Episode 37 - Run For The River
by Camille LaGuire
Though they could see the river from the high road beside the railroad tracks, there was no direct route through the tangle of houses and walls on the hillside between. They wove to and fro among the houses, listening for sounds of pursuit behind them.
Alex had no idea how the ring actually worked, but he wanted to get to the water while you could still see reflections, just in case they were necessary for the magic to work. Besides, there were soldiers and security guys all over. They needed to just get out of there as fast as possible.
They came to a dead end, and then another dead end, and then, suddenly, there was another road. And the river was on the other side of the road. There was a wall blocking access just there but further along the wall gave way to a fence, and you could see that there was access to the river below.
But just then a lone figure hurried along the road. Alex and Thorny pulled back into the shadows. They almost didn't recognize the man, who was now dressed in a sloppy uniform -- probably the uniform Alex had discarded.
It was Pookiterin.
He trotted long, determined and wary, carrying an ornate sword. It wasn't as long as a sabre or as heavy as a cutlass, but it looked wicked as it glinted in the twilight.
He stopped at the spot where you could go down to the water, and scouted along, looking down at the boats and across the river. Then he turned and looked up and down the road.
He must have heard when Alex told Lina he was headed for the river. And now he was waiting for them.
Or not. After a moment he crossed the street, as if he were going to search among the tangled alleys among the houses. Good! He was starting at the other end, so maybe they could sneak out while he searched.
Alex gestured for Thorny to stay put and slipped out further to watch where Pookiterin went. For a moment the man disappeared as though going up an alley, but then Alex saw movement. He'd have missed it except that the sky still reflected on a wall further on, and Alex could see the man's profile, waiting in the shadows. He wasn't searching the alleys. He was watching for them.
Just then there was a glint of steel and Alex could see the sword again.... And suddenly Alex knew exactly what he needed to do.
Alex took a deep breath and pulled back into the cul-de-sac. He pulled Thorny along with him.
"Thorny, listen. I need you to do something." Alex slipped off the ring his aunt had given him. "This ring is what brought us here. It's magic. That's why my aunt told me to wear it and go jump in a lake."
Thorny stared at the ring. Alex wasn't sure he comprehended what Alex was saying, but the man took the ring and squinted at it.
"I need you to wear it," continued Alex, "so I don't lose it in the fight."
"Fight?" said Thorny with alarm.
"I'm going to have to distract Pookiterin so we can get to the river. I'm going to go... challenge him. Then you run straight for the river and jump in. Got it?"
"No, I don't got it," said the old man.
"I know it's hard to understand, but just trust me. Wear the ring, and jump into the water, and it will take you home."
"I've got that," said Thorny. "What I don't got is what about you? If I jump in without you, you'll be left behind!"
"Don't worry about me--"
"I'll worry about you if I like!"
"Professor, I'm supposed to be here. I'm from here. I'm an misplaced hero, remember? This is my place. And it's my duty to get you home. So don't argue."
"But...." The old man scowled at the ring, and hesitated.
"Thorny, you've got to escape now, while you can. You got no money, no place to go, no papers, you don't know the language. If you get stuck here, they're going to shoot you for being a spy."
Thorny still stared at the ring for a moment, but then suddenly he slipped it on.
"All right," he said. "All right, but you come along if you can. For all we know, I'll end up in some other world altogether. I don't want to be alone there, and sober too."
"Good!" said Alex. "So here's what we're going to do...."
Stay Tuned for Thirty-Eight: "Sword To Sword"
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