After my somber conversation with Jenny, I made it down the stairs. Wendy was already there, bouncing with excitement.
“We’re going to get out of here, Pete! Something just came to me,” she said. Then, she paused. She looked behind me. “Where’s Jenny?”
“She’s not coming with us,” I said. “It’s just you and me now, kid.”
Wendy stood there, cold like a stone. I could tell the poor kid’s heart just broke in half. She had grown close to so many people in here. Agnes. Jenny. All of them ripped from her. When we started, there were 29 of us. Now all we had was each other.
“Come on, Wendy,” I said, trying to break her from her stupor. “We got a dimension to get back to. What was this idea you said you had?”
Wendy walked up to me and held my hand. Even though she had lost so many people, she still had this instinct that she needed someone, anyone, to help her feel safe. “Before he died, Silas told me the truth about what happened in the Button Room. Lola and Carolyn are dead.” This part I knew given that Duke had killed off the reanimated Carolyn earlier on. “That means, the button in the Button Room isn’t being pushed anymore. And we don’t know what happens when it’s not pushed. We may as well check it out.” That last part, I had not thought of. Truthfully, I had no real plan at all for what to do once we made it down the stairs, and I was incredibly grateful that Wendy of all people was still with us.
I led the way back to the Button Room. I made sure to fashion a torch before going, remembering how dark it was. We passed through another long hallway, trying to move quickly remembering that anything could still be coming after us.
When we made it to the Button Room, my heart stopped.
A portal was in front of us.
But it wasn’t like any portal I had seen before. This portal, an oval window to another dimension, was so clear that you could actually see through it. And looking through the portal, you could clearly see-
“RITA!” Wendy exclaimed.
“Come on, kid! Let’s get out of here!”
Wendy and I raced to the portal, with Duke in tow. We were just feet away, when a voice stopped us cold.
We both froze. It felt like fighting the force of a hundred magnets to move even a little bit. We stood still, mere feet away from the portal.
“You’re not getting away, murderers.”
Was that Jim’s voice? That had to be Jim’s voice.
If Arianna had been in Diana’s body, then could that mean…?
“You were so close from eluding justice for the murder of High Wizard Arianna. But this is the end. For both of you. General Ambrose has you now! You’ll make great soldiers in my army.”
A minute later, General Ambrose – yes, it was Jim’s body, but draped in orange robes like Arianna was – stood in front of us, flanked by two byakhee. He held his out towards us. It seemed like he had magic just as Arianna did, and this motion must be what gave the spell its focus.
“All I need to do is say one command, and these byakhee will whisk you away into my service. But before I do that, perhaps you have some final words before I end your pitiful lives?”
“Yeah, I do,” I said. “Your shitty magic doesn’t work on dogs.”
For a moment, Ambrose was destabilized as his big stupid brain tried to work out what I had just said. I smirked.
“GET ‘EM DUKE!”
In a flash, Duke leapt out from behind me and chomped down hard on Ambrose’s arm. He screamed out in pain and shook his arm to try to break Duke’s grip, but he wasn’t letting go so easily. The attack on Ambrose caused his spell to wear off, and Wendy and I were freed. I watched the byakhee, expecting them to attack, but they did absolutely nothing. It seemed like these creatures must have been controlled entirely by Ambrose and didn’t have any mind of their own. That meant so long as Duke and I were overpowering Ambrose, the byakhee could do nothing.
“Wendy! Run through the portal! NOW!”
“What about you, Pete?”
“A life without Duke for me is no life at all. I’m staying here by his side until the bitter end. You got to get out of here! RUN!”
Wendy looked at the portal, then at me. Tears started to fill her eyes and she began to breathe faster and faster.
At last, Wendy begin to sprint towards the portal. Seconds later, she was gone.
As Ambrose continued to cry out in pain with Duke on his arm, I ran over and gave him a sucker punch to the face. I could hear a solid crack as my punch connected and Ambrose collapsed on the ground.
I shook my fist. It stung after releasing such a heavy blow.
“No more magic for you today,” I muttered. “Come on, Duke. Let’s go home.”
The two byakhee with Ambrose still stood stock still. That was good, I started to walk towards the portal.
Barely a whisper came out.
“Hunt her, Ebonblight.”
One of the two byakhee leapt up and let out a piercing shriek. I expected it to fly at me, but it didn’t. Instead, it flew up into the air, swung around in a semicircle and blasted full speed through the portal. Right towards Arkham. To my horror, the portal sealed shut as the byakhee passed through it. I thought I knocked him out, but Ambrose was still conscious. He had been able to issue one last command.
I wasn’t going to fail this time. I would make sure that was the last command he ever issued.
I stopped running and took a second to catch my breath. I looked around. I was back in the mausoleum. I turned around, expecting… no… hoping to see Pete following right behind. But he didn’t come behind me.
“Wendy, oh my god, you’re safe. Sefina and I have been waiting so long for someone to come. Nobody else has come but you.”
Was he ever going to make it out?
“Amanda, bring her the blanket! She’s not moving. She must be in shock after everything she’s been through. Sefina, get her some water, please!”
