Authors: Emily Thompson
The pirates that Quay had hired were all locked up in one of the empty crew cabins, and Aazzi was posted at the door. With her superior hearing and intuition, there was little chance that any of them could escape. The doctor gave them just enough attention to keep the more seriously wounded alive until they could be taken to the nearest magistrate. Piracy was not a tolerated crime in the Caribbean, even after so many years of it.
Quay and Vane were kept separate from each other. Quay was cuffed to a chair in the dining room where Howell kept watch on him, and Vane was tied to the railing on deck where everyone could keep watch over him. Long ago, Aazzi had enchanted a rope to allow them to capture a leprechaun. The magic proved strong enough to hold the shape-shifting fox as well. No matter how he tried to change his form, the rope followed his shape and continued to hold him securely.
Once Jonas had explained that Loki was on the way, and that the Rooks were also looking for them, it was decided that they should go back to Santiago as quickly as possible. They would stay over water the whole time, as well. If they could re-connect with Moroni in Santiago, the Rooks would find them much more quickly and Loki wouldn't be able to capture anyone. Twist felt it was a fairly good plan, all in all, but he still couldn't keep his eyes off of the northern horizon. Loki had planned to find them at night, and the sky was already taking on a copper hue as the now-orange sun sank into the glittering sea.
“Hey, Twisty-poo?” Vane called from across the deck.
“What do you want?” Twist snapped back at him.
Vane grinned. He was kneeling on the deck beside the railing, and the rope looked snug around his neck. It also bound his hands together, and secured him to the railing by a very short lead. There was a bruise on his temple, and a dark line from the cut Twist's watch had left.
“How's your watch?” Vane asked lightly.
“Fine,” Twist snapped coldly. A few of the gears had been knocked slightly loose in the blow, but it was still ticking after he'd wiped off the blood. Twist planned to fix it once they got back to Santiago. He turned away from Vane again.
“Oh look, he's pouting...” Vane sneered. Twist stopped before he fully turned to him, and looked back slowly as anger ran cold in his blood. “I guess you should be more careful with your toys,” Vane added derisively.
“What the hell is wrong with you?” Twist bellowed, stepping closer. “Why can't you just leave me alone?” To his annoyance, he saw a flash of joy in the fox’s eyes.
“Leave you alone?” Vane asked. “Where's the fun in that? You're so deliciously reactive.”
“Now see here,” Twist growled, advancing on him. “I'm not your bloody plaything!”
“You are now, baby,” Vane said smoothly.
“What's going on over there?” Jonas's voice called from afar.
“Nothing,” Twist called back. He gave Vane a glare. “Nothing at all. This cretin's not even worth my time.”
“Oh, that hurts!” Vane said, looking wounded. Twist caught his gaze slip off him for a moment, glancing behind him for an instant. “I'm really offended now,” he continued as Jonas approached, too. “I insist you apologize.”
“Apologize?” Twist gasped. “I should apologize to you?” Vane's eyes lost focus for an instant, as if he were paying attention to something else. “Wait a minute,” Twist said, turning around quickly.
“Twist!” Vane said. “I … um ... I need you! You complete me!”
“What the hell?” Jonas asked, frowning at the fox.
Twist ignored them both and kept his back to Vane. He stared at the northern horizon. There was nothing there. The sea stretched on under billowing gray clouds, tinged with orange and pink, but there was nothing else in the sky.
“Don't ignore me, Twisty honey,” Vane whined. “I couldn't bear it!”
“How hard did you hit him with your watch?” Jonas asked Twist.
“Do you see anything out there?” Twist asked, pointing to the north.
“Like what?” Jonas asked, looking too.
“I don't know, I thought...” Twist shook his head and looked back to Vane. “I thought he might be trying to distract me from seeing something in the sky. I guess he's just insane.”
“I'm mad about you, twisty Twist,” Vane said, but he looked more relieved than flirtatious to Twist, who suddenly felt a jolt of fear in the buzz at his neck.
“Dive!” Jonas yelled to the helm, turning to run closer to it. “Get us down to the water!”
Twist turned back but still couldn't see anything in the sky. There was nothing but a distant thunderstorm. Realization hit him like a lightning strike. A thunderstorm. It was by itself and not just building but rushing nearer, against the wind.
“Where's Myra?” Twist yelled, running now too.
“Dining room,” Arabel called back from the helm. “What's going on?”
“We're under attack,” Jonas said, taking the stairs two at a time to meet her.
Twist rushed into the dining room and found Myra standing beside Quay with her arms crossed. Howell was smiling at her.
“Myra,” Twist breathed, reaching for her. Her face blanked with surprise when she saw his anxious expression and she took his hand immediately.
