“Help!” wailed Baxter, clinging to the net with one hand and reaching up with the other. His pockets were bulging with jewels. Morgan’s lost bolg, which hung drooping from his waist, dripped with rubies and diamonds every time he made a move. “Get me out of here!”
“You traitor!” said Morgan. “You disgusting thief!”
“I’m sorry!” whimpered Baxter. “Really and truly!”
“You took my bag! And my sword!”
“I can explain!”
“I don’t want an explanation. I want my stuff. Hand it up now, or I’ll leave you to the crows!”
“Don’t! Please! I’ll do whatever you say!”
“On second thought, maybe I’ll just cut the net. I can pick up my possessions down there!”
“No! Hold on—you can’t! I’ve got both our swords!”
Morgan hooked a thumb over his shoulder. “There are lots of sharp stones back down this passageway.”
“Wait! I’ll give it back!” Quickly Baxter undid the bolg from his belt and lifted it above his head. “Here! I haven’t touched it! I never even took it out of the bag!”
Morgan knelt on the ledge. “Why did you do this, Baxter? And after I promised to let you come along!”
Baxter lowered his gaze. “I couldn’t help myself, I guess. It’s got some kind of power over me. Ever since I saw it for the first time—that night of the storm and the earthquake in Santa Piedra. I saw what it did for you, Izaak. You weren’t the same kid anymore. After that I wanted to—to be your friend.”
“That’s not friendship.”
“Why not? You’ve got something I need. I said I’d help you. You can help me, too.”
Baxter raised his head and looked straight up into Morgan’s eyes. “My dad hates me,” he said.
Morgan stared. “Hates you?”
“He thinks I’m worthless. He called me lazy. He said I’d never amount to anything. According to him, I’m a blot on the Knowles name. But if I had that kind of power—”
Morgan couldn’t help pitying Baxter. He knew what his own dad meant to him. More importantly, he knew what it was like to be without a dad. He understood what Baxter would be up against if Mr. Knowles stayed in New York City and never came back. A strange, sad warmth welled up inside him as he looked down at the boy in the net. “What if you had that kind of power?” he said. “What then?”
“I’d use it. I’d show him that I could be something after all! I’d make him love me! That’s what!”
Morgan lay flat on the narrow ledge and stretched his right hand down as far as he could reach. “Give me the bag,” he grunted. “I don’t think you can make anyone love you. But I will help you up if you give me the bag.”
“Take it!” said Baxter with a grin. “I’ll never steal from you again! I promise!”
Morgan hauled the bolg up, opened the flap, and ran his fingers tenderly over the smooth roundness of the sword’s golden pommel. Mine again, he thought with a sense of profound relief and satisfaction. During the time it took to draw a single breath he felt strongly tempted to get up, strap the bag to his belt, and head back down the tunnel. But then he thought about Baxter and his father. He thought of own dad languishing in the Morrigu’s dungeon.
Morgan shook his head. Baxter was an idiot, but he couldn’t possibly leave him in this fix. The problem was, how to get him out of that net?
He leaned further over the ledge and stretched out with his fingers. “It’s no use!” he groaned. Your hand is just beyond my reach!”
Baxter looked back at him with an expression of fear in his pale gray eyes. For the second time since he’d been in the Sidhe, Morgan thought about the miraculous powder inside the pommel of Paracelsus’ sword and wondered whether its transportative powers might help him in this situation. He drew out the hilt and tried again to unscrew the golden ball from the handle. It refused to yield.
“What is this place anyway?” he heard Baxter say. “What are all these nets for?”
“I have no idea,” Morgan responded. “Probably the work of the Tuatha De Danann. A trap for their enemies. I wish we hadn’t left that rope hanging in the tree.”
“Hold on a second!” said Baxter, a light dawning in his face. He grasped a corner of the net and shook it. “We’ve got all the rope we need! And I’ve still got my Danaan sword!”
“Brilliant!” said Morgan. “Cut a piece from the edge. Only be careful you don’t do it in a spot where you might fall through. Then toss the end up to me!”
In a few moments they were standing together on the narrow ledge at the top of the precarious stone stairway. At their feet the country beyond the mountains stretched away into a dim blue distance. On the left, two forks of a glittering stream played hide and seek among the silver-edged hills and rills of a yellow plain. On the right a long, glassy, serpentine lake glittered in the sunlight. Far beyond the lake a dark-blue finger of the sea zig-zagged up into the land at the base of a misty promontory. And out beyond the promontory, rising up out of the hazy ocean like the fluttering hem of an approaching shadow, lay the long, dark line of what appeared to be an island sleeping at the edge of the world.
Squinting and shading his eyes against the sun, Morgan stared hard at this island. The longer he stared, the more firmly convinced he became that he could see something like a sharp spike or a thin spire sticking up from the crest of its jagged spine. He thought he knew the name of that island. He thought he knew what that spike must be. He turned and looked at his companion.
“Thanks,” said Baxter, offering his hand to Morgan.
“No time for that now,” Morgan answered. “Follow me. We don’t have a minute to lose.”
And with that he spun on his heel and went leaping down the stairway in the face of the cliff.