I was alone. Again.
Everyone who had chosen to love me, to stand up for me… they all died doing so.
What did I do to deserve this?
“Sefina and I did everything we could to try to create an opening to the temple, but nothing we tried worked. We had one more plan left, but we thought for sure even then, there was no hope left for anyone to escape. We have so much to talk about. Is… is Arkham saved, Wendy? Do you know?”
Unless Pete was still alive.
Seconds later, a byakhee appeared. Everyone around screamed and ran for cover as the beast shrieked and dug its claws into the stone floor of the mausoleum. But I stood still. Motionless. I brought this creature here, didn’t I? This was my fault. I brought this hell upon myself. Upon Arkham. I had made other people, people who were stronger than me, more capable than me, sacrifice themselves so I may live. And in the end, what could I do? Nothing.
The byakhee reared its head, then leapt into the air, flapping its wings. It flew at me.
I closed my eyes and prepared myself to die.
Not just two or three gunshots. Dozens upon dozens of gunshots. Followed by the sound of thunder and crackling lightning. The byakhee cried out, but this wasn’t the cry of a hunter. This was the cry of a dying beast.
I opened my eyes. The byakhee lay dead, its wings and body full of holes and burns.
I turned around to see who could have done this.
A tall man in a trench coat with a tommy gun propped up against his shoulder and another man in a bright yellow robe and mask stood before me.
“You were right, Sefina,” the man with the gun said. “There is trouble.” He smiled. “And this time, with bigger targets than any I’ve seen before.”
“Do you think you can open a gate to the temple, Luke?” Sefina asked.
“It should be doable,” the man with the mask said, nodding. “But what purpose would it serve for you to go back in?”
Sefina and Rita were quiet for a moment. They turned and looked at me.
“Pete’s still alive. I know it in my soul.”
“I understand,” Luke said. “A rescue mission.”
“You know I’m in, or else my name isn’t Tony Morgan!”
“Wendy, you stay here. Amanda can look after you,” Rita said.
“Luke and Tommy are going to need some guides in there. We can’t let them go in the temple blind!” Sefina said.
Luke nodded. “So, it’s settled then. The four of us are going back to rescue Pete.” He held his fists towards the sky, and in an instant, spread his hands open. “May the gates be found!”
June 28th: PETE, fought with General Ambrose in the Button Room
June 27th: JENNY, sacrificed herself in the Book Room
June 26th: FINN, merged with High Wizard Arianna in the Book Room
June 25th: PRESTON, impaled by a toppled shelving unit of spears in the Armory
June 24th: MINH, transported via a portal to Arkham in the year 3007
June 23rd: ZOEY, electrocuted by the metal globe in the Arcane Chamber
June 22nd: AGNES, merged with High Wizard Arianna in the Arcane Chamber
June 21st: CALVIN, shot dead by reanimated Joe in the Armory
June 20th: URSULA, impaled through the head by The Sullied Crown in the Throne Room
June 19th: ROLAND, shot dead by Finn in the West Room
June 18th: YORICK, transported to Carcosa
June 17th: SEFINA, transported alive via a portal to Arkham
June 16th: MARK, devoured by an abomination in the West Room
June 15th: SILAS, succumbed to earlier poisonous gas exposure while in the Book Room
June 14th: AKACHI, succumbed to poisonous gas in the East Room
June 13th: RITA, woke up alive in Arkham
June 12th: LEO, shot dead by Finn in the South Room
June 11th: REX, torn apart by byakhee in the North Room
June 10th: MARIE, fell into the chasm in the South Room
June 9th: CAROLYN, head smashed by Lola in the Button Room
June 8th: JOE, shot himself in the Lust Room
June 7th: SKIDS, dismembered in the Greed Room
June 6th: JIM, possessed by Ambrose in the Lust Room
June 5th: DIANA, possessed in the Lust Room
June 4th: MATEO, drowned in the Sloth Room
June 3rd: DAISY, shot dead by Roland in the Gluttony Room
June 2nd: NORMAN, disintegrated in the Envy Room
June 1st: LOLA, abandoned in the Button Room
Wendy has won Judgement in June.
Minh Thi Phan
With the cultists in the mansion dispatched, Meeka ran towards the bookshelf and took the grimoire. “Minh, come!”
I snuck over as quickly and quietly as I could. I knew we had already incapacitated anyone who would stand against us here, but one could never be too careful.
“Talyn was right. The book we have been hearing about was being kept in the Governor’s study.”
“And we know this book contains…”
“Spells! All kinds of spells!”
Meeka opened the book and laid it before me.
I read what I could across the thin pages. It was mostly in English, but also had some strange symbols scattered throughout. I turned the page and read a paragraph on control of byakhees and the issuing of hunting commands.
Wait a second.
“Minh, is something wrong? Minh?”
I shook out of my momentary trance. “No, Meeka. Nothing’s wrong.” A deep breath. A slow exhale. “Let’s get this book out of here and back to our camp. We have nothing but time to find what we need.”