Mitch opened her eyes and stared into the dark. She was shivering. She pulled the quilt to her chin and settled deeper into her downy pillows.
Had it all just been a dream?
She closed her eyes and saw Eliot’s wild violet eyes burning into hers, begging her to stop.
But she had pressed on, deeper and deeper into his mind, using the powers her grandfather had charged her with to find out what he knew.
Zahlamaer is in Carthage.
“What chamber did he enter?”
“GET OUT!” Eliot screamed, but his mind answered.
“Which moon cycle?”
Nine from Set 146.
“What flarefield did he use?”
13D—there’s a volcano—near the siege—
Finally, Graham had intervened.
“That’s enough,” he said firmly, giving Mitch’s shoulders a shake. Mitch let go and felt Eliot’s mind close.
“Chamber 4,” she said weakly to Graham as he led her away from the prisoner. “Moon cycle 9. Set 146. Flarefield 13D. The siege…Zahlamaer…he’s at the siege—”
What remaining strength she had left had given out on her then. She collapsed into her grandfather’s arms and her vision faded to black.
Now, staring out into the darkness, she couldn’t remember how she had gotten home, but here she was, curled up in bed, her mind aching with electric impulses. Ancient earth magic. Time travel. Hypnotic power. Her granddaddy’s amber eyes boring into her own. The connection. The charge. The sudden rush of knowledge flooding her brain. The memories starting to return.
“I’ll go!” Izzie had exclaimed.
Everyone had agreed. It was a full moon, and the flarefield at Rover Landing would be active. She was the only one left who was fully trained and still young enough to move around without time anchors.
“Time anchors?” Mitch remembered herself asking.
“Memories,” Izzie replied, stretching her arms over her head. “Responsibilities, fears, even things you love and are afraid to lose. The older you get the more time anchors you create. They weigh you down, and, after a while, you get too heavy to move around through time.”
She hopped from one foot to the other, pumping her knees high into the air.
“That’s why us kids are best for time travel,” she said between breaths. “We’re light on the time anchors, and we can slide through timechutes like a snake through the Everglades.”
Mitch and Reece exchanged glances as Izzie hopped into Graham’s pirogue.
“Well,” she said brightly, pushing off from the bank. “Here we go!”
“Be careful, Izzie!” Reece called out.
“I will!” she called back. “See you in a month!”
The little boat was swallowed up by the darkness. Mitch and Reece stared after it for the better part of an hour. Finally, a blinding flash illuminated the sky. Reece grabbed Mitch’s hand.
“It’s time,” he said, leading her back into the house.
But she wouldn’t. The Collective depended on her. Eliot was a bad man. After the charge, she knew just how bad. He had done terrible things. Spied on the Collective. Sent Wesley to his grave and caused Rosalie to be split in time. And other things, terrible things, that Mitch couldn’t quite make out, but that she felt as deeply as her own heartbeat. She needed the information locked inside his head.
But she wouldn’t. She had won in the end, pulling the information from his mind by force, and with it, the Collective had come up with a strategy.
Izzie would go to Carthage tonight, take Zahlamaer by surprise, and destroy him. The plan was dangerous, and it would only work if Zahlamaer wasn’t yet aware the Corridor had been reopened. But he had been trapped in the same moon cycle for the last seven years, and if he hadn’t seen the flash, which would have lasted only an instant, his guard would be down, and Izzie could put an end to his terror through time once and for all.
In the meantime, Reece and Mitch would undergo intensive training. At the dawn of the next moon cycle—Halloween night—Reece would go to Carthage and retrieve Izzie, and Mitch would make the journey to the Sun King’s Court and track down Ian.
Graham had put up resistance, but, in the end, the others were able to persuade him it had to be done. Ian had unlocked the cipher and opened the Corridor. He must be brought back as soon as possible, and they couldn’t wait until—if—Izzie and Reece returned.
Mitch pulled the quilt tighter around her chin. She had agreed to the plan without confessing how scared she felt—how she feared this may be too big a job for two kids who had just a month to train before they were swallowed by a flash of light and sent hurdling down a timechute to the unknowable past.
But she had steeled her nerves, determined to be brave, and accepted the mission.
As the memories of the events that had taken place over the last day washed over her, Mitch marveled at the thought of how much she had been able to absorb in such a short amount of time. The mysteries contained in The Corridor Atlas. The history of the Collective, their ancestors—the Rovers—and their fight against Zahlamaer’s Trust. The shadow of her former life at Ol’ Cypress. Her introduction to her long-lost uncle—co-founder of the Collective—the greatest fighting force for good of all time, as Reece had put it.
Thinking back to the beginning, she could barely believe the day had started with her boarding the bus to school, worrying over Mavis and Shawn and their stupid antics. Now, lying awake in the dark, the autumn chill creeping into her bones, a part of her wished that all she had to think about tomorrow was how to make it through another day of seventh grade.
Photo Credit: a reimagining of The Young Martyr by Paul Delaroche