Trapped in a Closet
“Ah come on mate! Why not?” Swipe moaned as he shuffled along behind Thorn. The ceratosaurus continuously tried to separate himself from the raptor, but each time he moved away, Swipe followed. His eyes narrowed as his blood boiled.
“You annoy me to no end. Now leave me be!”
“But we make such a good team, we do.” Swipe replied with a curly grin and joyful tap to the ground from his right foot.
“Whaddya mean lad? I caught that meal. Not you.”
“Roight, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t any less delicious, eh?”
“You’re a scavenger. At least other scavengers have some sort of dignity, and can speak like a sensible being.”
“Oy! Don’t ya be puttin’ down me Ma’s teachin’s. Ya should’a heard her tongue. Flawless.”
“I’m more than certain…” Thorn turned and started off once again. He didn’t even care if he was heading toward the forest, a domain he typically stayed away from. All he wanted was to be rid of his tormentor. With an eager wag of his stiff tail and a wide grin, the deinonychus was right behind him. As he darted up to Thorn’s side, he looked up affectionately to the disgruntled dinosaur.
“Ya know, we’ve got ourselves a good thing goin’ eh? Ya the nice one. I’m the good-lookin’ one. I’m not sayin’ ya ain’t bad lookin’, I just don’t swing dat way ya know? Ah, ya know. And this banter! Classic.”
“Well it’ll have to remain a classic then, won’t it?”
“Ya see? That’s what I’m talkin’ aboot!”
“Please, I beg of you. Leave me. Find someone, anyone, else to pester. Please.”
“Nope! Me Ma always said I was some sorta detecta for good souls. And ya, Thorn? Ya somethin’ special. Like I said though, I don’t want ya thinkin’ of me like that.”
“Deal. I won’t think of you at all.”
“Ah! Such wit! Gosh, we’re quite admirable don’t ya think? All we need now is a bunch ‘a good-lookin’ gals to fawn o’er us ya know?”
“Stop. Just stop!” Thorn turned and howled at the raptor. Swipe blinked once as he held his hands close to his form, shocked by the outburst. “Listen, I have a hard enough time just getting by. I have big beasts and pack hunters stealing my food all the time. This has been my first real meal in days. I do not need someone like you following me around.”
“Like me? Whaddya tryin’ to say there mate?” Swipe cackled.
“Go away!” And with that, the ceratosaurus turned and ran as fast as he could through the forest, leaving Swipe a bit puzzled. It became apparent, however, that Thorn wasn’t exactly the fastest dinosaur he had ever met, especially compared to himself. He watched as he trotted along for some ways, when he smiled.
“Ya can’t separate best pals ya know!” The raptor took off after Thorn, taking mere moments to catch up with the elder dinosaur. While the ceratosaur huffed and panted, Swipe appeared completely fine at the pace he was running. “Ya know, I know this one fella who was a meat-eata, he was one ‘a the fellas I told ya about rememba? The one who died? Yeah. Well he had a friend who was a long neck. One ‘a them leaf-eatin’ long necks. Like they make any other kind right? Ha! Ya can’t make that up. Yep, they were best friends even when everyone else said it wouldn’t work. Ya see? This friendship can work.” The two dinosaurs came to a stop, with Swipe smiling widely up at Thorn.
“Why do you torment me?”
“That’s just what friends do!” Thorn narrowed his eyes. It had been several hours since he had met this nuisance. He talked incessantly, he was of poor taste, he had that terrible dialect, and he ate most of his dinner. It was a wonder he hadn’t gotten a stomach cramp from this running. Thorn’s upper lip pulled back to reveal his dagger-like teeth as his heart raced. Was he really that willing to get rid of Swipe? He argued with himself internally, with one thought suggesting it would take but one bite, not to mention another meal for himself, while another brought up the morals of it all. It was true: Thorn never killed a beast he had a conversation with, as many carnivores might tend to do. But this one, he thought, could be a real exception.
Unfortunately for him, he hadn’t enough time to ponder it when something fell from the sky. For its size, it landed with a surprisingly loud thump, and not a moment later Swipe was hovering right on top of it. The small pterosaur panted from his desperate escape, and as the raptor’s wickedly-sharp claws stood mere inches from his form, Messenger nearly fell into a panic attack.
“Well would ya look at this Thorn! A real idiot!”
“Let me be the judge of that. You seemed to have set up quite a standard already.” The ceratosaur mumbled as he joined the deinonychus at his side. Together they looked down at Messenger as he eyed both of them.
“That…that bastard!” He snapped at them.
“Oy! Don’t call me friend that!” Swipe retorted.
