CHAPTER EIGHT: SHADOW (2/4)

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The hotel lobby seemed even bigger than Sol remembered it, with room enough to sleep a thousand men. Despite having been stripped of all its furnishings, the old building had somehow maintained its beauty, skeletal though it was. The vast floor was a mosaic of patterned tiles while the coffered ceiling was supported by more pillars than one could count. The only furnishings now were the hammers and crowbars of the wreckers.

"Excuse the mess," said Goone as he led Sol across the lobby to a large corridor which ran the full width of the hotel. They came to a bay of four elevators opposite a grand staircase. Goone waved his wand and one of the elevators shuddered open with a pained squeak, revealing its gloomy interior. The light inside flickered faintly.

"Maybe we should take the stairs," Sol suggested.

"Go ahead," said Goone as he stepped into the lift. "I'm on the fourth floor."

Sol gave the elevator another glance before joining the detective inside.

"You sure you're not the one trying to kill me?" he asked.

Goone smiled as the doors closed. He touched the tip of his wand to the controls and the lift lurched to life, ascending like an angel towards the hotel's heavens. The lights flickered all the way to the fourth floor where Sol was only too relieved to disembark, squeezing through the doors before they'd finished prying themselves apart.

Goone led him around the corner to a blank section of wall between two rooms. He touched his wand to the wall and a gold handle sprouted from the wallpaper. Goone turned it and pushed.

While the rest of the hotel had been largely stripped clean, Goone's room was fit to welcome the King of England. It was completely untouched by the razing and boasted a grand double bed covered in smooth red silk and a generous trunk closet in the corner beside the bathroom.

Goone closed the door and the grand chandelier in the centre of the room came to life. "We'll be safe here," he said as he removed his hat and coat and hung them on the wall. "For the night, at least. The Order doesn't know I've been staying here, but they'll work it out soon enough." He turned back and he saw Sol staring at him. "What?"

"You know damn well what," Sol said.

"I thought you'd be a little more grateful."

"Excuse me?"

"Maybe I didn't make myself clear before, but I'm risking a lot to help you. Not only have I travelled into your world without the Order's permission, but I've taken you into hiding with me. When they realize what I've done, they're gonna come looking for me. If my hunch is wrong, I risk being imprisoned for most of my natural life—if I'm lucky." Goone crossed to a chest of drawers where he picked up a dusty glass bottle and removed its stopper to take a long swig.

"You think they'd kill you?" Sol asked.

Goone shook his head. "The Elders don't have a death sentence."

"Then why would imprisonment be lucky?"

"Because the punishment for the worst crimes is exile. Drink?" Goone held out his bottle, but Sol shook his head.

"Exile? Is that all?"

"You don't understand. Exiles in my world are banished to a place called Teruntila."

It took Sol a moment to remember where he'd heard the name. "The fifth continent?"

Goone frowned. "Now where'd you hear about that?"

"The Emperor told me, but he said there was nothing there but ice and rock."

"Nothing there? What else did he tell you?"

Sol told Goone everything that had happened at the Palace, recalling the mural of the Elders' history and the war and the magic stone which saved the Elders from extinction.

"Yeah, that's all right," said Goone when he was finished. "But it sounds like he missed a couple of things out."

"Like what?" Sol asked.

"Like what happened to the Kharul and the rest of the dark creatures when the War was over. The Elders are a very peaceful race, but suddenly they had hundreds of thousands of beings who had just wiped out half their race. What were they supposed to do with them? Slap their wrists and let them off?

"In the end, they decided the best thing to do would be to isolate them. Every single Orc, Goblin and Troll; every Werewolf and Banshee; every member of every race that fought against the Elders—all were sent to Teruntila. The whole continent today is little more than a giant prison ruled by their descendants. It's the place we tell our children we'll send them if they misbehave. A land of monsters." Goone took another long swig of his drink.

"What stops them from leaving?" Sol asked.

"The only way to leave Teruntila would be by water or by air, but very few ever try. The ones that make it the furthest are the ones that can fly; Harpies and Dragons and Manticores and the rest of them. They all get caught, though, then they get their wings clipped before being sent straight back.

"Water's a much harder way to cross; the oceans around Teruntila are protected by the Ailu Merfolk, and they are not a race to risk sneaking past. They've been known to sink ships and leave those on board to swim back to land—which in those waters is as good as a death sentence. Nope, once you're on Teruntila, you're on it for good."

"Do you think the Order will exile you?" Sol asked. To his surprise, Goone laughed.

"It's a great crime to travel into the human world without the Order's permission, but they've never banished a Warlock. That's what they have prisons for. Even so, I don't intend on getting locked up."

"Then what are you going to do?"

Goone smiled. "We are going to catch Pan Magal's killer."

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