Back again! Is Teddy okay? Will they be able to find a way out? This week's installment was inspired by the phrase: "I have more brains in my little finger than you do in your whole..." Enjoy!!
Fortitude Part 27
There was no answer, and the room beyond the tunnel was dark. My heart raced and my stomach churned as fear gripped me. “Teddy!” I darted into the room, holding my lamp high.
“Oh god.” He was still sitting against the wall. His head lolled to one side. I slammed into the floor next to him, reaching out with trembling fingers. He couldn’t be….
He just had a dislocated shoulder!
I could barely breathe. “T-Teddy?” I stroked his cheek, dreading the feeling of cold flesh, but he was warm and the soft puff of a breath warmed my hand. “Oh, god. Thank you.” I wanted to pull Teddy to my chest and hold him tight and never let go, but I didn’t.
He was hurt, and we had to get home. Teddy shifted and groaned. He blinked slowly, looking up at me. “The light went out”—he yawned—“and I got tired.” He was talking just fine, not slurring his words, and his gaze was steady.
The overwhelming fear when he didn’t answer me left me shaken, but there wasn’t time to indulge my weakness. “I didn’t think I’d be gone that long.”
“What did you find?”
“A jail cell and a dried up skeleton. I didn’t leave the tunnel, though. We have to get back or my parents will raise a fuss.”
Teddy looked up at the rectangular hole in the ceiling and the planks of the wooden ladder scattered about the floor. “How are we going to do that? I don’t even see how you’re getting out, and there’s no way I’m going to be able to climb anything.”
“I know you’re hurt, but I’m hoping you can give me a knee up so I can pull myself out of the hole. Then I’ll go find someone to help get you out. Preferably someone with rope, or maybe just two someones.”
Teddy gaped at me. “But what if they—”
“Don’t worry; I’ll compel them. They’ll never remember coming here, much less our faces.” Just saying the words left a foul taste in my mouth. I hated compelling anyone, and the thought of doing it to someone who was minding their own business was worse. I’d forced Teddy’s father to remember things he’d never agreed to, or my brother to button his lips, but I’d never tried compelling a stranger.
I’d never wanted to, but we couldn’t afford for my parents to begin to ask questions. Not with our safety and freedom on the line.
“I don’t like it.”
Of course he didn’t. Teddy was honest to a fault.
“Necessity often requires us to do something that isn’t always palatable.” Bitter, bitter words, but it was the truth, and we both knew it.
“Okay.” Teddy was resigned. He knew what was on the line, just as much as I did.
“Let me help you up.” I put my jacket back on. It smelled like him, and was nicely warm. Teddy winced a few times, but I helped him to his feet and walked over to the broken ladder.
“What do you want me to do?”
“If you hold on to this pole, do you think you can kneel down on one knee? I’ll step up on your bent leg, grab the pole up there, and then the lip of the hole.”
Teddy squinted in the gloom. “Do you think you can make it?”
“Of course.” I wasn’t sure, but our only other option was that cell, and I didn’t want to go in there unprepared. I had a feeling what we’d find there was what Schvesla wanted me to find, and it was not something we should come face to face with unprepared.
Getting out was more of a struggle than I wanted Teddy to realize, so I kept my grunting to a minimum as I levered my body up and out. The late afternoon light was casting growing shadows that I’d usually avoid, but I was looking for those who’d be lurking about.
I’d only gone over three streets, cutting through fetid alleys, when a hand reached out of a recessed doorway, snagging my coat.
“Well here’s a fine young man,” said the man who stepped out, “ripe for the plucking.”
His stringy hair and coarse shirt were filthy, but he wasn’t very big. I needed someone strong. Ahh… my accoster’s muscle filled the doorway. Just what I needed. “I’m not the one who is going to get plucked.”
“Did you hear that, Altair?” the man sniggered. “This stripling thinks he can best you.”
Altair cracked his knuckles with several sharp pops and grinned, exposing several missing teeth.
“Not smart. Now hand over your wallet and those fine boots, too.” The man’s jagged fingernails dug into my arm, and I hoped he hadn’t recently scratched anything… unsavory.
“I have more brains in my little finger than you do in your whole body.” Time to end this; Teddy was waiting. “Do your worst!” I needed them both touching me if I hoped to wipe their memories as well as compel them.
The menacing hulk stepped forward, going for my neck. I got my hand up just in time, and as soon as I had skin-to-skin, I released the power I’d been building since the first second of the confrontation. It flowed into them, freezing both in their tracks.
“Let me go.”
They both dropped their hands to their sides, staring at me with wide, blank eyes.
We stuck to the dark alleys on the way back to the theater, but now the reek of the refuse was compounded by the unwashed stench of my company, and their odor only grew as we went inside. I had to make this fast.
“Grab those theater ropes from the curtains,” I ordered. I hurried over to the hole in the ground. “Teddy? I’m back, and I have help. We’ll have you out in a few moments.” My thralls were waiting with the rope. “You two get over here.”TBC
So Will had to use his ability to do something he hates. :( More next week!