Ellison lunged towards the fire, trying to grab the poison capsule, but it was gone.
One of the guards immediately grabbed him by the back of his jacked and pulled him away.
“None of that,” said the guard. “We went to a lot of trouble to catch you.”
One by one, the prisoners were re-shackled, with their hands now behind their backs, and tossed into the back one of the covered wagons. Then, to keep the prisoners from crawling out, or kicking through the cloth sides of the wagon, their captors wound a heavy chain through their leg shackles and locked it to the wagon’s frame.
Ellison found himself lying on a layer of straw covered by scratchy wool blankets, wedged between the other prisoners. It was hard to roll over, and finding a comfortable position was nearly impossible with his hands behind his back.
“Can one of you please choke me to death?” That was Fulke, a couple of feet away from Ellison. “I’ve got a fundraiser to get to.”
“No leverage,” said one of the men between them. “Maybe someone could bite through your carotid?”
“Please don’t,” said another prisoner. “Do you know how much of a mess that would make? Our best bet is to wait until morning, and try to find some nice sharp rocks, or maybe a pointy stick. Lots of ways to kill someone with a pointy stick.”
“Well, leave me out of it,” said the prisoner who’d sat next to Ellison when they were eating dinner. “I want to see where this goes. I’ve never been captured by a sex cult before, and I’ve still got three weeks left of my vacation.”
“You’re spending your vacation as a prisoner of a cult?”
“A sex cult. I’m going to have some stories to tell when I get back.”
“What do you do?”
“I’m a tax accountant.”
“So you’re saying this a step up?”
“What makes you think they’ll let you go after three weeks?” asked Fulke.
“Well, like you guys said, all it would take is a rock or a sharp stick.”
“You don’t understand what you’re in for,” said Fulke. “This is the cult of Qualdir. They specialize in keeping prisoners alive for a very long, long time. They’ll torture you, and brainwash you, and keep you for years.”
“But what are the priestesses like? Are they hot?”
“Hey, Fulke,” said Ellison, trying to avoid blowing into the ear of the guy next to him.
“How did they get you? Was it Remember?”
“Remmie? Of course not. She loves me. What would make you think that?”
“You disappeared from your office and her office is directly across the hall,” said Ellison. “We figured she threw you out her window. Maybe she had someone from the cult waiting in the street below?”
“Nah,” said Fulke. “She’d left for the day. It was someone else.”
“I don’t know. I was locking the door and someone hit me on the head. I didn’t even hear them come up. When I woke up I had a sack over my head and then they brought me here.”
“Do you have any enemies?”
“Just the Krim grid administration,” said Fulke. “They want to silence me in order to keep their secrets.”
“What secrets?” asked one of the other prisoners.
“That Krim is not flat but round,” said Fulke.
“You can tell by the position of the sun and the shadow on the moon,” said Fulke. “But also gravity. Krim uses a basic physics engine. That includes gravity. But gravity wouldn’t work the way it does if the world was flat.”
“Myself, I always wondered about the ocean water,” said another prisoner. “If there’s an edge around the world, and the water falls off it, then how come the oceans haven’t gone dry?”
“Exactly,” said Fulke. “So many questions. Questions they don’t want us asking.”
“What about the edge tours?” asked another prisoner. “I saw an ad up that you can take a trip right to the edge of the world.”
Ellison tried to roll over but there was no escaping the lecture.
He thought about how Fulke had been kidnapped, instead. Maybe Remember snuck back in after Fulke thought she’d left. The minstrels might not have paid attention to her coming and going. After all, she ran the place. Taenaran the Bard was also up there. There was no window in his office, and someone would have probably noticed if he’d carried Fulke down the stairs.
“Down south, in the desert lands, there are some wells where at noon, the sun shines straight down,” said Fulke. “But up here, in the more northern regions, that never happens.”
“Hey, how come we’ve got north and south if Krim is supposed to be flat?” asked another prisoner.
“You’re starting to get it,” said Fulke. “Krim wouldn’t have a magnetic field it was flat, would it? Stands to reason. But back to the well…”
“Shush, did you hear something?” said a prisoner closest to the edge of the wagon.
They listened. Somewhere out in the night a man groaned, then the sound was quickly cut off.
“I think that was somebody getting their throat slit,” the prisoner whispered.
“Hey! Who’s there!” someone yelled as more screams pierced the night.
Ellison wriggled to a sitting position, but he couldn’t see anything.
The wagon rocked slightly as someone crashed into it, then an arrow flew through the wagon’s fabric cover. Ellison ducked down.
“What’s going on out there?” said Fulke.
Then someone flung open the back of the wagon and thrust a lit torch inside.
“Hey boys,” came a familiar voice. “You’re being rescued.”
“Matilda!” said Ellison. “Thank God! How did you find us?”
As his eyes adjusted to the light she saw that she was holding a ring of keys in her free hand. She jingled the keys at them, then tossed them to a woman Ellison recognized as one of Matilda’s many mercenary friends.
“I thought you lost us,” he told her.
“We did,” she said. “They took you into a warehouse north of the docks, and there were wagons coming in and out of there. We couldn’t tell which one you were in.”
“How did you find us?”
“It was the lutes,” she said.