"Mister," a little girls' voice echoed down the stone corridor. "Can I have my ball back?" There was a rattle of chains as the man shifted. His marbled grey and blue eyes drifted from her to the white-washed ball. It laid several tiles past his bars on the cold, damp, mildew ridden floor.
"You shouldn't play in the dungeons Little One." He extended his arm out past the shadows of his cage. Her small fingers brushed past his own scared fingers. Pale, bleached looking skin, stood out against her pink tinted, sun soaked tan skinned.
She gave him a grin as her green eyes caught his. "No one cares where I go. It's fun to explore the castle."
Lightly he patted her wavy brunet hair. "Not all down here are as nice as I." She merely giggled at the man. The high ceilings and narrow bared windows of the dungeon made it hard for her to see what he looked like. Though hoarse from lack of use, his voice seemed good natured, albeit gruff.
"Will play again real soon… okay?" The girls' complete lack of concern threw him. Even for a child she had the complete willingness and innocence to trust a strange. Before he had a chance to say anything, she was gone.
True to her word, she did indeed return the next day. It baffled him, how a young girl; probably no older than five or six, managed her way past the guards. Surely the guards were not so careless as to let a child come and go as she pleased. Then again this was the only child he'd ever seen down in the dungeons. Fact it was the only person other than the guards and interrogators he'd seen down here who wasn't a prisoner.
"Mister," She started white-washed ball in hand. "Why are you in that cage? Are you some kind of animal?" She asked, setting her ball down. The girl perched herself upon it, keeping her pink and purple dress clean from the floor.
"Why do you think I'm an animal?"
"You're all shaggy like one, and they put animals in cages. Especially the mean ones they make fight. Are they going to make you fight too?" What she said was not far from the truth. The late day sunlight illuminated his cage, for the briefest of hours. It allowed the girl a clear look at his features. Wrists and ankles shackled the skin raw and chafed. His long black beard and hair were un-kept and greasy.
Though malnourished and skinny, his body still held its muscled condition. The fat of his body had been eaten away from recent near starvation. Partially sunken eyes made him look more like a stray mutt than a person. One thing that stood out was a burn mark on his shoulder. However his loose skin and long hair kept the girl from seeing what it was. She could see that the mark covered his arm from the shoulder down to the elbow.
"Don't men like to watch animals fight though?" She wondered.
"Only when the animal in question has done nothing wrong. Sides a grizzly grease bag like me wouldn't provide much entertainment."
"What did you do wrong Mister?"
A smile appeared on his dry, cracked lips. "Me? Nothing," The man let out a snort, scoffing a bit. "Nothing at all." His head jarred to the right, at the sound of a female's voice. It was like a sirens song to his ears. Until recently the only voices he'd had the pleasure of listening to were the grizzly male voices of the guards. By her tone he could tell that she wasn't so much talking to, as chewing out the guards. The woman's words where jumbled with that of the guards who were trying to cover their own asses. From what he could pick up it sounded like they were talking about the child who'd come to visit him.
"I've got to go Mister." Quickly the girl got to her feet, dusting off her dress. In a rush she picked up her ball. "My name is Rosslyn by the way." She called as an afterthought before disappearing around the corner.
"It's come to my attention that I've failed to give you my name." The man stated a few days later when the girl was visiting him. His arms hung loosely through the bars until the chain of the cuffs kept his arms from reaching out farther.
"That's okay Mister." She looked up at his shadowed form. Her visits had become part of his daily routine in the past few days. They never lasted too long though, enough for idle conversation primarily. Sometimes they'd manage a few detailed questions here and there, before one thing or another would cause the girl to disappear on him.
"Mister makes me sound old and decrepit."
"But you are old and decrepit Mister." Rosslyn cut in causing him to laugh.
"I suppose your right." Her lack of tact and blatant bluntness was a refreshing change of pace. "If you wouldn't mind calling me Aiden that would be highly appreciated."
"Okay, Mr. Aiden." As much as he wanted to scowl and correct her, he didn't. Her big grin kept him from chewing her out or getting angry. At least she was using his name; that was a start.
"Can I ask you a question?"
"Sure thing Mr. Aiden." Casually she bounced the ball with both hands. Letting it drop a couple of times before re-establishing her old on it.
"There's a big wood door with iron bands on it that the guards keep an eye on right?" He pointed his finger down the hall in the direction of the door he was referencing. Upon her nod he continued. "How does one, such as yourself, bypass them?"
"Silly Mr. Aiden, why shouldn't it be easy for me?" Her words, while obvious to herself, were more than a little cryptic to him. Rather than ask for clarification, Aiden merely proceeded with another question. It would give his mind something to ponder later anyway.
"The woman from a few days ago." He stopped briefly to gage Rosslyn's reaction. "The one… talking to the guards, she's your caretaker?"
Rosslyn shook her head, causing Aiden's brow to cock. "No, she's not my caretaker. One of the kitchen servant's takes care of me."
"I… See…" Aiden mumbled, piecing the information together. "So why was she chewing out the guards then? Better yet, why did you have to leave when she came down, provided she's not responsible for you?"
"She is responsible for me, even though I don't really live with her. Right now I'm not allowed to be around her. She doesn't like me always running about the castle. But I don't like being stuck in the boring old kitchen, so I go exploring instead." The sound of the door creaking open caused her to turn around.
"I think I need to go…" She said in a voice that held concern and worry, neither of which was overly powerful. Rosslyn didn't wait for a response from Aiden before dashing away. Aiden watched her retreating form finding something amiss about it. Suddenly it hit him, quite literally. Looking down he noted the white-washed ball that rolled against his foot.
She'd forgotten her ball.