The Assembler

Chapter 11 - The Crystal Cave

Jean G Hontz

@copyright 2009 all rights reserved

They trod along quietly, and Cyril lost the will to complain. The events of the day, including the terror at actually being shot were taking their toll. He felt exhausted, and it was only with concerted effort he could raise one foot after the other. He glanced back to see how Margot was doing. She looked bedraggled and pale and her eyes were wide and bruised. He wanted nothing more than to take her in his arms and promise her that he'd never let anything scary or bad ever happen to her again. But she was Ned’s. Damn his eyes.

Then, when Cyril was about to call for a halt so he could rest for a moment, Ned came to a stop in front of an ancient wood and iron door. It looked old enough to belong in a castle. How did it get here?

Ned set down his torch and Cyril gratefully set down his box. He rolled his shoulders a moment and attempted to ignore the shooting fireworks that ran through them and up his neck. He was breathing hard too.

Margot tuned the light of her torch downward and then moved up next to Ned. Cyril put his head next to theirs.

“Stand back behind that rock. Keep the torches lit, but at minimum. I’ll slip in and close the door behind me, but I’ll leave it unlocked. Give me five minutes. Then, if there isn’t any noise or I don't shout otherwise, come in. Clear?”

Margot nodded reluctantly. Cyril met Ned’s eyes. “Emmie...”

“We’re going to get her back. I swear to you Cyril. First we have to do this. It’s the only way I see that we can make certain they let her go. I can bargain with them if I have the Assembler somewhere safe.”

Cyril nodded, miserable. Ned laid a hand on his shoulder. “Keep Margot safe, all right?”

Cyril nodded. Margot frowned at Ned. Then the two moved to hide themselves behind the rock. Ned put his torch close to the door, manipulated a lock of some sort then abruptly extinguished his torch.

The only way Cyril knew that Ned had opened that door, was by a change in the air around them. A breeze rushed by them filled with scents of... He wasn’t certain what the smells were. But whatever they were, they weren’t native to seaside caverns.

Margot leaned in so close her lips touched Cyril’s ear. It was torture. Her voice finally roused him from his exquisite misery. “Leave the box here. We’d best be ready to fight our way out.”

Cyril, horrified at the thought, turned his face to look at her and his lips brushed hers. Soft and oh so sweet. She didn't pull away. Her eyes were wide but she regarded him steadily. He tried a tentative kiss.

She put both hands on his chest and pushed him away. “Idiot. We could be in deadly danger in a moment. Now is not the time..”

“Now is the perfect time,” Cyril declared softly. “Unless you and Ned...”

Margo looked genuinely shocked at the idea. “No!”

“Oh,” he replied happily. Now to make sure they both lived through all of this, got Emmie back, and kept Ned out of jail. Then maybe...

Margot stepped away from him, watching him warily. “Cyril...”

“I know,” he whispered back. “Minds on business. Emmie’s life depends on it.”

Margot bit her lip then nodded. “He loves her, you know.”

Cyril would have laugh out loud if he wasn't trying to be extra quiet. “He left her. I don't think so.”

“Idiot,” Margot said lovingly and stepped off to stand near the door, and be ready.

Cyril, his mind going a million miles a minute about a subject he was no expert on, finally moved to join her. “I wish I had a weapon of some sort. A stick even. I never thought to pick up a stick.”

Margot put her fingers to her lips and they waited. Cyril made himself imagine Emmie. He had to find the courage to help get her free.

It seemed a great deal longer than five minutes when Margot nodded. She picked up the torch, slid the hurricane cover down completely so there was no light at all. Cyril luckily had his hand on the reassuring oak of the door, or he'd have become disoriented in the near total darkness.

Margot waited for their eyes to adjust. There seemed to be a sort of ambient light. Perhaps from the rocks themselves. Then Cyril felt her shove the door open just an inch or so. It made no noise as it moved. Again the breeze seeking an exit was the only sign of a change in their environment.

Margot took Cyril’s hand, squeezed it for a moment, then pulled him forward. Two steps to get fully through the door, a few more along a narrow dirt pathway, packed down by countless footsteps before them. Smugglers, Cyril decided. Ned had said some of the caves had been used by smugglers. Or pirates. then around a curve in the pathway and... Margot raised the hurricane cover a tiny bit. Cyril’s mouth fell open. He’d never seen anything so beautiful.

The cavern that spread out before them was magnificent. The tiny bit of light from Margot’s lantern was zooming and carroming off a million and one crystalline structures. Stalagmites and stalactites his mind told him. He’d seen pictures of such places but had never been actually in one. It was breathtaking. A still pool of water spread out and lapped quietly at the side of the pathway they stood on.

“What is this place?” Cyril whispered to Margot.

She grinned. “We call them the crystal caverns. There are several of them on on the island. This one seems to have been forgotten once the smugglers or pirates abandoned it.

“It is magnificent.”

“Come on then. Let’s go check on Ned.”

They hurried along the path, then, but Cyril couldn’t help but examine the cavern as they walked through it. The light on the crystalline structures flashed and changed in a fascinating kaleidoscope of colors. Their footsteps sounded hollow, but still echoed a bit. Margot led him forward with every indication of complete confidence. “This the main entry then?” Cyril asked.

“No. Just one of them. A more round about entrance in case someone is looking for Ned or for his workshop.”

“Have others been looking for him?” Cyril asked, worried.

“Oh yes. Several times. Your security services, even once an envoy from the Prince Regent. Ned retreated to the workshop and stayed there until they’d all gone home. We did a fair job of convincing them Ned was not on the island. But obviously they didn't really believe us.”

“They followed me,” Cyril said morosely. “I didn't know what to do. I had to find Ned. Your father was my only hope.”

Margot turned and put a hand on Cyril’s arm. “Don’t beat yourself up with recriminations. Ned would never have forgiven you if you hadn't come to him with this. He’d willingly turn himself in if he thought it would save her.”

“Bugger. That wouldn't solve anything.”

“I know,” Margot agreed. “Which is why he ran. He's hoping the Assembler.. Well, we’ll see.” She came to as stop in front of a plain wall of rock. Cyril saw nothing whatever like a door.

She set the lantern down at her feet and put her hands on the stone. She leaned toward it and then, without a sound, the rock was rolling out of the way and revealing ..

Cyril gasped.



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