The Assembler

Chapter 13 - Reunited

Jean G Hontz

@copyright 2009 all rights reserved

 

 

Silence filled the cave. The whirlwind was gone, as were the men attacking Ned, Cyril and Margot. Cyril, his head pounding so bad it felt as if it would split, tried to sit up, but the world spun so badly he had to give up on that idea.

He had his eyes open when, right beside Ned, who was still standing where he'd been throughout, at the center of the Ned-created storm, appeared two more bodies.

Ned, clearly exhausted, reacted a second too slowly. Which clearly was a good thing, as one of the bodies was, as they came in focus, Emmie’s.

Cyril’s cry of relief brought her eyes to him. She rushed over to make sure her brother was all right. She helped him get to his feet and sat him in a nearby chair.

The man with her looked familiar to Cyril, but his head was pounding so badly he barely could think never mind remember faces. Besides he had his sister back and anything else was of little interest at the moment. He feasted his eyes on her relieved to see she'd suffered no harm.

Ned was frozen all this time. Not from anyone else’s power, but simply by the fact of yet two more people appearing in the middle of his most protected and safest spot in all the world.

Before he could react, the male with Emmie said, “Hullo Ned.”

Ned stared at him. “Richard? Richard Ainsworth?”

“I do wish people would stop underestimating me. You aren't the only alchemist in the world, you know,” Richard replied dryly.

“Oh,” Ned responded. “I assure you I will never underestimate you again.”

Richard’s lips twitched.

Emmie, meanwhile, reassured that Cyril would be fine, stood up straight and marched over to stand for a moment in front of Ned. She ran her eyes across his face. Then her fist met Ned’s jaw so blindingly fast he had no time to duck or even turn aside. She put all her weight and strength into the swing. The full blow made him stagger but he managed to remain on his feet.

“That, you bloody bastard, is for just walking away and leaving me without one damn word,” she hissed, leaning toward him, her fists still clenched, her eyes capturing his and daring him to look away. “You think I didn't know? You think I didn’t understand? Did you think I was a punter without a clue?”

“Emmie. Good to see you too,” Ned replied rubbing his jaw.

Before she could slug Ned again, Cyril managed to scramble to his feet and reach out for her. “Emmie. We were told they'd kidnapped you. We were on our way to rescue you!” Cyril explained.

“Yes, I imagine you were. After, of course, you’d taken care of the more important things.” Emmie glared at Margot, which made Cyril blush. “I, of course, could keep.”

“It wasn’t like that!” Cyril replied.

Ned kept silent.

Margot, clearly amused, had watched all of this silently. Now she got out from under the workbench, stood and walked over to wrap her arms around Ned’s “I’m Margot, Ned’s... Assistant. I’ve heard so much about you, Lady Emiline. I’m relieved to see you are well. And, for the moment at least, quite safe.”

Emmie’s eyes narrowed as she examined Margot from the top of her head to her toes. Her eyes lingered on Margot’s hold of Ned, and his lack of reaction or rejection of her embrace. “I see.”

“No you don't,” Ned said flatly. “You never did.”

Emmie put her hands on her hips. “Bastard.”

“Yes, exactly,” Ned replied.

Emmie turned pure white. She'd let her temper get the better of her, at the wrong time, with the wrong man. “Ned, I... I didn’t mean... I..”

“Don’t be sorry, Emmie. It’s simply the truth. I am a bastard, in every sense possible. I have no real name, no place in your society. I’m also wanted by your government, branded not only as a bastard but as a traitor as well. I’ve been on the run, just one step ahead of the hangman.”

Richard blinked. “How DID you manage that one, Ned. I’m in awe.”

Ned turned his attention to Richard. “And just why are you here?”

“Helping a lady escape the clutches of her kidnappers. You failed to show up and effect rescue so I stepped in.” Richard put an arm around Emmie’s waist. She leaned in against him.

“Yes. Yes he has done so twice now. Richard was there when I needed him. Far more than I can ever say about you, Ned Black!”

Emmie was surprised she was so furious. But there was no doubt about it. She wanted nothing more than to murder Benedict Black at that moment. Or perhaps throw herself into his arms, and she'd be damned if she’d do that!

“Well, have him take you home then, since he’s such a great alchemist. Go home with him and the both of you stay out of my life,” Ned added.

“Of course there is just one small problem with that solution to everything,” Margot commented, as she stroked Ned’s arm.

“We’re perfectly capable of finding our way home,” Emmie insisted. “Come on Richard.” She tugged at his arm.

Richard’s eyebrow rose and he didn't take his eyes off Ned. After a moment he asked, “What happened to the men who were attacking you?”

“Ah, well, nothing I expect. I should think they are still in the cave under the lighthouse.”

Cyril looked round, confused once again. “But we're in the cave under the lighthouse.”

“Not exactly,” Ned replied.

“What does that mean?” Emmie asked, her eyes narrowed. “If this is one of your practical jokes or some silly attempt to ... to confuse things.”

“You see,” Ned replied, still meeting Richard’s eyes, “I’m not quite sure how you and Richard got here. Because ‘here’ is definitely not the same place it was about five minutes ago.”

“What does that mean?” Emmie demanded, only just beating Cyril to the chance to put the question.

Richard suddenly laughed aloud. “Why you cheeky sod. You’ve figured out how to translate this much mass through space?”

“What does that mean?” Cyril asked, turning pale. Whatever it really meant, it did not sound good at all.

“It means we’re no longer where we once were. And no where Richard should have been able to find us,” Margot retorted, staring at the stranger who’d managed to actually surprise Ned.

“And yet he did,” Ned replied, eying Richard speculatively. “So how did you do it?” Ned asked.

Richard grinned. “What? Give away trade secrets? I think not. Nor do I believe for an instant that in a moment of camaraderie you’ll enthusiastically explain to me just how your Assembler works.”

Ned’s grin was a bit twisted. “Since I’m not entirely certain how it works, that’s a fair bet.”

“So where are we, anyway?” Richard asked Ned.

“Somewhere the English authorities are not only unlikely to consider, but are, truly, incapable of looking.”

  

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