Chapter 16

Locke rubbed his head.

Where was he, anyway?

He’d gone to take the True Rune to that Dyne guy. So what was he doing in bed?

“Ghaleon!” he shouted, sitting up.

His head felt like he’d had about sixty too many of those nice ales they had in Greenhill, and the rest of him didn’t feel a whole hell of a lot better. But it was nothing compared to the time he’d been through the rift.

He looked around the room. Yeah, it was his room all right. Same one he’d been in since he’d gotten to this crazy place.

Even crazier, now.

Damn! He had to warn everybody about Ghaleon, and about what he could do! What he would do, if somebody didn’t stop him.

He had to save Celes.

She was here, Ghaleon’d said so, and that picture hadn’t been painted back home, or Locke would have seen it before.

He got to his feet, still groggy from whatever Ghaleon had done to him. Some kind of magic, probably. He was still in the clothes he’d worn the day before - at least these weren’t so bad as the ones he’d had when he’d gone through the rift.

He practically fell into the door while he was opening it, but he got out into the hallway still on his feet. The stairs were a bigger challenge, but he managed them.

He remembered when he was halfway down that he’d left his sword in the room. If he got his hands on Ghaleon again., he was gonna need it, too! He started back up, as fast as his sore legs could carry him.

“Hey!”

Locke turned around, nearly falling as he did it. Viktor and Flik were standing at the base of the stairs. They didn’t look exactly happy, either.

“Guys,” Locke said, stumbling down toward them. He was starting to get his footing back, at least a little. “You’ve got to help me out.”

“Oh, yeah?” Viktor asked. Before Locke could say anything, the bigger man’s hand closed around his shirt. “What the hell’re you thinkin’?!”

“What?” Locke asked.

“What Viktor means,” said Flik, who was leaning against the railing to keep the weight off his leg, “is why the hell didn’t you come back after you got paid?”

“Got paid?” Locke asked.

“Yeah, got our money,” Viktor said angrily. “Don’t try’n bluff, neither, ‘cause we’ve got this straight from the top. You got paid, then up and left. Next thing you know, you’re gettin’ so fallin’ down drunk the watch has ta bring you back here and dump you in bed.” He shook Locke.

“I... didn’t get paid,” Locke gasped. “And I didn’t go... drinking.”

“So you never went to the Academy offices at all?” Flik asked.

Locke shook his head. “I went to the office. But... the guy, your, our boss! It’s Ghaleon!”

“Yeah, Ghaleon Dyne,” said Flik. How could he be so casual about it? “Why? You know this guy?”

“Know him?” Locke tried to keep the anger out of his voice, but he knew he wasn’t doing a very good job. “He’s the stuck up bastard that... that...” That what? Just what the hell was he supposed to say?

He remembered the way Ghaleon had laughed when Locke’d threatened to turn him in. Now it made a lot more sense. It wasn’t like anybody was gonna believe his damn fool story - even if it was true. And Locke didn’t even know the details. How come Ghaleon had been here a whole year, anyway? They hadn’t gone through the rift but more than a month or so ago.

There was no way in hell anybody’d believe this crazy stuff. He shook his head. “Ah... sorry, guys. I dunno what got into me.”

“Yeah,” Flik said, “me neither.”

“So where’s the money?” Viktor asked.

“I didn’t...” Locke felt his back pocket. He pulled out a sack, nearly spilling the gold pieces inside as he did so. “... right here.”

Flik grabbed the sack. “You sure managed to spend a lot real quick,” he said.

Locke shook his head. “I don’t know what to say,” he said, which was saying something, wasn’t it?

“You helped out a lot getting the Rune,” Flik said. “Which is the only reason we’re not madder than we are.”

“Guys, it isn’t what you think-”

“Jerk,” Viktor said, letting go of Locke, who fell roughly to the stairs. “We trusted ya, and this is what happens. Damn shame.”

“Here’s what’s left of your share,” Flik said, tossing some of the coins down at Locke’s feet. “Too bad it turned out like this.”

Locke watched them leave. Unconsciously, he scooped the coins up and shoved them into his pocket.

He’d failed a new set of friends, too.

And the hell of it was, this time he really hadn’t done anything.

How was he gonna do something now? No one was gonna believe him, especially not now. Damn Ghaleon had probably known it, too. And if Locke couldn’t get anyone to listen, how was he supposed to stop Ghaleon from doing... whatever he was gonna do?

How was he gonna find Celes?

Locke picked himself up. “What now?” he asked. He got no answer, other than a couple of looks from other people in the bar.

Locke turned toward them.

He knew what he needed.

He needed a drink.