I tilted forwards, almost falling. The sudden motion woke me. I must have drifted off. My wrists hurt. I tensed my legs, lifting myself slightly, pins and needles ran through them as the I did a quick check to make sure I was ready for anything. Body; sore, aching and stiff. Check. Mind, tired and not very focused, check. Magic, still gone. As I did this I found what else had woken me, I hadn’t been asleep long, although the wait, of a few hours by my best guess, had worn on me.
The light had shifted from pure darkness to a very faint half-light. A slowly brightening glow was approaching, the footsteps muffled by my own heartbeat pounding in my ears. I gripped the chains in a white-knuckled grip. I attempted to remain calm, but the thought of splashing that bastard’s blood across the floor put paid to that. I was breathing hard already, I hadn’t even moved. The light was a torch again, but the holder was shorter and stocky. He stopped outside the door
“Vance, a pleasure to see you again,” I grated out through clenched teeth. Another of the foundry team, what the fuck is going on?
Vance squinted and lent forward to get a better look at me. “Tristan, wasn’t it?” he asked. His brow crinkled in confusion. “What are you doing here? I thought you went on your way, I never expected to see you again.”
“Oh, you know, just locked in a cage like an animal,” I snarled. I wasn’t buying the dumb act. Why they wanted to capture us was beyond me right now, but the fact was they had. As to what they had done at the foundry. All those people. Dead, because of them.
“I have to take you to the boss, I didn’t realise it was you,” he said apologetically as he fumbled at the lock on the bars.
I tensed. Ready.
Vance opened the door, the keys were still in it. He took a step in, the torch held high. One more please, one more, I thought. I hoped.
He took it.
My right fist wrapped in chain. I caught him on the ear. Not what I aimed for, but better than nothing.
Vance stumbled back. I fell on him. The torch rolled away.
Vance got a grip on my right arm. Enough to keep my fist out of his mouth. Not enough to stop me using it as leverage to force my forehead into his nose.
He let go. Blood poured from his nose.
I hit him again. And again.
Vance groaned through split lips. It didn’t look like he would get up too soon.
I stood and kicked him in the ribs for good measure. I stumbled the couple of steps to the torch. I leant down to pick it up, as I did I heard movement. I spun round.
Vance had stood unsteadily. He came at me, clumsily.
I swung with the torch, little flares followed.
Unfortunately Vance didn’t jump back in time. The torch caught him in the face and stuck. He screamed and wildly flailed at his face.
The stench of burning hair and flesh filled the air, I could hear the sizzle of his skin under his screams.
I felt sick. I used the chance to dart for the door. I pulled it closed and forced my stiff, aching hands to co-operate to lock it. I took the keys out of the lock, after a few moments of fumbling. I put my back to the wall to the side of the door, the screaming was getting to me. I slid down until I was sat at the base, the cool stone helped sooth my head. It did nothing for the shakes though, as the heat of the moment left me. I found myself laughing with tears running down my face, being without my magic was getting to me. It was bad enough being in the dark, but without my extra senses, I felt truly handicapped. I was without light as the torch was still burning Vance. I wasn’t going to go in and peel it off his face to save me having to wander around in the dark. Just thinking about it made me shiver. I took a moment to tighten the chains on my arms, they were the only weapon I had, couldn’t have them getting in the way, then I stood.
I rested my right hand against the wall. I used it to guide me as I walked to the right, back the way Vance and Rumble had come from. I still had no idea where I was or how I got here. But I knew I needed to get out. When I came to a junction, the air was flowing from the opening to the right. A cold, stale flow, that made me cough as the dust got to me. The sound echoed oddly. I leaned over and lost my balance against the wall. The dust didn’t let up. I turned my head to prevent the worst, but I wasn’t sure of the way I had come now. No sign of light anywhere. The dark was smothering me. I could feel a sort of panic rising up in me. My breath came faster. Cold sweat beaded on my brow. I stepped blindly forwards. My hands out to the sides, hunting for a wall. Any wall.
Rough stone scraped the fingers of my left hand. I almost fell against it in relief. A weakening of my knees. I tensed. A strain as I pulled myself together. I followed the wall. There wasn’t anything else I could do. I walked slowly, I kept my turning my head listening for anything. The silence was deafening. I couldn’t even hear Vance’s screams and moans anymore. Thank the heart for small blessings. I walked, still slowly, I stumbled on the uneven floor, but didn’t fall. The clink of my chains echoed around me.
