The Chase Begins
'Darkness, nothing but black... have I gone blind?' Slowly opening her eyes, she saw that she was laying down in an otherwise empty dungeon cage.
"Okay, not blind, just kidnapped, again." She said aloud, with a mixture of relief and Frustration.
Who would take being kidnapped so calmly? Well, this is Sabrina Grey we're talking about. Princess Sabrina to her subjects. Princess of a barbaric kingdom, and possibly the strongest army around. This is her second time being kidnapped this month.
She looked down at her feet. "No chains?" she asked herself.
She looked around the dungeon, nothing but torches lighting the walls and a staircase just out of reach.
"Whoever's running this is an amateur." she resisted the urge to laugh, and started looking for the lock on the cage. She quickly found that there wasn't one, but didn't panic. Instead, she sat down to think of an escape plan, when she noticed a puddle near the cage. She managed to sneak through the bars, and look into it. Her sleek, wavy black hair didn't have a lock out of place, and her green eyes didn't have bruises around them. Good start. Whoever kidnapped her must have knocked her out with a potion or something.
She was about to go back to looking for an exit, when she heard someone coming down the stairs. She stood up straight, and got into a defensive position.
But, the only person who came down was a tall boy, around her age. She relaxed her stance, he was so thin, and didn't look like he could lift an empty box, much less hold his own in a fight. He couldn't be her kidnapper.
"Who are you?" Sabrina demanded. The boys brown eyes widened.
I-I'm Flare's guard. I wasn't aware that he kidnapped a princess already..." he stuttered. "You don't look like much of a p-princess." he added, before he could stop himself.
Sabrina looked down at herself, she really couldn't argue with him. Her own muscled body was built and clothed for battle. She wore a silver plated breastplate, an armored "skirt" modified for free movement, chainmail leggings, and silver plated boots. The basic armor for a royal warrior.
The "guard" in front of her dressed more like a peasant. His shoulder-length brown hair appeared as if it hadn't been cut in years. He wore a dark brown shirt, town at the sleeves, black pants, and brown work boots. It contrasted against his extremely pale skin.
"I don't assume you'd help me out of here, would you?" she asked. He shook his head.
"Flare would kill me if I helped you escape." he said.
"You keep mentioning someone named Flare, who's Flare?"
"You don't know Flare the dragon?" He seemed shocked, Sabrina just waited for an explanation. "He's only the strongest and most intelligent dragon around, and I'm his loyal guard, Guard." He explained.
"Your name is Guard?" she asked, holding back a laugh. He just nodded.
"Or at least, I think so. Flare calls me that, I don't remember my real name." he answered.
She wanted to ask what he meant, but decided that now wasn't the best time. Now, she needed to focus on escaping, and quick.
"You know, if you could help me out of here, I could break us both free, myself, of being held captive, and you, of being his minion." she offered.
"I-I couldn't! You don't know Flare's power, he'd kill both of us. Or worse, keep you here, as a minion like me." he said, shivering at the thought. He started pacing the stone floor, muttering on about all the different ways Flare could cook him.
"Guard!" Sabrina called out, snapping him out of his thoughts. "You must not know who I am, if you don't think that I can take down a dragon." she said, with a smirk. "Especially with my favorite weapon, and loyal friend in battle."
She reached into her sword sheath, before she realized it wasn't there, neither was her sword.
"O-Oh, did I forget to mention that Flare confiscated all your weapons?" Guard said, with a nervous chuckle.
"My sword, the daggers I had in each boot, even the slingshot?" she asked, panicked. He nodded 'yes' to each one.
"Okay, fine. Doesn't matter." Sabrina said, trying to calm herself. "Just trust me, let me out, tell me where to find my sword, and I'll stop Flare myself." she held an arm out through the bars for Guard to shake. He hesitated. "I won't let him touch you. Nothing bad will happen to you, as long as I'm here."
He reluctantly shook her hand. "Step back." he said. She backed away until she felt the bars from the back of the cage. Guard muttered something under his breath, and the bars of the cage were pulled into the top. Sabrina quickly ran out, and Guard made the bars swing back down.
"You know magic?" She asked.
"Magic? No, Flare gave me certain special powers, so I could be a better minion and guard." he said, with a laugh. "Which reminds me, we should probably get out of here before one of his...creatures show up."
"Yeah, beasts like sphinxes, siren-like mermaids, unicorns, human-eating plants..."
"Wait, unicorns?" she repeated, holding back a smile.
