Chapter 39: Going to Corso's Aid
Going to Corso’s Aid
Ten minutes later, they gathered in the throne room. Joshua and his top lieutenants were already present when they walked in. As Hannibal approached Joshua, he said, “I assume you already know about the breech.”
“Yes,” Joshua replied. “It was I who sent them to you and Nicodemus. We have a serious problem. That was apparently just a scouting party. If the main force takes control of the gateway, we’ll be defenseless.”
“Well, we just can’t let them take control of it, now can we,” Ned piped up.
“That’s right, Ned.” Hannibal returned. “We can’t. That’s why I have a plan to keep them from using it. Joshua, do we still have those bombs Harry found?”
Joshua nodded and replied, “Yes, we stowed then in the armory.”
“Good,” Hannibal returned. “If those bombs are as powerful as you say they are, we may be able to make use of them in a constructive manner.”
Joshua then realized what Hannibal was suggesting. “You want to use them to blow up the gateway, don’t you,” he declared.
“Bingo,” Hannibal returned. “How many do you think it would take to seal the tunnel?”
“Probably two or three,” Joshua stated. “No more than that. Any more than that and we risk making a larger hole than we already have.”
Hannibal rubbed his face with his hand, saying, “Point well put. What we need here is an expert in demolitions. Do you have anyone who is capable of planting the munitions to get the desired result?”
Joshua shook his head and returned, “I’m afraid not. We’ve had little or no exposure to the use of Carite other than seeing its terrible results.”
Hannibal looked at Harry and said, “Well then, it just so happens that we have an expert in demolitions in the house. What do you think, Harry? You feel like blowing up something big?”
Harry looked at him sheepishly. “Why not,” he replied. “I haven’t blown up anything in quite a while. It should be fun. But I’m going to need some help doing it.”
“You have your help,” Joshua stated. “I’m going to send a team with you in case there’s a problem.”
At that point, Kahn volunteered, saying, “I’ll go too.”
Carver then spoke up and said, “Me too.”
“Ned, Sam; I’d like you to come too,” Harry said.
Ned nodded and said, “All right. When are we going?”
“Yesterday,” Hannibal blurted out. “Go and be quick about your work and above all else, be careful and alert. Remember our last encounter with the beast-men. They’re clever and tricky. Keep your eyes open and come back in one piece.”
“Sure thing,” Harry returned. “Come on, Joshua, let’s seal the gateway.” Joshua led them out of the throne room.
“Nicodemus,” Hannibal said, turning to him. “Prepare the people for the evacuation. Get them ready to move at a moment’s notice. While you’re doing that, I’ll see what we can do for Corso and his people.”
“Sure thing,” Nicodemus answered, heading for the door.
“While you are doing that, clear the square too. We’re going to need the portal,” Hannibal ordered. Nicodemus nodded and left as Hannibal turned to Corso, Joel, and Liu. “Now my friends,” Hannibal said to them. “Get yourselves ready to go. We move to rescue your people within the hour.”
Corso looked at him with a very grateful look and grasped his hand, saying, “Thank you. I knew we would get some help from Nicodemus somehow.”
Hannibal nodded and said, “Don’t thank me just yet. We still have to get them out. Meet us in the square in a half hour.” Corso acknowledged it and they went to prepare themselves.
Hannibal then looked around at those around him, saying, “We have a plan people, let’s do it while we still can.”
As he spoke, Joshua returned with Vergil, David, Aragon, Zachias, Timothy, Doug, Turner, Cole, Gilbert, Kwahu, and Rex. They walked up as Hannibal led his group toward the doors. They stopped in the middle and Joshua said, “Hannibal, Harry is off to seal the gateway with Sam, Ned, Kahn, Carver and twenty of my best fighters. What’s next?”
“We go to Cushar to rescue Corso’s people,” Hannibal stated. “With any luck and divine intervention, we’ll be able to get them here with the portal before they are overwhelmed.”
Joshua shook his head and said, “In that case, take my best fighters here as your guard.” Turning to those with him, he said, “Go with them. Your job from now on is to be his guard. Follow his orders as you would mine.” They acknowledged his order with a, ‘Yes, sir’ and a salute.
