Somebody else is in here. Spurgan knew this with a dead certainty. The question was no longer a matter of if they were being watched, but rather by how many? He clung to Thomas a bare second longer, unwilling to let the moment end. The stress of leadership has exhausted him. It was so unlike him to sleep while danger approached.
“Did I awaken you, Baby Brother?” It was a whisper but even so the harsh sibilance was unmistakable. Spurgan rose, balling his tingling fingers into fists. Like a ghost, Nefertiti separated herself from the shadows. Spurgan was surprised to see, clutched tightly to her side, one of the tender ones, a skinny lapine-type creature who wore the look of disbelief.
“Nefertiti,” Spurgan spoke coolly, cocking his head in the direction of the urchin. “Those creatures are not permitted in the tunnels.”
“Always the sweet one Spurgan.” Her voice resonated with unnatural rawness. “This little one is in my service, she is safe – so long as she gets me to the church on time. I have a date with Pizarrro and Moonwall.”
“What business have you with those?” Thomas spoke sharply as he rose from the floor.
“Oh, Little Brother,” Nefertiti feigned a sad compassion. “You don’t look well.”
“What business, I repeat?” Thomas spoke with a confident authority.
“What business?” Her voice danced with a mock incredulity. “I am on Father’s business.”
Spurgan felt his body swoon. Could it be true that Father had returned? He reached for Thomas’s hand and squeezed it for just a moment before letting it drop. Thomas had yet to reply.
“Why so silent, Thomas dear?” Nefertiti spoke as though she were taunting. “Don’t tell me you have forsaken Father?”
Thomas inclined his head, as though he were about to lunge, when Nefertiti unexpectedly withdrew a small handgun from within her robes.
“I will admit it is pedestrian.” Nefertiti said without apology. “I found it in the pocket of a mason I ate the other day.” She glanced at the gun with pure indifference then aimed it at Thomas’s chest. “But it is effective.”
“Where is he?” asked Thomas.
“He is out making preparations,” she replied. “We are going to the northern mines – perhaps as early as tomorrow, depending on how it goes with Moonwall and Pizarro.”
Spurgan was riveted as he made sense of this latest revelation.
“Why now, to the mines?”
“Why not?” Nefertiti replied. “Why sit and wait? Every day we wait, wait, wait. To what end? Are we waiters Thomas? Have we been domesticated by rules?”
“Rules!” barked Thomas. “We were made to follow rules.”
“Can I not cheer you, dear Brother?” Nefertiti lamented. “You know there is no law carved in stone. We are powerful beings and we have free will.”
“Unhand the little one!” Thomas ordered.
“Or what?” said Nefertiti, digging her nails into the child’s neck until she drew a shout of alarm.
It was a great relief when Spurgan noticed Nefertiti’s weapon was no longer aimed at Thomas. How strange, he thought in a timespan too short for words. The discharge sounded more like a rush of wind than a sharp pop.