The door grumbled, rumbled and crunched into place with a sense of finality.
Bujilli landed clumsily. Nearly twisted his knee. Sprague shivered. Convulsed. Spat-up blood.
Waking up came hard to the Master Oneirist. But it came. Like a hammer in a slaughter-house.
"Too late." Sprague collapsed back into senseless oblivion.
Bujilli set Sprague down. The man's clothes were soaked in blood, sweat and the lingering traces of oneiroplasm. There were vicious wounds torn into his flesh from where the Black Chains had entered into his mind and soul. The rags he had quickly tied over the wounds were saturated in blood. He needed to remove them. Do a proper job of it. At least now they were out of the stinging snow.
He could see Leeja's gold-green eyes aglow in the blackness. "Why are you stopping?"
"It's Sprague. I need to tend to these wounds or else he's going to bleed-out before we get...wherever we're going."
"Gnosiomandus didn't stop."
"No. I didn't expect him to stop." Bujilli cast Gloomlight. He cut away the gory rags. Dug out the last of his wool, lint and rags. Set about packing the worst of the wounds. Tying things together as best he could. It wasn't his best work. But it might keep Sprague alive a bit longer. He wished he knew a healing spell. Maybe Hedrard would teach him one. If they got back to Wermspittle.
"Need help? Want me to carry him?"
"No. I have him. Let's go."
They set off into the blackness. The Gloomlight glyph floated ahead of them, spreading a soft half-light as it went along.
The light didn't reach the walls, nor the ceiling above.
They were traveling through a vast, dark space.
They were walking along a paved road.
A switchback took them down deeper.
They crossed over a bridge spanning an abyss that echoed softly with the sounds of running water.
A flash of intense violet light. Thunder rumbled through the darkness. Whatever it was, it lay ahead of them.
They continued onward.
The road wound through mounds and huge, crumbling structures. Ruined piles that were once habitations of some sort. Walls jutted up from the debris and rubble like the fins of petrified fish braking the surface.
They came to another archway. Flanked by another pair of peculiar sphinxes.
Smoke curled from the shattered wreckage of the door scattered across the road.
"Looks like the old man went this way." Leeja smirked. She appreciated the mayhem their mentor was proving himself capable of...it boded well for her learning some useful spells from him.
"We must be catching up to him." Bujilli adjusted his grip on Sprague.
"Who knew the old man could move so damned fast?"
Another flash of light erupted into the darkness. This time it green, and seemed to expand slowly, like a bulging mass of corrosive radiance. A terrible hissing-shriek swirled out from the Greenlight.
They set off towards the lingering green glimmers.
The street sloped downwards.
It led to a mostly collapsed wall. Another ruined gate. Beyond that, they could see what appeared to be a harbor set on the shores of a great dark sea.
A boat was leaving.
Neither of them counted the half-dissolved bodies sprawled in the aftermath of the Greenlight.
"We're too late." Gnosiomandus didn't turn around. Instead he watched the boat moving out into the bay.
"So do we go after them?" Leeja looked about her. There were other boats in the harbor. Most of them half-sunk or rotted into uselessness. Perhaps they could find something serviceable. If they looked. But that would take time.
"Pointless." The old man slumped down. Sat on the edge of a section of dock, looking out across the bay.
Bujilli set Sprague down next to Gnosiomandus.
"You blazed quite a trail to this place. You were moving along so fast I had to wonder what demons were nipping at your heels."
Gnosiomandus closed his eyes.
"Where is this boat headed? Who did they take?" Bujilli watched the boat. It was very similar to the boats he had seen underneath Idvard's Keep.
Gnosiomandus remained silent.
"Aman Utal." Leeja whispered.
"Yes. They have the true Head Mistress of the Academy at Wermspittle in Black Chains."
"She has been replaced? Like Sprague?" Bujilli looked down at the far too still form of the wounded Oneirist. He wasn't certain, but he suspected that Sprague could hear everything they were saying. He probably didn't know if he could trust them. They'd never actually met. The person Bujilli thought of as Sprague was a Mirrorborn simulacrum. An impostor.
"Yes. Very probably this is the direct result of Sprague being replaced. The very reason they replaced him from the start."
"Oh? and why would that be?" Leeja squatted down beside Gnosiomandus. He was nearly spent. On the verge of collapse. He'd used-up a lot of his reserves getting this far, this fast.
"Because she's my wife." Sprague lurched to his feet.
"And I intend to go after her."
He coughed. Wiped away blood.
"With, or without you." Sprague collapsed back onto the pavement.
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To be Continued...