Scenes from the book:
In the end it was the slim man who saw her. He turned his head in her direction, did a double take, and pulled his rat up short.
“Hey, guys, look at this!” He halooed and waved them over.
The other two pulled their rats around and rode back. No sooner had the woman taken a look at her than she turned angrily on the newspaper man.
“I told you! I told you we weren’t supposed to go this way anymore!”
The newspaper man looked chagrined. “They’re not supposed to put people down this far. It’s been safe, all these years…”
“Well, now you’ve really done it, Geddy! She’s seen us! What are we supposed to do now?”
While the newspaper man beat a hasty retreat under the woman’s attacks, the slim man had been stealthily creeping up to the bars of the cell. Grizelda was too caught up in the argument to be aware of him until she felt a light tap on her knee. She turned around just in time to see the little man dancing out of her reach.
The other two cut off their argument and turned to look at her. She suspected they’d quite forgotten she was there.
“Ah,” said the newspaper man, or Geddy, if that was his name.
There was an awkward silence.
“See, this wasn’t supposed to happen,” he said. After a moment’s hesitation, he gave his hat a quick tip. “You’d probably best just forget this happened and we’ll be on our way.”
“Too right it wasn’t,” said the woman, and she and Geddy started stepping leerily back toward their rats. The woman kept looking back at her, like she was afraid Grizelda was going to hurt them. In her condition, shut up in a prison cell!
That thought brought her back to her senses. Here were these inexplicable people, who had showed up at her door as sudden as a whirlwind, and now, just as suddenly, they were going to leave again.
“Wait! What are you?” she cried, desperately.
“Cool, it talks!” said the slim man.
She winced as a bright light splashed down on her. Her march turned into a blind fumble. She couldn’t make out much more than the dim outline of the ramp below her feet, but she kept going. A murmur went up all around her, above and below.
All at once the ramp beneath her turned into empty space. She’d been about to make another step but she checked it, reeling frantically. She stepped backwards a few paces just to get away from that ledge.
Slowly, the light-dazzle faded, and she could make out the rows and rows of faces, all around her. She was standing on a platform in the center of a giant sphere. They must have carved it straight out of the rock, she realized. It was as big as a stadium, with risers below her and balconies above, and every one of those seats was filled with a goblin watching her. Oh, God. She swallowed. She felt terribly exposed up there on a platform in the middle of empty space, all the worse because it was without railings.
She remembered she was supposed to be on trial and put her head back down. Still, she couldn’t help sneaking horrified sidelong glances now and then at all those green upturned faces.
“Are you sure this is the right place?” Toby said.
Grizelda could understand his doubt. She’d taken him on a tortuous route through the underground of Lonnes, deeper than he had ever gone before. Abandoned goblin mines, fungus-crusted caverns only two people wide with rickety, sloping floors – she had to admit it didn’t look like they were going anywhere. She just nodded and encouraged him on. When he stumbled, she showed him the good footholds.
When they got to the crevice that was the entrance to the ratriders’ lair, Toby looked highly doubtful.
“You’re skinny, it’ll be fine,” she said. “Watch.”
She pressed her back against the wall, slid herself sideways. After a squeeze, she was out in the grotto.
She was greeted by a chorus of hallooes from every point in the cave. There were ratriders everywhere, more than she remembered the last time she came – swinging from the rope bridges and clinging to the cave rock like brightly colored bugs. There weren’t any real flowers out this time of the year, but the ratriders had done the next best thing by raiding a milliner’s shop: a riot of silk flowers exploded everywhere, crowding together on the ledges and fighting with the ratriders for space. All their green lights had been turned up to full blaze.
Toby struggled in, bent double. As he rose, he stopped midway, awestruck.
The ratriders started a new barrage of greetings in his honor.
“Sewer girl’s friend!”
“Do you sew, too?”
As soon as Toby got over his surprise, he finished standing up. His head ran into some of the rope bridges overhead, and he ducked and batted them away with a strangled noise.
“It’s beautiful, isn’t it?” Grizelda said.
“Well, yes, I…”
“Hey, Griz, Toby! Come on, I’ll introduce you to everybody!”
“We’ve got to do something,” Toby said. “It’s getting worse and worse. The Committees are taking over the Republic and turning it into a police state. They’re not just targeting sorcerers now, but honest people, too.” Grizelda looked at the floor. “When are we not going to take it anymore?”
Some of the kids shifted noncommittally; Stevry rolled his eyes.
Slowly it dawned on her. People like her had done something terrible; they’d helped the Auks eat people in exchange for not getting eaten themselves. But it hadn’t been her. It had all ended when she was only three years old. She looked at all those kids sitting around on crates in a basement. They weren’t organized, but they could do something. Maybe if she, a witch, did something good for Corvain, maybe she could make it okay.
“Let’s free all the prisoners in Promontory,” Grizelda said quietly.
For a minute, her statement didn’t even sink in. Then they were all staring at her like she was crazy. She wasn’t entirely sure she wasn’t crazy either. It felt like she’d been taken under by a spell, one that made her brave. Or maybe it was reckless. But she couldn’t stop talking now.
“Toby, your grandpa’s in there, right? Maybe he’s still alive. And how many of you know someone who’s been arrested?”
Four or five hands rose up.
“Maybe it’s time to take them back.”
“Girl, nobody escapes from Promontory,” said Mitchell.
“I did.” And then pulled off her headscarf, letting her gray hair fall out. She couldn’t tell the truth, not quite, but she could tell them something near to it.
“I got framed as a witch because of this–” She jabbed a finger at it. “I got sent to Promontory, but I escaped. Even they think nobody escapes. But there’s holes in Promontory. I’ve seen them.”
Jamin started pushing together a couple of crates to make a makeshift table. “Have you got any details you can tell us, Grizelda?”