Chapter 29

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Chapter Twenty-nine

The End of the Beginning

David had a dilemma. Should he risk trying to cross Mormo alone to catch them up, or should he search the buildings first, in case Toby had been persuaded to wait for him? The latter risked drawing attention to himself – attention from the Cerberites or any of the other Council spies who might haunt these buildings. The former option might be even worse. If he arrived at the forest and the pod was gone, what then?

At least in town he had hope.

He jogged a complete circuit of the town before arriving back where he had started without seeing any evidence of his companions. He was seriously considering making a dash for it across the plain when a voice hissed across the empty street from a building almost attached to the gate.

'Dave!' Toby repeated as David tried to locate the source of the sound. He saw a sliver of a familiar face peeping out from one of the houses. David ran across the road and Toby hauled him into the derelict building. Sarah and Limivo leaned against the wall in the semi-darkness looking exhausted.

'You made it through, then,' David said.

'Yes,' Sarah said. 'No trouble at all. Which I think may mean there's trouble elsewhere. We can't afford to wait here much longer. How did you get back?'

'I'll tell you later. Even I don't quite understand it yet. Is Seyyal here?'

'She's gone out. Should be back any minute.'

'And Namir?' David asked.

'He's dead,' Limivo said. 'The Cerberites found him.'

'And they killed him?'

'They wanted to know what Namir and Seyyal were doing, and what they did to him ensured they found out. He told them everything, except that he was meeting us back here. Once they'd finished with him, they executed him.'

At that moment Seyyal returned, squeezing through the door before shoring it up behind her.  

'I'm sorry about Namir,' David said.

Seyyal looked at him blankly, then nodded.

'Now we're all together,' David said, 'I say we get out of here.' He opened the door a few centimetres.

'I'm afraid I can't let you do that.' Seyyal banged the door shut again.

'The Cerberites could be here any minute.'

'They will be.' She smiled at him.

'Then we need to move!' Sarah said.  

'I think we'll wait a minute or two,' she said. 'They hate to be sent on false errands.'

'What?' David said. 'You sent them here to find us?'

'A few of them. A few Namir and I kept as our personal assistants.'

'Why? I thought you were going to help us get home.'

'Don't be ridiculous,' Seyyal laughed.

'Then what? Why all this effort? You're going to ransom us, sell us, hide us until your stupid prophesy can come true?'

'Not at all.' She placed her hand on David's shoulder and looked for a moment into his eyes as if trying to satisfy herself of some unresolved question. Then in a flash she was behind him, his neck held in a tight arm-lock. 'The Cerberites are going to kill you, of course. You should have learned that you can't trust anyone in this place!'

'So all that about roaming the Outlands to find survivors was a lie?' Sarah said.

'Not at all. It's how Namir and I kept ourselves busy while we waited for you,' Seyyal drew a long curved knife from her waistband and, holding it in front of David's face, examined the way the light glinted off its surface.

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