Chapter Eighteen: Captivity
Adesina awoke to find herself in a small windowless room. She took a breath to clear her mind before assessing the situation. The wound on her head had been carefully bandaged, implying that her life wasn’t in immediate danger. Her captors wouldn’t bother to care for her injuries if they intended her harm. However, that could change quickly. Her wrists and ankles were heavily shackled, and her scarf and hood had been removed. Adesina sat up carefully and checked herself to see if any of her tools or weapons had been overlooked.
Nothing. Even the lock pick she kept in her boot was gone.
As she finished this search, the door opened to admit the young silver-haired man and the older man who had apparently knocked her out. The older man looked quite similar to the man that Adesina had captured. She guessed that they were brothers, or some other close relation. He was probably in his early forties, with a face that spoke of much experience and sorrow. Like the golden-haired young man, he wore a black ribbon around his neck.
Both men surveyed her suspiciously, even hostilely. The older man took a small step forward to speak. “What is your name, Shimat?”
Adesina carefully got to her feet, and stood with her arms folded across her chest. The weighty shackles hindered her movements, but she ignored their sharp clinking. She raised her chin slightly and glared at them, proud and silent—daring them to underestimate her.
“Are you choosing to not cooperate?”
His voice was ominous, but Adesina was not intimidated. Part of her final year of Shimat training had included how to withstand torture.
The young man placed a hand on the older man’s arm, and the older man responded by taking a step back. The young man extended his other hand, which held the dagger that Horas had given Adesina.
“Where did you get this?”
He caught the flicker in Adesina’s eyes and looked as if he had his answer. “This dagger belonged to my father. A man that looks quite similar to him.” He pointed to the older man, studying Adesina’s face intently. “Have you seen the man I describe?”
She still refused to speak, and continued to glare at them stubbornly. So what if the man she captured had a son and a brother? She was not concerned with the families of dangerous cult members.
There was a soft knock at the door, which was answered by the older man. There was a murmured conversation, and then the door was swung wide open. The golden haired young man stood framed in the doorway. He spoke with a voice of authority to the two men who were questioning the young Shimat.
“Before you continue your questioning, there is someone you need to see.”
He stepped back and gestured for this unseen guest to enter. Ravi walked into the room, and the silver haired young man stared in astonishment.
Adesina was completely dumbfounded. “You can see him?” she blurted.
An idea seemed to take hold in the young man’s mind. His brow furrowed as he spoke. “Ravi, dear friend, what are you doing here?”
The Rashad gave his feline smile. “Before I can answer any questions, E’nes, I must ask that you release this young woman. I cannot allow even you to hold her captive.”
The older man immediately shook his head. “Absolutely not. She is too dangerous to be set free.”
Ravi gave him a questioning glance. “Is my word not enough assurance?”
The golden haired man intervened. “The word of a Rashad always bears weight, but she is a Shimat. You cannot control her actions, and we do not know if her words bear the same honor as yours.”
Her guardian did not argue anymore, even though it was clear by his expression that he did not agree. The shackles on Adesina’s wrists clanged conspicuously as she dropped her defiant pose. Her purple eyes locked on Ravi’s golden ones.
“Why can they see you?”
“Because they are accustomed to seeing me.”
Adesina felt her throat constrict. “You are one of them,” she accused.
He cocked his head slightly to one side. “As are you.”
Part of her had known that this revelation was coming, but she didn’t want to hear it. She shook her head obstinately. “That is impossible.”
Ravi turned his attention the three men in the room. “Lords of the L’avan, I present to you the daughter of E’rian.”
Disbelief flooded the room and shone on every face. Adesina stood stricken, trying to comprehend that Ravi had been a spy this whole time and that he was now telling them about her Dreams of her mother.
The one called E’nes was staring at Adesina with an impossible spark of hope springing to life in his eyes. The older man still looked suspicious, but his expression also was pained. The golden haired young man merely looked sad.
E’nes was the first to speak. “I should have seen it before. You look very much like her. But after all these years, I did not dare hope.”
The young Shimat felt a sense of dread rising. “You knew E’rian?”
His eyes searched her face, taking in each of her features that bore a resemblance. “She was my mother.”
“So that would make you my…”
Adesina couldn’t say it. She didn’t want to say it. She didn’t want to be connected to any of these people. Not after what she had been told by Kendan.
“Brother.” E’nes whispered in amazement.