“No you idiot…” Messenger struggled to catch his breath as he looked heavenward. “Giant…he tricked me.”
“Who? How so?” Thorn asked.
“I can’t be sure. But from his tone, can’t be someone good. Well, come on now. What did he do?”
“He…he sent me to my death, that’s what he did. He…he knows that I know too much.”
“Too much? Out with it! Tell us.” Swipe insisted. Thorn nearly snapped at him when the pterosaur nodded.
“Y-yes. Giant is planning something big. Something of a takeover. I don’t know all of it, but enough. He’s hired Crunch to do his bidding and ordered me to lie to Rust for protection.”
“He’s a notable in the grasslands.” Thorn said. “You’d be well off to know him.”
“He doesn’t want Rust to know anything.” Messenger added. “I think he’s set out to conquer. Make himself leader in these parts, and is willing to shed blood for it.”
“Like that’ll last.” Swipe snickered. He looked to Thorn, who looked quite concerned over the idea. But from his expression, it was difficult for the raptor to make out what he was thinking.
“That’s all I know unfortunately. I really, really need a nap though…”
“You take your nap.” Thorn replied. “And get as far away from here as you can.” The two dinosaurs looked at each other. “We have to tell Rust about this.”
“He’s the one you said somethin’ about earlier right?”
“Obviously.” Thorn rolled his eyes.
“Well good. Ya see? I was listenin’!” Thorn simply shook his head as he and Swipe turned and headed off, leaving Messenger off to his nap. The small pterosaur panted and gasped for several more moments until he huddled up and simply fell asleep, hopeful that Hopper’s raptors wouldn’t come looking for him.
Tanner didn’t quite live up to his threat. Eira feared for her life when he slapped his visor back down and glared at her with that cold metallic stare, but as she waited to be pummeled and beaten, he simply tugged the rope around her neck again. With a forceful growl he commanded her to stand, and yanked at her as she didn’t quite jump up fast enough. Each tug prompted a painful cough from the girl, when Tanner pressed his hand into her back. He asked her to stand up straight, which she did, when he lightened the noose.
Truth be told, the Eagle General didn’t want a battered and bloody Green Folk to reach the Royal Family. She had to be presentable, and he himself wasn’t typically one to give a woman a black eye. On that note, he thought, they would have to wash her clothes.
“I should find it agreeable that I treat you this way in exchange for compliance. You will not be harmed further. I promise.” Despite his words and intent, the soldier’s tone was very cold. Eira simply nodded, but continued not to speak. He would take her back to the camp and dried her off, wiping the mud from her face as they prepared to leave.
The storm didn’t last very long, and for that many of the archers rolled their eyes, some of them having just unpacked everything for a long stay. They went back to work while the knights all waited on them. Eira was meant to ride with Tanner this time, so that everyone behind them could keep an eye on her. It certainly worked, as the Green Folk could hardly stand to move a muscle with so many eyes on her.
Much to Eira’s relief, or dismay for that matter, was that it didn’t take but another hour or two for more advanced signs of civilization to appear along that road. A great fort made of stone and wood passed by. Armor-plated guards saluted from atop its walls to Tanner, who promptly returned the motion when they traveled through a small, bustling town, passing a towering wall and bridge in doing so. Amazed by its size as well, Eira could spy small dots at the tower; guards no doubt. Little did she know, each one had an arrow pointing at her, ready for the worst to occur just outside the gates. This maw, however, was filled with sturdy wooden teeth, impeding Tanner’s progress until they heard a guard above alert to the others that it was indeed the general. A metallic clicking sound could be heard from the other side as the wooden gate was slowly raised. They rode in once it locked into place at the arch above, when Eira looked all around.
With a clock tower as its centerpiece, the town was nothing but brown and grey with wood and stone. Eira couldn’t help but marvel at the large buildings around them, including its ticking mantelpiece. She couldn’t be sure what it was, but simply its height alone, at which she was blinded by a budding sun from behind it, was nothing short of awe-inspiring.
From the wide expanse of markets located just around the tower’s base, people flocked to the main road to see the returning soldiers. Cheers rang out from just about everyone, from dirt-ridden peasants to the shimmering nobleman with fat bags of coin around their waists. Fathers hoisted sons on their shoulders and pointed to the Green Folk, declaring for everyone that the tales were true. It was then that Eira realized the attention was mostly toward her. Her eyes darted all around, and nearly every gaze she met was on her. What sort of treatment was this? And why?
With a flick of his hand Tanner gave the order for the archers to be dismissed. Not a moment later did the hooded men break apart and run to family when the knights rode on, unfazed by it all. Eira watched countless husbands pick children up in their arms or hug wives as laughter soon filled the air. It was certainly heart-warming, but overwhelming nonetheless for the Green Folk as she watched it pass. Then they passed through another great wall.