“What's wrong, dear?”
“Loki's here,” Twist said. Howell jumped to his feet.
“Oh thank heaven!” Quay gasped. “I'm almost rid of you people.” At that moment, the ship began to take on a noticeable speed, in a controlled but rapid fall.
“Stay with him,” Howell ordered. “This would be a fantastic time to escape.” He ran from the room, calling to Arabel.
“No, no, I'll be fine,” Quay said happily. “Please, go run around and scream a bit. I'll be right here.”
Twist narrowed his eyes at him. “Myra, darling, would you check and make sure those handcuffs are still secure?”
Quay gave a heavy sigh as Myra checked the handcuffs. She stood up with a smug expression as she drew a long, thin piece of metal out of his sleeve.
“That's my toothpick,” Quay said with a tight smile.
The ship lurched suddenly to the right. Myra leaped to Twist's side with a startled shriek. Twist reached an arm around her to hold her steady. Jonas appeared at the doorway.
“Can Myra swim?”
“No, she's not airtight. She wouldn't float,” Twist answered instantly.
“She doesn't need to breathe, right? Can she walk out of the sea if we throw her in?”
“What?” Myra gasped.
“They're closing,” Jonas snapped. “They kicked up their speed when we tried to run,” he added darkly. “We don't have time!”
Twist felt himself suddenly thrown forward, towards the windowless wall nearer the front of the ship, as if the ship had suddenly come to a violent and total stop. Myra and Jonas tumbled in the same direction, each of them colliding with the wall, while Quay remained chained in place.
“What was—” Twist began.
“They've got us!” Jonas yelled angrily. “Myra, out! Now!” He regained his footing and took her by the arm, dragging her around the table to the windows.
“Wait!” Twist snapped, following. “You can't just throw her out of the ship!”
“Why not?” Jonas asked, pausing just after he opened the led-lined window. “We're only two hundred feet up now. And she's made of metal. The fall is too high for any of us, but she can survive it, can't she?” Myra was staring at Jonas in horror.
“But...” Twist muttered. Her puppet wasn't exactly fragile, but it was very finely arranged. Enough physical trauma could render it paralyzed again, the way it had been in Nepal. Twist tried to imagine what a drop into water would actually do to it, but it seemed too absurd to simply toss her out of the window. Even if she was all right, she'd be terrified and alone at the bottom of the sea.
“Twist, can she survive?” Jonas asked sharply. “Because we really ticked Loki off. We are not going to be able to rely on surprise this time. We might not even survive this.”
Twist's thoughts stalled as he looked back at the cold determination in Jonas's eyes. It was thin and fragile. He was frightened. Jonas wasn't easily frightened. He would never suggest something so drastic if he thought there was any other way. But getting Myra off the ship would save her from the Cyphers, and also make it impossible for anyone to use her against them. It was a good plan. Twist looked to Myra, expecting to find horror. Her beautiful copper face was still and quiet as she looked at Jonas now. She turned to Twist with a hint of sadness.
“I think I'll be all right,” she said gently. “If I'm not, you can fix me again.” Twist's heart ached to hear the subtle hope in her voice.
“I will,” he said instantly. “I can always fix you.”
“If I can't move, I'll leave my puppet and come to you,” she said. ”Now that I know how to do it, I think I could find you anywhere.”
“Myra, I...” Twist's emotions crowded out his words.
She pulled closer and kissed him on the cheek. “Come get me,” she said with a calm he knew she didn't feel. Then she turned to the window. “Take care of him, Jonas.”
“Always,” Jonas said, offering his hand to help her over the windowsill.
Myra didn't look back. She climbed into the window, paused for only an instant, and then tumbled out. Twist rushed to watch after her. She was only in the air for a moment, and then she vanished under the waves. Twist couldn't believe he'd let it happen. Fear, shock, and anger at himself threatened to overflow his heart.
“Come on,” Jonas said, pulling him away from the window. “It'll take hours for them to find her, even if someone tells them where she is,” he added, glancing towards Quay. The pirate grumbled under his breath.
The huge golden ship hung in the air before the
, draped on all sides in flashing, growling, gray clouds. Black chains, connected to grappling hooks, held tightly to the
wooden hull like the legs of a spider. Men in sand-colored cloaks walked casually over the drawbridge-like mouth of the metal airship. Twist and Jonas stood together on the deck. It was pointless to fight them head-on. Their only chance now was the Rooks, lurking somewhere in the sea.