He moved towards her, but Adesina took an instinctive step back. He stopped, looking sad but understanding. “My name is E’nes.” He pointed first to the older man, then to the golden haired man. “This is Ri’sel, our uncle, and this is L’iam. He is…an old friend, and the leader of this company.”
Both men wore unreadable expressions, but nodded to Adesina when their names were said. E’nes turned back to his newfound sister. “What is your name?”
After a moment of debating, she decided that it wouldn’t matter if they knew her name. It took some effort for her to get her voice to work. “Adesina.”
E’nes looked at her hesitantly. “You know, Mother had chosen a name for you. It was Ma’eve.”
Adesina’s glance flashed towards Ravi for a fraction of a second before setting her jaw. “I do not care. My name is Adesina.”
The young man nodded quickly. “Of course. I just thought you might like to know.”
Ri’sel broke in with a hardened voice. “You say you are the daughter of E’rian, but what proof do you have to offer?”
E’nes was surprised by the hostility in Ri’sel’s voice. “Uncle!”
“We have seen some of the experiments that those people have performed. How do we know that she is not simply another one of their creations?”
Adesina’s temper flared. “You say that as if we were barbarians.”
“The Shimat are a plague on this earth,” he spat.
Her expression became murderous. “We are warriors—keepers of the peace. You may not agree with our tactics, but I would choose the Shimat a hundred times over before your cult.”
Ri’sel was about to retort when L’iam’s strong voice cut in. “We are not a cult, Adesina,” he explained gently. “We are simply a race different from the rest of the world. They do not understand us, and therefore they are afraid of us.”
The silence in the room was heavy. Adesina shook her head, indicating confusion.
L’iam took a deep breath. “We are magic-users, but we are still human. Outsiders do not understand our gifts, so they attribute them to dark alliances.”
The skeptic in Adesina began to rise. “Dark alliances?”
“Evil spirits and so forth,” he clarified. “However, nothing could be further from the truth. We are born with our gifts, and we are careful in how we use them. We are not the evil oppressors that the Shimat say we are.”
Adesina didn’t know how to respond. Part of her was planning an escape, and another part of her yearned for the answers she had been craving her entire life. She carefully weighed her desire for information against her compulsion to free herself. Curiosity won out in the end, and she reasoned that she could always escape later.
E’nes saw the slight softening in her expression and tried speaking again. “I was five years old when my mother disappeared. I never got the chance to say goodbye. I always wondered what happened to her…”
She didn’t really want to give any more information than she had to, but decided that there was no harm in sharing the story of her mother. After all, they would probably be more likely to share information with her if she seemed just as willing.
“I was told that she was found wandering not far from the Shimat fortress. She was ill and close to giving birth. The Shimat took her in and cared for her until I was born. Just before she died, she said my father would come for me.”
A quiet murmur went through the room, but Adesina was too distracted to take note. Her eyes fixed on the dagger in E’nes’s hand—the one that Horas had given her. E’nes had told her that it belonged to her father, the man she had been searching for her entire life. The man she had turned over to the Shimat with barely a second thought. Little had she suspected that by achieving one of her life’s goals she would be betraying another.
“Father,” she whispered.
Her brother saw the direction of her gaze and lifted his hand slightly. “Did you see him taken?”
The young Shimat felt numb. “I was the one who took him.”
L’iam leaned forward urgently. “Where is he?”
Adesina stared into his gold and green eyes without really seeing them. “I turned him over to my superiors. He could be anywhere by now.”
The three men began quietly conversing in their native language. Ravi bumped his head against her hand, trying to comfort her.
“It will be all right, Ma’eve.”
Adesina spoke in a stiff voice that was tottering on the edge of despair. “How will it be all right? I have spent my whole life preparing to find my father, and then I turned him over to people who only see him as a threat.”
“We can find him again.”
She shook her head. “No, we cannot. I am not even sure that I want to find him.”
Ravi frowned. “Why would you not want to find your father?”
“He is a leader in a dangerous organization,” her voice broke softly. “This is not the kind of family I had hoped to find.”
The hushed conversation between the men came to an end. L’iam looked first at Adesina and then at E’nes. “See that she is made comfortable.”
E’nes gave a slight bow in acknowledgment as Ri’sel followed L’iam out of the cell without looking back. Adesina could hardly believe all that had transpired over the past several minutes.
E’nes, apparently, could not either. It took him a moment to gather his thoughts. “Are you hungry?”
She did a quick evaluation of her physical well-being. It had been quite a while since her last meal. She gave a wary nod, not certain whether or not she would accept any offering of food from him.
