Chapter 24 - Hitching a Ride

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Michael had beaten back the tide of shadows but the airship was in tatters and sinking into oblivion.

He steered the falling wreck toward one of the smaller floating soul catchers.

"Bellamy, time to jump." He looked to make sure the boy had heard him, then he made for the starboard side. Michael leaped and landed on the rough carapaced flesh of the soul catcher in a clumsy roll. Artifacts and paraphernalia from his coat pockets flew in all directions. Bellamy drifted beside him with ease, like the ghost he was in this universe, and gracefully touched down next to Michael.

"Whatever you're about to say, don't," snapped Michael, as he surveyed the mess.

They watched the airship careen off the side of the soul catcher and fall away into the deep, sputtering blue smoke as it went. The soul catcher bellowed in surprise, and its thick flesh rippled like soft sand in an earthquake.

Michael sighed. He had lost his ship, his astrolabe and his navigator. But it was no time to consider the past.

In this space they had descended into, Michael could not see far into the blackness. He hunted around and recovered his lantern, the amber-trapped firefly back in his own world. It glowed to life when he touched it and floated along near his shoulder as he moved.

They stood on a broad wing of the soul catcher as it drifted along the ether currents, looking over the side as the ship disappeared into the black.

Michael watched a star shoot across the sky in a line of thin light underneath them. A soul returning home. But whose soul? And to what home? He closed his eyes.

"What now?" he asked.

"We wait, Light Bringer," answered Bellamy. "This beast will transport us to where we need to be."

"How can you be sure?"

"It has collected its fill. Its destination can only be the House of Night."

"And you know this how?"

Bellamy pointed downward. Below them drifted hundreds of glowing soul catchers. They made a curved line like a great stairway that led to a black pinprick of nothingness in a sea of darkness that could only be the citadel. Had Michael been 50 feet tall and had all the time in the world, he could have used them as stepping stones and walked down to the dark palace.

"Will the soul catcher Jaylina landed on carry her to the same place?" asked Michael.

"None can say," Bellamy opined, "But the one she landed on was part of no such convoy."

Michael grunted. "Well, we don't have all day," he said, annoyed.

"Perhaps we can prod it," suggested Bellamy, scratching his head.

Michael drew the Sword of the Sun and made his way to the hind quarters of the floating giant.

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