Isabella smiled at Beth, taking her hand.
“Ready?” she asked.
Beth took a deep breath and nodded. She knew this was how she was going to get Robert back. She was going to go there and get him herself.
There was a knock on the door and then it opened. Thorn entered.
“I’d like to go with you, if that’s okay,” he said. “I want to repay Robert, for when he went looking for me.”
“Of course,” Beth said before Isabella could answer.
Thorn smiled and walked over, revealing Daniel in the doorway.
“I wish I could go,” he said wistfully.
“Well, Lucius seemed to imagine you would, because he got a permit for you too. Both Evil and Azra signed it,” Isabella said with a grin.
This stunned Daniel to silence for a while. “You mean... my uncles want me to come home?”
He seemed to consider this before stepping forward. Isabella took his hand, smiling at him. Beth joined hands with Thorn.
The unnatural heat engulfed the four of them. Aaralyn stepped back, waving. Suddenly, black flames swallowed them, cutting the world from their sight.
When Beth could see again, she saw that they were in a large cavern. There was a huge metal gate built into one of the walls, guarded by two dozen men.
“The circumstances of my last visit to this place were very different,” Daniel murmured, looking around.
Isabella led the way to the gate.
“Stop,” called one of the guards. “What business have you here?”
“I have a permit for this human,” Isabella responded.
“And the exile?” another of the guards spat, looking at Daniel.
“For him too.”
“Let me see these permits.”
One of the guardsmen strode over, pulling the pieces of paper out of Isabella’s grasp, looking them over.
“Who are you? How did you get Lord Evil and Lord Azra to sign these?” the guard demanded.
“My name’s Isabella,” she said, standing straighter. A hush of realisation settled over the guards.
“The mother of Lucius?” asked one of those by the gate.
“He is my son, yes.”
“Let them through,” barked the senior guard.
The gates were pulled open to let them pass.
Beth looked around this world in surprise. The moon that hung in the sky had a slight blue tinge, making her dress appear black. The surrounding buildings were mainly rundown shacks, all stacked on top of each other.
“The slums,” Isabella explained. “Not a nice place to live.”
“You’re late,” said Lucius, approaching on a horse-looking creature.
The beast he was riding could be mistaken for a horse at first glance, but when you looked closer, you could see that it had scales instead of hide, and its eyes somewhat resembled a dying fire. When it exhaled, a small flame shot out of its nostrils. Lucius rode the creature bareback.
“Sorry,” Isabella said.
Lucius glanced over his shoulder and whistled sharply. Four more of the not-horses trotted forward from behind him.
“The Sarmiine hate me,” Isabella mumbled.
Lucius laughed. “You’ve never met these ones. Trained them myself.”
“Doesn’t mean anything.”