CHAPTER NINETEEN: PURGE (4/4)

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Goone tried to grab Sol's hand, but Sol anticipated it and whipped it aside. He pushed the detective back with his other hand. Goone slipped on a puddle and fell to the floor.

"You can't do this!" said Goone.

Sol ignored him and offered the ring to Harg again. "Take it," he said. "I'm giving it to you."

The purple stone glinted in Harg's yellow eyes. He held out his hand and Sol placed it gently in his palm and stepped back. Harg took the ring in his fingers like it was the most fragile thing in the world and carefully slipped it on. The stone glowed briefly for a moment, then settled.

"I can feel it," said Harg. "I can feel its energy."

"Then use it," Sol said. "Put them to sleep."

Harg sat cross-legged on the floor and closed his eyes. He drew a long, deep breath and exhaled, then raised his hand and clicked his fingers.

A chorus of loud thumps played across the ceiling. Sol pictured the Demigiants all toppling into a deep sleep. It lasted only a few seconds before the steady creaking of the ship prevailed and all was calm.

"Is it done?" asked Anyel.

"Yes," said Harg, opening his eyes. "They are asleep—as are the other prisoners. Safer that way."

"Now give the ring back," said Goone.

Harg looked longingly at the ring, and for a moment, Sol feared that Goone might have been right, but then the Goblin slipped it from his finger and offered it back to him.

"Take it," said Harg. "I give it to you."

Sol accepted it. "Thank you."

Goone breathed an audible sigh of relief as Sol put the ring back on. "So now what?" asked the detective.

"The voice said it would open the door," said Anyel.

Sol and Goone went to the door to look. The other creatures were asleep, just as Harg said, but the portcullis was still lowered.

"It's closed," said Goone.

"It'll open," Sol said. "Just wait. The wind will open it."

Goone shook his head. "The wind doesn't talk. Whatever that voice is, it's something else, and I don't trust it."

"It helped us, didn't it?" said Anyel. "It set us free."

"We're not free until that door ope—"

The ship lurched violently with a loud crash. Anyel's bucket tipped completely over and spilled her onto the floor, washing her into the corner where Sol, Goone and Harg were now piled on top of each other. The ship shuddered and groaned for a moment before becoming still, though it remained at a steep angle.

"What happened?" said Harg.

"I think we've run aground," said Goone.

As they untangled themselves from one another's bodies, a great commotion started up above.

"The Demigiants!" said Anyel. "They're awake again!"

"Impossible!" said Harg. "There's no chance!"

Goone swore. "I don't think it's the Demigiants."

"Then what is it?" Sol asked.

He was answered by a loud rumble coming from the brig.

"The portcullis," said Anyel. "It's being lifted!"

By now, Sol, Goone and Harg were back on their feet. The floor was at a steep angle leading to the door and it was like climbing a hill to get there. Sol managed it first and used the doorframe to pull himself the last couple of feet. The air had turned very cold, and as he looked around the corner, he was met by a frigid draught. Anyel was right; the portcullis had been raised... but it hadn't been the wind which had lifted it.

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