Chapter 1 A prison again
Thanos had made sure to separated the group, throwing them each into their own cells and slamming the doors behind him. The guard that was on duty to watch them was constantly drunk, snoring loudly at his post. The keys for the cell were hanging on a hook above his head, taunting Valeena. His replacement would arrive soon just as drunk as he was. Sometimes, the two broke out in song, singing off-key about a fair maiden who would not give them the time of day. Valeena plugged her ears and hummed loudly, but their drunken voices cut through.
Valeena preferred to remain close to the open cell window as the smell of decay and sweat was overwhelming. She had tried in vain to use her crystal, but nothing had happened. There seemed to be some type of magical barrier in place. Not even their weapons could help as they had been stripped of them, the items being locked away in a sturdy chest outside the dungeon doors. She still was not sure why Thanos did not just kill them, as he was now King. Valeena had not seen Thanos since the day he threw them in here. But then again, why would he visit his prisoners?
After the dragon appeared, Thanos had waved his clawed staff, casting Valeena into a deep sleep. She had woken up as her head struck the solid stone of her cell floor, the blinding pain jolting her awake. Valeena had never seen this dungeon before and wondered if she was even in the Star Kingdom anymore.
Valeena had overheard a conversation between the two guards a few nights after she was locked away. But it was not like she was spying as they were talking loudly from the door. And she could clearly see them.
“Did you hear that King Caspian has gone into hiding?” One said, snorting in an ugly type of laugh.
“I did. But what do you expect? He killed his own sister!” The other replied, his voice deep with a hint of an accent.
“The whole family are nothing but murderers! Queen Maylee had killed her husband, and her daughter then poisoned her!“The first one said, causing the hair to stand up on Valeena’s neck.
“Poisoned?” The deep voice asked. "I saw King Caspian stab her!"
“He did, but, they found the vial of poison in Princess Aurory's room! The little brat claimed that it was not her. But we all know her mouth is full of lies.”
Valeena held her breath as she strained her ears to hear more. She could not help but wonder what had become of the Princess. But the two men said no more, and instead, they broke out into a song about a woman that refused to date them. The one with the accent could sing, his voice a nice baritone. The other should learn to play an instrument. Valeena got a strong impression that the song was about Steel.
Valeena hoped that the Elements were still safe, as she had hidden them before returning to the Star Kingdom. And Thanos had not even asked about them. Which was odd sense Elden had said he wanted them back in Rose Grove. Thanos was up to something, but she had no idea what. She had not even seen him since the day her mother was...
Valeena swallowed hard, fighting back the lump in her throat as the tears stung her eyes. She was surprised by the overwhelming sense of grief she felt at the loss of the Queen. Queen Maylee had treated her so cruelly in the past, and yet, her she was grieving. Valeena was not happy the Queen was gone, but she did not understand why she was crying.
It was funny, Valeena thought as she peered at the round moon. She had spent most of her life terrified of the day she would turn sixteen, as she thought she would surely die. But here she was, rotting away in a cell while the woman she fear was gone. Valeena shook her head as an overwhelming sense of dread fell upon her.
“Val?” Elden’s voice cut through her thoughts. His voice was low and Valeena almost did not hear him. His cell was to her left, while Akari’s cell was to her right. Valeena had discovered a hole in the wall near the bottom corner of her cell where the walls meet each other. It was barely large enough for a mouse to squeeze through, but it was enough for Elden and Valeena to see each other.
Valeena reluctantly left the refreshing air of the cell window and sat near the opening, doing her best not to gag. She picked up a few pieces of straw and began to braid them together, using the light of the moon to illuminate her fingers.
“I think I figured out a way for us to escape.” Elden began, keeping his voice low as the guard snorted, coughing in his sleep.
Valeena sighed and continued braiding the straw, not bothering to ask him for details. They had been stuck in the cells for two weeks now, each one doing their best to form a plan of escape. With the barrier in place, Elden was unable to use his crystal to manipulate the guards into setting them free. They had to talk in a confusing code as the guard mocked them, drinking and singing.
Valeena glanced out of her cell as a soft scratching sound was added to the din. She knew it was Rowan using his talons to try and claw his way out of his cell. Nyles had attempted the same thing, but the stones were far too thick. He had slammed his stone shoulder into the walls several times before a guard stopped him, threatening to tranquilize him. Nyles had laughed it off, staring at the guard as he forced his weight into the stone once more.
