Chapter XXIX: Oblique

                                                                                            An excerpt from
                                                                                    Diary of the Oblique
                                                                                                 Entry 13:257
                                                                               Date 66-72 of 7499 SC

It's been a week.

A week since my ordeal in the Worship Hall.

A week since Hierto subjected me to his heartless tortures, and locked me up in one of his Torture Chambers.

I knew then that this was one of the places Forsaken had been imprisoned. He hadn't been dying of an unexplained illness, as Mother had always said. He was being slowly tortured to death.

Presumably, he had wasted away in the very chamber I lay in, over five days ago.

And there was a control panel in there.

Forsaken clearly hadn't been able to operate it.

But it was open now, now that I had prised the one open in the Worship Hall. And I had a fair idea how it worked.

A little tinkering here and there, and my prison was unsealed. I had crawled to the hospital and stayed there for several days; I wouldn't have stayed there any longer if you'd paid me, what with Intuitive being brought in and smelling as if she'd been roasted like the chickens in the Zookeep for our midday meal. I could see her face - it was twisted, dark and burnt. More work of that frozen-hearted (excuse the terrible pun) Hierto and his icy fellows? I think not.

But I was away before she woke up, before she could interrogate me. Mother must have seen me go, as Motherpresence was on at all times in the Hospital so she could observe and comfort her ill Children. I wondered why Mother let me go. Maybe on Hierto's orders, I don't know, so much has changed recently.

And I'd heard every other word of the Court held by Pious and Intuitive as well, not long after Loyal vanished. Everyone's blaming Mother and Father. They really are as stupid as they look.

So I made it my mission to break into the Worship Hall, to prove them wrong.

I had scarcely the energy to even talk to anyone, so I stayed away. No-one saw me as I sneaked around the Colony for a whole afternoon, looking for panels that might have been useful.

In the end I had stolen up to the Worship Hall, avoiding Mother and Clever, who for some reason were moving purposefully towards the building. I followed quietly, hiding behind corners and sticking to the minimal midday shadows. Mother and Clever passed through the entrance to the Worship Hall, which closed immediately behind them.

I frowned in mild annoyance. I couldn't have expected the Worship Hall's doors to remain open indefinitely. I set off in search of another panel which might have been useful. It really was absurd how each opened so easily. But they were still difficult to find - I had been searching for ten minutes before I discovered anything useful.

And that was when I found my Torture Chamber (from the outside) - round the back of the Hall, tucked behind a stout, branching tree and a wire fence. A tiny barred air vent was visible beneath the foundations, and metal shutters were drawn over the opening.

I pulled my trusty knife out of my pocket and wrenched at the flimsy panels. They came away with ridiculous ease,

But then I heard footsteps beyond the opening. Someone was in my Torture Chamber! Was it Forsaken still, moved perhaps? Or -

"Clever," I gasped, my voice hoarse from lack of use. His nervous, pale face turned towards the opening. "W-w-what the hell are you doing here?"

"I don't know," said Clever, bemused. "Where did you come from?"

"You'd better g-get out of h-here," I said quietly, pulling off more of the panelling. "You'll have to stand on that SAU to even g-get high enough -"

"No, you don't understand! The Cold Gods, they're -"

"I know, I know, I was there, you plonker, now move!"

"But do you know what that means? Mother and Father weren't lying! Mother wasn't responsible for shutting the -"

And then, the door to the Torture Chamber opened.

Hierto was stood there, looking commandingly into the room.

"How are you getting on?" he said loudly. "I see you have only completed half of what I've assigned you ... maybe you're not as Clever as your adjective suggests."

"Quite possibly," said Clever meekly, though I could hear a touch of apprehension in his voice.

"Come with me," said Hierto, and he gestured towards the door. Clever stood up and followed him, with a touch of anxiety in his step.

Loath to abandon him, I stuck my head back round the edge of the opening. The door was closing. I jumped down into the cell, the impact jarring my joints after so long in bed, and quickly and quietly jammed my foot in the door to stop it closing. Silently, I slipped into the corridor to catch a glimpse of Hierto's shiny heels disappearing round the corner. I pulled the cell door ajar and made to follow my quarry.

The End

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