Chapter 9 (part 1 of 3)

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Chapter 9

Gallen watched Everynne and Veriasse glide off through the forest in their magcar. Orick grumbled and pawed the ground, raking leaves as if he were frustrated. "What now?" he asked. "Do you have a plan to save Maggie?"

Gallen considered. He had few resources: a couple of knives, a key to unlock the Maze of Worlds. A few days before, he'd told Everynne that imagination was the measure of a man, but now he wondered if that were true.

"You heard Veriasse," Gallen said. "If we try to rescue her, the Guide will warn Karthenor. Our only hope is to take her without her or her Guide knowing of it."

"Can we trick the Guide?"

"I doubt it," Gallen said. "It's probably smarter than we are. But I may be able to figure out some way to lure Maggie out of the city at Karthenor's request, so that the other Guides can't hear her talk."

"Och, this sounds like a grand plan!" Orick said. "Why, it's no plan at all, that's what it is."

Orick was right, at least for the moment. "We'll have to find a way to disable the Guide," Gallen said. "I'll have to find a Guide-maker."

"So, what are you going to do," Orick asked, "walk right into a shop and ask the fellow, 'By the way, how can I break one of those things?' and then hope he answers you square?"

"No," Gallen said. He knew the means had to be close by. He thought, If you were the most creative bodyguard in the world, Gallen O'Day, what would you do? He waited for a moment, and a familiar thrill coursed through him. He knew the answer. "I'm going to go speak to a past employee of the company that makes the Guides. A dead employee, to be precise."

"What?" Orick shouted.

"When we first went into town, and I was wandering around on my own, I met a merchant who sells a machine that lets you talk to the dead, so long as they're properly embalmed and haven't rotted too much."

"And what if you can't find a dead employee handy?" Orick said. "What then?"

"Well, then I'd stick a knife in an employee and make him dead!" Gallen shouted, furious at Orick's exasperating mood.

"Fine!" Orick growled. "That's fine. I was just asking."

It was early morning. Kiss-me-quick birds sang in the trees, hopping from bush to bush, their green wings flashing.

"I think I'll go ask about this now, in fact," Gallen answered.

"What about me?" Orick asked. "You can't leave me here again."

"And I can't take you with me. Orick, there are some things we'll need—food, shelter, clothing, weapons. You're in charge of finding them and setting up a proper camp. We might be stuck here awhile."

"Right," Orick said.

Gallen hunched his shoulders. His muscles were tight from the tension, and suddenly he longed to be back home in Tihrglas, guarding some merchant's wagon. Hell, on any day of the week, he'd rather take on ten highwaymen single-handed. Ah, for the good old days.

He ambled back to Toohkansay and made his way to the merchant quarters. There, he sold the shillings from his purse along with a bead necklace to a dealer in exotic alien artifacts.

Then he went to the merchant who sold "Bereavement Hoods," and began to haggle. Gallen didn't have enough money to buy the thing. The hoods were designed for those who wanted to "Share those last precious thoughts with the recently departed." Gallen cried and put on a show, talking about his dear sister who had died, until he finally convinced the merchant to rent him a hood.

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