The gods are playing with us. Ovedisca took my sister as a sacrifice. But he’s got opposition.
We follow a path through the woods and come out at a replica of the Tebestora school. I catch a glimpse of my highwayman up ahead and head toward what feels like the inevitable goal: the graveyard.
The graveyard here is not quite the same as in our world. There is no chapel, none at all. Clearly a chapel for Thessar is not welcome here. And there are many, many fresh graves.
Katrina and I get shovels from the gravedigger’s shack and dig. Only one foot down, we hit something solid. It turns out to be a crystal coffin. And one of the students is in it. She looks as if she knew she was being sealed up when she was put in it. That’s a look of stark horror on her face.
Two more graves yield another student and an instructor. All looking as if the horror of what’s happening was the last thing they knew.
Katrina goes back to the first coffin and smashes the shovel into it as hard as she can. It has no effect. She tries the flat of the blade, the edge of the blade. Still no effect.
I have an inspiration. I stand on the other side of the coffin and draw my sword.
Katrina shakes her head, “You’ll just dull . . . hmmm, maybe not.”
I give her a tight smile. “Maybe not.” I don’t want to cut the girl in two, so I line up my stroke by bringing the tip of the sword down to touch the coffin. I mean to lift it, but it has other ideas. A cold white fire starts rising up the blade from the coffin. It flares, and I jerk away the sword.
There’s a girl screaming in the grave. She’s alive. And my sword now has a slight white glow along the edge, as well as a red one in the center.
We are five days unearthing coffins and freeing their occupants. They are all hysterical, with one exception, when they are freed. Quite a few still are. Honorable Alencar has been ministering to them, marshalling those that have recovered. Mia’s been helping her.
It is late in the fifth afternoon. I’m resting in the old school building, well, this duplicate of the old school building. It makes me feel comfortable, and I need that. My muscles are sore from days of digging. My sword can light up a room.
Honorable Alencar comes in. I start to greet her, and she barks out a short laugh. “After these many days, Tollon, I think you can call me Alesca.” She sits down beside me on the bench. “There’s one person missing, and one extra person.” She looks around to make sure she’s not being overheard. “Honorable Strunstur is not among the ones you’ve freed. And that girl who didn’t scream when you freed her? She’s not one of ours.”
“Who is she, then?”
“No one knows.” Alesca frowns. “She’s been helpful. Never talks, but she has a way with the hysterical ones. They calm down quite a bit with her around.” She bites her lip. “No one’s seen her eat. She doesn’t eat, she doesn’t drink, she doesn’t sleep, and I’m beginning to think she doesn’t breathe. She’s too warm to be a reanimated corpse.” She shrugs. “I have no clue as to what she can be.” She yawns. “And I am so tired.” In a moment, her head drops down, and I can hear her softly snoring.
Without quite knowing how, I realize there is somebody sitting on the other side of me. I turn. It’s the girl. Dark yellow of skin, dark brown of hair, and as I look into her eyes, I see that there is nothing there. She opens her mouth. There are no teeth, no tongue, just emptiness. The mouth quickly opens wider and wider, until it’s big enough to swallow me whole. Which it does.