Escape! ~ Lage’s Game: Chapter Nine, Part Two

I stared at the nearly invisible creature. Of course I wanted to get out. This was a trap question. Of course I wanted out – but what would it cost me? I peered so hard at the creature, trying to think and guess at what it wanted – and then it laughed.

It was a clear, high laugh. Menacing? Cold? It sent chills down my spine.

“I said! Enough!” the guard marched over, banging a thick sword against the bars. “You there!” and he rounded on the last cell, the one with the monster in it.

“Are you talking to me?” the hoarse voice asked. The shape twisted upwards, stretching up, up, up until it was like a tall human, facing the guard. “Do you want to fight?” It was curious, questioning like a child. The hands wrapped around the bars before the guard. But the guard had brought a lamp with him, and I finally saw the creature as he held it aloft.

It was a humanoid shape, wreathed in a large purple cloak with silver-white embellishments shrouding the eyes in a fringe that hung down to the cheekbones. The skin was black like the darkest hue of nighttime, the lips were thin, the nose hooked, and there was a grace to its smile.

“Stand back!” barked the guard, banging at the bars where the creature’s hands had been.

“Oooh,” murmured the creature. “Frightening.”

The guard paled. “Enough!” But he had already lost this battle.

“Shut up,” hissed the creature, turning away from the guard to face me. Beneath the cloak I saw a fluttering of a grey robe, a sash from which hung dozens of braids, and boots. But then the cloak was drawn fast around the creature once more.

It is probably a human, I thought to myself, but I wasn’t sure. Was it?

It crouched again before the bars separating us, its dark hands coiling around the bars. “Who brought you in here, child? Far from your world, aren’t you?”

I didn’t answer, huddling on myself. The guard bellowed again. “Quiet!”

The creature turned to him, then back to me. It was a strangely silent movement. Their fabrics barely rustled. They sat down and crossed their legs before themselves. They must be human.

Breathing a sigh, the guard turned and walked away. With him went the light, and some semblance of safety.

Once the guard was back at the other end, the creature whispered. “I was brought in for murder. But you can trust me. I’m an assassin.”

I wanted to clap my hands over my ears and curl up into myself. I wanted to block out this entire strange world.

“I kill in cold blood. I don’t make them suffer. I’m not like them,” he whispered.

My senses prickled. Them? Did he know- he couldn’t, could he?

I found myself turning to look at the creature. His tilted eyes were glowing faintly, just enough to be discernible. He had a hand reached out for me, palm up.

“Come with me,” he whispered. “I can see who you are. I can tell-” and his voice dropped to barely a whisper. “What you’ve eaten.”

My breath caught. The creature chuckled. “Yes,” he murmured, coaxing me on. “Come with me, child. You won’t be safe here once they bring you to the priestesses. What they will do to you – even I wouldn’t.”

I shuddered. Now that I was looking, I couldn’t take my eyes away from theirs.

The hand drew back, and I felt that they were satisfied. “Tomorrow, no- tonight. Soon. Brace yourself, child. Rest. We will be free soon.”

I looked away then, feeling caught and guilty. Would I run with them? Was this some trap? It couldn’t be – I hadn’t given them anything! And I could still change my mind, couldn’t? Besides, how could they get me out of here?

I found myself curling up on myself, my head between my knees. As if following orders, I fell asleep fitfully.

I dreamed of Lage. I dreamed of Mother, of Father, of Kayla and her final bottle smash. It was terrible.

I woke screaming, to find the air silent and cold. There was a crispness to the air that smelt of the outside.

I looked around, wondering where I was. For a moment I was completely lost, baffled, and it wasn’t helped by what I saw.

To my right, where the creature’s cell was, a silver light was glowing. It expanded, radiating out with a breath of coolness and frost out into the cells. Then it swept back in, shrinking somewhat. It was someone’s breath, I realized. The creature’s breath, their form hidden as a shadow behind this glowing frost.

I slunk backwards, looking around for some sense of normalcy. No one was coming. No one seemed to even notice that something strange was happening.

For what felt like an eternity, I sat there with my arms around my knees. I reached out within myself, pleading with the world for help, for something.

With my head burrowed between my knees, I was jolted from my thoughts by the creature shouting. “Guard! Guard! Come quick! The girl is dead!”

I jolted up, lifting my head and looking around. The creature was standing by the bars, their glowing breath now gone. There was the sound of cursing and feet running. The guard rushed into view, lamp in hand and keys in the other.

I just sat there, frozen. Wondering what was happening, even as it unfolded before me.

It was a trap. The guard rushed up against the bars of my cell, and the creature reached out through his and yanked the guard close. In one yelp and a snap, the guard was over. The keys were now jangling in dark hands, the lamp smashing to the floor.

The silence that followed was punctuated only by the hammering of my heart in my ears. Then, the door grating open. The flames licked at the oil on the floor, lighting up the creature as he stepped out. He was a ghastly shape, tall and strange as he stepped over the fire to unlock my door.

“Come,” he said sweetly. Then he turned and walked away.

I had a choice. I could sit in this cell, or move. I moved. I didn’t know what the princesses had in store for me, but neither did I know what this creature wanted. At least with the creature, I could hopefully still run away. Find my way back to Lage, then go home. But what home was there to go back to?

I shoved that question aside as I stepped over the smoldering flames and beside the dead guard. I was going home. That was that.

As I made my way down the corridor, the creature was unlocking some doors, ignoring others. Then, as if to spite everyone, he tossed the keys into the far corner of an already locked cell that held only a skeleton.

Prisoners were rushing out, pouring and stumbling towards the stairs that led away and up. The creature turned to me. He flashed a smile of immaculate white teeth.

“Here,” he drew a cloak from the guards’ chair. “Put this on.”

Remembering the biting cold of outdoors, I did, wrapping it clumsily around my shoulders. He nodded, and we turned and ran after the vanishing prisoners.

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