"They're more dangerous than they seem." he said, seriously. He looked around, cautiously. "Come on, I know a shortcut to Flare's quarters. The staircase pathway is laced with death traps and creatures."
"Okay, then how do we get out? There aren't any other doors or pathways." the princess pointed out. Guard laughed again, but didn't say anything.
Instead, he walked over to the wall directly next to the staircase, and pushed in one of the stones, causing the one on top of it to drop down. Eventually, this led to a chain reaction of the stones crumbing down, until a pathway was formed.
"You don't spend two years of your life here without knowing every little secret." he said, gesturing for her to walk through first.
"How do I know that you won't just lead me into a trap?" Sabrina said, not taking so much as a step towards the door.
"We made a promise. I help you, and I don't have to work for flare again. What can I gain from not helping you at this point?" he answered, slighting offended. "I could lock you back in the cage, if that's what you want."
'Gutsy, now that he knows I need his help.' she thought. She just rolled her eyes in reply, and stepped through the opening.
Unlike the other exit, this one wasn't lit by torches, meaning it went from faint light, to blurry, vague shapes and shadows, to complete darkness as she made her way through. She could hear Guard's footsteps behind her, but knew it was pointless to look back. There was nothing under her feet suddenly, she started falling.
'Was this a trap?' Was her final thought.
The trap door eventually spat Sabrina and Guard out into a poorly lit hallway. The two of their heads collided with a hard stone floor. Then blackness.
Unfortunately for Guard, Sabrina had woken up first. As soon as he opened his eyes, she grabbed the front of his shirt, and lifted him up. He was taller than her, so she only lifted him onto his knees, as to appear dominant. His eyes widened in fear as she scowled down at him.
"You tricked me." She said, through clenched teeth.
"N-No, I promised I wouldn't! It's just that..." He looked around, his fear turning into confusion. "This isn't where the tunnel should've led."
"What tunnel?" Sabrina asked, her anger fading into curiosity. She let go of him, and allowed him to stand. Guard immediately started examining the stone walls of the passageway they were in.
"The one I was leading you through. It was supposed to lead right outside, but instead it dropped us down here."
Guard's eyes narrowed, and he strained his ears, as if trying to pick up a far off sound. Suddenly, he took off down the passage. Sabrina quickly ran after him. He was surprisingly fast, and with all the metal armor that she was wearing, it was hard for her to catch up. The way was long, and consisted of many turns and forks. Guard rushed through like he knew exactly where he was going, as Sabrina tried desperately not to lose him. Eventually, he stopped, almost causing Sabrina to slam into his back.
"W-where are you...going?" she panted, while he barely looked winded.
Guard didn't answer, he didn't need to. As soon as Sabrina looked at where he was facing she saw it.
They were at the top of a staircase, and were at least twenty-five feet was a girl, sitting in a wooden cage, hanging over a large body of water the size of a lake. The cage was still and the girl sat with her head down, as if afraid to cause the smallest movement. The water was musky and it was hard to see the bottom, but when Sabrina and guard looked down, they clearly saw movement.
Guard mouthed. "Oh no..." then a word the princess didn't catch. She was too focused on the girl.
"Don't worry! We'll get you down!" she shouted.
The girl raised her head quickly, her eyes wide in shock. She hadn't noticed the two come in, and she was frantically shaking her head 'no'.
"Sabrina, don't." Guard whispered. "Get down." But, it was too late.
Sabrina took several paces backwards. Took a deep breath. Started running as quickly as her chain-mail and metal covered legs would allow. Then finally, once she reached the ledge where the staircase started, she jumped as far as she could. She barely made it, grabbing on to the bottom of the wooden cage, and holding on for dear life. The cage began swinging wildly, threatening to be set on fire by the torches illuminating the walls of the room. The girl's face showed wild panic, as Sabrina lifted herself to where she had her legs on the cage's bottom and her hands on the bars. Seeing the panic on the girl's face, Sabrina tried reassuring her.
"Don't worry, We're the good guys we're just here to rescue yo-"
"What are you doing?! You're going to anger them!" the girl interrupted.
Three black figures started moving under the unclear water. The cage had slowed almost to a stop, but none of the three noticed. They were all looking down, looking at what was making the underwater shapes. Suddenly, something leaped out of the water, it went so high it passed the cage. But, everyone knew what it was from just that swift raise and fall.
"The mermaids." the girl whispered, tucking her head into her legs once again.
