Chapter 22

Locke opened his eyes.

Ah, hell.

He’d really been hoping it was all just a real long bad dream, and that he’d wake up and everything’d be back the way it was supposed to be - with a little luck, it’d be back to before Ghaleon’d first showed up in Figaro.

No such luck.

He hauled himself to his feet and looked around the room.

It was dug right out of Greenhill’s warm, brown soil, and there were a couple of unlit passages leading off from it. It wasn’t quite a cave, but calling it a room was maybe a little exaggeration.

There were no bars.

No bars, no chains, no ropes, not even a guard.

But he couldn’t leave.

Oh, he’d tried all right. Three times, in fact, before he’d finally decided that all he was getting was sore, battered and dead tired from being thrown to the ground. Whatever Ghaleon had set up to keep him in - some kind of spell, probably - it did the job real good.

He’d lost track of how long he’d been stuck in the dirt room. Ghaleon didn’t even let him keep time by when the food came, the way you could in a normal dungeon - and Locke’d been in enough of those to know. His food never got delivered while he was awake, but every time he woke up, it was there. He’d tried faking sleep, hoping to get someone to show up, maybe even get a chance to escape, but that hadn’t worked, either.

It looked like he was in for the long haul.

He’d been in a lot worse dungeons, but that had just been punishment. Ghaleon kept trying to get info out of Locke. Locke didn’t have any real loyalty to the guy who’d sent him to steal the True Runes from Ghaleon, but he’d be damned if he was gonna snitch on him.

If Ghaleon hadn’t gotten what he wanted to know, it wasn’t for lack of trying, at least at first. He’d used all sorts of tricks - some weird song he kept humming over and over again, magic, having his guards beat Locke up... so far, at least, he hadn’t tried any serious torture. If he had to deal with that, Locke wasn’t sure that he could keep his mouth shut for a guy he didn’t trust and wasn’t exactly fond of, either.

He’d started to pace while he was thinking, and stopped just before he ran into one of the invisible barriers that kept him in. He sure didn’t want to do that any more than he had to.

He slumped to the floor and sighed.

Now what?

He couldn’t escape, it didn’t seem likely that his employer would go out of his way to get him back, and Ghaleon hadn’t been around for... how long? Locke couldn’t say, but it had been a while, that was for sure.

Locke figured whatever Ghaleon was up to, it had to be bad news, not there was anything he could really do about it.

Damn!

He picked up a loose rock and tossed it at one of the barriers.

It sailed through.

It couldn’t be... could it?

He got up and walked toward the barrier. He prodded it with the toe of his boot. Nothing.

Then he tried to put his hand through.

He yanked it back before the real shock hit him, but it hurt enough to convince him that he was still not going anywhere anytime soon.

“Well that’s just great,” he muttered. Ghaleon could do whatever the hell he wanted, and there was nothing Locke could do about it, not that he knew what he’d do even if he could get out.

Well, no, that last part wasn’t true. He knew exactly what he’d do.

Find Celes.

But how? He didn’t have any clues as to where she was. He wasn’t gonna get very far asking Ghaleon - he’d found that out already. The guy was just too damn powerful to fight, and he wasn’t real likely to tell anything important without being persuaded. Besides, he was liable to lie through his teeth, just to get a kick out of it.

He was liable to have lied already.

Locke’s hand clasped around the magicite at his throat. For some reason, Ghaleon hadn’t taken that, at least.

Ghaleon might have been lying about Celes being safe.

Locke gulped.

How did he even know she was still alive? She’d gotten Ghaleon to this world. Had he still needed her after that? He was sure a lot more powerful here than she’d ever been. What if..?

Locke couldn’t believe that. If he did, he’d just lay down and die right there, and that wasn’t gonna get anyone anything. No matter what else happened, no matter what he did, he had to keep hoping.

Because hope was all he had left.