Zytriana slept soundlessly as I watched her. The daylight fizzled out and gave way to nightfall a few minutes ago. It won’t be long now until Trevalo returns. My eyes have not dried up yet and I’ve been silently crying for hours.
My muscles ached from trying to pry the bars loose and my shoulders were sore from smashing them into the walls of the cage hoping it fell over on its side. Nothing. I decided to rest my weary body for a few seconds before I tried again. I would not stop trying to get to Zytriana even if I break every bone in my body.
A little while later I heard the now familiar sound of footsteps echoing off the stone floor heading my direction. The moonlight revealed the face of the boy who had became the newest member of the guard a few days back. I remember because it was the first morning I got hauled out of the bed and into that training room for what Trevalo so eloquently called my lessons.
“Mr. Ranswits has asked me to come stand guard to make sure his plans for you tonight goes off without a hitch.” He smiled with pride, like being an errand boy is this high honor he’s been bestowed. I rolled my eyes, “Of course he did.” The boy smirked, then leaned against the wall, sword tucked away in it’s holster and faced my cage.
There goes my plans of trying to get out of here. Damn Trevalo must have known I’d be attempting to get to her. I was contemplating how much force it would take to roll this cage on top of the boy, when another set of footsteps caught my attention. These were different from the others that normally come here.
Tentatively I drew in a breath as the click-clack sound of a lady’s expensive high heels reached my ears. The same exact ones that used to walk on the hardwood floors of my bedroom at the Tamminalin Estate. My heart started beating loudly.
No way. It couldn’t be. But as I turned my head, my breath caught in my throat, which is something she does to me most often.
Her purple gown with blue hues sashayed across her shins as she hastened purposefully up to my cage. Even in the light of the moon I could see the colors cascading around her body.
“I need to speak to this one. Alone. You may return to your post in five minutes, but do NOT let me see you peeking around the corner and eavesdropping or else it will be the last thing you see and hear EVER again!” She snapped at the guard.
He stood quickly, bowing his head and ran to the front of the cellar. She then faced me. The moonlight shining through the hole in the ceiling next to my cell showed me that her face was no longer scowling, but had softened into an amused look. One I had never seen on her face before.
“I know about your cousin being kidnapped and used as leverage to make you fight harder. I’ll go and free her for you before her captor orders her execution just because he lost a bet. He really thought you would obey him and not use your weapon for an easy kill.”
She paused to laugh, “You should have seen his face when he had to hand over ten thousand gold pieces to his betting partner. Serves him right. Well I should hurry along. Good luck in the finale.”
Involuntarily I reached toward her as I called out, “Wait, why are you helping me?” I couldn’t hide the suspicion in my voice. She slowly turned around, “Let me ask you a personal question, if you weren’t forced against your will to fight here, would you still line up to willingly join the competition or come watch it?”
Without a hint of hesitation, I answered, “No, never. I hate everything about this filthy place.” She sadly smiled, “See, just like I thought. We do have something in common.”
Leaning closer to the bars, I enquired, “And what could that possibly be?” She sighed, “We were both born into a world we would have never chose willingly then forced to live a life we didn’t want.” She then proceeded to my cousin’s cage, leaving me with my mouth hanging open.
Now there’s a shocker. But is it really? I’ve been arguing with myself for quite sometime that she’s not like her family, that she seems actually human.
She quickly threw the latch open and pulled Zytriana into her arms as if she were nothing more than a baby. Xori is stronger than she looks. “How are you going to get her past the little spy Trevalo has sent here?” Pointing my thumb to the cellar entrance.
She smiled, “Your jackass of a sponsor doesn’t know as much as he thinks he does. When this was an actual cellar, a trapdoor was built in to easily unload heavier items, like barrels of sweet wine, that were too bulky to fit through the front entrance. The switch should be around here.”
She gently laid Zytriana in front of my cage, to which I reached through the bars to caress her face and check her pulse. She’s still alive and her heart beat is strong, thank all that’s golden! Xori kicked over the box that the tarp originally covered, and perused through some hay scattered on the floor.
“Found it! Okay Zakyrik I have to take her, now. I’m going to lay her in the hay outside this cellar, then walk out that front entrance so I don’t look suspicious, because if came in alone and leave carrying a girl there are bound to be unwanted questions. After that I’ll transfer her to my coach, but I have a safe place to keep her until this is over, don’t worry.”
After relaying that I understood, I reluctantly moved my hand away from my cousin’s face. Despite the circumstances, I trusted Xori. Even if I didn’t, I don’t exactly have a choice right now.
The twang of a spring uncoiling echoed out through the silent atmosphere then a door appeared in the side of the wall that guard was leaning on earlier. The door lowered down, revealing the starless night sky. The girls disappeared from view for a few minutes and then reappeared just in time for the young guard to be heard making his way back to us. She pulled the door silently shut and it blended in with the rest of the interior, like it never was there.
