Chapter 47: The Mountain
IN time, we made our way out of Denver and found ourselves well into the mountains. I was at the monk’s mercy. Where his finger pointed, I turned. With each turn, he would say, “The Light says to turn here.”
At Idaho Springs, we took a left onto Highway 103 toward Echo Lake Park. Just past the lake, Brother Lawrence pointed to Mount Evan’s Road a little too late, and I had to swing the car around to turn, squealing tires, struggling to keep them on the pavement.
According to a sign, this was the highest paved road in North America. It took us to a Visitor’s Center where the monk pointed to the north and said, “Head down that path.”
He pointed again. “Between those trees.”
“That’s not a path.”
“But it is, brother. Go through it.”
I shook my head. We’d be lucky if we didn’t drag the bottom of the car off.
I pulled through the trees, barely managing to keep the car from scraping them. There was just enough room to move through the forest here. It really was a path but thoroughly covered with tall grass as if it hadn’t been used for years.
Brother Lawrence began dismantling the refrigerator magnets.
“What are you doing?”
He just smiled, continuing his task. Before long, he had a long stack of magnets and a plastic bag with the rest of their remains.
We came to a dirt path going in two different directions.
“Go left,” he said.
“Whatever you say.” I pulled the car onto the path and traveled toward the mountainside.
The path ended in a small opening in the forest where we stopped and got out. Brother Lawrence stepped toward the mountain and looked up again the way he did when the Light was supposedly speaking to him. He nodded as if he’d received the information he needed.
I slid my hands down my face, groaning. “What are we doing here?”
He turned and smiled. “A little faith can move mountains, brother.”
He stepped closer to the mountain with his stack of magnets. I couldn’t see what he did with them, but suddenly, there was a click. Then another, accompanied by the sound of scraping metal. The mountain began to move. Not the entire mountain but a large section in front of us. It adjusted and rumbled. Then the rocks practically unfolded and slipped away into the mountainside, revealing a large passage.
“Excellent!” The monk’s tone was even more excited than usual. “It moved.”
I stood with a dumbfounded look on my face.
He headed back to the car. “Are you coming, brother?”
We climbed back into the car and entered the tunnel. This lasted all of about five seconds when our short little trip ended in a large room with dim lighting around its ceiling’s edge.
We stepped out of the car…and did nothing like a couple of idiots.
“What now?” I said.
“The Light says to wait.”
The monk shrugged.
I closed my eyes and sighed. A loud thud reverberated through the chamber. Behind us, the mountainside door resealed itself, trapping us. I cocked my head at the door and then the monk. “What have you gotten us into?”
“A small cave, it would seem.”
“Lovely.” Standing around here wouldn’t do any good. I decided to explore the walls of the chamber while we waited. I didn’t see any seams where doors might be hidden.
I jumped back as a section of rock in front of me opened uncovering a man probably in his sixties. He wore an untucked, white, flowery shirt and khakis. His short, black hair was peppered with gray. Had we discovered some secret retirement resort for old folks?
The man frowned then looked past me. “Brother Lawrence.” He smiled jovially. “It’s been a long time.”
The monk’s face lit up more than usual. “Elian.”
My jaw nearly hit the ground. The monk had found him. And he’d found Summerlight. Well, not Summerlight, but some antechamber just outside of it.
Elian slipped past me and gave Brother Lawrence a hearty squeeze. “It’s good to see you.” He looked back at me. “And who’s this?”
“Ian,” I said.
He shook my hand. “Elian Frost.”
I’d expected him to look like another monk, but he acted the same way he dressed—like he was on vacation without a care in the world.
“Ian’s been searching for you, brother.”
Elian cocked his head at me. “Why would you be looking for me?”
“I need to get back to the underground city.” I fished the killer’s note from my pocket and handed it to him. “Abby’s in trouble. All of them are.”
Elian’s easy going stance stiffened as he read the note. He shook his head. “I don’t know how to get back there. They sealed that entrance after I left.”
I sighed in defeat. Elian had been my last chance. It was over. Abby would die and there was nothing I could do about it.
The burning in my stomach returned with a vengeance. I turned and walked to the cave wall, leaning back against it, and sunk to the floor with my hands on my head.
