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Authors: Daniel Blackaby

Tags: #Fiction, #Action & Adventure, #Christian, #YA, #Fantasy, #Christian fiction

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BOOK: City of Gold
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“The Queen forbade it because he’s a criminal. His
dark deeds
are not called so without reason. It’s too dangerous for him to return to El Dorado. Not after last time.”

Randilin huffed. “Dace, I know you. You’re too ruddy noble to abandon me here, and I’ll be hornswoggled if you weren’t smart enough to realize you can’t afford even a single man to escort me back to Atlantis. Sorry, lad, but I’m afraid you’re bloody stuck with me.”

Dace thought a moment before nodding. “Flore Gub. You will accompany us, under close surveillance, to Flore Gub. From there you will be turned over to Captain Eagleton and escorted back to your cell.”

Randilin shrugged indifferently. “Anything beats playing a blasted servant.”

Chazic stood, having finished healing Tryin’s wounds. “Randilin’s fate is not our chief concern,” he announced. “We’re lucky to be alive.”

Dace nodded, pacing back and forth. “We’ve been betrayed. That’s the only explanation. That was no small force. They knew our route and were ready. Somebody’s leaked our plans.”

“Randilin!” Xerx accused.

The dwarf huffed with disgust. “You better watch your filthy mouth, you lousy…”

“Enough! Randilin is the obvious choice,” Dace cut in, “but he was in his cell during the council. An ambush of this scale demands time and planning. I fear Atlantis has been infiltrated by a mole.”

Tat came galloping into their midst. “We must make haste. The enemy closes in from beyond the next dune. Two more Dark-Wielders are with them.”

“If our plans have indeed been compromised then we must take an alternative route,” Dace concluded.

Before he could stop himself, Cody spouted, “We should head north to the caves.” Dace and Tat became serious. “How do you know of the Caves of Revelation?”

Cody took a step back. “I…uh…probably just…well…” he stammered.

He was shoved aside by Randilin. “The boy’s suggestion is folly! I wouldn’t step within a thirty-mile radius of that accursed place!”

“Unfortunately, for you,” Dace responded, “a prisoner has no voice in the matter. Tat?”

The scout adjusted his pointed hat. “The route to the Caves will bring us perilously close to the Garga Territory.”

“Garga?” Cody interrupted.

“Pagans,” Dace offered as explanation. “Defectors of Atlantis many, many years ago. They are no friends to any who worship the Orb. They are strictly territorial, but they will attack if they feel threatened. And, they are ruthless demons in combat.”

“In other words, their cult is not a beehive we can afford to disturb,” Randilin groused. “We should take another bloody route.”

Dace glanced to Tat. The guide nodded. “A man can only cross one bridge at a time. Our more pressing concern is the platoon of golems and Wielders behind us. Our small band would have the decided advantage of speed through the cavernous terrain.”

Dace agreed. “Mount up. We head north to the caves.”

Randilin’s beady eyes narrowed. “So be it.”

21

Starting Fires

“LET ME OUT!” the female’s voice was coarse and her words muffled by a coughing fury. Her knuckles were white as she yanked on the solid steel bars of her encasement. “How long are you going to keep me here?!” Her pleas received no reply. She slumped back in exhaustion.

Across the room a tall man reclined in a padded chair filing his nails. He held out his manicured hand to inspect his work, completely unaffected by the prisoner’s desperate shouting.

The woman took a deep breath as she prepared for another tirade. Her plans were foiled when three hooded figures silently appeared. Their sudden presence had no effect on the lounging man.

The tallest of the three was hidden except for his exposed, thistly beard. The body shape of his associate established her as an exceedingly thin female with red hair flowing from her hood to her chest.

The third figure stepped forward. “Lord Dunstan,” he began, addressing the man. “The boy’s path is set. He will reach the caverns by nightfall.”

Dunstan smiled. “Glorious news, Agent Two. The master will be most pleased.”

The red-haired woman shook her scoped rifle toward the tiny jail across the room. “How long are we going to keep the hostage?” she questioned in an edgy voice.

Dunstan chuckled. “Patience, Agent Six. There will be plenty of time for killing later. As for now, our prisoner is leverage. Until the moment that our contact requests this package to be delivered, our prisoner will remain as decor. A shame really, as I think I’m starting to like her.”

The cage rattled violently as the detainee heaved on the bars. “You devils!” she shouted. “You and your almighty master think you’re so clever. You have no idea what you’re dealing with. Consider yourselves warned. You’re playing with fire!”

Dunstan grinned. “Actually, my dear lady, we’re not playing with fire…we’re starting one.”

22

The Caves of Revelation

THEY APPEARED ON THE HORIZON like ghosts; invisible one instant—towering over the landscape the next. The mountains cut through the air violently like edges of a broken mirror.

“This place gives me the creeps,” Cody whispered to himself. Despite the convoy’s persistence, the rocky fortress remained tauntingly distant.

After several more long hours, the group finally slowed to a halt at the base of the imposing rocks. Like a honeycomb, a matrix of caves dotted the mountain side; each one fading into oblivion and venturing to a thousand unknown ends. The air was filled with the sudden chorus of neighing as, in unison, the horses yanked at their reins, fighting to flee.

“Our speed has bought us valuable time. Catch what rest you can; we cannot linger,” Dace ordered. His command was greeted with hearty acceptance; no one minded a shortened rest if it meant escaping the menacing shadow of the caverns.