One of the mermaids, possibly the one that jumped for the cage, surfaced. Climbing up onto the side of the lake, on to the stone floor. It was hideous to say the least. It's scales were a sickly blue-green, the same color as the fins that replaced her ears on her face, on her back, and of course her tail fin. She was fat, her body filled with blubber in order to help keep the mammal in her warm under water. Her lips were big, her mouth so wide, it almost made it look like her face was split as she opened it, showing her shark-like teeth tauntingly. Her eyes were wide and yellow, her pupils almost taking the whole space. Although she had human hands, they were webbed together, as she laid them on the stone behind her. Her pose was relaxed, looking up, as if saying 'you can't stay up there forever~'. Her two sisters, who made the other two figures, were almost exact copies of her, with different colors. One had red-orange scales and pale green eyes, she was even thicker than her sisters. The other was dark purple, and was shorter and scrawnier, possibly the youngest of the three.
"Those three are Siren Mermaids, creatures who are also minions of Flare! The blue one is Soprano, the leader of the three. The red one is Alto, she's the most violent, be careful! The small, purple one is Treble, her bark's worse than her bite, but she's the fastest. You two better escape fast!" Guard shouted over to Sabrina and the captive.
Sabrina nodded in thanks. "Come on, you heard him!"
The girl shook her head again. "T-They'll get me, I know they will! Besides, I couldn't leave... They have a hold on me."
"What are you talking about?"
Just then, the mermaids started to sing. Strangely melodic voices came out of their unnatural bodies. They were in perfect harmony, Alto of course sounding the lowest, while Treble sounded the highest. Soprano conducted them as she sang herself. They sounded so nice all together, as if they were born to sing as a group. Their sang so soothingly, almost like a lullaby. If their sounds were personified, they would be gently rocking the listener, reducing the unlucky person to a snoozing toddler. Only those who were used to their sounds, or those who were aware of this fact, could resist it.
Unfortunately, Sabrina didn't know any of this.
'So...nice...I can't remember the last time I had a good nap...that sounds nice right about...now...' she thought, as her hands slowly let go of the wooden bars, and her feet slipped from the cage bottom. 'So...nice...'
"PRINCESS!" Guard yelled out. He took off down the stairs, not noticing that the captive had fallen asleep also.
Sabrina calmly fell, twenty-five feet rapidly turning into twenty, fifteen, ten. Guard raced to keep up with her. He was fast, but there were so many stairs. Even if he did reach the bottom before she fell in the water, she was falling into the middle of the lake. He wouldn't be able to get to her in time before the mermaids tore her apart. Out of the corner of his eye, Guard saw the door of the cage swing open. The maiden held captive had woken up, and jumped out of the cage, just as Alto got ready to jump for Sabrina. Sabrina hit the water, the mermaids swimming in after her. The girl fell in after them.
Guard had finally reached the bottom of the stairs once they were all submerged. He waited with baited breath, debating whether to jump in or not. Finally, the girl's head burst out of the water, she carried Sabrina on her back. Reaching the surface, she dropped Sabrina on to the floor next to her, as she collapsed. Guard ran to check on the princess. Sabrina violently threw up the water, gagging and gasping for air. Once she recovered, they both looked down at the captive, just recovering herself.
It was the first time they had a chance to really examine her. She was thin and small, she'd probably been here for a while. Though her skin seemed tan, she surely had to have seen the sun recently, right? Her hair was drenched and appeared dark brown. She wore a plain, peasant-like brown and white dress, with white shoes, and brown leather gloves over her weak hands. The oddest part of her appearance was definitely her eyes. One was blue while the other was hazel.
She looked up at the two, her eyes widening as she started to crawl away from them. She backed helplessly against a wall.
"We won't hurt you." Guard said, with a smile. "We wanted to save you, but it looks like you saved the princess instead! What's your name?"
"P-princess?" she said, taking a careful look at Sabrina. She jumped up, and bowed. "Of course, how didn't I recognize you? Princess Sabrina Gray! I am Aurelia Lockhart, your highness. But, you may call me Ari."
Sabrina blushed awkwardly, she put a hand on Ari's shoulder. "You may rise, Ari." She said, reciting the rituals response. "Now, come on, Guard. We've got to get out of here."
"W-wait, we can't leave her here, she just saved your life!" Guard called out, as Sabrina started towards the exit.
"Please Princess? I won't be of much use, but I'd be honored to travel with you and your friend." Ari begged.