Everyone was taken on board the larger ship, and the
was tethered to the side. Quay pointed out his crew but neglected to mention Twist or Jonas. He gave them a cruel smile as he, Vane, and the pirates were led away politely. In the wide, open, shadowy central chamber, the
crew was lined up in no order at all. A man in a sandy cloak stepped up to Zayle and held a staff before him, the same as the one Twist had seen in the floating village. The large jewel in the top of it glowed with a gentle white light in the darkness.
“Do you posses a Sight?” the cloaked man asked, angling the jewel slightly over his head.
“No,” Zayle said with a confused frown.
The jewel in the staff took on a red light for an instant before it returned to white. The cloaked man moved on to Howell, and repeated his question. Howell said no: again there was a red flash. Twist felt his heart beat a little faster. The cloaked figure reached Arabel.
“Do you possess a Sight?” he asked.
“No,” Arabel said lightly.
The jewel in the staff changed to a deep sapphire blue. A pair of cloaked men appeared out of the darkness behind her and each took an arm, dragging her away.
Arabel struggled. Howell and the others moved toward her, but the guards were well armed—some of them holding out their hands under burning fireballs—and any protests were obviously useless. She disappeared into the shadows and her voice vanished. Aazzi was next, and then Twist. Twist thought of being dragged away by two men he didn't know, and his hands started to shake. Jonas stepped forward, before the cloaked man had finished his question to Aazzi.
“Excuse me,” he said loudly. The man stopped and looked at him.
“We've both got Sights,” he said, pointing to himself and Twist. “You don't need to drag us off or anything. We'll go wherever you want. There's no need to be uncivilized about it.” As he spoke, the staff took on its blue sheen.
“Jonas, what are you doing?” Howell snapped.
“This is better,” Jonas shot back.
“Very well,” the cloaked man said, looking at the blue light. “Take them,” he said to the shadows. “But be civil,” he added with a sweet sneer.
Two large men in cloaks, their faces obscured by their heavy hoods, stepped into the dim light. One of them dipped a bow. The other one snickered quietly. Twist and Jonas stepped into the shadows together.
The darkness was complete, and Twist was instantly blinded. Jonas took his hand, filling his Sight with the whiteness that his eyes couldn't see. Twist supposed that the Cyphers had some means of seeing without light. Why they would employ such a system was beyond him. Jonas turned from time to time and Twist followed him closely. Eventually, they came to a stop. A door opened before them, splashing bright, intense light into the dark. Twist winced against it, eyes watering, and walked into the room with Jonas and their two guides.
Loki sat facing away from them in a golden, metal chair that looked very much like a spider. Long, curving legs reached down from the seat to the floor, and up like a high backed chair. The room seemed to be made wholly of glass. The far end curved around like a giant eye, lidded and lined with golden metal struts. The floor stretched out in a wide circle such as Twist had seen in Loki's library, with a spiderweb of thin gold to hold it in place. There were plain metal hooks and what looked like leather straps attached to the metal walls at the sides of the room. Arabel was nowhere to be seen.
Hanging in the air before Loki was a thin golden frame, and flickering like a flame in the center was a slightly transparent image. Twist stared at the image, unable to imagine anything to explain it but pure magic. It was a picture of Twist, Jonas, and Myra standing together in the entryway of the ship with the floating village just visible outside. Tasha, Niko, and the two Americans could be seen to the side.
“Hello boys,” Loki said as his chair turned, as if on its own, to face them. Now, more of his face was covered with the gold metal plates. What skin was visible looked scorched and sore. He grinned nevertheless. “I had a feeling you were Sighted.”
“Who, us?” Jonas asked. “We're just a couple of clowns.”
“That too,” Loki said with a nod. “But I began to wonder how you managed to electrocute me,” he began, counting on his golden, skeletal fingers, “escape with my princess, steal the boy, and also do all of it while somehow wiping my memory clean of those events. But then, I realized that you must be freaks. No normal human being could have done what you did. Imagine my joy at seeing you again, now.”
“Oh, you don't remember?” Jonas asked, looking concerned. “You realized the evil of your ways and let us all go before you tried to kill yourself.” Twist was very impressed by this ploy—it covered everything while still being snide and insulting—but he did his best to hide it.
“You were amusing for a moment,” Loki said, looking at Jonas dryly. “But it's getting old now.” He nodded at the guards. One of them grabbed Jonas while the other untied the straps on one of the hooks along the left wall.
“Oh come on,” Jonas said as he tried halfheartedly to free himself. “You're not going to get the hot pokers or anything are you? It's so cliché.” Even though Jonas's tone was light, Twist could feel fear bubbling in the buzz at his neck, accenting his own feelings.
