Two police officers approached the people leaving the event and showed them a piece of paper, asking if they’ve seen someone, and the Rebels found it unlikely that the rally had more than one set of wanted criminals! They almost bolted to the nearby woods, but Emorick advised them, “No! Don’t do anything too sudden! That’s what they’re looking for- people acting suspiciously! Let’s just act casual as we make our way out of here!”
It felt so hard for Gwynivara not to flee as fast as she could when danger presented itself so close to them, but Emorick’s logic made enough sense that she resisted the urge. They began to briskly walk towards the woods when suddenly a bubbly woman stood before them and offered them with a lollipop with a label of “Rialowe ’76” on it. “Sucker?”
“No, thanks!” Gwynivara tried to remain polite, but the police were getting closer to them, and they really needed to vacate the area quickly!
“Not candy lovers, huh? Maybe you know someone who is?” she persisted.
The police officers had come well within earshot of them, and Gwynivara knew if they didn’t leave immediately that they could no longer afford to maintain their cover of courteous rally attendees! The police officers got a little engrossed in a conversation with an elderly person, so Gwynivara made one more attempt at civility to this woman, “I’m sorry, we really need to get going!”
The woman started to get cross with them, “Who turns down a free souvenir?”
Gwynivara feared that the time had come for them to, once again, use their incantations to escape from capture, but as the police made their way towards them, she noticed Emorick pointing his palm towards the woman. Before the police officers could reach them, the woman’s bag of lollipops split open and spilled everywhere! It caught the attention of the people passing by them, and they all watched as the two policemen chivalrously bent down to help her pick them up. The Rebels used this distraction to subtly slip into the nearby woods.
When the noise of the stadium began to grow distant, Gwynivara complimented Emorick, “That was a good one!”
“Fighting a battle isn’t always about loud blasts and a grand exit,” Emorick told them with with an exhausted but sagely voice. “Sometimes you just gotta use a quiet approach and let them think their misfortune stemmed from nothing more than rotten luck!”
“Are you okay, Dad?” Kierram asked him, clearly concerned with his father’s growing lack of energy.
Emorick answered him, “I’m fine, son! Really, I am! It’s just been a while since I’ve done an incantation! I guess that coma really sapped my stamina!”
Gwynivara frowned as her insides twisted a little from a slight guilt she had. Emorick’s form had appeared to them during their showdown with Rafeneita, and, somehow, he had transferred energy to her when she had collapsed. The incantations she used against Rafeneita took more force than had ever summoned before, and for a while, she didn’t know if she would ever make it down that mountain, but then Emorick saved her! Everything that followed that ordeal had only been possible because of his actions, and he didn’t seem to remember any of it! She knew that she would have to bring it up to him sooner or later for him to have all of the knowledge he needed to properly recover, but until she did, she had to bear the ill feelings emanating from this memory!
As Bernadette shooed a bug away from her, she inquired, “Where we going exactly? I mean, I know we have to find some place that’s safe, but are we gonna head back into town at some point so we can work on getting the cure out, or are we hoping to run into the three bears’ cottage out here so we can hide in the forest ’til the heat is off us?”
“Chief Forsythe had us go this way for a reason!” John remarked. He glanced at Rebekah awkwardly, hoping that the mention of her recently departed father wouldn’t upset her. Her face fell at the reference, but she didn’t emote, so he went on, “He wouldn’t have sent us here if it didn’t lead us to some kind of safe house!”
“I think it was just the best option we had,” José commented. “We were blocked from getting to our getaway van, so he thought quicker than us and pointed us in the right direction.”
Naama mused, “How did he and his men get to the courthouse? They’re all wanted too, so they must have had some kind of hidden passageway they used when they left the FBI building.”
Niqun recalled, “The news said that the helicopter lost track of them after they ran inside of a cave. Maybe they hid in there until it was safe to come out.”
“But the FBI searched the caves,” Riley differed. “And I don’t think there’s any caves that stretch all the way from Richmond to DC, so they must have had some other way to travel without getting noticed.”
“I don’t think any of them-.” Cody’s sentence tapered off when they saw a panther-like creature in the trees above them! Gwynivara, Kierram, Bernadette, Riley, José, and John all pointed their palms at it, and the creature exploded like a pinata full of confetti! “I wish I could do that!” Cody despaired.
“Trust me, kid, you really don’t!” Riley responded to him. “If having Venenatus Sanguis was so great, we wouldn’t be working so hard to get a cure out there!”
Bernadette suggested, “In the future, we should work out a system so only one or two of us use our incantations at a time! We don’t wanna all get burnt out again!”
Rebekah apologized, “I’m sorry! That was probably me again! You guys would probably be safer without me!”
“We’re not leaving you!” Cody firmly asserted. “Especially now when you need us the most!”
“Plus, that didn’t necessarily come from you,” Gwynivara reasoned. “We’ve all been through a lot lately, it could’ve come from any one of us! Plus, we just left an event purposely designed to create beasts and spread-!” As she gestured towards the stadium in the distance, she saw something gleaming in the sun around the nearby foliage. Her intuition prompted her to investigate it, so she darted off to see what laid there. With their curiosity roused, the others followed her.
“Gwyn!” Kierram called after her. “What’s going on? Did you see something?”
