I didn't like to walk through the desert at night. It was cold and the sand pulled at my feet. Rocks, which I rarely saw in time, appeared out of nowhere so that I tripped and stubbed my toes at least once every mile. It didn't help to watch Edmond dancing along ahead of me, tail up and happy.
Though I was glad to see him and my other companions. I just wished we could have met at a coffee shop or something. I was pretty much ready to give up on adventures.
"There's the train track!" Maggie shouted and pointed.
The others gave ragged cries of pleasure and they didn't sound any more happy about the walk than me. I supposed, looking around at everyone, that we'd all had a long journey to get here.
Tom took charge of getting the 'train' in order on the tracks. I was still frowning and thinking this could never work when he suddenly waved his hands and the wood and cardboard suddenly looked so real, I leapt back in surprise.
"Not going to be easy to keep this up," Tom admitted when he came back to stand by me. "We imbued each piece with some magic, which will help, but the larger illusion will take a great deal of power to make it seem real. We'll have to find places to stop and rest for a few hours sometimes. Even so, we should make good time."
"That's impressive," I admitted.
"I couldn't do it alone," he said. "It takes the magic of all the others working on their little pieces to keep something like this going."
"But not anything from me."
"Or Maggie, Davis, Lord Snow or Edmond," Tom said with a nod to the others who had come closer. "You came too late to work into the system we'd already created. That's okay. You already work as a team on your own, and you'll be there if we need you."
I nodded and let him get back to work. Dawn had brought a thin layer of gray light across the scenery. As much as I had hated walking through the area at night, I knew I didn't want to be out here during the day, either. I helped get the last of the nons on the train -- they trusted me, I thought. I wasn't used to that reaction yet.
"I'm going to the engine," Maggie said. "I want to see how they power this thing. I don't know much about this kind of magic, and it might be important to learn as quickly as possible."
"Not the kind of stuff you can just shove into someone's head?" I asked.
She winced, remembering how I had learned what little magic I did have. I really did want to know the answer, though.
"That only worked because you didn't know anything at all," she admitted. "This higher stuff is harder to learn."
I nodded and followed her. We were just about ready to go. Lord Snow stayed with the nons but Edmond came with me. I had the feeling he was not going to let me out of his sight for a while.
"Even with the rests, this shouldn't take us more than two days to get back to the gate," Tom said. He looked out the window and gave a nod. Then with a wave of his hand, we started moving. Silent -- far too silent, in fact.
"We need noise to pull this off," Maggie said before I could.
"We'll have it when we need it," Tom assured us. "Right now we need to get clear of the area with as little notice as possible. I had hoped we would be gone before the dawn."
At least we were moving and heading vaguely east, as well.
"Why haven't you left the camp before now?" I finally asked.
"Until you came, we didn't have enough information," he admitted. "The mountains blocked what we could learn just as it blocked anyone with power learning what we did. But you brought us information. I had not known about Darman, though knowing the name makes sense of a number of other matters. Potilia is another matter. She'd disappeared some time ago and to have her return in this situation does not bode well for Elsewhere. Or for this realm, of course."
I nodded. I wasn't surprised he was more concerned for Elsewhere than for the human world. It was normal; after all, I was more concerned for the human world than for Elsewhere, to be honest. We both wanted to protect our homes.
Except that I would not fit here any longer, I supposed. That came as a sudden shock. I looked at Maggie with her metal wings, and still carrying the staff that made her a messenger. She couldn't go home, either. I wasn't certain if Edmond had come from the human world or Elsewhere to begin with, but he had wings now, too. He wasn't going to go back.
I had planned to leave home after graduation anyway. I could go to Elsewhere. I realized that it gave me a purpose, being a Protector. Once we were done with this madness....
I could hope for something better.
The sun was full up before we had to slow for a town. We'd gone through a couple small places, just rushing through with a squeal of noise that seemed deafening after the silence. Now, though we had to slow like other trains. We were not on the schedule here and someone was bound to wonder --
But before that could happen, I realized we had a far different problem.
"What --" I started to say.
Tom shook his head and lifted both hands. We started to move faster, and I thought that might not be wise. But --
"Someone is scanning us," Maggie said. She had a hand lifted as well. "And it doesn't feel friendly, either."
"I think we're in trouble," Tom said.
What a surprise.
To Be Continued....