He pulled a key out of his pocket and held it up. “If I am to let you go, I need your word that you will not try to escape.”
She stared at him incredulously. “You would let me go?”
He gestured to the chains that bound her. “I was told to make you comfortable. That is difficult with shackles.”
Adesina knew that under normal circumstances she could get the key from him and knock him unconscious without any trouble. Unfortunately, the length of her chains limited her movement, making it less likely that she would succeed. She shifted her weight to test exactly how limited she would be.
E’nes was deliberately standing out of her range of motion, and smiled as he guessed her intent. He raised an eyebrow and said, “Well?”
Ravi, who was standing in the doorway, spoke to her in the Shimat language. “You are safe here, Ma’eve. There is no need to fear.”
“I am not afraid,” she retorted, but she wasn’t sure if that was true.
Her guardian simply nodded, even though he didn’t believe her either. “These people have the answers you have been looking for, dear one. They are willing to give them to you, if you will only let them.”
Adesina turned her gaze to her brother, who looked as if he very much wished to know what they were saying. His face was open and frank, inviting her to trust his innate honesty. Her suspicious nature cried against it, but she desperately wanted to know about her past. If receiving that information meant a temporary promise to stay put, she was willing to make the bargain.
“Very well,” she said in the common tongue. “I promise.”
E’nes approached her without any hesitation and unlocked the chains. Adesina was amazed that he did so with no sign of doubt. If their places had been reversed, she still would have been on her guard, even with his promise. Her brother, on the other hand, was completely trusting.
He led the way out of the cell, and Ravi waited so he could walk beside Adesina. They passed a window, showing the young Shimat that they were still in a forest area. The building they were in appeared to be some sort of fort.
Her cell seemed to be the only one of its kind. The other rooms, four in total, served as makeshift living quarters. They reached the end of the hall and entered into a large, open room. This main room was filled with wooden chairs and tables, and maps covered the walls. The smallish figure of a man was bent over the fireplace, stirring what appeared to be stew.
E’nes greeted him and made introductions. “K’eb, this is my sister, Adesina. Adesina, this is K’eb, a fine soldier and an excellent cook.”
K’eb, like all the others, had the two-toned hair and metallic eyes. He had a round, pleasant face that instantly accepted Adesina as one of his companions. He handed each of them a bowl filled to the brim.
“Here you are, m’lady. And you, Captain.” K’eb then looked at Ravi. “Sa’jan shot a deer this morning. Would you care to partake?”
Ravi smiled and shook his head. “No, thank you.”
Adesina was having a hard time getting used to the fact that others could see Ravi as well as herself. She and E’nes sat down at one of the tables and began to eat. For a moment it looked as if he was going to start questioning her, but he decided against it. He didn’t want to press her for information too quickly. Instead, he continued to speak to K’eb in between bites.
“How is A’asil?”
K’eb smiled ruefully. “He will be fine, physically. The compound on the darts appears to only render unconsciousness. His pride, though, may be wounded beyond repair.”
E’nes chuckled. “Certainly he has lost his right to brag about his stealth, but he will not hold a grudge.”
Their friendly conversation continued through the meal, but Adesina didn’t pay much attention. Instead, she found herself covertly studying her brother’s face.
His features were slightly sharper than her own, but he had the same almond eyes and sprinkling of freckles. His face was youthful and accustomed to laughter. He had a medium build, but Adesina guessed that he was stronger than what was immediately apparent.
More striking than all of these things was what she saw in his eyes. Beyond the strange colors, there was something deeper that held his entire being upright. They were open, honest and unusually pure. Adesina could not quite put into words what she saw there, but when she looked at him she wanted to be a better person.
Her gaze turned to his slender, masculine hands. Adesina was willing to bet that those hands had never shed the blood of another human being. She looked down at her own hands. They were also strong and slender, but had purposefully shed much blood throughout her life.
Although E’nes and Adesina shared the same parents, she and her brother were completely different. He seemed to be a man of integrity, with high ideals and noble purpose. K’eb had addressed him in a voice that spoke of respect and friendship. Adesina was a Shimat: a warrior trained to reach an objective, regardless of cost.
She fleetingly wondered what her life would have been like if she had been raised by such people.
Such musings were interrupted by the entrance of L’iam, Ri’sel, and another man. Adesina’s eyes were drawn to this man, as his were to her.
He was in his mid-fifties, but still quite fit. His face was harsh and craggy, bearing many scars. He, like L’iam and Ri’sel, wore a black ribbon around his neck, and was dressed in the crimson uniform worn by all except for L’iam. Adesina felt an immediate respect for this man as a warrior. She could tell that he was one who had seen many battles, and had played his part well.
