“Whatever sacrifice your god demands, you will have. We have the ark full of gold and powerful artifacts. You saw what we have. Your god does not care about the phase of the moon; else you would have not had light in the ark, since we have no moon. If your god demands blood, I have twenty-one fathers willing to sacrifice their lives so their children may know the sun. If your god demands children’s blood, I can procure newborn infants. Does he need a certain kind of plant? I’ve stockpiled large amounts of dried food. Whatever he demands, we will provide it.” Jaraeden smiled grimly and waited.
Alathea shook her head and paced his cabin, circling the table with the models of the ships. “Now you talk, and you talk nonsense.”
Jaraeden answered with a slow nod.
“My God demands nothing. You know that.”
He nodded again.
“And you know I don’t control him. He isn’t some petty little demon a paladin can boss around.”
“All these people.” She gestured out the large dark windows. “They’re all waiting now. You gave them hope. And I can share the true God with them, but I can’t promise them release from the Graveyard.”
“Then your god is useless to us all.” Jaraeden gestured. “You will be kept in my cabin tonight. Tell the guards whatever you want, and you shall have it. Pray. And tomorrow either your God saves us all, or you die.” He spun and exited the room.
Alathea breathed deeply as the stained wood door swung shut behind him. She clenched her hands; unclenched them.
Behind her, she heard a scratching at the window. The dark glass swung inward. A form tumbled into the room.
“Talon,” Alathea acknowledged.
“I thought he’d never go. All right, we got what we come for. We’ve got a little window before they notice me and Matt are gone. Let’s get back to the ship.”
“I can’t,” Alathea answered without turning from the door.
“What? They’re going to kill you. I’ve seen the way your god operates. He doesn’t care enough about you to lift all these people out.”
Alathea spun and snapped a hand back to slap him, but lowered it slowly instead. “He cares. More than you realize.”
“Sure. I’ve never seen evidence of it.” Talon shrugged. “Either way, you gotta go. Come on. Let’s get back to the ship. We gotta figure out how to use the shard to get out of here.”
“The shard won’t help us.” Alathea shook her head. “I assume you didn’t find anything else?”
“Nope. Secret compartment, right where you said to look. Jaraeden’s looting never found it. Shard was nestled in some fancy fabric. I don’t know what kind. Expensive. I’ll sell it for some amount back home. You did good. Your god tell you where to look?”
Alathea chuckled. “No. A librarian did. Listen, you and Matt get back to the boat. I’ll get us home.”
“By staying here?”
“Yeah.” Alathea sighed.
“Because your god told you how to get us all home?”
“Nope. Jaraeden did. He hasn’t put it all together yet, but I know how to get everyone home.” She smiled, and then dropped the smile. “It just means I have to lie to them. It just means I have to speak the language of the enemy of my God to save everyone.”
The Graveyard at the Bottom of the World rushes toward a conclusion…