A light echo of running footsteps came from the tunnel. They grew louder until a man came into view and stepped out. He looked to be in his mid-forties, with short blond hair, a mustache, and a goatee. He was seemingly on vacation, too, in his untucked, white, button-up shirt with rolled-up sleeves and tan canvas pants. “Well, well. Brother Lawrence.” He hugged the monk. They were an awfully friendly bunch. “I should’ve known it was you.”
“How are you, brother? We haven’t seen you at the monastery in a while.”
“I’ve been busy the last few trips to Denver.”
Elian broke in with a solemn tone. “Harlan, Ian here says your daughter’s in trouble. He came from the underground city.”
Harlan gave me a hard stare. “What’s wrong?”
I looked at him, then the monk, then back to him again, frowning, and stood. Harlan was Abby’s father? How on earth had we managed to stumble across him? “Uh…Winter’s E—” I looked at the monk, then back to Harlan.
“It’s fine,” Harlan said.
“Winter’s Edge has a killer. Probably paid off by the Hunters. Two Watchers are already dead.” I gestured for Elian to give the note to Harlan. “That note was left for me yesterday at one of the safehouses.”
Harlan took it and read the message. “Why are you here then instead of saving my daughter?” He turned to Brother Lawrence. “Do you trust this kid?”
The monk smiled and nodded.
Harlan turned an expectant expression on me as if waiting for a response.
“I was on a supply run when Joseph tried to dump me for the Hunters. He said they’d found my fingerprints on a knife used in one of the murders.”
“So you were exiled.” Harlan’s look softened. “Join the crowd.”
I shot him a confused grimace.
“Same thing happened to me about thirteen years ago.” Harlan handed me the note. “Kicked me out of a moving vehicle after tranqing me. Tried to hand me over to the Hunters.”
“How’d you survive?” I said.
“Joseph dumped me too soon. Hadn’t drawn Hunters quickly enough. I managed to get into the city before they found me.”
“Lucky,” I said.
“No kidding.” Harlan’s brow wrinkled. “So why are you here?”
Elian spoke up before me. “He thought I might know how to get back to Winter’s Edge.”
Harlan shook his head. “No one knows how to get back there. I spent seven years trying to find it. I’ve been all through the Outskirts. There’s no way.”
“The Outskirts?” I cocked my head at him. “Isn’t that uncharted territory in the Old City? How’d you get there?”
“Through a hole in the mountains about an hour from here.”
I started to ask if we could go there only to have him wave me off.
“I know what you’re thinking, but it’s no use. There’s no way through the Outskirts to Winter’s Edge.”
My gaze dropped to the ground with a sigh, eyes closing at the reality of the situation.
“Why would you come all of this way to get back to Winter’s Edge after they exiled you?” Harlan’s eyebrow rose as he realized something. “You’re in love with my daughter.”
My eyes flitted back and forth between him and the ground, head down. The note had said girlfriend, but he hadn’t realized it referred to Abby until that moment. “Uh…”
Harlan folded his arms in front of his chest. “Well…If you’re willing to come this far, you must really care about her.”
The sound of something bouncing off stone broke into our conversation. Brother Lawrence had pulled out a set of dice and tossed them to the ground.
“What are you doing?” I said.
“Making a decision.” The monk scooped up his dice.
I’d seen enough to know that the monk wasn’t completely mad, but surely he had a few screws loose. I gave him my best confused face. “Where’d you get the dice?”
He lit up like he’d found a new toy. “Oh, in the rubble next to the half-naked old man back in Bennett.”
“And you thought it’d be a good idea to use them to make decisions?” I said.
“Oh, I see the confusion.” He smiled pleasantly. “No, the Light told me to do that for the next forty-eight hours. Develops more trust, He says.” He bounced his eyebrows at me. “And it could be exciting.”
I did everything I could to be respectful, but his absurdity and my frustration made it hard. “Oh, that makes perfect sense.” My sarcasm was not well hidden. “So, what decision were you making?”
“I asked if I should continue on with you or go back to the monastery. A six means I continue on with you. Any other number means I go back to the monastery.” He showed us the dice with a five and a one on their faces. “It seems I have to go with you.”
“Wait,” I said. “Roll them again.”
He rolled the dice. They turned up double threes.
I frowned. “Do it again.”