After both had sized the other up, he walked over to Adesina and stood before her. The room went silent as all stopped to watch the encounter. The young Shimat stood slowly, meeting his gaze without fear. He was almost a head taller than her, but they almost seemed to be equal in height.
He studied her eyes for several moments, gauging what he saw there. Finally, he said in a low and gravely voice, “You are one I would enjoy meeting in battle.”
Adesina felt pride in this comment, and knew it would be an honor to cross swords with such a man. “As are you.”
He smiled, which softened his severe features. “I am Sa’jan, and I believe we shall be good friends.”
She was startled to find that she felt the same, but said nothing.
E’nes stood and the two men grasped each other’s forearms. “Sa’jan. This is my sister, Adesina.”
The older man looked surprised. “Sister? The daughter of Me’shan and E’rian lives?”
He glanced back at L’iam, who apparently had not informed him of what had been learned in Adesina’s cell. L’iam turned away to take a bowl of stew from K’eb, not responding to Sa’jan’s inquiring look.
Sa’jan appraised Adesina approvingly. “I am happy to meet the daughter of one of my oldest friends. And I am glad to see that she has followed in the footsteps of our ancestors.”
The young woman frowned, confused. “What do you mean?”
He pointed to the silver in his hair and then pointed to her own. “The children of Ed’mon have always been warriors. Protectors.”
E’nes saw that her confusion remained. “In our race, one’s ancestry can be seen by the color of the hair. The main portion is the father’s patriarchal line. Ours is silver, meaning that we can trace our line all the way back to Ed’mon, the first Protector.”
She flipped one of the black locks around her face. “And this?”
“The mother’s patriarchal line.”
Adesina surveyed the different hair colors in the room: black, silver, gold, white, blonde, honey. “How many lines are there?”
Her brother smiled at her interest. “There were eleven founders of our race. All of us descend from at least one of them.”
During this exchange, K’eb had been handing out bowls, and everyone was now seated having their own quiet conversations. Adesina’s attention was caught by one of Ri’sel’s questions to Sa’jan.
“Did you have any trouble in the village?”
The old warrior shook his head. “No, the villagers are too much in awe of the L’avan to cause trouble. I purchased the supplies we needed.”
Adesina shot E’nes a questioning glance. “L’avan?” she whispered.
“That is the name of our race.”
She intended to find out more, but Sa’jan’s next comment was aimed in her general direction.
“What have we found concerning Me’shan?”
E’nes looked at Adesina in uncertainty, at a loss for words. L’iam was the one who answered. “He has been taken by the Shimat.”
Sa’jan did not seem surprised. “What is our next course of action?”
Everyone turned to L’iam for the answer. He was deep in thought, staring out the window. After a few minutes he stirred. “We will wait for Mar’sal to return from his assignment.” He got to his feet and handed his empty bowl to K’eb. “In the meantime, we have some planning to do.”
L’iam indicated for Sa’jan and Ri’sel to follow him and walked out of the room. K’eb began cleaning all of the dishes, and Adesina turned to speak to E’nes in a low voice.
“What is going to happen to me?”
He sighed sadly. “I do not know. It is not my decision to make.”
“Regardless, I will remain a prisoner of the L’avan?” she asked coldly.
E’nes shrugged. “Not necessarily. You have not learned anything that would make you dangerous to us. L’iam may decide to let you go.”
She stared at her brother suspiciously. “Let me go? Just like that?”
He smiled. “Why not?”
Adesina couldn’t believe her ears. “Because I am still a potential threat. If you let me go I could follow you and act as a spy, or attack you in the dead of night. Besides, if you kept me, you would have leverage against the Shimat. You could trade me for one of their prisoners. For your father.”
E’nes’s expression became wry. “Trading my sister for my father does not seem like a good deal.”
She made an exasperated noise. “At least I am not a prisoner of the Shimat, whereas your father is.”
“Our father,” he corrected softly.
An awkward silence followed for several moments. Finally, E’nes leaned forward towards Adesina. “I would not allow you to be traded. And I do not think you will do any of those things you said.”
“How do you know?”
Another smile tugged at the corners of his mouth. “Because if you were seriously considering them, you would not tell me about it.”
She knew he was right. However, that did not mean that she was not considering turning on this group of L’avan soldiers. She hadn’t decided what she wanted to do, but she was sifting through her options.When the time came to act, she hoped to be ready.