CHAPTER TEN: FUGITIVE (3/4)

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"Impossible," whispered Kito. "A Wendigo in New York? Impossible."

"Tell that to my face," said Goone. "Sol saw it too, didn't you, Sol?"

"I don't know what I saw," Sol replied.

"You told me it was a shadow," said Kito. "With horns."

"Yeah..."

"Those weren't horns," said Goone. "They were antlers."

"Nasty creatures, Wendigos," said Harg. "As evil as anything that exists. Very few have ever seen one. Fewer still have seen one and survived. Their stealth and speed is legendary."

"What is it?" Sol asked.

"A cannibalistic spirit," answered Kito. "It binds itself to beings who have eaten one of their own kind. An act of evil like that opens the soul. Once it takes over, it turns its victim into a cannibal whose hunger can never be quenched, regardless of how much it eats."

"The more it eats, the more it grows," said Harg. "The more it grows, the hungrier it gets."

Kito shook her head. "But a Wendigo can only inhabit a victim it if it's already near; how could one have made it to New York?"

"Because it was put there," said Goone. "Someone put it there on purpose."

"Why would anyone do that?"

"To kill Pan Magal. It makes sense. Wendigos are incredibly fast; it's one of the only creatures that could actually attack him—even if he stopped time."

"Nothing can move that fast..."

"It chased me," Sol said. All eyes turned to him.

"It chased you?" said Harg. "Ridiculous. If it chased you, then you'd be—" Harg froze when he saw the ring on Sol's hand. His yellow eyes widened. "The Stone!"

"What did you do?" asked Goone, suddenly as awestruck as Harg.

"I didn't do anything," Sol said. "Time just... stopped."

"But you're human... You shouldn't have been able to control it..."

"I didn't! It did it by itself!"

"What happened, Sol?" asked Kito.

"We were in the park. It was dark and there was this smell... this awful smell. Then I saw this thing in the trees. I wasn't even sure what I'd seen, but then I heard Goone tell me to run, so I did. At some point I dived for the ground and I looked up saw Goone get hit by something, but it was moving too fast to see. The next thing I remember, Goone was in the air, just hanging there. I went over to him and that's when I saw the shadow thing running towards me, but it was moving real slow. I remembered the coin Goone gave me, so I grabbed him and threw the coin under an arch. And then I was here."

No-one said a word for a long time after that; there were too many revelations to absorb. Kito was the first to find her voice.

"If someone really did sneak a Wendigo into New York to kill Pan Magal, then who could have done it?"

"It's a short list," said Goone. "The Order controls all access to the Kirina, but there is one other who doesn't need their consent."

Kito nodded. "The Emperor."

"That would be my guess. The Emperor was a close friend of Pan Magal's; everyone assumed when Pan Magal died that he would leave the ring to him. Maybe he was fed up of waiting."

"I don't know. I just don't believe the Emperor would do something as monstrous as send a Wendigo into New York."

"It's possible someone in the Order did it, but what would any of them have to gain from Pan Magal's death? No matter how I look at it, the Emperor is always right in the middle."

"Why isn't it possible for a Wendigo to be in New York?" Sol asked.

"Because Wendigos are only ever found in cold forests where people are more likely to get lost and resort to cannibalism. Never a city. Central Park's a big place, but nobody gets that lost. Even then, there should be no Wendigo spirit around for hundreds, if not thousands, of miles. What one would be doing in Manhattan is impossible to—" Goone winced as fresh pain doused his face.

"You need rest," said Harg. "I can put you to sleep, if you like..."

"Get the hell away from me," spat Goone.

Harg put his hands up defensively. "Suit yourself." He stood and stretched his long arms above his head, straightening his crooked spine with a loud crack. "Let me know if you change your mind. Your condition is likely to worsen before it improves." With that, he waddled out of the room.

"What did he mean, put you to sleep?" Sol asked.

"Sleep is a Goblin's greatest power," said Goone. "One click of their fingers and snap, you're under their spell. Only they can wake you up from it, then. You could be burning alive and not even open an eye—which is exactly what makes them so difficult to catch. They've been known to eat Warlocks alive."

"That's just a story," said Kito. "And Harg is not like most Goblins. I trust him."

"You're not supposed to trust him, you're supposed to catch him! That's our job! Do you realise what will happen if the Order finds out you're sheltering him?"

Kito crossed her arms. "Of course I know."

"And you're willing to risk that to help a Goblin?"

"If you knew him, you'd understand. Besides, you're a much bigger risk to me than he is right now."

Goone frowned. "What does that mean?"

Kito took out her red leather book from her pocket and showed him the same page she'd shown Sol. Goone swore but he didn't seem all that surprised.

"Took them long enough," he said. "I've woken up to worse."

Kito pocketed the book. "You should really take Harg up on his offer."

"I'd rather endure the pain."

"Fine by me." With that, Kito went to the door.

"Where are you going?" asked Goone.

"To keep watch. Someone has to be the responsible one." Kito left.

Goone sighed. "She's still mad at me."

"What for?" Sol asked.

"We used to be partners until I kind of... got us both into trouble. But I'll tell you about that another time. I'm going to try and get some sleep." Goone lay back on the floor, using his hands for a pillow. He closed his eyes. "Wake me up if Harg starts eating me."

Sol sat there in silence for a couple of minutes before deciding he was in no mood to try and sleep. He got to his feet and left the cell.

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