The monk rolled three more times, each roll coming up in a combination of six. His dice were really starting to creep me out.
Harlan suddenly had a glimmer in his eye and a half-smile. “I wasn’t ever able to find the Outskirts’ connection to the Old City to get back in. It’s easy to get lost down there and never find your way out. I mapped it out for years with no luck.” He looked at the monk. “But I didn’t have him before.”
“Me?” Brother Lawrence raised his eyebrows. “How can I be of any help?”
“You can roll those dice to direct us through the Outskirts back to Winter’s Edge.”
I threw my hands up in protest. “Whoa, whoa. Hold on just a second. We’re going to ask a set of dice to get us through an underground city where we could possibly get trapped and die?”
The three men all nodded to one another then to me.
My jaw dropped. “You’re all insane.”
“You have a better idea?” Harlan said.
Dang. That was the one question that was my kryptonite. “No.”
“Then let’s get moving.” Harlan looked to Elian. “Are you coming with us?”
Elian shook his head. “Oh, I doubt I’d be much use without powers.”
Harlan nodded in agreement, then turned to me and Brother Lawrence. “You two wait here. I’ll be back soon.”
He and Elian turned to leave.
“Elian,” I said.
He stopped and looked back. “Yeah?”
“What happened to you at the graveyard? Abby said she was attacked by something called a ‘dark one’ in there.”
Elian’s eyes grew wide. “She opened the graveyard?”
I shook my head.
He grimaced. “How was she attacked then?”
“Let’s just say she got in without breaking any seals.”
“Ah.” His shoulders seemed to lose their momentary tension. “She’ll do well to stay out of there. I imagine that dark one was the one who came out of me when my powers left me. The Light bound him to the graveyard as long as it was sealed.”
I nodded. “So, you didn’t get the greater power after you gave up your powers?”
“No.” He smiled. “And I haven’t missed them since. But I am sorry I can’t be of help in this particular situation. If I had powers, I gladly go with you.”
I smiled weakly, understanding. “Thanks.”
The man nodded cordially, then he turned and left down the long tunnel as the door closed behind him and Harlan.
Harlan seemed like a shrewd man. I couldn’t believe he trusted the monk with our lives. He must’ve been as desperate as me to get back to Abby. Maybe moreso. But then again, who was I to judge. The monk had managed to find Elian.
We sat in the car for a while until the door opened again and Harlan emerged in a green Jeep Wrangler. Brother Lawrence climbed in the back, insisting that I take the passenger seat. We pulled out of the mountainside and the door closed, trapping the Aston Martin inside.
We traveled into the mountains several miles southwest of Golden, Colorado, the nearest city to Winter’s Edge. The Jeep wobbled and bucked as we went off-trail onto the uneven forest terrain.
“How did you find Summerlight?” I said.
It took a second for the question to register with Harlan. “Through clues in the Outskirts. Once I gave up on finding Winter’s Edge, I put the clues together and found Summerlight instead.”
“So people can use their powers there and not age or go mad?”
Harlan nodded and smiled. “I’d hoped to bring Abby and Asa there one day, but I never thought I’d find them.”
“Abby might actually take you up on that. I think part of her feels trapped in Winter’s Edge.”
“Yeah…I know the feeling.”
Before long, it grew dark, and we found ourselves deep in the mountains. Harlan unloaded climbing equipment from the Jeep, anchored the ropes next to a large hole, and we repelled into it.
A beam of moonlight illuminated the small portion of the floor my feet touched as I reached the bottom. Harlan threw out flares revealing a huge, circular chamber full of ancient carvings. The room was a giant dome, and we’d just dropped through its center.
I glanced at my watch. 8 p.m. We had a little over a day before Abby would be murdered.
“How much food do we have?” I said.
“Enough.” Harlan looked at the monk. “Roll the dice.”
Brother Lawrence looked around the room to spot four doors marked with old Hebrew markings I recognized as North, East, South, and West. From this point, we needed to head northeast.
So help me, if the monk’s creepy dice told us to go south or west away from Winter’s Edge, I’d be tempted to climb right back up the rope and leave.
He shook the dice in his hand and released them. “South it is.”
I gritted my teeth, reminding myself that I was desperate, as we journeyed into the depths of the Outskirts.