Chapter 19: Captured
Flagprim was now standing in the center of a great hallway, dozens of castle residents scurrying by him for purposes only they knew. The floor he was on, floor seven, was one of the busiest floors of the castle.
This floor was the one responsible for allowing the people of the castle to buy needed food items and other random amenities, as well as supplies for any hobby or need desired, without having to leave the castle walls to enter the world outside. The walls were lined with booths of all different kinds, banners hanging above each booth displaying a name, possibly a slogan or a short list of what the booth sold, and an accompanying symbol or picture. Although not sure what he needed, Flagprim was on this floor to interact with some of the inhabitants and see if there was anything useful he could obtain.
After breaking through the magical barrier to speak to Draden, he had decided that he needed to do some investigating to see if anyone knew anything they were willing to share. And if all else failed, at least he’d spend the day doing something other than sitting around waiting for anything exciting to happen.
So, now he stood before a booth that was crowded with people, intently listening to what they said to each other and to the seller.
“That diadem is not worth the two thousand fangs you are asking for it. If anything it is worth half that,” a pointy-nosed stuck-up looking noble said, hands on his hips, to a lean but well-built seller with hair styled to look messy. “I am not bargaining. If you really wanted what I was selling, you would pay full price. Since you are not willing, then you obviously do not want that diadem. So please, stop wasting my time.”
Flagprim laughed to himself; he liked this man.
The snotty noble, flanked by his two minions, snorted and sauntered off, lackeys copying his movements exactly. ‘Ah, it pains me to see how narrow-minded the rich have become. To think the world revolves around them and their money…they are so delusional.’
The salesperson was now being battered by an overweight woman who was trying to say the sapphire in the hilt of a dirk was counterfeit.
“I have never seen a sapphire like that in my entire life, and let me tell you, I have seen plenty of sapphires!”
The salesman just stared unblinkingly. “It pains me to tell you this ma’am, but that ruby necklace you are wearing?” She nodded. “Well, not only are the rubies fake,” she gasped, “But also is the gold it is encased in. So, begrudge me one more time to why my sapphire-hilted dirk is an imitation?”
The woman, ripping her necklace off her neck, spun on her heels and stomped off.
There was a brief lull in the parade of people around this particular booth, so Flagprim took this moment to step forward, catching the man’s attention.
“If you want to barter, go someplace else!” the man barked, clearly vexed by his previous customers.
“No, no, I don’t want to bargain. I would actually like to tell you I am impressed with how you handled those people.”
“Why does it matter to me what you think?” the man replied quickly.
Flagprim paused, not anticipating this man’s answer. “Well, no reason, I just thought you’d like to know that someone appreciates the way you run your booth. And watching you, I think you know a thing or two about reality. If you would be inclined, I would like to talk with you about the goings-on in this castle.”
The man laughed. “I am busy! I do not have the time to answer your questions!”
Flagprim, seeing a pattern with this man’s responses, suggested, “How about later tonight? Are you free to meet then?”
The man sighed. “You are persistent, aren’t you? How about 10 this evening. I will be in my room, number 37, on floor three. Now, let me resume my duties!”
“May I ask your name?” Flagprim shot out one more question.
“Crystifar,” the man replied, then turned to tend to two customers who were examining an emerald jeweled necklace.
Flagprim, satisfied with his time and hoping his meeting with Crystifar would prove fruitful, he decided he would head to Draden’s chambers to see if anything new had arisen.
As he was passing the last few booths, he caught the words “king’s army” that made him pause in his steps to hear the rest of the sentence.
Two average-looking people were talking to each other, one explaining about how her son had just been admitted into the king’s army. “They said he will go through a customary mind-search tonight that every new member goes through. I am a little nervous about it, but I know it will go okay.”
Flagprim’s heart stopped. This was not good.
Taking off in a sprint, not caring that he was startling people, he headed for the large blank wall at the end of the corridor. Thankfully, due to his enhanced elven hearing, he had heard the words Kladspir spoke to activate the portal to floor ten. He repeated these words as he placed his hand on the wall, causing the wall to fade into nothing, revealing the shimmering archway beyond.
He stepped into the veil, letting it slap onto his flesh and slide over him and around him, stepping out onto floor ten beyond.
