The Greater Lion

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Chapter7 ~•~ Peaceful Gestures

Two nights later, Shaka returned to the dungeon, with a good idea of what he would do with the prisoners. He had spent the previous day creating something tangible that would work for every involved party, even though some may not support the events that were about to unfold.

He entered the cell and moved to Freya's corner where he found her asleep as she was bound by shackles around her wrists and above her ankles. She must have tired herself out, he thought, feeling bad for her poor state.

He produced a key from his pocket and unlocked the shackles holding her wrists above her head. Her hands fell to the ground giving her enough stimulation to come back to wakefulness. Slowly, she opened her eyes and gasped as soon as she saw Shaka reach for her legs.

"Shhhh..." He gestured at her with a finger on his lips to stay quiet. "Stay calm and I will get you out of here." She calmly trusted him and let him undo the shackles that held her legs.

"Can you stand?" He asked, extending a hand to her.

A strange tingle he felt in his chest as he held her hand; smooth, soft, tender, she had the hands of one who had always been served.

"My uncle," she faltered. "Where is he?"

"You wouldn't leave without your uncle?" He seemed curious even though he already knew the answer. "Let's get your uncle."

Thomas was still unaware of what was happening until Shaka freed his hands with a little less breeding than he did Freya's. "Come with me, explorer," said Shaka

"Freya!" Thomas cried. "Where is she?"

"Uncle Tom!" Freya said with some excitement.

"Explorer, can you stand?" Shaka asked as he freed Thomas's legs.

"Yes. I can walk."

"Good. Now let's go." Thomas got to his feet and followed Shaka's lead out of the prison. Freya staggered as she moved forward, but then Shaka gave her support by catching her by the waist. "Take it slow," he said as he helped her maintain her balance.

"Take this… both of you." He drew out two black garments from within his sleeves.

Freya reluctantly accepted it and wore it over her clothes. The garment was a long black robe that his all of her features excluding her hands and feet, but those could easily be complemented for. Thomas on the other hand did not accept it, out of distrust for the king dweller.

"This or risk being decapitated as soon as we get out."

"Please, uncle Tom. We do not have a choice," Freya whispered.

Without pondering too much, Thomas took the robe and put it on.

"Now follow me and do exactly as I say," Shaka said. The both nodded and followed him out of the dungeon.

They emerged from the dungeon through the path that led to the city. Although he did not want to bring them there, it was the safest choice between taking them through the main entrance or taking them straight to the palace.

While Shaka was striding through the city, skillfully avoiding everyone that blocked his way, the explorers were not doing very well maintaining their pace. Thomas had to make frequent stops to catch his breath and rest his worn out legs - he dreaded the day he set foot in their lands. The land was hard and very uneven, rocks sprawled the ground, and he wondered how people could navigate easily.

Shaka finally slowed down to allow them to catch up and rest for some moments.

"I hope the two of you are not dead yet," he received no reply as they doubled down to stretch their limbs and steady their breathing.

"We are almost there. A little push from the two of you and it will be over." He reassured them which made them draw note ounces of their strength and resilience.

Not long afterwards, they arrived at a small hut beneath the palace where there was a door with a round brass knob. Shaka turned it halfway and pushed it open. "Follow me inside. We are almost there," he said, aware of the fact that they did not trust him well enough. "I'm not leading you into another trap," he added.

They moved inside as he turned his back to them and marched deeper into the darkness. Freya and her uncle took gentle steps behind him until they found a spiral flight of stairs that disappeared up into the darkness.

Shaka took the first step and started up the stairs despite having no source of light. He must suddenly feel like he can see through the darkness, Thomas said to himself. As they walked deeper into the darkness, he asked, "aren't you gonna light a torch or something?"

"Patience," Shaka replied. As he took another step, a fire lit up on a sconce beside them. As he climbed further, more fires lit up and brightened the way up the stairs.

Freya and Thomas glanced at each other and then returned their gazes back to the gleaming staircase

"Would you come now?" Shaka asked.

They kept quiet and continued following him.

"I apologize for having to make you go through this path. This is just the safest for you."

"Why are you helping us like this?" Freya asked. "And why are you hiding us?"

"They expect me to execute you both. That would be too extreme, I think."

"Why do you not want us dead?"

"Because I need you."

Her heart raced and her eyes widened, he needs us…? What for? She wanted to let the words out, but was not able to as she watched him walk in such a regal manner.

"We are here," Shaka said before a door at the end of the staircase. He unlocked the door the same way he did with the first and entered the room that was behind it.

"Welcome to my storage," Shaka said, spreading his arms sideways. Bronze and clay sculptures lined the walls on each side, each having different structure and shape. The art storage was brilliant enough to make anyone turn.

"These are some of the sculptures made by our fine artisans. They donate them to me every quarter year," he said while he walked forward. "Do you have this in your kingdom?"

"We do not," Freya whispered.

The sculptures were mostly representations of stories and myths passed down from generation to generation. Some represented the qualities of each king to ever rule in the form of animals - panthers, elephants, eagles. Shaka had a fighting lion cub made on his behalf, representing the young fighter he was.

"This is the bathroom. You can clean yourselves up here," Shaka said pointing to the room beside them as the walked down the lobby. "There are towels there, and everything else that you might need. The third room to the right is free, so use it however you like, your food and water are there as well. I'll leave you both here… I'll see you later." He disappeared into one of the rooms by the lobby, leaving them alone in his velvet chambers.

Freya took off her cloak, already making her way to the bath. Thomas did the same and followed her, trying to make sure she was careful enough. They were still in an unknown territory where they knew nobody nor any place. But Freya was not concerned about that, there was warm water before them and a chance to get out of their dirty clothes.

"Uncle Tom." Freya called.

"Yes, dear."

"If you don't mind," she gestured for him to turn around so that she could take her clothes off.

"Oh, no. Do not mind me," he said, turning around and moving closer to the wall.

Freya, now sure that she could not be seen, began peeling off her dirty clothes. She soaked herself in the water and washed off the grime that sullied her skin slowly and gently. As the water cleansed her skin, she thought about the king dweller and the aura she felt from him. His regal walking steps and his bold way of speaking. How clever could he have been? What was he going to do next? And why did he need them alive?

"Do you trust him?" Thomas asked abruptly.

"We don't have a choice. Besides, he is giving us this sanctuary," she replied.

"You do think he protects us."

"What should I think, uncle?"

"There is too much that I don't know about," he sighed.

"Should we not worry about the things we know we can control? Those were your words."

"I think you can think of something like that in our current complication. I should probably learn from you instead of the other way around."

Freya chuckled, and then she asked him for one of the few towels around the bath. The towel was smooth as it was thick. In short time, she dried herself up and put on the change of clothes Shaka had left for her. It was a plain grey tunic and a matching pair of loose handloomed trousers. They fit her perfectly which spelled that Shaka promptly prepared them for their convenience.

"You can turn around now," she said with mirth.

"I hope it isn't too hot," he chuckled.

"I'm sure you can manage," she said. "Can I go to the room he said we could use?" She asked, eager to go to the room and see its design and hopefully delicious food.

"Feel free…. I'll join you in a minute, but don't touch anything."

"Thank you…" she grinned and made her way to the room.

He summoned Akin to the palace where he could talk to him privately. A summon like this was rare despite their strong connections. Akin grew to be his most trusted soldier and spy - even though they were brothers - and he was using his trust for Akin to achieve small missions that would require that much trust. This time he had a new one for him

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