Antalos and Egrin made their way down into the dungeons, ready to question the man who tried to kill Marian but almost killed Lenna instead. Antalos requested that he would be the one to do the questioning since the man almost jeopardized everything his parents had been planning for years.
There were often many prisoners down here, mostly for petty crimes, which they were later released if their actions weren’t too severe. Anecia was a normally peaceful kingdom. That had all changed within a year. Antalos had no idea what these days were leading to, but hopefully there was something worth reaching at the end of this all.
When they reached the man’s cell, he was propped up against the wall, staring out through the bars. He wore a sly grin on his face. He was ready for these visitors. “Ah! You must be the one promised to the lovely maiden. My congratulations! Though, that other one was just as lovely. The ears are an interesting feature.” He turned his gaze to Egrin and frowned with annoyance. “You are the one who hindered me in my mission to kill the lovely maiden. I have nothing to say to you. Go away!”
“Did someone send you to kill her?”
The man chuckled. “This would be so much better if we were on the same level. You know, a little heart to heart talk? Would that be too much to ask?”
Antalos sighed. He turned to the guard positioned down the hall. “Open this cell for me.”
“Antalos,” Egrin warned. “Are you sure you want to do this? He might try something once you’re in there.”
“I give my word not to harm the little prince,” the man said with a crooked smile.
“Just trust me, Egrin.” He looked at the guard now standing ready with the key. “Do it.”
The cell door squealed on its hinges as the guard opened it.
Antalos stepped inside, keeping a wary eye on the assassin before him. “Talk.”
“There is so much I can tell you, but so little time.”
“Then tell me.”
“It is not as simple as that, silly prince. Did you think I got where I am because I wasn’t careful?”
He raised a brow.
“He is trying to throw you off of your guard,” Egrin whispered from behind. “Do not let him easily affect your emotions.”
Antalos turned to his friend and nodded. “I know,” he whispered back.
“Whispering is for secrets,” the man said, interrupting their quiet conversation. “And I know many…many secrets.”
With an annoyed sigh, Antalos sat on the floor across from the man. “We’re now on the same level.”
He laughed. “Oh, very good! You’re catching on.”
“Tell me why you came here,” Antalos demanded.
The man was silent for a moment before leaning forward. His eyes narrowed and he bared his teeth in what looked like a grimace. “Why should I tell you? What is in it for me?”
“Who said you would get anything in return?”
“The information I have would blow you away, Prince. This information must come with a cost.”
“I would be willing to make a deal with you.”
He raised a brow and the edge of his lips twitched. “Now deals, I can work with.”
“Name your price.”
“Antalos!” Egrin exclaimed. “No. He will say anything to save his life.”
“I demand my freedom in exchange for the information you seek. You let me go, and I will tell you who sent me to kill the pretty maiden. You will never see me again once I’m gone. A fair deal, wouldn’t you say?”
Antalos thought for a moment. This man was ready to give away this information just like that, but only for his freedom in return. He would have to make the arrangements in order for such a thing to happen. “I will have to discuss it with my father. Only he can grant you your price.”
The man shrugged with a nod. “I can wait. The information remains the same anyway.”
“Why not tell us now?” Egrin asked.
“Freedom first, then information. That is how the deal falls.”
“How do we know we can even trust you?” Antalos questioned.
The man shrugged. “There’s only one way to find out.”
Antalos sighed. “Very well. We will be back soon.”
“I count on it,” the man replied as Antalos rose and left the dungeons with Egrin.
“Antalos, this is a crazy idea,” Egrin said. “What makes you think your father would ever agree to this? Especially after what happened?”
“He has to,” he answered. “I am very certain that whoever sent that assassin after Marian is probably here. I’ve gone over it again and again, and it’s the only thing that makes sense to me. Why would someone outside of the kingdom want her dead? There’s no logic to it.”
“This is still crazy. You know you probably could have told him he could have his freedom and gotten he information then, right?”
Antalos nodded. “Yes, but that wouldn’t exactly be the right thing to do. I’m an honest kind of guy.”
“To a fault.” Egrin shook his head with a chuckle.
They found the king in his study going over some papers. It was now or never. Antalos explained it all to his father. He didn’t receive it very well.
“He wants what?” Kannal exclaimed, his voice echoing in the large room and into the hallway.
“That man was hired by someone to kill Marian. If we give him his freedom, then he will tell us what we want to know,” Antalos replied. This man was causing so much trouble within such a short amount of time. Marian stayed with her family, guards posted close by just in case anything else happened. Lenna had to go visit Emrys because of some possibly bruised ribs that were causing her some pain.
Antalos hated that she had been hurt, and he wanted the man to pay for his crimes. He almost killed more than just the guard yesterday. But if he really was sent by someone inside the kingdom, then he must have been hired by someone who wanted to prevent the alliance from happening, or worse. What could it be, though?
Kannal sat back in his chair and rubbed his temple with a sigh. “How do you even know you can trust what this man is telling you?”
“He was sent to kill Marian in order to ruin what you and Mother had planned for the alliance. I think it is worth looking into by giving him what he wants. He does not seem to hold any loyalties to whoever sent him.”
The room was silent as Kannal pondered this. He nodded. “Very well, but on these terms: once he is free, he must leave Anecia immediately and never return. If he does come back, he will be executed immediately.”
Antalos and Egrin returned to the dungeons. This time, they brought more guards just in case the prisoner tried to do anything foolish when they released him. After all, this was a man who managed to sneak onto the castle grounds without being caught by any of the guards on patrol. Who knew what else he was capable of?
“Do you really think he was serious?” Egrin asked. “I mean, of course, this man is giving up information to save his neck, but he was ready to tell us what we wanted without hesitation. He could make up anything at this point.”
“I do not know, but if what he said was true, then we have to take that chance. We can’t have him executed before finding out who sent him and then wait for the next assassin to show up.”
They paused when they saw a guard standing in front of the man’s cell, looking inside with wide eyes and jaw dropped.
“What is it?” Antalos asked. “What’s wrong?”
The guards turned to face them. “The prisoner…he’s gone. He just vanished!”
“What?” Egrin exclaimed.
They rushed to the cell and looked inside to find it was indeed empty. How was this possible?
This confirmed Antalos’ suspicions that the man had someone on the inside.
“Antalos, this is very bad,” Egrin said.
“I know.” He turned and hurried back down the hallway. “The prisoner has escaped! Everyone begin a search of the castle. We don’t stop until he’s found.”
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