Geoffrey slowly eased Steuan’s door closed. He’d managed to get in and out without getting caught, without making a sound, or attracting any attention. He didn’t normally engage in breaking and entering. When he needed to have anything stolen on World of Battle, he had plenty of thieves he could subcontract to. Unfortunately, he hadn’t been in Heartburgh long enough to find his way to the criminal underground, if the town even had one.
As the door latched into place, he breathed out in relief and turned around.
“What are you doing?” Flame yelled from down the hall. She must have just come up the stairs and seen him leave the room.
“What happened?” Steuan appeared behind her.
“I could ask you the same thing,” Geoffrey said. “What are you doing?” He pointed at her. “What are you doing with that charlatan?”
“Dill does not actually have any significant medical benefits,” Geoffrey said. “It was all a lie.” He pushed past her.
“What the hell, dude?” Steuan stepped out of the way. “Are you on something?”
Geoffrey didn’t look at him as he walked to the end of the hallway and started down the stairs.
“Did he take anything?” Flame asked.
Geoffrey paused halfway down the staircase to listen.
“It doesn’t look like he touched anything,” Steuan said. “Is that guy just crazy?”
“He might be jealous,” said Flame.
Geoffrey heard the door closed and the voices cut off. He turned and continued down the stairs. He found the general in the kitchen, arguing with the innkeeper.
“You have to have two separate piece of bread for it to be a sandwich,” the general said. “A hot dog is not a sandwich because the bun is one piece of a bread. A quesadilla is not a sandwich. But a burger is a sandwich because the top bun and the bottom bun are separate.”
“Luke, you were supposed to keep an eye out,” said Geoffrey.
The general turned around. “What? Sure, I’ll be right there.” He turned back again to the innkeeper and held up a plate with a grilled cheese sandwich. “You didn’t slice the bread all the way through. That means this isn’t a sandwich.”
“Fine, then give it back and I’ll eat it,” said the innkeeper.
“No, I want you to admit that it’s not a sandwich,” said the general. “It’s a cheese dog. No. A hot cheese roll.”
“It’s not a roll though, is it?” said the innkeeper. “It’s bread.”
“But not two slices of bread. Separate slices.”
Geoffrey grabbed the general by the shoulder and pulled him out of the kitchen.
“Fine, fine, I’ll guard the staircase,” said the general.
“It’s too late. I’ve already been caught. You were supposed to be the lookout.”
“I was distracting the innkeeper so you could get the keys.”
“I got the keys. Then Flame and Steuan walked in on me.”
“Ouch. Want a sandwich?”
Geoffrey went back to the castle, instead.
The troops were assembled by the front entrance, wearing long cloaks that almost covered their swords and armor. They were crowded at the bottom of the castle steps, holding torches. Abigail stood above them, preaching.
“And though we walk through the valley of death, we will fear no evil,” she said.
“But as we walk down Ludpers Street we will fear the potholes,” said one of the soldiers.
“And as we walk past the granary, we will fear the rats,” added another.
“And as we walk along Castle Street,” said a third. “Hold on, I can’t think of anything on Castle Street.”
Abigail frowned at them. “As I was saying, though we walk through the valley of the shadow of death, we will fear no evil. You are with me and your swords and pikes comfort me.”
Geoffrey found Ayoob watching off to the side and joined him.
“The soldiers are going with her to that cave where she’s going to meditate?”
“No,” said Ayoob. “You know those rounds they do every night through the town and around the outer wall? She’s coming with them on that first part, through the town. We’re just waiting for the choir. Oh, there they are.”
A half-dozen people, also in robes, were hurrying through the main gate.
“Didn’t you just start this religion a couple of hours ago? How did you already get a choir?”
“It’s from the non-demominational church she preaches at in town,” said Ayoob. “Bartram hired them for the night.”
“Is she going to go to the cave by herself then?”
“No, there’s a storage room in one of the towers.” Ayoob pointed up. “You can’t see it from here, it’s on the north side of the castle. It has a great view of the mountains. We decided she can meditate there. It’s just as good.”
He left to meet the choir.
“We are at a crossroads of choice and ego,” said Abigail. “Who are we? Where on the great circuit will we be reborn? We are in the midst of an internal awakening of beauty that will align us with the quantum cycle itself.”
“Quantum cycle! Quantum cycle!” chanted the soldiers.
“Reality has always been bursting with entities whose lives are anointed by inevitability,” said Abigail. “It is time to take our life-force to the next level. We are in the midst of a cosmic unveiling of self-actualization that will be a gateway to the grid itself. Let the magic essence burst into flames.”
“Do you want us to burn the witches?” asked a soldier. The others took up the chant. “Burn the witches! Burn the witches!”
Then the choir burst into a spirited rendition of the “Age of Aquarius,” now safely out of copyright, and Abigail descended the steps.
“Make way! Make way!” Ayoob yelled, though nobody was blocking him. “Make way for the goddess of the mountains!” he led the way out through the castle gates and into town, followed by Abigail, the choir, and the soldiers.
Geoffrey watched them go, then went up the castle stairs, where the Duke stood, eating an apple.
“She was just saying random nonsense, wasn’t she?” the Duke asked.
“That’s what it sounded like to me,” said Geoffrey. “Do you think anyone will fall for it?”
“Well, it’s not like there’s anything else to do up here,” said the Duke. “Besides, who doesn’t like the idea of having a goddess around?””