330 51 1

The clear weather did not last for long as the blanket of clouds soon dissolved into rain once more—though, as Kito explained, this was very fortunate. The boats which shuttled tourists to and from the island of If did not operate during bad weather, meaning they had the place to themselves for the time being. Even so, Kito was not one to take chances and she spent most of the day keeping watch from the tower.

Goone, meanwhile, remained huddled under his blanket in his dark cell. Several times, Sol offered to sit with him and keep him company, but the detective seemed insistent on enduring his suffering in silence, so Sol granted his request and left him alone.

He might have spent more time getting to know Harg if the Goblin didn't sleep during the day. He was nocturnal by habit more than by nature, for life was much easier for him at night. There were no visitors after sundown, nor any passing boats to catch him fishing by the rocks. At night, he told Sol, he would light a small fire in the dungeons to cook his daily meal, then use the light to read by until the sun came up again. Then he would crawl into a hiding hole and go to sleep.

Sol's mood lifted when Harg mentioned books, for he greatly missed reading and knew a story would help him to pass the time. Harg was only too pleased to show him his small collection of books—all of which were badly warped by damp—but he was dismayed to find they were all written in French.

"I guess you don't have anything in English?" Sol asked.

"I used to have a book on insects," said Harg, "but the mice ate it."

Sol quickly recognised the name Jules Verne on the spine of one of the books and grabbed it.

"Voyage au Centre de la Terre," he said, reading the title.

"Journey to the Centre of the Earth," said Harg. "Good book."

"Yeah, I've read it before. Do you mind if I borrow it?"

"Can you read French?"

"A little."

"Hmm. No, you cannot borrow it."

"Oh. That's alright."

"You can have it; it is a gift."

After thanking him, Sol left Harg to sleep and took his gift in search of the most cell with the most sunlight. He settled in a large room in one of the towers, taking great pleasure in opening the book to its beginning.

It had been ten years since Sol had read any French, so his progress was a little slow to begin with, but he actually quite enjoyed the challenge. Just the simple comfort of holding a book in his hands did a lot to calm his nerves, too. After an hour or so, however, his memory of the native language gradually strengthened and he was pleased to find he could follow the thread of the story at a comfortable pace, even if he didn't understand every word.

He read throughout the day, stopping only to switch cells when the sun had passed to the other side of the chateau. He had almost finished reading when he was stopped by a friendly voice.

"Here you are," said Goone. He was standing in the doorway. He had shed his blanket and was a little less pale, but he looked gaunt and terribly tired.

"Here I am," Sol said.

Goone walked over to him like an old man whose joints were plagued with pain. He slumped down next to him. "I'm sorry, Sol."

"What you sorry for?"

"Everything. You should never have gotten mixed up in all this. Pan Magal's murder. The ring. Now this place."

"It's not your fault. You were just trying to help me. I'd probably be dead if it weren't for you."

Goone nodded but said nothing.

Sol put his book down and turned his attention to the ring. "How did I do it? Stop time."

"I have no idea, but I'm glad you did."

"Do you think I could do it again?"

Goone took a long breath as mulled the question over. "You've done it once before, so I guess it's possible... but that was an extreme situation you were in. When death gets that close to us, we become capable of things we couldn't normally do. You must have tapped into something deep down. That's not an easy thing to control."

"But not impossible."

"No, not impossible." Goone got back to his feet with a groan. "I'm going to go and see if I can get back in Kito's good books. Now that's difficult." He shuffled out slowly, leaving Sol alone with his book. Sol no longer wanted to read, however; a question was burning in his thoughts, demanding an answer. The purple stone on his finger glinted. Sol stared at it, then into it, then through it. It was almost hypnotising, like the flame of a candle, almost as though it was alive.

After several minutes, Sol became convinced he could feel a warmth spreading through his hand. Yes, he was sure of it; the stone was doing something.

"Come on..." he whispered. "Come on..."

The warmth grew more intense.

His heart started to race.

"Come on..."

Another minute passed.

And another.

But if something was happening, it didn't go any further. Sol's concentration started to wane, and the warmth in his hand quickly dissipated. He felt he'd come close to something, but whatever the push was that he needed, it never came.

*   *   *

The evening meal was a more pleasant affair than breakfast had been. The unlikely group had settled in one of the higher cells which offered a good view of their surroundings. Harg had gone fishing shortly after sunset and returned with two large fish clutched in both hands. He gutted and cooked them with the finesse of a master chef—and the result was delicious. Sol had never been very keen on fish, but then he'd never eaten it so fresh or well-prepared before. Even Goone ate some, though he was so weak with hunger by that point that he would have tried anything. He was recovering, at least, and talk soon turned to what they should do once Goone was well enough to leave, but there were not many options to consider. Every Warlock in the Order was looking for Sol and Goone and they would not evade capture for long out in the open. Meanwhile, there was still a Wendigo on the loose in Manhattan.

"We have to catch it," insisted Goone. "Or kill it. Either way, we have to go back to Manhattan."

"And how do you plan on doing that?" asked Kito. "We're on the other side of the world and all the arches are being watched—especially the ones in New York."

"You've got a boat, haven't you?"

Sol almost choked on his fish. "I am not going across the Atlantic on that thing! I don't care what you say; you can put that out of your heads right now!"

"We're not sailing," said Kito. "But even if we got there, Arthur, how exactly do you intend to find and catch a Wendigo without drawing attention to yourself? You don't even have your wand!"

"All the more reason to go back," said Goone.

"You're out of your mind."

"And what do you want to do? Just hide here while a Wendigo uses Central Park as a buffet?"

"We'll get a message to the other Warlocks. We'll tell them about the Wendigo and let them deal with it. They can't ignore that. Meanwhile, you should regain your strength until we have more information."

"Stay put and hide. Do you know me at all?"

"I know what's good for—"

"Quiet," said Harg. He was staring intently at the door. "I hear a boat. Somebody's here."

ElderlandRead this story for FREE!