Chapter 13: What They Want to Hear

356 53 82

A tense, cold feeling settled in the pit of Jane's stomach.

Ahead of them prowled Sidor, blocking the tunnel. He was cloaked in full armor, broad and tall and menacing, gold hair spilling over his shoulders in waves like a fantasy hero. But-and Jane was sure of this-no hero in the books she'd loved since childhood had ever sported quite as dark of an expression as Sidor did now.

"You've done quite well. Far better than I expected." His words cut the air like a blade. "Unfortunately, for you, little mouse, your godstest ends here."

"W-what do you mean?"

Sidor smiled.

"It is unspeakably dull, being a god." Lazily, Sidor hefted a pebble with the toe of his boot and tossed it high, then caught it in his hand, a practiced gesture. "I've had a very long time to think. Velos promised me that you would be mine, if only I did his bidding. But he is still imprisoned, and I grow tired of waiting." He toyed with his chain mail, a faint smile playing around his lips. "I am not a person who likes waiting."

His words made little sense to Jane, but there was no time to ponder them. Sidor sauntered toward her, catlike and feral. Jane tried to retreat, but her back hit the stone wall of the corridor. She went very still.

"You will never be a replacement for my darling Eloise," said Sidor with languid amusement. "And yet, with a few well-placed dollops of magic, I may grow to like you, in time."

A shiver was building in Jane's spine. She glanced toward Nikolay, but he was no longer beside her. Had he decided to cut his losses and teleport to the center of the maze while she was distracted?

A part of her-the small, despairing part that suspected she knew exactly where Sidor was going with this-hoped that Nikolay had gone ahead. He had all the information he needed to fix the obelisk; she'd given him the runes when they were on the balcony. If there truly was no hope for her-and the look in Sidor's eyes wasn't promising-she would much rather that the information she'd gained from the Pool be used to save Drazan and Alexei and Kir.

But could she count on Nikolay to finish her godstest for her? Knowing him, he might escape the tunnels the same way he had come, rescue Kir, and leave the rest to rot...

As if to punctuate her worries, the scream of a sudok lanced the air, closer than before. Fear seized her. There was no time.

"Please." It was probably hopeless, but she had to try. "My friends are above-people are relying on me-let me finish my godstest. People will die."

"Humans die all the time, little mouse. That is the fate of humanity... why should I care about them?" Lazily, Sidor toyed with a tendril of hair. "But perhaps a deal might be struck. Perhaps, if you give me what I want, I might save your friends..."

Jane opened her mouth. She didn't honestly know what she was going to say-perhaps ask for his terms-perhaps beg him for mercy. "What-" she began.

There was a bang like a gunshot, and the air filled with smoke. The shockwaves from the blast threw Jane forward; she collided with something solid. She gasped and gagged against the smell filling the air: putrid and cloying, like the scent of rotting eggs.

Beside her Sidor clutched his face, screaming, and staggered into the wall as though drunk. As Jane tried to figure out what had happened, a hand grabbed her wrist and dragged her past the god, onward, through the passage. Tears streaming from her eyes, Jane sucked in air, struggling to keep up with Nikolay, who was setting a punishing pace down the tunnel.

"Did you... just... attack a god?" she panted.

"Same potion as the dragon cave," said Nikolay.

The Rest is RiddlesWhere stories live. Discover now