Chapter 9 (part 2 of 3)

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The road from Toohkansay to the Cyannesse gate was clear most of the way, yet Everynne drove with a heavy heart, a sinking feeling of guilt. She had left nine ardent supporters dead behind her and had left Gallen, Orick, and Maggie to fend for themselves in matters beyond their understanding. Yet she drove on. Everynne skirted two smaller towns in an hour, barely slowing the magcar. When she was four hundred and eighty-one kilometers north of Toohkansay, the land began turning to desert, a sandy plain where only a few volcanic flows marred the surface.

This gate, unlike most, was in open view of the highway. Perhaps ten thousand years earlier, when the gate was built, the landscape had been different. The gate may have been hidden in a forest or swamp, but now it was in open view of the road. Even though the road was nearly empty of traffic, Everynne did not relish the idea of entering from a place where she would be in view of prospective witnesses.

She began to slow the magcar, but Veriasse waved his hand and whispered, "Keep going! Keep going! Don't stop. Don't even slow!"

She engaged the thruster to speed up, and on her rearview display saw six giant humanoid figures rise up from some camouflaged pit out near the gate. Vanquishers had been hiding, and now were watching them pass, perhaps wondering if they should give chase. If six of them were secluded there, many more would also be hiding.

"How did you spot them?" Everynne asked when they were far down the road.

"I didn't," Veriasse said. "I just felt uncomfortable. If Maggie was captured three days ago, then the authorities may have been expecting us. They've had plenty of time to seal off the gates and prevent our escape. In another hour, they will simply receive confirmation of our escape from Tihrglas, and matters will be worse."

"What will we do?" Everynne asked. She looked over to Veriasse. He had been her mother's protector for six thousand years. He was used to intrigue and danger in a way that she hoped she never would have to be.

"We will need to form some new allies here. We won't get through that gate without an armed conflict." He sighed. "I'd say that the city of Guianne is our best hope. It's about five hundred kilometers south and ninety kilometers east of here."

"Where Mother was killed?" Everynne asked.

Veriasse nodded slightly. "There is a shrine to her memory. We shall go and see if anyone tends it. Perhaps our allies will make themselves known to us."

Everynne swallowed hard, trying not to cry. She had never seen her mother's resting place. Of all the worlds they. had visited, Everynne had harbored only one secret wish: to see her mother's tomb. And if Everynne died on this journey, as long as she saw her mother's tomb first, then she would feel that she had accomplished at least one significant act.

"I know where three allies are," Everynne said. "They're right on our way, and at this moment, they need our help."

Veriasse sighed deeply. "You are right, of course. We'll stop and get them. But I won't let you put yourself in jeopardy. If they are in trouble, I will try to rescue them. And if I fail, you must promise to go on without me."

"I promise." Everynne's heart leapt. She had not felt right about leaving Maggie in captivity. She turned the magcar around, and as she soared over the highway toward Toohkansay, she felt light and free.

Two hours later, Veriasse crept over the hill to Gallen's camp. The early afternoon sunlight slanting through the trees dappled the leaves in purple and scarlet. Veriasse had pulled the magcar off the highway, hidden it in the brush. He was skilled at moving quietly. In his cloak of concealment, wearing a specially designed scent from the planet Jowlaith that neutralized his body odors, Veriasse could pass through the woods unnoticed by all but the most wary forest animals.

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