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A Dark and Desperate Hope

Avariel jumped excitedly, making another awkward bunny-neigh.  “Yes!  I’ll take you there in a few minutes!  Let me just get a few things first!”

Arnold was much less enthusiastic, “You want to storm the villains stronghold, which is filled with his allies, covered in broken power cables which cover the ENTIRE CITY, and has kept Avariel and all of her clockworks at bay?” Arnold paused for emphasis and then shouted, “There are easier ways we can commit suicide again!

Erica smacked Arnold’s head lightly and covered his mouth, “We have a patient who’s trying to sleep!”

Beryl grinned as Arnold grumbled at his chastisement.   “I have to go. The people who were going to hurt me are there, the vine-wires are growing out of it, and Avariel said that Beatrixe’s and Tepic’s health are connected to what she’ll find there.  Everything is leading me towards a confrontation.”

“Then let’s not go there!” Arnold was hit lightly by Erica, reminding him that they had a patient that was trying to rest.  He continued as if nothing had happened, “If everyone and everything in this universe is trying to herd us to the Power Station, I say we go as far from it as possible just out of spite!”

Beryl growled unhappily at Arnold’s short-sighted and petty display, but held his tongue once again. He picked up Arnold’s head instead of arguing further and went after Avariel who was now armed with several tools.  Hammers, spanners, chisels, and a few emergency apples were fitted into two belts with holsters she had strapped over her chest in an X formation.

Erica insisted on preparing a meal for him.  Arnold declined for them both and gasped when Beryl thanked her just as quickly.  Erica left and Arnold was left to stare at Beryl, who removed Tepic’s hat to eat at the table.  “Now I KNOW you aren’t me!  You’re not even going to watch her cook it!!”

“No, I won’t.”  Beryl fixed Arnold with a firm gaze.  “I don’t have to because I trust her.” Beryl paused for a moment, and then added, “Like you trusted the urchins when you took their Oath.”

“What oath?” Arnold seemed genuinely confused.  Confused and upset, “I never took any oath!”

Beryl had begun to suspect what Arnold was and this was one more nail back onto the head’s coffin.  The only thing he still could not figure out was why Zaros had thought that he would need this part of him that was dead and buried.  That mystery was the only reason he would not leave him here with Erica, who had returned with a meal and had brought a needle and thread to stitch Arnold’s wound.

It was clear that Erica had put a lot of effort into preparing healthy meals for her patients and had tried to do the same for Beryl.  Though it was the worst ‘hospital food’ he had ever tasted, Beryl ate everything Erica offered him.  He had tried to forget how hungry he had become, but now that food was in front of him he gorged himself, eating as a cat did without his hand or utensils.

“Kitty was hungry.” Avariel said as she nibbled on an apple and watched Arnold shout in protest as Erica sewed his sterilized wound shut.  Beryl took the time in between bites to ask how they could infiltrate the station.  “I’ve already tried to go in through the front, but the aether-cables won’t let anyone within three unicorn lengths!”

“But the people have to have a way of getting inside and out again?”

“They use airships and possibly even my portal generator now!”  Avariel exclaimed, but then added slightly happier,  “At least, if they know how to work it.  They do know how to work the tesla cannons though.”

Beryl pushed his finished plate away.  The cannons meant that he could not go borrow the Flying Vole to get inside, but there was another way.  “What about the sewer entrance with the mushrooms?”

“That was what I was thinking!” Avariel let out a soft sigh of disappointment. “But I got electrocuted the last time I attempted it!”  Beryl inwardly cursed, he had forgotten about the vine-wires in the sewers.

“Considering they’re walking about the city as they please, I’m assuming no one here has tried the obvious and called Jedburgh and the militia,” Arnold muttered, and then failed to bite Erica’s hand as she went for another pass of the needle. 

“Well, no.  But I did send in a few heroes!”  Arnold audibly groaned and tried to hit his head against the table.  “They attempted to get in through the caves that you came in from!  Haven’t heard back from them though.”

The caves.  The same ones that Margo December had led him down that were free of the vine-wires.  They might reek of death, but it might be their only hope.  He explained as much to Avariel and she agreed, though she warned him she did not know those tunnels and the heroes may have gotten lost down there.

“Or worse!” Arnold grunted as Erica finished the stitches, which did make the wound look slightly better.  Beryl stood up and collected Arnold’s head and Avariel led him back to the cave system, asking Erica to take good care  of the ‘squirrely’ until she returned.  Beryl gave her Tepic’s hat and asked her to do the same.

Erica hugged them goodbye, much to Arnold’s chagrin, and then waved them off as they departed into the intricate caverns below Clockhaven.  “Keep an eye out for the Hunter!  And do not talk about you-know-what!”

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