It was silent and devoid of people, and he quickly sprinted down the cold marble hallway, no sound arising from his footsteps. He rounded the corner that lead to Draden’s quarters, stopping and sliding into an alcove that was the entryway to someone else’s room when he saw two armored men standing outside the room, door ajar.
He peeked out of his alcove, spotting two men inside, each holding their own hostage. Draden struggled in a burly man’s grip, futilely trying to break free as he shouted, “Let me go!” Loran squealed when the man smacked Draden over the head, causing his body to go limp, making him much easier to carry. At this, Loran stopped moving, becoming completely compliant. She wanted to be coherent so she could see where they took them, not be unconscious like Draden.
However good this thought may have been, they placed a sackcloth over her head and carried the two of them out, Loran now struggling with her captor.
Flagprim ducked back into his alcove as the procession of four armored men walked by, Draden in one’s arms and a wiggling Loran in another’s.
As they went to round the corner, the soldier holding Loran whacked her in the back of the head, ending her efforts to escape.
‘Well, this has not gone according to plan,’ Flagprim thought with a sigh.
Draden awoke to enveloping darkness. He could make out nothing in the black void around him, hearing nothing but his shallow breathing.
The floor beneath him was a hard coldness, and he tried to move his hands to push himself to a stand, finding that they were tied behind him with what felt like rough rope.
He wondered for a moment how he had gotten here, then recalled the incident in his room:
He had been napping and was awoken by a loud bang on the door. He got up to answer it, opening the door to reveal four soldiers behind it, two of which barged their way into the room. They mentioned something about a memory-scan, and that’s when he knew he had to get away.
And that’s what had gotten him here. ‘Good job, Draden,’ he thought to himself.
His eyes had slightly adjusted to the darkness, revealing that he was in a small, square room, the walls, floor, and ceiling made of cement. In one of the walls was what looked like a metal door, and he realized he was in a holding cell. ‘Is this really necessary?’
Well, he couldn’t just sit around waiting for them to come search his mind. The first issue he had to take care of was the rope, which shouldn’t be too difficult. Deciding that speaking would be a bad idea, he kept everything in his mind as he focused on the rope binding his wrists, ‘Grangnir.’ He felt an intense heat waft through his body, rushing under his skin and pulsing with each beat of his heart at his wrists. Finally, although causing a bit of smoke, the rope fell off, allowing him to push himself to a stand and face the door.
Now for matter number two, the door.
Knowing full-well that this was going to cause a great deal of noise, he didn’t bother with avoiding speech and prepared himself for what could possibly happen. At the top of this list was him dying, and a brief scenario of him being impaled by a sword played through his mind. “Not helpful,” he spoke to the darkness.
Concentrating his focus on the task at hand, he spoke to the door, willing it to do his bidding, “Ble Uman.” With a burst of light and a loud crack, the door burst off its hinges, smashing with a loud boom into the wall behind it. The boom was accompanied with a chorus of grunts and other cracking sounds, and Draden realized he had crushed the three soldiers who had been stationed outside of his cell. ‘Oops….’
Leaning his head out of the cell, he looked first left, and then right, revealing a long corridor with both sides curving off out of sight.
Making a snap decision, he stepped over the debris that had been caused by his explosion and jogged cautiously down the hall to the left. As he rounded the corner, he came face to face with a soldier duo, both parties coming to a sliding stop as they took in the other. The soldiers acted first, but Draden accomplished what he wanted sooner, “Wotiran.” With a cry of agony, the soldiers’ bodies began to melt, starting with the top of their skulls, blood and water pooling down around them until nothing was left but a combined puddle of diluted crimson liquid.
Not pausing once in his attempt at escape, Draden continued past a couple chairs and a table, hallway lit by torches, until coming to a staircase that curved up and to the right.
He took the steps two at a time as he followed the curve, coming to a closed door at the top. He paused to listen to the room beyond, hearing two distinct voices, one a higher pitch than the other. He could not make out what they were saying, but as he stood there deciding what to do, the door blew towards him, smashing him into the wall. He screamed with pain at the impact, collapsing onto the stairs where he lay unmoving.
The lower-pitched voice said menacingly, “Draden. Your attempts at escape are futile. You would never have made it out of this castle alive. I look forward to seeing what your mind contains.”
As these last words registered in his mind, Draden succumbed to the darkness that had been closing in.