I stopped, terrified that there was something out there. It could have heard me. I nearly burst into a run. But something stopped me. Silence and darkness, not even a drip of water or a movement in the air. My eyes went wide as I strained to see. It wasn’t a trick. There was a shape ahead of me. A hundred paces or so, it was so hard to tell in the gloom. I couldn’t even name what I was feeling, my breath went out in a rush. A very faint glow illuminated a line of what could be a corner. I held myself still. I was tempted to just run, but I didn’t know what I would be running into. I walked as slow and quiet as I could. Even my chains didn’t clink. Although they were getting rather heavy.
The light grew brighter. It was definitely a corner, the light source had to be on the other side. I inched closer as my eyes gradually adjusted to the light. I took my hand off the wall, I wanted both my hands free. I had no idea what was ahead. I needed to be ready, what I really needed was my magic back, but this was all I could do. I gripped my now dangling chains, enough free that I could swing at close range. I listened, nothing still. I took a deep breath and stepped round the corner.
A torch on the wall, illuminated the rough stone walls. They were clearly finished to a better quality than the natural rock in my cell. There were even flagstones instead of solid stone. It appeared I was in the basement of a very old building, built on a natural outcropping or something. The cell was clearly a cave system repurposed. This was something else. What it was I had no idea, but it was something. I took a few steps forward wildly looking around. There, a little ways ahead of the torch was a set of stairs leading up. Definitely a basement. Up had to mean out, and hopefully to Jase, Avery and Fion. I made my way slowly towards the stairs, I looked up them, I couldn’t see anyone, I could hear voices though, soft and distant. I gripped my chains and walked up the stairs, I crouched as they emerged into a large hall. From up here, the stairs were just a sunken area in the smooth floor.
I continued up, keeping as low as I could. I saw a cluster of people towards the back of the hall, near a daïs. An old, ornate chair, almost a throne rested on the daïs. Ancient, tattered banners in faded fabric hung from the walls flanking. Off to the side was Rumble standing before Jase and Fion who were on their knees in chains. Both looked worse for wear, Jase’s eyes were unfocused. Fion was asleep, how I don’t know, but he’d managed to be asleep in chains while kneeling. A person was laying down behind my mages, blonde, it had to be Avery. Two men were standing back from Rumble, one I recognised, medium height, short hair, grey, but large. Lessor. The other man was old and frail. White hair and beard, both short. He looked out-of-place. His eyes though, shimmered with light like a rainbow was trapped in his skull.
I looked for a way to approach without giving myself away. I needed to get them out, this didn’t look good for any of us.
“Where has Vance got to? He had one simple job. To bring the boy here,” Rumble said in what I now knew was his fake voice. “Brak, could the lower shield have broken?” he asked the older man.
I knew that name, the wizard from the foundry. Shit, well that explained the eyes. I couldn’t go up against a wizard on my best day, and why was a wizard with them? I thought they all signed on with the council.
“The shield is fine, let them go. We don’t need this,” Brak quavered. He looked to Jase and Fion sadly. “They don’t need to be here.”
“But aren’t you curious how they got here, or how they knew we were here?” Rumble asked.
I really needed a better name than Rumble for him. Something that said exactly how low he was, murdering all those people to cover a lesser crime. How little he cared.
“Not really, they are here. We need to get gone,” Brak answered.
“Boss, I agree. We don’t need this. We are supposed to be under the sight. How can we work if we have mages after us?” Lessor said. He looked towards his boss something intent in his gaze.
“You don’t know who this one is, do you?” Rumble said, he kicked Jase in the side.
A sharp snap and a groan from Jase could be heard, even from where I was.
“This scum is the reason my family went from nobles to nothing, my entire line, grand nobles in their own right. This man is the reason, this empty hall was never a home to me, isn’t that right, father?” Rumble said venomously.
Jase’s son was Rumble. I gasped. Thankfully no one heard me.
I had an idea, it was stupid and would probably get me killed, but without my magic it was all I had. I took a deep breath, inched the chain on my right arm down to pool in my hand, a loop.
“Iason, it can’t be, you’re dead,” Jase muttered. I could see tears trailing down his face. “You look just like your mother.” There was a dazed quality to Jase’s voice, that made me think, he thought he was hallucinating
“How dare you speak of her, she died because of you. You chose the wizards over the nobles,over your own family,” Iason, rumble’s real name apparently, was shaking. I couldn’t see his face, his back was to me, but I doubt it was pretty. His voice was thick with anger and grief.
I ran, as fast as my legs could carry me. No one noticed me yet. By the time someone did, Lessor called out, but I had my chain looped around Iason’s neck. I pulled as tight as I could, he went down.
“Release them, undo what ever shield you have that blocks my magic, or I kill him, here and now,” I said to Brak, he seemed the most sympathetic.
“Ease up there boy, we don’t want no accidents,” Lessor said. He raised his hands and stepped away. He was clearly trying to appear non-threatening.
“I have been locked in a cell for no reason by bastards that burnt a district full of people alive. I’m not in the best of moods, so excuse me if I’m not inclined to take your direction,” I said.
I tightened my grip on Iason to combat some of my dizziness as anger threatened to overwhelm me.
“Fine, fine, I’m walking away,” Lessor said as he kept walking backwards away from me.
“I can’t take down the lower shield, but the one up here won’t take a moment. Lessor don’t go anywhere. Release his friends,” Brak said. Sigils like the ones Fion had used, started rising from the surface of his palm, totally different, but related in some unidentifiable fashion
“Don’t,” Iason gasped out.
I tightened the chains again.
I looked down. He was turning a very bright reddish-purple. I eased up a bit, he couldn’t die yet. I cocked my head to the side, I could feel something. Other than rage and confusion. It was the sigils, they were talking, I didn’t understand them, but they were definitely talking. Oh shit, I thought as I realised what it meant. I braced my feet and took a deep breath. I was careful not to let Iason free. My magic rushed back, my reading deciding to go berserk, but I pushed it down. The rush of my senses being back was indescribable, other than them being sharper, but it told me something I didn’t want to know.
Avery was as good as dead, her link was gone. Not shattered. Not broken. Gone. I couldn’t deal with it now, maybe once we were away from here, I could do something. I held on to that hope, the other option was too much right now.
Fion woke up with a grunt. The massive mage looked around blearily. He blinked and shook his head, before noticing the chains around his wrists. he looked at them. I could feel a tiny pulse of magic from him. The metal liquified. No flash, No show. One moment solid, the next a pool of greyish silver on the floor. Fion just noticed me stood over Iason. “It seems I missed my target. What’s going on?” he asked me.
“I don’t really know, I woke up in a cell, and this bastard,” I shook my chains with the captured Iason for emphasis. “Who just so happens to be the fucker that destroyed the foundry, as well as Jase’s son apparently, was gloating. I escaped. Ended up here.”
Fion grunted again. Not really that talkative it appeared. He looked around again. “Brak? What are you doing here?”
“Hello Fion, good to see you again. I wish it was under better circumstances,” Brak said affably. You would think they had met in the street and it just so happened to be raining. Odd. The sigils rising from his palm hovered briefly as he spoke, almost as if they were listening.
Fion cocked his head, at the sigils. “I recognise some of them, you have gotten better.”
“Ten years, Fion. It’s been a long time. I noticed your own when you first arrived, although they were rather damaged,still they were better than when I first showed you,” Brak casually mentioned.
It was seriously unnerving, I was stood here holding a man hostage and they were conversing as if it wasn’t happening.
“It’s been a long time, master,” Fion agreed. “Now what are we doing here?”
“I see time hasn’t improved your manners, I had hoped you would outgrow your uncivilized parentage,” Brak noted with a hint of disappointment. “You messed up, is why you are here. Familial bonds, from what I could read. Clever and if Iason wasn’t here, it would have worked. I guess you were aiming for the boy?” “
Yes, Tristan. I wonder why it went to Jase,” Fion mused, he scratched his head as he looked around at us.
“Nothing works all the time, you know the magic has its ways,” Brak said, it sounded as if he was quoting something.
“Excuse me, can we get out of here now?” I asked frustrated. As interesting as all this was, now certainly wasn’t the time for it.
The older mage and his former master looked at me like I was some unruly child.
“Of course, Fion, would you do the honours? I’m a touch busy holding the shield at bay,” Brak said.
Fion nodded. Colours flushed through his skin, sigils, fainter this time, but no weaker, rose from his palms. They quickly formed a sphere around Fion, Jase and Avery.
I looked from the sphere to Brak. He nodded at me, “Go boy. Iason won’t do anything. You are free to go.”
I was torn, as much as I wanted to kill this bastard for what he had done, I needed to get back to Sophia. Revenge could wait. I gave the chains an extra tight squeeze, just because I could wait didn’t mean the fucker didn’t deserve a little now. Then I pulsed a bit of magic into the chains, they released from my arms with a clink as the manacles fractured. I sent a bit more power into them, locking them around Iason. I was sure the wizard could get him out, but it freed me to move without fear of reprisal. I dashed for the sphere just in case they changed their minds about letting us go free.
I plunged through the shifting wall of shapes.
No light. No sound. No feeling. Nothing.