The plan went like clockwork.
With the help of the Cloudbears, they scattered the Heartstones around Venger. The stones did their work, banishing the Arch-Mage, for the time being at least.
As soon as he could, the Ranger freed the Barbarian and helped him down from his prison. The look of relief and happiness on Bobby's face went some way to help ease the pain that was still fresh inside.
'What happened Bobby?' asked Diana, as he disengaged himself from the embrace of his sister.
The Barbarian ignored her.
'Where's Eric?' asked Bobby.
Hank frowned sadly. The young boy was gonna take it hard when he heard what the Cavalier had done to them. Bobby was going to be shocked when they told him what had happened, and how Eric had abandoned him to his fate with Venger.
The Ranger glanced at Sheila, seeing the look of heartache and mixed with relief on her face. The betrayal was still fresh, but they were strong. They could overcome it, and still get home. They had too.
'Where's Eric,' repeated Bobby, looking round.
'Bobby, we need to tell you something important…'
'You shoulda seen him, Hank!' continued the Barbarian, ignoring any attempt to butt in. 'He was great! He saved me from Venger!'
Hank stopped, his mouth hung open in shock.
'W-what?' demanded Hank at last. What was Bobby talking about?
Bobby didn't appear to notice the sudden change in the Ranger's tone, and seemed pleased to explain.
'Venger was gonna throw me in the fire, and I said I didn't care and he could do what he liked to me, but Eric stopped him.'
'Stopped him?' whispered his sister. 'What do you mean?'
'Eric saved my life by agreeing to serve Venger.' The young boy looked nervously up at his sister, and Hank suddenly saw through all the bravado. Bobby had been scared, really, really scared. 'He said if Eric told you what had happened Shadow Demon would know and Venger'd kill me. Eric agreed.'
No words could describe the agonising lurch Hank's heart gave.
But I need you. That was what the Cavalier had meant. Caught by Venger, unable to tell them in case Shadow Demon overheard and Venger killed Bobby, he'd had only one chance: that his friends would trust him and help him. His friends…
Hank looked at Presto, then at Diana. Sheila turned white and couldn't hold his gaze. No one could speak.
'But, but it's all over, right?' continued Bobby. 'It's all OK? You musta found him in time.' He looked happily up at his sister.
Hank couldn't speak. No one could have survived that drop. Oh, God… what have we done…
'But it's OK?' said Bobby. 'Isn't it…?'