There was no wood here. Only cold stone. She could see staircases leading up the high wall and stone bunkers around them. Soldiers, knights, and servants all went about their duties, ignoring Tanner’s return with a turn of their nose. But as her eyes glanced about, it took less than a second for her to look up at a magnificent castle. She wondered how she couldn’t have seen it from outside the gates thanks to its size. It also held a great sense of glory, from the numerous flags waving around it and its towers to its navy blue shingles all across its many roofs of various sizes.
Just before the grand castle, the knights stopped. Tanner dismounted first and helped Eira down, but held onto her arm tightly. Another knight promptly jumped from his horse and reported before the Eagle General, saluting.
“Gregory, take the Green Folk and see to it that her clothes are washed. I want her to be presentable to His Highness. Then report to me at once.”
“Aye Sir.” With that, Tanner released Eira, to which the other knight took her arm just as tightly. He dismissed the other knights while Gregory whisked the girl off toward a smaller door in the castle, one that was more subtle than the glorious front door.
He opened the door and slammed it behind them, to which Eira found herself in complete darkness. She could hear someone beg them for forgiveness as they scurried off once her eyes adjusted to the change in light. But the knight wouldn’t allow for that. Even though he likely had trouble seeing in that helmet himself, he seemed to know where to go by heart as he dragged her along behind him. With a surprised gasp Eira tripped over a step before being hoisted back to her feet. The soldier said nothing as she regained herself and walked up a rather long, winding set of stairs.
Thin slits in the tower wall allowed for light to pour in, much to Eira’s delight. As they ascended, the light grew brighter, though there wasn’t much to see as she was practically hauled up the stairs by the knight. Eventually they did turn; at least once they laid eyes upon a long hallway, beautifully lit by towering stained-glass windows.
Gregory did not march for long before opening a door and whipping Eira into it. He commanded her to remove her cloak. She hesitated at the demand, but as she simply stared back at cold metal where the man’s face should have been, she obliged. Thankfully it was simply the cloak he wanted to wash, and not her undergarments or shoes, despite the coats of mud of them as well.
“I will return soon.” The knight said coldly before slamming the door. She could hear the door lock from the outside before everything went quiet. Eira, all alone in a cold supply room, felt it best to wander the rather cramped quarters while awaiting her fate. Dark and reeking of mildew, the shelves were quite bare for being a supply closet. She stood with her hands clasping one another tightly as she looked all around. What was she going to do? She couldn’t even begin to imagine how worried her parents must have been. How she hoped they were okay.
With what little hope available, something had to be at least tried, Eira thought. She reached up and felt around its numerous shelves. With nothing to provide light, she had to rely on touch, to which she simply found numerous empty bottles and one on occasion filled with something, as it stood firm against her touch. She shrieked once she touched what she was certain to be a hairy spider, which scurried off in a hurry. She promptly returned her hands to her chest, breathing heavily as she feared panic would consume her.
It wasn’t more than a few minutes that she could hear the lock be tampered with. The soldier was certainly right about returning, Eira thought. But as seconds passed by, he certainly seemed to have trouble unlocking it. The Green Folk worried about just who could have been on the other end of that door, when it crashed wide open.
There was a man holding onto the door handle, as if for dear life. Hunched over and desperate to stand, he stood up and rested his shoulder on the door. Eira could only see his outline from the burst of blinding light behind him, but he certainly didn’t look like the knight from before. In fact, he hadn’t any armor on him at all.
“Who are you?” He asked with a drunken slur. The girl cleared her throat. It was best to comply with these beings, given her circumstances.
“My name is Eira Aune sir.”
“Well what the hell are you doing in here? With the door locked?” The man stumbled toward her, holding onto the shelves around them to keep his balance as he swayed from side to side. Terrified by the man, Eira backed up against a cold stone wall in a hopeless attempt to keep her distance. But the man stopped and turned toward one of the shelves. It was then that she could see he had a thick, bushy mustache and stubble, when his gloves moved one glass jar around then another. “More importantly; where’s the wine?”
“I do not know sir. I-I’ve been brought here against my will.”
“You servants and your cruel pranks.” The man cackled obnoxiously. With a look of triumph and his tongue sticking out he had to stretch his arm to its very limit to reach a bottle at the back of the shelf. With another laugh he brought it up in victory when he stumbled backward. Other bottles and jars rattled and clanked loudly as he crashed into the other wall of shelves, where he stood for a moment. Eira gently helped the man regain his footing, to which he wrapped his arm over her shoulder. His breath alone nearly overwhelmed the girl, but he dangled helplessly to her side. “Here. I’ll get you out of here if you get me to my quarters.” Well, Eira thought with a smile; that was certainly a deal worth making.
