‘I think I get what you’re saying,’ said Hector.
‘You do?’ said Chergoa. ‘Could you explain it back to me, then? Because I’m pretty sure half of that was bullshit.’
Hector could only return a faint laugh. He appreciated her efforts to keep them from panicking, but he wasn’t sure it was helping much.
Emiliana had the important question. ‘Are we stuck here?’
‘Uh...’ And Chergoa took quite a long time before finally saying, ‘Yeah, probably.’
Hector and Emiliana groaned in unison.
With that, however, something else occurred to him. ‘Why is it just us four?’
A different voice interrupted. ‘The shards,’ said Garovel. ‘You were both holding one.’
‘Garovel!’ said Hector.
‘Hello...’ He sounded rather groggy, now that Hector was listening.
‘How are you even awake?’ Hector asked.
Hector thought a moment. ‘And how did you know that Emiliana and I were holding shards?’
‘...Dunno that either.’
‘Garovel, c’mon. You’re supposed to have all the answers.’
‘Hey, I’ve been unconscious. What’s your excuse?’
‘I, uh. Well, for one thing, I’m not thousands of years old.’
‘Maybe you shouldn’t have been born so late, then.’
‘Anyway, Hector, I’m glad we’re not dead, but shut up for a second. What was that about a pocket dimension earlier?’
‘You were listening?’ said Chergoa.
‘To you? Never. I must’ve thought someone else was talking.’
‘Mm. Speaking of assholes, why were you sleeping on the job, anyway? I mean, laziness and idiocy are the clear answers, I know, but I was wondering if you wanted to make any excuses for yourself.’
‘It’s a side effect of Hector’s shield. Whenever he wields it barehanded, it heightens his soul defenses at the expense of exhausting me.’
‘I see. Where’d you come by something like that?’
‘A Sandlord named Haqq Najir. He wasn’t very cooperative at first, but then I told him all about my sister, and he offered the shield to us in exchange for a promise that we would never introduce her to him. It was very curious.’
That one actually earned a laugh from Chergoa.