“You!” exclaimed Eny. “What are you doing here?”
“He brought me,” Baxter said sulkily, pointing at the indisposed guard. “They were going to make me room with you. They said you deserved it. I’m not sure what they meant by that.”
“I don’t know. Somewhere else.”
There was a soft rattle of falling stones and gravel as Dee and Izaak re-emerged from the tunnel. Eny turned in time to see John Dee stumble and stagger against the wall. John Izaak hurried over and took her by the hand.
“Who is this?” he said, gazing wide-eyed at Baxter; and then, catching sight of the bulky shape on the floor—“Is he dead?”
“Unconscious, I think,” she answered. “Come on!”
Yanking Baxter to his feet, she rushed out into the passage.
“Follow me, Dee!” cried John Izaak. “As I expected, our escape has come about in an entirely unexpected fashion!”
Without looking back to see if the others were behind her, Eny took off running down the narrow torch-lit corridor. It appeared to have been hewn from living rock. Thick oaken doors like the door to her own cell were set into its dripping walls on either side every twenty feet or so, and in between the doors red torches flared and guttered in heavy iron sconces. Big black spiders hung from the ceiling in dirty ragged webs. The air was stale and damp, and the whole place smelled like a sewer.
The passage ran on in a straight line for about a hundred feet before curving slightly to the right. Rounding this bend, Eny threw a glance back over her shoulder. Neither Baxter, Izaak, nor Dee were within sight, but she could hear their splashing footsteps, for the floor was covered with half an inch of stagnant water.
“Hurry!” she called out, pausing to let them catch up.
Baxter was panting heavily by the time he came around the curvature in the wall, but that was the least of Eny’s concerns. For when the two older men came into view she could see at once that they would never be able to keep up the pace. Thin, haggard, and worn as he was, Morgan’s father was lurching along with the lanky Dee perched precariously on his back. The bony arms of the ancient alchemist were wrapped around John Izaak’s neck, and his tangled beard was flowing down over his chest.
“He says he can’t walk,” gasped Izaak.
“Are you sure?” said Eny, drawing near and looking up into Dee’s watery eyes.
Dee glared back and said nothing.
“I’m sure,” said Izaak, with a weary shake of his head. “Maybe you’ll know how he feels someday. If you live to be four hundred years old.”
“Four hundred!” spluttered Baxter, backing away from the two bearded men with an expression of pure terror in his pale gray eyes.
“Let’s keep moving,” said Eny. “We’ll go slower from now on.”
They forged ahead, then, Baxter sticking as close to Eny as possible, Izaak sloshing along in the rear with his burden. The corridor continued to curve, first to the right, then to the left, then to the right again. After a while they began to get the distinct impression that it was spiraling upwards. There were fewer doors in the walls now, and fewer torches between them. The light grew dimmer and smokier as they plodded forward.
The only window they ever came across was a sort of large round porthole glazed with thick wavy glass. Through it they could see a shimmering, swaying world of coral and kelp and darting schools of silver fish. As Eny peered out, a big black fish with a gaping mouth, three rows of sharp teeth, and two glowing green eyes swam up and glared at her through the glass.
“Look!” she exclaimed. “This part of the tower is actually under water!”
“As one might have guessed,” Dee mumbled ironically, glancing down at the floor.
“Thank God,” breathed Izaak, “that we never succeeded in breaking through an exterior wall!”
Every so often dark shapes scrambled out of holes and splashed across the passage in front of them. Feverish-looking eyes glittered in the shadows of several larger openings in the rock. Often, as they passed the door of a cell, they could hear the faint echoes of moans and cries within. Once there was a blood-curdling screech that made Baxter yelp and grab Eny by the arm.
(To be continued …)