Chapter 9Gregor watched the water flash under his eyes as he clung to the bat. For a moment, he felt relieved to have escaped the rats. But the fear of hurtling through the air on a wounded bat quickly overcame him.Boots had her arms clasped so tightly around his neck that he could barely breathe, let alone speak. And what would he say to Mareth, anyway? "Wow, I'm really sorry about that whole thing back on the beach?"He'd had no idea, of course, about the rats. But hadn't the Underlanders tried to warn him? No, they had spoken of danger, but no one had specifically mentioned rats except the cockroaches. "Rat bad," one had said. And later they had talked about how much the rats would pay to bargain with Luxa. He and Boots could have been sold to the rats, and then what?He felt nauseous and shut his eyes to block out the churning water. The image of the carnage on the beach filled his head, and he decided the view of the water was better. It turned to blackness as the light from the fire diminished. When light flickered off the waves again he knew they were nearing Regalia.A group of Underlanders waited on the dock. They whisked the unconscious Perdita and her bleeding bat away. They tried to take Mareth on a stretcher, but he brushed them off and insisted on helping to carry his bat inside.Gregor sat on the dock, where Mareth had shoved him as they'd landed, wishing he could disappear. Boots was quiet now, but he could feel her little muscles were rigid with fear. Fifteen, twenty minutes passed, maybe. He couldn't tell."Up!" someone snarled at him, and he saw Mareth glaring down at him. The gash on his forehead was bandaged, the right side of his face bruised and swollen. "Find your feet, Overlander!" Mareth barked. Had he actually thought this guy was shy a few hours ago?Gregor slowly straightened his stiff legs and stood. Mareth tightly tied his hands behind his back. No question about it this time: He was definitely a prisoner. Another guard joined Mareth, and they marched Gregor ahead of them. His legs moved numbly. What would they do to him now?He paid no attention to where they were going. He just walked whatever way he was pushed. He had a vague sense of climbing a lot of stairs before he entered a large diamond-shaped room. There was a table in the middle of it. Mareth pushed him down on a stool by a roaring fireplace. The two guards stepped back a couple of paces, watching him like hawks."I'm that dangerous," he thought foggily.Boots began to stir on his back. She tugged on one of his ears. "Home?" she pleaded. "Go home, Ge-go?" Gregor had no answer for her.People were hurrying past the door, talking in excited voices. Some peered in at him, but no one came in.In the warmth of the fire, he realized he was frozen. He was soaked in river water up to his waist and shivering from the wind and the horror of what he'd witnessed. Of what he'd taken part in.Boots was in better condition. Her backpack seemed to be waterproof, and she was pressed up against him. Still, her toes felt like ice when they brushed his arm.Fatigue washed over Gregor, and he wished he could lie down, just lie down and fall asleep and wake up in his bed where he could see the car lights flashing across the walls. But he had given up thinking this was a dream.What had happened to the Underlanders? Perdita? Her wounded bat? And Mareth's? If they died, it would be his fault. He wouldn't even try to argue that.Just then Luxa appeared. Burning white with fury, she crossed the room and struck him on the face. His head snapped to the side and Boots let out a cry."No hitting!" she squeaked. "No, no, no hitting!" She shook her tiny index finger at Luxa. Hitting was absolutely forbidden in Gregor's house, and it had only taken Boots a few time-outs to realize it.