Veiling the lower part of her face, the enchantress reached into the folds of her robe, drew out the Feth Fiada, and swept it over the scene. There was another explosion of light. When Eny opened her eyes, she and her companions were standing outside the Great Hall of Tur Morraigu.
“Escort them within!” ordered the Morrigu.
The brass doors swung open. Eight strong-armed, spear-bearing Fomorians drove the captives in under the ceiling of pinwheel stars and down along the pavement of luminescent pearls until they arrived at the raised platform in front of the hall.
“Take her to the Stone.”
A sharp pain, like the bolt of an electric shock, shot up over Eny’s shoulders and across her back as two guards grasped her by the arms, carried her up the steps, and plumped her down in front of Lia Fail.
“Face me, Maiden!”
Eny obeyed. As she turned, she saw the horrible homunculus slouching beside the marble pedestal, its head inclined to one side, a tiny trickle of drool dribbling from the left corner of its slack-lipped mouth. In the same instant she caught sight of the white, terror-stricken face of Baxter Knowles. Baxter was standing directly opposite her in the grip of another pair of lumbering giants, staring incredulously at the counterfeit Morgan. Don’t worry, she mouthed silently. It isn’t him.
The dark woman extended a hand to Dee and another to Izaak. “Honored scholars!” she said. “A word of advice!”
Neither man responded. Both stood stock still, gazing straight ahead.
Drawing near to John Izaak, the Morrigu took his arm and kissed his cheek. “Sweet friend,” she murmured, “where have I gone wrong?”
The shadow of a smile crossed Izaak’s lips. “How much time do you have?”
She bent closer. “We understand one another, I think. Lia Fail is here. The Maiden is here. What’s missing?”
“You tell me.”
Her green eyes hardened. She turned to John Dee.
“And what of you, old man?” she said. “Wouldn’t you like to be set free?”
“Is it possible you find my dungeon so appealing?”
The ancient alchemist scowled.
The Morrigu rose to her full height and clapped her hands. Immediately two long, supple boughs, like living serpents, slithered down out of the nearest of the pillar-trees. One seized John Izaak by the right wrist. The other took a firm hold of Dee by the left.
“My intent is not to hurt,” she soothed as the coiling branches snapped upwards, yanking the two prisoners into the air. “Only to persuade. Now—how do I consummate this marriage?”
A slight moan escaped Dee’s lips. John Izaak glared down sternly at his tormentor. “You’ll never know,” he said.
“What do you mean? Why not?”
“The key,” he grunted as he swung from side to side, “is lost.”
Izaak grimaced and shook his head.
“Falor! Loosen his tongue!”
The hulking Fomorian stepped forward and looped chains around the prisoners’ ankles. This done, he produced hooks and fastened a pair of iron weights to the end of each chain. Again the Morrigu clapped her hands. The boughs tensed and flexed, raising the writhing figures higher above the floor.
“What is ‘the key?’ Tell me before I tear you limb from limb!”
“Unnnhh!” wailed Dee.
Eny felt as if her heart would burst. Looking up, she saw Morgan’s father dangling at the end of the branch, his face a pale mask of pain. Hot tears welled up in her eyes. “Stop it!” she cried. “You’ll kill him!”
“Not yet,” smiled the enchantress.
Louder and more pitiable grew the groans of John Dee. He seemed struggling to speak. “Carbonek!” he gasped at last. “I cast it into Carbonek!”
The dark woman went and stood directly below the old alchemist, her face livid, her eyes glowing. “The stream that runs beside the Gral Castle?”
Dee looked down. He winced and opened his mouth. But before he could utter another word there arose a din of clashing weapons, sharp cries, and shattering masonry at the rear of the Great Hall. In the next instant the brazen doors flew open and five armed figures burst into the room. At their head strode a tall, lanky warrior, cloaked, hooded, and brandishing a blade of bright steel. Eny recognized him at once.
“Simon!” she cried, her heart leaping within her. “Simon Brach!”
(To be continued …)