The big key clanked heavily in the lock. Slowly the iron-studded, brass-bound, triple-ply oaken door began to move, squealing on its rusty hinges.
“Back to your own cell!” whispered Eny, shoving John Izaak towards the opening in the wall. “Him too!” she added, indicating Dee, who was standing in the middle of the floor like a great awkward bird.
“But what will you do?” protested Izaak, ducking into the hole and dragging Dee after him.
“You’ll see. Just wait for me on the other side.”
Bracing herself for what was to come, Eny took her sling and sack of stones and crouched in the shadow of the tunnel. Fitting a stone into the sling’s pouch, she held her breath and watched the creaking door.
That’s when she noticed that her hand was trembling. The thought of striking anybody—even a brutish Fomorian—was repulsive to her. It went against the grain of her temperament. It contradicted all of her most deeply cherished convictions. She didn’t want to do it. And yet it had to be done. Closing her eyes, she groped for courage in the darkness.
In that instant a vision rose before her. She saw herself standing beside a shallow ford in the middle of a wide green plain, taking aim at the pursuing Fomorians while the Fir Bolg made a feckless attempt at self-defense. She saw the sling whirl above her head. She saw the stone flash forth like lightning. Then the image faded.
It won’t be the first time, she told herself, taking a firm grip of the sling and stepping out into the cell.
The creaking door swiveled inward.
But what was this? Not one but two guards! Two dark shapes silhouetted in black against the ruddy light of the corridor. The first was huge, hulking, and apish. The one behind it was smaller and shorter, but still too big for Eny to tackle single-handed.
She hadn’t planned on this. She could only hit one mark at a time. For a split-second she hesitated, wondering what might happen if the second of the two guards were to raise an alarm while she tried to re-load. But it was too late to change her mind. In one swift motion she whipped the sling over her head, snapped her arm forward, and released the cord. The stone shot across the chamber like a bullet.
Thwack! Without so much as a whimper, the big round-headed Fomorian pitched forward and crashed to the floor like a load of bricks.
“Mr. Izaak! Help me!” shouted Eny, reaching for another sling-stone. “There are two of them out here!”
But even as her voice rang out, the second figure dropped to its knees and raised its arms above its head.
“Don’t hurt me!” it pleaded. I’ll do anything you say!”
Eny let the sling fall to her side and took two steps towards the doorway. She looked at the person kneeling there, then rubbed her eyes and looked again.
It was Baxter Knowles.
(To be continued …)