Beth wasn’t in a good place. Being at the heart of some of the fiercest fighting of the Battle of the Bulge would be enough to make most people agree with that claim, but Beth was only barely aware of the historic clash of armies happening around her. Her attention was focused on Biers, the man who was intent on destroying a lot more than Western Europe.
“So, if I don’t help you, you think you can take an army into a place which doesn’t exist and get to Neverneverland where you’ll be safe from the end of the world? Do I have that about right?” Beth asked.
A bomb landed close enough to that the shock from the explosion dropped Beth onto her butt on the ground.
“It’s not Neverland,” Biers said through gritted teeth.
Beth felt her pulse thundering in her wrists and neck. She’d heard Bier’s voiceless whisper directing the Unread around them. He’d called for where the bomb landed and she hadn’t been able to raise a word against it. In their current milieu, Biers held too much power.
Except, he had to restrain it too.
Picking herself up, Beth dusted herself off, brushing away the soreness from her fall to buy herself a moment to think.
Biers had used the bomb as a show of power and an outlet for his anger. If he’d hit her with it though what would have happened? He would have lost her. Either her nature as a traveler would have shielded her and kicked her back to her own world, or the bomb would have done its job. Either option did not leave Biers with a viable pawn.
Beth was more than a pawn though. Biers claimed that her approach to reaching Avalon was kinder than his own, but someone who was willing to unleash a monster like Gilles de Rais on the world couldn’t have much concern for kindness, or morality in general. If Biers was angling to use her as a means to reach his end game, then his claim of invading heaven was one he knew wasn’t going to work.
“Take as long as you want to consider my offer,” Biers said. “Consider what you would do to protect the people you love. Consider what having me as an enemy would mean, when your father has struggled for years and been unable to impede my plans in the slightest. You have all the time in the world to think on these things, but be aware that the world has only a few more ticks of the clock left.”
“If the world falls apart around me, then you’re going down too, aren’t you?” Beth asked.
“The worlds will fall like dominoes,” Biers said. “The less tethered ones, the ones with no grounding in reality, will be the first to crumble. Those are the worlds you walk though I believe. My worlds, the ones closest to the truth of our existence, the ones steeped in blood and misery, those will be the last to be freed from the cruel yoke we were born under.”
“And that’s where you’re going to raise your army from?” Beth asked. “Places like this? Where everyone’s already killing and dying?”
He might have been lying about the countdown to the end of the world drawing close to a finish, but even if he was telling the truth, she still wanted to keep him talking. She needed a plan, or at least a guess as to what she should do.
Call for her father? Would he hear her though? Could he come if he did? Could he do anything if he did manage to find them?
Beth’s ability to influence the Unread in a historical battle was apparently non-existent but her father would have some power at least.
Biers would have more though. He and Beth’s father had been evenly matched in historical France and that had been a setting more in line with Henry Candler’s interests than Biers. In the midst of one of the most famous conflict in modern history, Biers would hold too big of an edge.
Beth wanted to call her father, but she wanted to protect him even more.
Which meant this was something she had to do on her own.
A tremor passed through her. It was easy to think a brave thought. It was a lot harder to make it real.
“If I help you, how do I know that you won’t just strand me and my parents on a dying Earth?” Beth asked.
“It’s not a concern,” Biers said. “If you can forge a path to Avalon then you’ll be able to pass back and forth to it at will. If you can’t, then you’ll be erased with the rest of this cosmos and be incapable of worry or suffering.”
“What if I’m not fast enough though?” Beth asked. Keeping Biers talking was working. She was still terrified but she could feel the frozen log jam that had paralyzed her thoughts starting to thaw and flow once more.
“Your father has access to some of the same grounded worlds that I do,” Biers said. “If it comes to that, he will rescue your mother above all others and flee with her to whatever safety remains.”
“But then I won’t be able to find them!” Beth said. It was a legitimate concern but she was more interested in learning something specific about how travel between the worlds worked. Biers couldn’t give her answers that were guaranteed to be true for her, her father’s careful instructions had shown how different each traveler’s path was, but what he said would probably be true for him.
What Beth needed was to understand just what Kevin Biers capabilities were, and with the arrogance of an older man explaining things to a young girl, he was all too happy to tell her.
“As the worlds crumble, the ones which remain will grow less grounded,” Biers said. “Places which are impossible for you to reach now will become accessible as the walls around them crumble. In the end, if no other solutions are available to me, that is how I will assault Avalon. With the desperate armies from the bloodiest, most horrible wars which mankind has ever fought.”
“I can’t let that happen,” Beth said. She had an idea how to stop him. It would save her parents, and her world, but she wasn’t sure if it would save herself.