While one of the guards started to tie Jonas's hands together behind his back, and the other closed and locked the hook, Twist looked around for anything he could use to fight. His cane was on his back, and Loki couldn't remember that it was dangerous. But there were three of them, and Jonas was tied up. There was no time. Just running at them would surely fail.
“Oh no, not hot pokers,” Loki said, getting to his feet. He pulled a syringe of green liquid out of his coat pocket. “I'm just going to shut you up and find out what you can do.”
It was now or never. Loki wasn't even looking at Twist as he walked by. The other men would be hesitant to act if Twist threatened their leader, wouldn't they? That's what people always did in books. Twist reached back and drew his walking stick out of the holster on his back, turned on the lick of lightning at the tip, and lunged for Loki. Loki seemed to see the attack out of the corner of his white-goggle covered eye and turned with alarming speed. Counter to what Twist expected, he didn't move away.
He caught Twist under his jaw with the scorched fingers of his human hand. Twist froze. The vision tore into his Sight like fire through dry grass. He tried to pull away, both physically and mentally. His attention dove for the buzz, but the fire pursued and Loki's hand was like a vise on his throat. He heard Jonas yell his name in terror.
“Oh no, not hot pokers,” Loki said, getting to his feet from the golden spider chair. He pulled the syringe out of his coat pocket again. “I'm just going to shut you up and find out what you can do.”
Twist shuddered as Loki walked by a second time. Loki paused and looked at him. Twist forced his fright down and clung to his calm expression. Loki had been expecting him to do something. He'd been waiting for it. Loki smiled at Twist and gestured to the syringe.
“You don't mind if I inject your friend with this, then?” he asked pleasantly.
“What do you expect me to do?” Twist asked back coldly, “Shall I jump at you in some vain attempt to free him? That wouldn't be very clever.”
“Damn it,” Jonas hissed. “A flash?” he asked Twist. His goggles were hanging around his neck now, his eyes trained on Twist.
Twist looked to him, tied securely now and obviously helpless. He nodded and looked away, disgusted with his own inability to act more usefully. If his Sight wouldn't react so wretchedly to every touch, if Twist could push through his visions or hold them back, then he could actually be of some help.
“A flash?” Loki repeated slowly. “A flash of what? Insight perhaps? Don't tell me you can see the future,” he said with a growing smile. “I've been looking for future Sight for years.”
“No, I'm just a coward,” Twist muttered darkly, hoping his true disappointment was enough to carry the lie. “I get paralyzing flashes of fear.” Twist held his breath. It sounded good.
A green light glowed out of the clear stone in the ring on Loki's hand. He looked at it and smiled. “Liar,” he toned smoothly. “We'll try you first. Men? If you would.” The cloaked figures advanced on Twist.
“What? No, I'm not useful at all!” Twist said, backing away as his heart thundered in his chest. Loki's ring shone an even brighter green and Loki began to look excited.
“Twist, just run!” Jonas yelled, struggling now. “Leave me!”
“How touching,” Loki purred.
Twist looked to the doorway. It was pure black outside. He wouldn't make it a yard. He turned back to the guards and drew his walking stick from his back. Even if he didn't have a chance, he couldn't just run. Jonas would never leave him. Of course, Jonas was a much better fighter and could stand to be touched. Still, Twist couldn't find any part of him that was ready to run away. The guards reached out to him. Twist thrust his cane out at one of them. The man backed away. Twist then swung it at the other, spinning clear of them both.
“That was pretty,” Loki said, standing behind Twist now.
Twist hit the switch on the cane, bringing the lighting to life, and spun again to turn it on Loki. Loki saw the electric arc and leaped back away from it.
“The guards!” Jonas yelled.
Twist turned in time to see them both reach for him again. Twist struck one in the chest, sending arcing blue light over his form before he fell to the floor. The other one paused, obviously surprised. Twist swung his cane at him but the man backed away just in time.
“Loki!” Jonas bellowed.
Loki's skeletal metal hand bit into Twist's shoulder like a claw as he turned too slowly. Twist's Sight began to erupt once again, but this time he instantly knew something was different. This battle was pointless. All he could do was hold them off for moments. He didn't have a prayer of winning. Even if he had flash after flash of the future, and he stalled forever, there was no real escape. As Loki yanked the cane from his hand, took him by the throat once again with his human hand, and dragged him to the wall, Twist surrendered his attention to the fire that was already burning through his mind.
The fire was intense. It was everywhere. The forest around him was engulfed in savage, wild flames. Everyone else was already dead or dying: the whole battalion screaming in the roaring fire. Twist felt his flesh succumb to a pain too incredible to believe. He screamed until the smoke choked his lungs and blackness finally fell, bathing him in deathly cold.