Sabrina didn't hesitate, she just wanted to leave this place. "Fine. The more the merrier, right?"
The trio now walked slowly through the corridors of the seemingly endless dungeon. It felt like it had been at least an hour or so since they saved Ari, and they hadn't so much as stopped to rest their aching feet. All the hallways looked the same, and led to either empty cells or smaller halls.
"Couldn't we pick up the pace? I thought you knew this castle top to bottom!"" Sabrina complained.
"I do. It's hard to memorize every single hall and doorway when they all look the same, Princess." Guard snapped. Ari and Sabrina froze in surprise at his sudden outburst. Once he realized what he said, what little color his pale face had had drained out.
"I-I'm sorry! I-I get...irritable when I'm tired." He said, stopping a second to bow in apology.
For another few minutes they walked without saying another word, before Sabrina broke the silence.
"So, Ari, how was your life before you were brought here?"
A brief pause.
"I...lived in Aronia." She answered simply. Her hair and clothing was now completely dry, and her previously dark brown hair had lightened to a honey shade. "It was a large village, but nearly everyone knew each other. My family thrived as well as any other, and we never went to sleep hungry. We are known for the abundance of game and other hunting animals in the nearby forests. I actually know a bit of archery myself, but when I woke up here, my bow and arrows were gone." She looked down at her hands. She seemed to do this a lot. "My family had a secret no one knew about. But, now that I'm here, I see no point in hiding it from the two of you."
She slid off one of her leather gloves, and touched a torch that was placed next to her on the wall. The torch turned solid gold, the fire going out.
Little did the three know, someone was watching them from a different room all together. Her dull blue-gray eyes grew wide as she saw one of the females turn the torch to gold. She had never seen the two girls before, but the male was one of Flare's Guards. She felt the strong need to tell someone, anyone, about this. But, no one ever paid attention to her here. She knew who would like to know something like this though. She ran quickly through the corridors, hopelessly trying to keep track of what was right in front of her. The fact that she could only see the room ahead of her led to her nearly running into every wall and pillar in the way. It didn't help that cobwebs kept finding there way into her short, tangled dark brown hair.
Finally, she reached a gigantic double doorway, made of solid stone with dragon-like carvings on it. Eastern dragons, western dragons, small ones, big ones, all decorating the door. She felt for one of the door handles, which were so big they made her already small hands look like a child's. Looking into the room in front of her before entering, she found it looked more and more threatening the more times she visited. It was made of stone, like the rest of the palace, but it's walls were covered in silk flags. Each flag represented a kingdom he already owned, mostly small ones that were easy to take over, without kidnapping a princess. It had tall stone pillars covered in precious gems, only half of witch she knew the names of. There were the most well-known ones, diamonds, rubies, sapphires, and the like. Then there were others she could only dream of touching with her own hands. Sphalerite, a lesser known gem that was as golder than gold, it reminded her of a church's stained glass windows. Benitoite, an even rarer blue gem unlike any she had ever seen before, it seemed foreign. She only knew the two of those gems because she overheard Flare mutter their names as he admired them. She made sure to take note of every detail in the room, mumbling to herself.
Speaking of the dragon, there he was. Right in the center of the room, lay a 50ft dragon who's scales were dark purple, almost black. His leathery wings reminded her of a bat's more than anything, and their wing span had to be at least 70ft long. It was no wonder the dragon kept expanding the castle's rooms and hallways. To say he was a huge beast would be an understatement. The green fire that he steadily breathed out of his nose matched his serpent-like eyes. Even though they were open, the girl still couldn't tell if he was awake or not. She knew not to underestimate him, he was fully capable of learning to sleep with his eyes open.
"I know you're out there, Watcher. Come in." His deep, melodic voice rang out. His voice made it seem as if he taught the sirens themselves how to sing. Not being able to resist, combined with not wanting to know what would happen if she did resist, she opened the door with a grunt and walked inside. The door closed with a sound that seemed to shake the castle.
"I have something to report, your majesty." she said, her voice monotone as usual.
"Well? Spill it, Watcher."
Watcher. Her name as well as her given role. Just as Guard had, she had forgotten her true name, and now only answered to this.
"A regular pathway, long and wide compared to the others, leading towards the unicorn habitat on the right, and the armory on the left. Three people, two regular girls, one appears to be the princess you captured, and Guard." she muttered quickly.