She winked at me as the boy appeared, “I’m sorry miss Tamminalin, but Mr. Ranswits has strict orders for me to watch him like a hawk. Please don’t be mad, ma’am. I’m just following the command that was given to me.”
She smiled sweetly, “Yes well that’s your job isn’t it? Anyways I’m through with him as I’ve delivered the message from my father. You may resume your post. For future reference though dear boy, always remember that Mr. Ranswits’ authority is beneath my own so if you ever question me when I give you an order you will pay most unpleasantly. Got it?”
He nodded hastily and apologized again before standing at attention while she walked away. My opinion of Xori has greatly transformed into awe. I don’t think she could ever understand how thankful I was for rescuing my cousin.
I’m not naïve to think that her life was not at stake here. I’m sure if anyone, like her father for instance, caught her she’d be dead or never allowed to see the light of day again. But why? Had she saved a girl she doesn’t know because she knew Zytriana was innocent in all this? Or was there another reason she wasn’t telling me about?
Taking a seat in the hay, a grin crept onto my face at the enigma that Xori Tamminalin was. Her reasoning for why she was helping me didn’t make a whole lot of sense, but I’m still grateful she did it. I wonder where they are going? Surely not the estate?
The smile that was plastered on my face grew bigger as I thought of how funny it would be to hide Zytriana right underneath Trevalo’s nose. My guard dog for the night took notice of my euphoric demeanor, “What you smiling about? Someone in your shoes couldn’t possibly have any reason to be happy?”
Really I should stay silent, but I couldn’t help myself. “Oh nothing really, just that sometimes the little things in life have a way of sneaking up on you and whisking away your troubles to a distant place. You know what I mean?”
He wrinkled his nose, “What are you going on about? Have you been drinking? Nah, Mr. Ranswits wouldn’t have given you anything, not with the way you fought so pitiful today.”
A chuckle escaped his lips, “He wasn’t too keen on how you ended the match. As a matter of fact, I think I hear him now.” He instantly straightened up at attention just as soon as footsteps echoed loudly towards us down the narrow cellar walkway.
Trevalo emerged from the darkness and into the moonlight like a ghostly image appearing from an ethereal state. The guard looked smug as he said, “He’s right here, Mr. Ranswits. I made sure he didn’t go nowhere, just like you asked.”
The mask of sadness I forced onto my face when Trevalo arrived almost cracked because that guard was about to get a big shock. Apparently Trevalo didn’t tell him that I technically wasn’t the one he was supposed to be guarding. It was her.
Trevalo sped past the guard, who was beaming like an idiot, and strode straight to the cage Zytriana was in. At first he stood there still and dumbstruck. He even opened it just to make sure he wasn’t mistaken.
He slammed the cage and turned, shaking with anger, to the guard, “There was a girl in this cage. Where is she?” The guard’s smiling satisfactory grin instantly turned to a frown, “I didn’t see no girl, Mr. Ranswits! I was not informed there was another person you were keeping in here!”
Trevalo ignored him and ran up to my cage, “I don’t know how you did it boy, but I knew you’d save her somehow! That’s why I sent this boy to guard you, which looking back now was apparently a horrid mistake. Now, tell me where is she?”
He demanded with a blazed glare. I fought back a smile as I leaned against the back bars, “How am I supposed to know? You had her locked up, not me. Maybe she escaped while I was sleeping because you didn’t latch it properly?”
Trevalo’s glare turned murderous as he spun around to the terrified looking guard, “Somebody is going to tell me now or somebody is going to die! Guards who let prisoners escape get a public hanging in Town Square!”
The guard hit his knees, “Please, sir! I don’t know what’s happened! All I know is the only girl I’ve seen here was Miss Tamminalin!”
Trevalo froze, “What did you say?” The guard was shaking, “Miss Tamminalin left a little while ago. She had to deliver a message from her father to the warrior.”
Trevalo ran a hand down his face, “Why would Xera come here in the middle of the night? Actually, I don’t even think she knows about this place.” He looked extremely skeptical. I silently willed the guard to shut up and not elaborate further.
The guard looked up, “Not Miss Xera, sir. It was Miss Xori.” Trevalo stood there, seemingly stunned beyond words. His mind obviously couldn’t contemplate why she would be here.
He looked at me with an unreadable expression. As he was still facing me, he said to the guard, “My warrior no longer needs surveilled. You may go.” The guard scrambled to his feet and ran before Trevalo remembered he was supposed to punish him.
“I’ll see you in the morning after your training lesson. I don’t know what’s going on here, but I will find out. You will NOT make a fool of me!” He didn’t say anything else as his footsteps faded away in the distant darkness.