And with that it was as if a floodgate had burst open. A deafening roar broke out in the hall. Screams and shouts mingled with the din of clashing blades. All in a moment Morgan found himself in the middle of a raging battle. His heart pounding, he raised the blue blade above his head and prepared to defend himself. But before he could get his bearings, someone seized the sword from behind and wrested it violently from his grasp. He whipped around to see who it was.
“Sorry, Izaak!” sneered Baxter. “But all’s fair in—aauuggh! My hands! My hands! Hot! Burning! Help! Help!”
As Morgan stood staring, Baxter dropped the sword and fell to the floor in a writhing heap. In the same instant Simon Brach, once again in the shape of the old custodian, appeared the midst of the melee.
“To me, lad!” he cried, waving frantically and pointing at the sword. “Quickly now!”
Morgan glanced back over his shoulder. The Morrigu, recovered from her sneezing fit, was bearing down upon him at full speed, her face a pale flame. Catching up the sword, he tossed it to Simon hilt-first. In turn, Simon snatched the glittering blade out of the air and ran with it straight to Eny, who was still fiddling away like a windmill in a hurricane.
Then came a blur as Morgan dodged to one side and ducked behind the lumbering shape of Falor. Darting and weaving, he fought his way through a confused mass of flailing limbs and swinging weapons until at last he reached the foot of the stairs. There he looked up and saw the Morrigu locked in a deadly embrace with the homunculus.
Thanks goodness! he thought as the two combatants fell and rolled together across the floor. She thinks it’s me!
Whirling around, he caught sight of Eny with the Sword of Parcelsus in her hands. She had laid her fiddle aside and was standing in front of Lia Fail with the point poised directly above the rough, pitted surface of the old gray stone. As he watched, she leaned forward and thrust straight down with all her might. To his great surprise, the Sword pierced the Stone as if it were nothing but a bale of hay. But as it did, the blade snapped off short in Eny’s hand. Then came a flash of light and a crash of thunder as Eny, recoiling from the blow, stumbled backwards with the hilt and the broken shard in her hand.
All at once a howl arose from somewhere amongst the tangle of tree-shaped pillars. The columns trembled and the whirling stars in the shadowy spaces above their intertwining branches sparked and fizzled and fell. There was a great shock as of a terrible earthquake and the stained glass window above the dais shattered into a million fragments. The whole tower shuddered and swayed. A pillar toppled and fell, crushing Falor son of Balor beneath its weight. Morgan looked around and saw the other Fomorian guards stampeding towards the door.
“A hand with this!” cried Simon Brach, who was now standing beside the Stone.
Jumping up the stairs to join the old janitor, Morgan turned and saw his father running beside him. Eochy was there, too, and Slanga and Crimthann. Eny came after them, and together they took a firm hold of Lia Fail and raised it from its resting place, broken blade and all. Then they bore it between them to the rear of the dais while Simon and Sengann dragged the marble pedestal to a spot just below the broken window and shoved it up against the oaken doors.
“Heave away, now!” ordered Simon, leaping to the top of the pedestal. With Sengann’s help, he reached down and assisted the others to raise the Stone to the level of the window sill. “One—two—three! Up and over she goes!”
Hands and shoulders to the Stone, they shoved and lifted with every ounce of strength they had. At last, with a heavy, grating sound, Lia Fail slid over the crumbling sill and toppled out the window. Morgan jumped up beside Simon just in time to see it crash into the turbid waves at the base of the tower far below. In the same instant a terrible, blood-curdling screech rent the air as, between the shards of broken glass, a great black bird hurtled out the window and plummeted into the sea after the Stone.
“After me, now, all of you!” cried Simon, leaping down the steps. “We haven’t a moment to lose!”
Then he dashed off down the aisle while bricks and stars and beams and branches fell crashing around him on every side. John Dee, John Izaak, and the four Fir Bolg followed close behind.
“Hurry, Morgan!” shouted Eny, gathering up her fiddle and the broken sword as the tower heaved and lurched violently beneath their feet.
Morgan looked up. There on the pavement beside the shattered remains of the homunculus lay the forgotten Feth Fiada. Quickly he snatched it and shoved it into his bolg. As he did, he heard a moan and turned to see Baxter Knowles lying prone on the floor, whining and whimpering but apparently none the worse for wear.
“Get up!” said Morgan, helping the other boy to his feet. “We’ve got to get out of here fast!”