Mehrak sat in the pool of portal path pearls. Try saying that three times quickly, he thought to himself. He was at the low edge of the room, the floor sloping up from where he sat, maybe five, ten degrees. Only the light from the pit illuminated the room. His lamp had gone out shortly after the rumbling stopped.
       That had been a while ago now and there’d been silence ever since. He supposed the mountain was stable; it hadn’t moved since Sammy had left. Still, he wasn’t going to bother going back up the tunnel. He didn’t have a working lamp and then there was the cave-in. He thought about following Sammy to the Mother World, but he didn’t know which pearl she’d used. The correct one had popped back into existence on the shelf but then, because of the angle, had rolled off and got lost in amongst the others around his bottom. Perhaps he should pick a pearl at random and take his chances. Perhaps this was the start of a new adventure. Perhaps life had more in store for Mehrak Omid.
       He didn’t want an adventure, though. At least not one without Sammy. Or Gisouie.
       Why had Sammy’s name come to him first? Had he so quickly forgotten his wife? He should attempt to escape his current situation, to carry on the search for her. It was his duty as a husband. But he couldn’t stop thinking about Sammy. He leant his head back against the wall. The thing that’d happened, it wasn’t his fault. She’d kissed him. Yet he hadn’t stopped her.
       He would put it behind him. Sammy had gone and wouldn’t be coming back. He’d continue his search for Gisouie and everything would go back to the way it had been.


       First, he needed to get out of there. He couldn’t get out by himself, but that was okay. Hami would help him. He’d take care of the monster and bust him out. Then Mehrak would travel to the snow base and rescue Gisouie, and they’d continue their quest for the Rule Book together. It was a long shot, but he had to believe he’d find her, he owed it to her. After everything he’d –
       An explosion echoed up the passage, shaking the floor and the portal pearls under Mehrak’s bottom. Was the mountain slipping? He should grab a pearl and escape before it fell. He paused, and the noise receded. The mountain wasn’t falling. It was the rubble blocking the tunnel. Something had cleared it. Friend or foe? Hami or monster?
       Mehrak sifted through the portal pearls searching for a green one with grass in it – whatever grass was. Where was it?
       “Mehrak! Hello?” A woman’s voice; familiar, but different.
       It couldn’t be …
       “Hello?” he called back. “I’m in here!”

       Behnam stumbled through the streets of Aratta in front of the guard with the shuffle. He kept the man close behind him as he had the only pair of working eyes.
       Behnam had taken over the guard’s consciousness and now controlled both himself and the guard. It was a peculiar sensation, using someone else’s viewpoint to navigate your own body from behind, only being able to see where you were going indirectly.
       Ghobad, the man’s name had been. He was still in there, alive, but exiled to a far corner of his own brain. A prisoner in his own body. Unethical, and something a magus could be banished for, but Behnam had to escape, had to tell the brotherhood what he’d learned.


       By using the guard’s knowledge of Aratta, Behnam moved them both through the quietest streets. Zigzagging in and out of doorways, creeping along deserted alley ways.
       At first, he hadn’t been able to take five steps without tripping over, constantly running into objects while trying to guide himself using Ghobad’s eyes. But he was beginning to get used to it.
       When Behnam first entered Ghobad’s head, he had him kill the other guards. Then he got him to open the cell and drag his body to a deserted location. It was two days of recovery before Behnam could stand or even walk. But during that time, Behnam had not suffered any ill effects of the smog. Ramaask had made him immune to keep him alive, like he’d done for everyone else that worked for him.
       When movement had returned to his limbs, it had been agony. They still hurt now, but at least he could walk unaided.
       Behnam paused in a deserted house as a group of men dressed in furs passed them, heading for the Sultan’s palace. He desperately wanted to re-join the network, to tell the brotherhood what he’d learned. He’d risked connecting briefly to warn Hami not to let the girl go, but then he’d disconnected again. He couldn’t allow himself to re-join, even now he’d escaped. Ramaask had affected him too much. Behnam only hoped he hadn’t done any damage to the network when he’d connected. The last thing he wanted was to infect his brothers.
       But something had changed. The skies over Aratta were black. Had the thing Ramaask feared most happened? And where was he? He hadn’t returned to Aratta since he’d left several days ago. And no one had come looking for him.
       Nearly at the city wall now. He had to find Hami. Fast.



< Chapter 49 | Back to the Vara >