We lazed away the day beside Mungan’s well, holding to the shade around the columns. Mostly I dozed, waking long enough to eat oatmeal while sitting on a tree stump and listening to Harcourt and Alka chattering.
Alka had discovered the mirrors outside the castle and had stumbled through them. But unlike me and Harcourt she had gone directly to the hold of Jurg’s boat, missing Pleasantview. Reminded of Pleasantview I was reminded of Mom. I stopped eating, thinking back. Since she didn’t die when I was a boy, I wondered where she was now. Was Lothario good to her? Was she still alive?
Never mind that now, I told myself. I had to get home to Kate. I was confident that I would be going home this time. What else could stop us?
At some quiet moment in the evening I cornered Harcourt and asked about the lightning. He happily lectured me about negative charges gathering at the bottom of a cloud and positive charges in the ground underneath and something even more jargon-soaked about excess electrons creating channels of charged air.
“That’s really great, Harcourt, except there were no clouds.”
“They were coming together, forming high on the mountains. The day before we reached Mahadeva I saw the mountains and the clouds that formed in the evening around their peaks. There is not very much moisture, because of the drought, but enough to condense on the cooler slopes if the air ascends sufficiently high enough…”
“And you created a channel?”
“The electrons created the channel. I simply encouraged them to form the channel in front of the stone alter where I suspected that the High Priestess would stand during the ceremony.”
“Because of her engine beneath the mountain there is a great deal of metal there. There are metal stairs leading to it under a trap door beneath the rug in front of the alter. Very dangerous for them. I saw evidence of other lightning strikes on the walls. I am surprised that…”
“How, my friend?”
“There was a heavy metal shield of war on the wall. I hoped they wouldn’t notice that it was gone from the wall. They were extremely excited by the ceremony and watching only the three of us…”
“Harcourt! What did you do with the shield?”
“I removed the quite flimsy trap door and replaced it with the shield. You or I might have noticed the uneven footing under the rug but the High Priestess and her guardians rarely touched their feet to the surface they appeared to walk on. This is why fire was necessary in addition to the lightning. It was good that the rug was already there because I would have had difficulty in locating one quickly. The shield led the lightning through to the metal steps and the engine in the mountain, probably destroying that as well.”
“It might not have happened that night at all,” I said. “The lightning. Since lightning had struck before and doesn’t strike again in the same place. We were very lucky.”
“That is a common misunderstanding about lightning. It very often strikes in the same place if the conditions are right, and they are very right in that temple. It had been struck many times and it will continue to be. I do not think about luck,” Harcourt smiled.Next chapter