"That's it, I am getting Thanos!" He shouted, freezing in place as the shadow of the dragon soared through sky. The might body of the beast blocked out the sun, the shadows crossing the terrified guard's face. He fled to his post, shaking ignoring Nyles as he stuck the wall again. But the wall was solid and unyielding, causing Nyles to abandon it altogether.
“Val?” Elden repeated, his voice slightly louder. Valeena almost did not answer him, wanting him to think she had fallen asleep. She was in no mood to talk tonight as grief washed over her once more, pulling her down into the darkness.
“Val?” He repeated, louder his voice startling the sleeping guard. The guard snorted again, lifting his head briefly before falling back to sleep, his head hitting the desk with an audiblle thud.
Annoyed, Valeena asked, “Yes?”
“I said, I think I figured out a way to escape.” He said, his head closer to the opening. Valeena rolled her eyes and tossed the straw aside.
“There is no escape.”
“Oh, so you’ve given up already, have you?” Elden responded smoothly, knowing his words would sting. Valeena wished she had a long stick that she could shove through the opening and stab him with. He knew damn well she had not given up!
“Fine, enlighten me oh, wise one!” Valeena shouted, holding her breath as the guard jolted awake again as her voice echoed off the walls. The scratching ceased as well, the only sound that remained was the guards heavy breathing.
“Eh, pipe down you slugs!” He barked, his words slurring together slightly as he wobbled towards the door mumbling about needing to take a leak.
Valeena glanced up and saw Rowan’s scarlet eyes glaring at her from his cell. He mouthed the words, ‘shut up!’ before disappearing into the shadows of his cell, the scratching sound returning.
“I have made notes of when the guards change. It’s never the same time, but it’s close. If we can find a way to pick one of the locks, we have a chance of taking the guard out! Then, we can get the keys and-”
“And then what?” Valeena broke in, hissing at him as she did her best to keep the volume low. “We run up the stairs and hug Thanos? I grew up here! I know that up those stairs are the labs! We are lucky they did not throw us in the same pitiful cells that you and Aira were stuck in months ago!”
Elden did not respond. Valeena heard the cracking of his body as he stood up and moved away from the opening. She regret snapping at him, but the damage was done.
“Wait a minute,” An idea floated to the surface of her mind. “Elden?” She called out softly, shifting her body so her head was near the hole, her lips nearly on it.
“Listen up jerks!” A loud voice boomed as a strong looking man entered the room. He was bald, with a thin beard covering his square face. He glanced around the room at each and every cell to make sure that they all were paying attention.
“You have deemed a threat to the kingdom-”
“Duh,” Nyles interrupted receiving a death glare from this new man.
“And you will executed at dawn. Enjoy your last night in luxury.” He said, shoving the maid aside as she entered carrying a tray of food. The contents of the tray nearly spilled out, as she stumbled forward, her eyes brimming with tears.
The maid approached Elden’s cell first, carefully placing his meal on the floor and sliding it near the edge of the cell. She was worried he would reach out a grab her. She was less afraid of Valeena, placing the food completely in her cell and smiling before moving on.
The food had appeared to have already been eaten and vomited back on the plate. It was a lumpy, brown color with bits of yellow and green. The smell was rancid, causing Valeena to gag. She covered her mouth with one hand and shoved the plate out of her cell.
Rowan was the only one who thanked the timid woman, even though she pushed his plate in a lot further away than she had anyone else. She seemed to gasp in fright as he spoke, dropping the serving tray and dashing out of the room, holding her skirt in her hand so as not to trip.
“Must you?” Aira said her voice holding a hint of amusement. Valeena had determined that Aira was beside Akari, and Nyles was across from her, beside Rowan.
Valeena sat with her back against the stone wall, the opening to her left. She called out for Elden once more, but he did not respond. She sighed and decided to speak anyway, knowing he could hear her.
“You have not become the beast since we’ve been here. If you do transform tonight, run. Find anyone left in this world who might help us.”
Valeena heard an odd scratching sound and glanced up as a plate slide from the shadows and into Rowan’s cell. She watched closely, hearing Rowan cough before the plate was thrust into her cell.
Valeena grabbed it and saw that a message had been scratched onto the surface of the metal.
“Tomorrow we will be free.” It read in neat, block style writing. