We both knew the perfect story for this kind of situation and so with a glance at each other, my sister spoke. “We ran into the Elder from across town.” She started and I knew this was sure to get my mom’s attention off the real matter. “Oh was it Grouser who lives near the border?” asked my mom interested. “Yeah, the same one..” I continued. This was basically it. My mom was into our tale and in no time her mind was elsewhere. This meant we got our food fast which was currently a blessing.
The food was the usual but remarkable nonetheless like always. Minutes later we were free again roaming about the streets aimless at the moment. As we walked a battered lonely road a little past the busy market place my sister spoke out breaking the long silence. “Hey! Remember what’s happening tomorrow night?” she asked as she looked at me with her big eyes, her voice building up with excitement. “No..” I said not thinking. “Come on try and guess,” she said hesitantly not willing to give in so fast. “One of your friend’s birthday?” I asked after a few minutes of staring at the ground. “No, come on one more guess.” “OK… is it the day dad finally got out?” I said suddenly without even thinking really because my mind was somewhere else pondering and trying to open unknown doors. I saw my sister’s expression drop and I knew I had spoken without even consideration. “Sadly as you know he cannot come out for another three months.” She said as she now kicked a pebble that was blocking her path. “Don’t you think his sentence is way longer for the crime he committed?” I asked suddenly feeling the same way my sister felt.
It was sad that a key member of our family was behind bars for a crime that was not worth even being behind bars. So he had stolen a few goods and gotten into a couple of fights but that did not serve as justifiable proof for serving two long years behind bars. Something was unnerving about this and although I think it was mostly because of me, my mom and sister always told otherwise.
To be honest I think that because of me being in part of the family my mom, dad and sister all had to suffer way more than what others had to suffer. Like I had told before, not only was it hard for me to go on about my business without someone calling me names or someone causing problems to me, it seemed to affect my parents and sister as they tried to lead normal lives like everyone else around. My mom and dad consoled me, telling me not to take the full blame but deep inside I thought it was me causing the problems.
My sister cut me off from my deep thoughts as she said. “I know what you’re thinking, however, I’m not going to do the same bickering as mom, instead I’m going to try and change your mood by telling you that tomorrow night is Zelia!!” ”Why are you so excited about it?” I asked puzzled as I looked at her energized face. “You can’t even enter. You still have two years to complete before you can watch the match.” I said trying to calm her down. “I know and even though I’m really pumped for two years to go in a flash, I’m excited because you can finally go for it.” She said and I finally realized her excitement. My face lit up with excitement as I told her. “Yes finally.” I told as we continued to walk down the road. “They say it’s so brutal that those who go in sometimes don’t ever return.” She continued her excitement building up. “Hope they do.” I said my voice not showing the excitement I had just moments before, as I thought about the unlucky two who had to face the fight. “It’s the fairer way.” She said and I knew she was right. Brutal though it was, it was one, if not the only way to end a major dispute.
Thinking about the opportunity to see two individuals fight to their death just did not seem to go good with me. I thought my sister would actually have more fun in watching those individuals fight there rather than me. Nonetheless most of whom were eligible to watch the fight were in the highest of spirits. So much so that they created posters and wore paint over their faces depicting the name of their supporter.
My face must have shown some form of sadness as my sister spoke the next sentence in a comforting tone. “Don’t worry about the fight if you don’t want to go we will do something better here. To get you into a better mood why don’t we go and meet dad?” she said and I took her advice as I knew she was just trying to get me into higher spirits. “Yes, that’s a great idea!” I said as I tried to raise my spirits at least for her.
So we then switched directions and walked the other lonely path towards the village’s prison. It was a long walk from where we were but we quickly covered ground. It was also far from the main village for obvious reasons. Soon we were at the main entrance of the prison and the guard on duty who had always been there since the opening of the prison stopped us at the gate. He, who till now was relaxing on the chair outside the gate under the shade of the nearby tree, suddenly rose at the sight of us two. “Oh come on Freag!” my sister retorted as guard blocked the gate with his metal baton. “Sorry Xaya but procedures.” he said as he fumbled with one hand in his shirt pocket for the whistle as his other still holding up the baton horizontally in front of the already closed gate. A few more fumbles later he finally got it to his mouth and blew it as loud as he could at me and my sister. Both of us, however, knew exactly what to do mostly because of the painful after-effects we had dealt with during our previous encounters. We closed our ears with our hands as tightly as we could as Freag relentlessly blew the whistle even though we were just a few meters away from him. “Was that really necessary?” my sister asked agitated as the whistle sound faded. “Just procedure.” repeated Freag his face showing little to no regret. I held my sister from further arguing and my sister accepted. Even though she clearly showed agitation, we both knew that Freag was odd and just someone who really wanted to follow every rule given in his guide book. So when Freag did open gate to let us in, which was slow considering how lazily he moved and because of his age we were not surprised when he wanted to inspect us even though me, my sister and Freag all really knew that me and my sister did not carry anything harmful to him or to anyone else.
We thought his behavior was such partially because of the lack of visitors to the prison. This would have meant he was most of the time in boredom and so to pass the time he conducted all his activities at an abnormally slow pace. This also meant the check for any weapons too was long. Since this time we had no possessions other than a rather frightened Nibbles, he let us through rather quick, even record-breaking one might have said.
The place was deserted as all the prisoners were in their cells, and unsurprisingly there were no visitors other than us. It might have been because of the fact that most of the prisoners here were not even from this town and only one prisoner from our village just happened to be our dad. There were very few prisoners here around only twelve most of whom were captured when they tried to steal from our town. The prison was an old building with thick concrete walls that provided the boundaries of the place. The same thick walls were also present inside and were the only things that separated the cells from one another other than the fact the thick bars of steel. The prison itself was just fifteen cells all in a row all with the same thick concrete as the boundary. We walked into the prison to notice it was well maintained mostly because of the work the prisoners had to do. The whole ground in front of the cells was full of blooming flowers and there was even a beautifully crafted path for people to walk about. Opposite to the cells was an old worn-out building that served as the food quarters for the prisoners. We now walked right in front of that food quarters heading towards the last cell of the prison block.
The first time we walked into the prison, we were scared, but now we were not. We knew they could not harm us as most of the prisoners who were the weak ones who were caught by our very small group of guards.
One of the main reasons why only the weak ones were caught was because our small little village lacked any proper defense against other townspeople just stealing from us. We even knew a few prisoners by their name and even tried having small conversations with them, but to our dismay most spoke in languages from home, some of which was kind of familiar, others completely alien. And few of the ones we could actually kind of understand were hostile to any speech which made us give up trying to speak to any of them. We continued our slow walk towards the last cell.
Somehow in my heart, I knew that my father was safe and it seemed in some weird manner that it was better being in prison than actually than back at home. Our village seemed so vulnerable when compared to the prison which was weird. Our village had no tall concrete walls that safeguarded us from intruders, nor did our houses have strong enough doors that could withstand the wrath of storms that came during the winters.
Most of the other prisoners except for my father were from the neighboring rival villages that commonly had conflicts with us and so our leader making a decision started keeping the prisoners like hostages who were kept alive with food and water from the guards. There was little to no contact with the neighboring village because the leader of our village focused more on helping out his own village as it had some major problems that needed his attention, which was one of the better judgments he had made in a while.
Due to this, the prisoners were trapped in their cells for eternity hoping for the day when there would be a face to face meeting of the two leaders where at one point they might actually discuss the releasing of the prisoners. That, however, seemed far off and the guards after hearing the relentless pleas of food and water for many days also fueled by the fact that they were not as cruel minded as one would think might be, started the food quarters for the prisoners. This did, however, catch the attention of our leader for a few days during which he helped initiate the food quarters, quickly after which he was pulled again by the problems the little village had fallen into in his absence.
This might have been cruel for me to say but I thought that the leaders, amongst all the mess among their own villages, might have even currently forgotten about the unfortunate prisoners. This would have had a negative effect on the prisoners and it did show in quite a few of them but the others had already made themselves at home and by the looks of some prisoners here seemed not ready to leave this place, as it might have turned out that the place where they were from had living conditions worse than what this place was currently offering.
We continued our walk and then finally came to the last cell of the block. As we neared the cell we noticed that a long cloth-covered almost half of the width of the cell, probably helping the prisoner inside get some kind of relief from the relentless sun.