“Okay. Where is it?” She asked as she first helped him out of the supply closet. The mustachioed man looked toward the stairs with one eye closed, then down the hall, and again toward the stairs.
“Not that way.” He declared. Drunk though he was, he thankfully hadn’t relied entirely on Eira for support as he swayed from one end of the long hallway to another. There were others in these halls, all finely-dressed and with judging stares for the two. Two men with scrolls of paper in their hands and funny hats outright stopped to shake their heads, but not without smirking and stealing glances from one another.
“Not even evening yet and Bernard’s belligerent again is he?” The entire walk was embarrassing for Eira, whose face felt hot from just wearing her undergarments alone, modest though they were. As concealing as the gown was, she had never appeared before anyone wearing just them. She also felt naked in that she hadn’t a hood over her head, a mainstay in Green Folk attire. Perhaps it was simply her, but the lack of that hood made her more uneasy than losing her robe and cloak. The clothes everyone wore, including the drunken man, also made her uneasy about her attire, as they were all quite fancy, colorful, and intricate. Surely they judged her for that, but had the courtesy not to speak of it before her. One long corridor led to another, when the man stopped, again with one eye closed.
“Wait…it’s back there I think.” Eira blinked once with a sense of frustration as she obliged. Again she helped him walk past the same nobles and servants, who did nothing to hide their wide smiles and deep chuckles this time. Her face couldn’t have grown any deeper shade of red. Though aware that the laughter was intended for the old man, the Green Folk still felt herself fit to cry at any given moment. Together they turned down a different hallway upon his command, when they came to a rather plain door. “Here!” Eira broke away from the man with a satisfying sniff of fresh air. With the girl’s nose free of rancid alcohol breath, she turned and watched as he stumbled straight into the door. A glove came up and fiddled with the door handle, much as he had done with the supply closet, when he opened it.
“Excuse me sir.” Eira said meekly. “But…you said you could help me get out of here if I brought you back.”
“I did didn’t I?” His mustache curled upward in a wicked smirk when he turned to her. “I got you out of that closet. Thank you again Miss um…w-what was your name again?”
“It’s Eira.” She wasn’t so polite this time with her tone, her heart having sunk from his words. "Eira Aune.”
“Eira Aune. I’m going to have to write that down before too long. Um…my name is Bernard. Sir Bernard Clayville.” He drunkenly gave his best attempt to bow to her.
“It’s an honor Sir Bernard but I really must ask you for your help. I must leave this place. Please.”
“I don’t know a lot of servants who do like it here.”
“You do not understand. I…” She glanced around before looking to Bernard again. “I’m not a servant.”
“What are ya then?”
“A…a Green Folk sir.” The drunken man stared at her for the longest time, his weight relying entirely upon the wall for support. Then his mustache curled upward again as he began to snicker, followed by a barrage of laughter. Eira, in turn, simply stared at him harshly, hands tightened as this man was beginning to annoy her.
“A Green Folk? What? Did you ride here on a winged horse then Miss? With your satchel of gold and treasures? Ha! I like you.” He continued to laugh as he swung the chamber door wide open and stumbled inside, closing it behind him. Eira couldn’t care to chase after him, even if she heard a crash come from behind the door as he had likely tripped over something. A drunk though he was, he could have been the only person she had seen so far who wasn’t threatening to her. As she stood there, boiling with anger at the man, a twinge of worry shot up her spine. What about the closet? The knights would surely come looking for her if they’d found her to escape. One more realization had her see that lost here too, unable to navigate the castle’s long, winding halls. She couldn’t have returned to the closet even if she wanted to. But before she could even think further about her dilemma, she heard a piercing voice snap at her.
“You! What are you doing here? And what is that disgusting outfit you have on?” Eira turned to face a tall, slender old woman with bony features as she marched toward her. She wore a dark dress that didn’t allow for any features save for her head and hands to be revealed. Over that, a worn old apron that once tightened, allowed the gown to hug her twig-like form.
A long finger was pointing right at the Green Folk as two other servant girls followed behind the woman. Unable to speak out of surprise and fear, Eira stared at the woman with wide eyes and a mouth fighting to find something, anything, to say. The woman stood tall before her and crossed her arms.
“You must be a new servant girl.” She spat. “New this morning I presume. Great. Well come along, don’t dawdle, and pick up your head and your feet. We’ll have to get you something real to wear.”