“We shouldn’t have come here, mark my ruddy words well!” muttered Randilin as he stomped away from the camp and settled a hundred yards away. Dace signaled to Tryin who quickly followed after the disgruntled dwarf.

Dace beckoned Wolfrick and Sheets. “Watch the east for any Garga activity. They move like silent demons so stay alert. No dozing…and no ale, Wolfrick.” The bulky guard groaned as they set off in obedience.

As the others set to the task of pitching their tents, Cody tugged on Tat’s sleeve. “Tat, you’ve traveled more than anyone. Why are they called the Caves of Revelation?”

The guide paused, and turned to face him. “Aye, and as all experienced travelers know best, some places are best left avoided.” He motioned toward the caverns. “All roads may not lead to the same place, but you take any one of those ill-omened passages and find the same end: death. I shudder at the number of souls forever trapped within these endless channels.”

“Then why would anyone enter?”

Tat smiled mischievously. “
Legend
. According to ancient Under-Earth lore, it was in these very caves that the original tablets containing the High Language were found by Ishmael and his traitorous brother.
The Caves of Revelation
, the place…”

“where it was discovered,” finished Cody, his voice trailing off. He mentally recalled the words of the CROSS Agent: “
The answer to questions waits at the place where it was discovered. Find the caves where The Thirteenth dwells, there you will receive understanding....

Cody traced through the sand in the bowl.
Hail! Ambushed. Redtown. Safe.
He began to write their current location but paused. Dace seemed convinced that the Redtown ambush was the result of a mole within the inner-circle of Atlantis.
Eva? Surely not!
The young Princess had a gentle simplicity to her that made it impossible to imagine any underlying malice.
I also thought Prince Foz was a peaceful gardener.
Cody’s finger remained frozen. He
had
communicated with Eva the night before the ambush.

Detour
, he finally wrote, deciding it a good compromise. Shaking the bowl, he waited. Eva’s response came quickly:
Hail! Worried. Randilin escaped
. He watched as a smiling face formed into the sand, suggesting that she was under no delusion as to the escapee’s current whereabouts. Cody grinned.
Not so simple after all.

After several more minutes, Cody finally poured the sand back into the vial. As he pulled his bedding over him a shadow darted past the wall of his tent. Cody froze and held his breath; there was no sound other than his racing heart. The shadow briefly flashed along the other side before disappearing.
Something is out there.

He pressed his face to the tent’s wall and peered through the blur, but there was no sign of movement. Turning, he yelped before he could stop himself. The shadow was now directly in front of the tent’s entrance.

Sweat slid down his forehead.
What do I do?!
The shape remained deathly still and silent. Cody inched forward as gently as he could manage. The sillhouette on the other side remained motionless.

Cody halted an inch from the door flap. There was chilling silence. Whatever was on the other side was not breathing. Cody rubbed his clammy hands and grabbed the flaps. Taking a deep breath, he threw them open.

Two glassy, lidless eyes peered back at him.

23

Bones and Corpses

AGONIZING SCREAMS FILLED THE AIR. She strained her eyes, but all she could see was the rocky ceiling hanging over her. She heard a familiar voice but couldn’t locate the face. A silver flower with heart-shaped petals dangled above her, blocking her sight.

With a shake, she felt herself floating through the air. Hurried, frightened voices called out all around her. Shadows raced across the walls and people were shouting. Unsure why but convinced it was the right thing to do, she, too, cried out.

She was being carried quickly but couldn’t see the face of who was lifting her. She could feel the rapid breathing as her head rose and fell against the carrier’s chest. Then, from behind, came a piercing cry.

Tiana jolted up. Her heart raced and her thick hair was sticky against her neck.
A dream
. It was the same dream that had consumed her for the last few weeks. Every night she had awakened at the same point, the terror of the final scream haunting her.

She stepped out of her tent, stretched her arms and allowed her heart to slow. At moments like this, she longed for the solitude of her rooftop hideout. Now fully awake, she surveyed the cavernous mass—and paused.

Two people were scurrying up the side of the mountain.

Cody’s eyes stayed fixed on the stranger ahead of him who was darting up the mountain with impossible ease. The ground behind Cody’s foot suddenly broke, sending a mass of rocks avalanching down the slope. He lunged forward, grasping the next niche with his fingers. He didn’t dare slow down for fear of losing sight of the stranger.

Heaving himself onto the ledge, Cody found himself at the mouth of a giant cave. He searched both directions but the man was nowhere in sight. He looked down the slope, scanning the horizon. In the distance, a spattering of lights confirmed his fears.
The enemy
. They had been pursued since Redtown, and by the look of it, their trackers had not slowed during the night.
They will overtake us in a few hours
.

Cody turned back toward the ominous cave.
The stranger must have brought me here for a reason. I have to know. “Illumchanta
,” Cody whispered; a beam of light shot forth from his index finger like a torch.

He cautiously journeyed into the tunnel. Despite his light, the darkness of the cave was overwhelming, each step carrying him farther into a blind abyss.

He froze after a brittle crunching noise sounded under his foot. He took another nervous step.
Crunch
. He halted and illuminated the ground. “Ah!” he yelped. He had stepped on a human skull.


Illumchanta!
” Light burst throughout the cave. The wind in Cody’s lungs was sucked out.

BOOK: City of Gold
5.48Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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