Speaking to Turner, Cole, Kwahu, Gilbert, and Rex, Hannibal said, “It’s good to see you guys again. Did you ask to be part of this team?”
“We did,” Turner replied. “When we heard what happened after we left you, we felt like we’d let you down.”
“So we volunteered to help to make up for it,” Cole called out.
“Don’t sweat it,” Hannibal chimed. “You didn’t know the beast-men were going to ambush us like that so I don’t hold it against you. But I am happy to have you at my side with your friends. Meet us in the square in a half hour.”
Aragon nodded and said, “Yes, sir.”
“Be wary and alert, Joshua,” Hannibal warned. “I asked Nicodemus to prepare the people for the evacuation. You may want to help him.”
“Right; we’ll be ready,” Joshua said confidently.
Hannibal nodded and everyone left the throne room. Word quickly spread that Hannibal was preparing to go to Cushar. Within a half hour, all of Hannibal’s remaining team, Xavier, Amelia, Corso, Joel, Liu, Joshua, Nicodemus, and the top lieutenants were standing on the platform in front of the keep waiting for Hannibal, Selina, and their guard. At least fifty people stood waiting. Ten minutes later, Hannibal strode down the main hall, dressed in his battle attire with his sword slung over his shoulder and the scepter in his gloved hand. Selina walked beside him, dressed in a tan dress that reached to her knees and long pants with her armor on and her katana strapped to her back. Her hair was pulled back into a long braided ponytail and she had a shawl over her head that could be used to hide her face. Their guard followed close behind. Hannibal walked out of the keep and down into the square with Selina and his guard. Everyone parted as he came out, letting them by, and then following them down into the square. Hannibal walked to the center and stopped, turning to everyone. He looked over the crowd and spoke to Corso. “Are you ready to get your people?” he asked.
Corso responded with a yes. Hannibal then had to decide who was to go. He looked over everyone and said to his team, “I want you all to stay here and help prepare. Selina will come with me. Nathanael, I leave you here to make sure everything goes properly. Make sure everything is ready for our return.”
“We’ll be ready,” Nathanael answered. “You just be careful. Who knows what terrors you’ll encounter?”
“I will,” Hannibal returned.
Arabella walked up and kissed him on the cheek. “Come back to us, Hannibal,” she said softly.
“I plan to,” Hannibal replied confidently. Turning to Amelia and Xavier, he asked Amelia, “I would like you to come to Cush, if you will. That is if Xavier has no objections. We may need your unique talents.”
Amelia looked at Xavier for a moment and he nodded. She embraced and kissed him before stepping forward to stand with Hannibal and those going. “I would ask you to come, Xavier, but we need your skills here in case something happens,” Hannibal stated. “The Zarukar have already penetrated the valley once. They very well may do it again.”
“Don’t worry about it,” Xavier returned. “We’ll handle anything that comes up. Just try to bring my wife and yourselves back in on piece.”
“That’s something I intend to do,” Hannibal answered. “Now everyone back up so I can start this thing again.” The scepter began to glow, as if anticipating his command. He raised it and smacked the center of the pattern with it. When he did, the crystal head of the scepter glowed brilliantly as the runes and glyphs on its handle lit up. Upon contact, the pattern lit up, beginning in the center and moving outward. The scepter rang in metallic resonance with the hit and the square began to rumble. Within a minute, the pillars rose and glowed. The air filled with raw power, making hair stand on end and causing nerves to tingle. Selina walked up to him as Hannibal called out, “Corso, come here. We need your help.”
Corso hesitatingly walked over as he kept a fearful eye on the machine. “What do you need me for?” he asked in a hesitant tone.
“I need you to grab on to the staff and think of home,” Hannibal ordered. “I don’t know where it is so we need your help in locating it.” Corso hesitated and Hannibal noticed it, saying, “Don’t be afraid of it. It’s just a machine.”
Corso swallowed hard as Selina put her hand on his shoulder, saying, “We’re here for you, Corso. Trust Hannibal. The machine will not harm you.” As she spoke, she gently probed his mind, trying to get a sense of where he came from.
Corso nodded and grabbed the scepter just above Hannibal’s hand, saying fearfully, “I want to go home, ancient machine of the gods.”