She called back to him, “I’m not sure!” She sincerely hoped that she really had seen something worthwhile because if she got everyone worked up over some shiny junk, she would have never forgiven herself for the mortification that would result from this! As she grew closer to it, her heart pounded rapidly and she inwardly prayed that she had stumbled across an object of great significance to their efforts! Upon closer inspection, she discovered a large pipe with a seal that she read out loud, “Department of Waste Management.” As the others caught up to her, she eyeballed the direction that the pipe went, and suddenly, it clicked for her! “That’s it!”
The other Rebels mimicked her gaze and saw a glistening lake partially surrounded by a rocky crag, and while they enjoyed the scenery, they got confused as to what insight she gained from this sight. Bernadette probed, “Are you gonna fill us in there?”
“Do you see what’s beyond the lake?” Gwynivara posed to them.
“The mountain?” John replied quizzically.
The connection now came to Rebekah. “There’s a cave! My dad probably used it!”
Gwynivara concurred, “Yes! And this pipeway leads to the lake! He was using the sewers to get around! The FBI couldn’t find him or any of the motorcycle cops ’cause the cave led to some kind of water formation, and they disappeared through the drainage pipe!”
“Seems plausible!” Emorick acknowledged. “If that really is a cave they hid in, then we could use it as a temporary base while we plan out our next move. But first, we’ll need to test it and make sure it’s safe.”
“Oh, right! I forgot creatures other than the ones we manifest can hurt us!” Riley half kidded. They all tittered at his quip, and then they followed the pipe to the lake.
Once they got close enough to the stony hill, they saw the long and narrow pathway leading up to the cave, and everyone hesitated. They were still recovering from all of the incantations that they had to do recently, so the climb up would have been difficult enough, but obviously, no one thought they had the stamina to quickly come back down if they came across danger in that cave! Cody began to ascend the daunting trail, but José objected, “No way! We can’t have a kid-!”
Cody interrupted him, “Hey, another year and a half and I’ll be an adult, so I’m barely still a kid! Besides, I’m feeling much better! All I did was run a lot- I can’t do any incantations, so I have more energy than any of you!”
“That is true,” Naama admitted, “but if you get attacked in there, how will you defend yourself?”
“I’ll get out of there real fast and just dive into the lake,” Cody stated.
That notion worried them since he would have had quite the jump in that scenario, but then Niqun pointed out, “I think we can summon enough energy to slow him down if that’s what ends up happening.”
Everyone nodded in approval, so Cody dashed up the mound. Everyone stood at the ready in case he abruptly hurled himself off of the cliff, but to their surprise, Cody peered over the edge and informed them, “I think it’s safe! I see dozens of footprints going in and out of here!”
“No animal tracks?” Gwynivara questioned.
“With all of the people tracks, there wouldn’t be any dangerous ones with them!” Kierram teased her. Gwynivara put her hands on her hips and pretended to get offended by that. Kierram grinned at her before he and Riley scooped up Emorick and headed towards the cave. The others closely trailed behind them as they all made their way up.
When they finally arrived, they all started to feel extensive weariness kicking in again, and Bernadette tiredly expressed, “I’m so beat that even those dirty rocks look like a four star hotel right now!”
Riley joshed, “How do you know there isn’t one in here? It’s pitch black, anything could be in there, so you never know!”
Everyone peeked inside and confirmed Riley’s claim as true. Gwynivara scanned the area and pondered, “I wonder what Chief Forsythe did for light!”
“He was at work when they got him, so he probably had a flashlight on him,” Rebekah conjectured.
“I wish we had thought of grabbing one!” John lamented. “Now, we’ll have to wait ’til we re-energize so one of us can do another incantation!”
Naama brought up, “My little brother is in the Scouts program. He said that they taught them to create a fire using sticks…”
Riley dryly queried to the group, “Does anyone have the energy to rub two sticks together?” They all drowsily indicated that they didn’t.
“Too bad I didn’t have my orb,” Emorick ruefully mentioned. “I could use that to create light with very little effort!”
“Actually, I have it right here!” Gwynivara drew it out of her pocket. Emorick seemed shocked to see it in her possession, so she hastily explained, “When you were in a coma, we had to get the keys to the armory, and then I saw it. I don’t know why I took it, but I’m glad I did ’cause it helped us in the battle!” She didn’t bring up the fact that he had appeared to them through this orb, and she hoped that the other Rebels wouldn’t allude ot it right then. She thought that they really ought to wait until they had the assurance of absolute privacy to make sure information like that stayed safe! Besides, their greatest priority at the moment was securing a place for them to lodge, so she didn’t want them to get distracted by this! “I hope you’re not mad!”
Gwynivara held it out for him to retrieve it, but instead of getting it from her immediately, Emorick stared at it curiously. Gwynivara wondered if he remembered his metaphysical journey to the mountain after all or if his connection to this object had more depth than she could have imagined! She guessed that if the latter had been the case, then it could have partially cleared up how he had been able to have a presence with them while he was in a coma miles away from them, but then she recalled how Rafeneita came to her in her dreams and thought that maybe there was some other way…
Just as she thought about Rafeneita, she appeared in the orb! A man came into the room and hung his head in a nervous shame. Rafeneita prodded him, “What is it? Get on with it! Just tell me! Now!” The man made eye contact with her, and then…