Flare interrupted her with a snort, fire bursting out of his nostrils, thankfully not reaching her. She felt the heat, but gave no reaction. "Guard?!" he growled. "Our Guard? Why is he with our prisoners? Where is he taking them?!"
"I don't know, your highness." she went on. "But, one of the prisoners, the commoner, turned a torch to gold."
Flare uncharacteristically smiled joyfully, not sarcastically or snidely. "Ah yes, the Midas Curse girl. She could be of use to me, and I can't let her escape." he said, as his smile faded. "See if you can find them again."
Watcher turned her back to the dragon, looking through the walls of the room. Her gaze went past several hallways, seeing that the three hadn't moved from their spot, and were still staring at the torch in amazement. Finally, the trio snap out of it, and head down the hallway, and to the right. Watcher described this in great detail to Flare.
He snorted again.
"Isn't this a good thing, oh great dragon?" she asked.
"No! The unicorns will tear them apart! We need every one of them alive. Oh well, we'll see what happens." he sighed. "I hope for those maned beasts' sakes that not a hair is touched on the princess."
"H-How long have you been able to do this?" Sabrina asked.
Ari blushed nervously. "All my life."
"This could be why Flare kidnapped you! He usually only targets Princesses, but with a power like yours...I'm sure he couldn't resist." Guard said.
"We should keep moving. What if Flare manages to find us?" Ari said, Guard nodding in agreement.
"How could he find us? This place must be a maze, even for him." Sabrina replied, but the two didn't answer her, instead moving on.
"Come on, the armory's to the right...I think." Guard said.
Regardless, they followed him.
Suddenly, they were outside. The path had led to a wide open plain with horses in the distance, there was a clear blue lake, and plenty of beautiful fragrant flowers. The sun shined bright in a clear, cloudless sky.
"Wow. Remind me to never doubt you again, Guard!" Sabrina said cheerfully, this was better than finding the armory, plus she had better weapons at home.
"Wait." Guard stopped her. "This isn't the exit, this isn't even really the outdoors."
"What?" Ari said, confused, as the scenery seemed extremely realistic.
"This is one of Flare's spells, it's to make the unicorns feel more at home." he gulped.
Just as he said this, the 'horses' turned around. Their white horns glowed and shimmered in the artificial sunlight. One was pure black with big brown eyes, he appeared to be a stallion. The other was pure white with blue eyes, a rarity in regular horses, but usually common in unicorns. The two reared back on their hind legs, and charged. Sabrina braced herself, as Ari froze up. But, the impact never came.
Sabrina opened her eyes, seeing that she had them closed. The world had turned light blue. The unicorns repeatedly rammed their heads towards the trio, but for whatever reason, they couldn't hit them. It was if there was a...force field around them. Then, with a bright flash, the force field disappeared, the unicorns had exhausted themselves, and momentarily sat down. Looking around to see what happened, she realized that Guard was standing protectively in front of her and Ari.
"Are you sure you don't know magic?" Sabrina asked, half teasing, half serious.
Guard blushed. "Like I said, Flare gave me certain powers so that I could better defend the castle. He said that these," he flexed his arms, which had nearly no muscle and were more flesh and bones than anything. "weren't even enough to stop a child from invading."
All three relaxed enough to laugh, almost not noticing that the unicorns were getting back up.
"Guard, look out!" Ari called out. The black stallion charged his horn towards Guard. Ari quickly ran in front of him, removing a glove and grabbing the unicorns horn. Her magic moved from his horn to the rest of his body, turning all of him into gold. Ari gasped in shock, she had never turned something living before. But, they couldn't stick around for any longer. The white unicorn noticed that her partner was gone, and grew angry. Guard swiftly put up another force field, and the white unicorn repeatedly smashed into it. The field started blinking, like a light bulb about to go out, a sign that it was weakening. Sabrina noticed something in the distance.
"There's another hallway down through there, let's go!" she shouted.
They ran towards it, and made it just as the force field ran out. Strangely, the unicorn stopped at the separation between the plain's grass, and the stone floor of the passage. It then turned back with a snort.
"They usually like to stay in their own territory." Guard explained. Seeing the worried look on Ari's face, he reassured her. "I'm sure Flare knows how to reverse your magic! The unicorn will be back to normal in no time."
They went on, all silently agreeing that they needed to get as far away from the plain as possible.
Unfortunately, Flare had witnessed the whole thing. He made a mental note to devour and replace the unicorns the first chance he got."Never send minions to do a dragon's job." he hissed.He dug his gleaming white claws into the stone beneath him.