cells. Two other soldiers marched in her direction.
Ruby knew just where to go. She snuck a few feet back down the corridor and opened a side door. "In here," she urged.
Bryce followed her inside. She closed the door most of the way and listened for the footsteps to pass.
"Who is this guy?" Bryce asked, referring to the sleeping man on the cot.
"Hmm? Oh, that's the mayor of Holcomb."
"Holy shit, are you serious?"
"Yes. And if you let him leech off your spark, you'll help him heal."
Bryce paused. "Another time, maybe. So you know where we are?"
"The king's palace."
"What? Isn't that a bad thing?"
"It's the only safe place I can think of."
"And there's a tunnel from the prison to the palace?"
"That's probably how Jarrock got to the prison. I've heard he sleeps somewhere down here."
"So where do we go now?"
Ruby thought about it. "No one saw me leave the palace. If I can get back to my room, I'll be safe for a while."
"What about me?"
"We'll figure something out."
Skylar tapped on the door. Ruby peeked out, then motioned for Bryce to follow. With Skylar's help, they dodged from hiding place to hiding place, up the stairs towards Ruby's room. The palace halls were empty. It was still very early.
Ruby yanked her door open and they rushed in, only to find a man sitting on Ruby's bed waiting for them.
It was King Basha wearing rumpled pajamas.
"I take it the prison invasion didn't go well?" he asked.
Bryce aimed the spear and fired a pulse of green light at the man. Basha only had time to raise his hands before the pulse blasted him backwards onto the bed.
"Who the hell is this?" Bryce asked.
"Er. That's the king."
"You're shitting me."
"No. That's him."
"And he's in your bedroom? What's going on here?"
"I wish I knew. I think he kinda likes me."
"Good for you. You got a posh room and an influential boyfriend." Bryce turned to Ruby. "Ruby what's been happening here?"
"It's a very long story. They think I'm some kind of—"
The king groaned. He rolled to one side and pushed himself up.
Bryce shot him again. The king flopped back onto the bed.
"You're good at that," Ruby said.
"Nothing to it. I just point it and think pissed-off thoughts. Now explain what's going on."
"The Ord are using me. The people think I'm some kind of sign that things are going to change. The Ord want me to parade around with the king and convince the masses that I'm here to help him."
"So what's your plan to stop him?"
"So far, attack the prison."
"Didn't go so well. What's next?" Bryce asked.
Ruby threw her hands up. "I have no idea."
The king groaned again. Bryce was about to shoot him when he cried, "Wait, I can help you."
Bryce held the spear like he was staring down the barrel of a rifle. "Be serious. You're the one that caused this whole mess."
Basha sat up. "I'm not. I mean, I am, sort of. But really, I'm not."
"Explain," Bryce ordered.
"Well, for starters, I'm Elric."