CHAPTER NINETEEN: PURGE (2/4)

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Sol was paralysed with fear. The breeze coiled around him for a moment then spiralled upwards towards the Demigiant.

Gormyn shuddered. "A breeze...? All the way down here?" He stood and walked towards the gated door to look at the stairs. The breeze grew suddenly more intense around him, ruffling his clothes and sweeping through his hair. "What is thi—" The wind threw him hard against the door, smacking his head against the bars so hard that they rang. He swayed on the spot for a moment and turned around. "Ow," was all he said before collapsing on the floor face first with an almighty crash.

The breeze returned to Sol, swirling about his head.

"Don't be afraid, Solomon," said the breeze. "I want only to help you."

"Who are you?" Sol whispered.

"I am the wind in the sails and the air in your lungs. I have been watching you... and I have been trying to guide you and keep you from harm."

"You've been trying to help me?" Sol thought back to the other times he'd heard the breeze whisper to him. The first had been in The Tub just before the three men tried to steal his ring. Then there was the time in Central Park, moments before he saw the Wendigo. The most recent time, however... "What about at the Citadel in the middle of the night? What were you trying to warn me of then?"

"I wanted to tell you to stay away from the Emperor, but I could not do it without provoking the creature which you took to the Palace. My voice does not carry underwater, so this is the first chance I have had to speak to you."

"Well you're speaking to me now, so why do you want to help me?"

"This world is at great risk, as is your own. I can help you to save your friends and escape this ship, but you must work quickly. The captain will soon awaken, and speaking to you drains my strength. Will you let me help you?"

Sol was in no position to say no. He'd needed a miracle, and this was about as close to one as he could have hoped for.

"Alright," he said. "What do I do?"

"We must free the Goblin."

"Harg? How?"

"First, get the key."

"The key?" Sol rushed to Gormyn's side where the black key had tumbled loose on its chain. While there seemed to be no easy way to remove it from the chain, the other end was attached to Gormyn's belt by a simple hook-clasp. He unhooked it from Gormyn's belt, and as he did, he heard the scraping of wood and turned to see the chair dragging itself across the room. The whirlwind had it in its gusty grip and was pulling it towards one of the cell doors—the one which Gormyn had earlier banged his fist again. It stopped with its back against the door and the whirlwind subsided.

"What are you doing?" Sol said. "I thought you said we were saving my friends."

"We are," said the breeze. "You must trust me."

With the loose end of the chain now in his grip, Sol made for the chair. The seat was a little too high for him to reach by himself, but he realised he could use the stretcher between the chair's legs as a step, so he threaded his arm through the chain and took its weight onto his shoulder, then climbed up the side of the chair. The higher he went, the more of the chain's weight he had to take; by the time he'd pulled himself onto the seat, he felt like he was dragging a body behind him. The key was dangling just above the floor, so he pulled it up onto the seat and turned to face his next challenge.

The keyhole was still a good ten feet above him, but the breeze had positioned the chair so that its back reached just a couple of feet below it. There were five horizontal rungs running up the back of the chair, and Sol wasted no time in using them as a ladder to get to the top. When he got there, he looked through the keyhole but could see only darkness.

"The key," said the breeze, "hurry."

Sol hauled the key up on its chain. It weighed almost as much as the entire chain and it took him most of his strength to lift it into the keyhole and push it in. Just as he managed it, however, there came a tremendous shout from the decks above. It was muffled, but there was no mistaking Captain Ramgor's voice.

"THE HUMAN HAS ESCAPED! FIND HIM! FIND HIM!"

Sol's legs weakened as he broke into a feverish sweat.

"Open it," said the breeze.

Sol wrenched the key to the left with all his might and felt the lock resist, but inch-by-inch it turned until at last the door unlocked with a clunk.

"Hold on," said the breeze, but it had barely finished speaking when the door flew open. Sol tried to hang onto the chain but his grip slipped and he ended up falling twice his height to the floor. He got quickly to his feet and turned to face the open door, certain that some brawny beast was about to come bursting out.

It didn't, however, and as Sol peered into the darkness, he saw not a monster, but a sarcophagus. It was black and gold and shaped to look like a person.

The breeze swept past Sol into the cell and the sarcophagus started to tremble, as though whatever was inside it was writhing about.

"This is a bad idea," Sol said, backing away. "We should close the door."

The breeze did not reply. Instead, Sol watched as the top half of the sarcophagus started to slide slowly away from the bottom and tumbled to the floor.

"Verus d'terulis..." sighed the breeze, "untak dastus kandal nos..."

Sol shuddered as a withered black hand lifted from the sarcophagus and curled its fingers around its stone lip... and the thing inside sat up.

It had been a woman, once, but now her thin skin was like brown leather draped over crooked bones. She had no lips, but she still had a full set of teeth, giving her a permanent deathly smile. She stood calmly and stepped out of her stone chamber, her ancient joints crackling like a dying fire. Though she had no eyes, she seemed to stare at Sol.

"Ot munutu..." said the woman.

"Qi kamen su venut..." said the breeze. "Pilay no, mer no iliba nos..."

The woman did not seem surprised by the ghostly voice. Rather, she gave a nod and started walking towards Sol.

"What are you doing?" Sol said, backing out the door.

The woman said nothing as she continued straight towards him, her steps slow and unsteady. Sol couldn't understand how she was managing to stand, let alone walk. As he backed into the brig, he knew he had nowhere to run. He was trapped in there with this thing—and he had done it all to himself. The breeze had tricked him.

"Get back!" he shouted, and he lifted up his hand to show the woman the ring. "Get back or I'll use this!"

The woman stopped walking and cocked her head to one side. "Qi Nempus Kala..."

The moment was disturbed by the sound of heavy footsteps. Sol and the woman turned to see a Demigiant running down the steps. He stopped outside the gated door and soon spotted Gormyn lying on the floor.

"Gormyn! What are you doing you brainless—" He froze when he saw the open door and the woman standing just outside it. "A PRISONER! A PRISONER HAS ESCAPED!" He lunged to the side where a black lever stuck out of the wall and yanked it down. There was a huge crash as a solid black portcullis fell from the ceiling in front of the gated door, sealing off the exit.

The woman didn't seem to care, however. She lifted both her withered hands out to her sides, palms up. The breeze circled around her, and there came a loud clicking sound.

Then another.

And another.

They seemed to be moving around the perimeter of the room, one after the other. It wasn't until Sol heard one right behind him that he realised what the clicks were.

The cell doors were being unlocked.

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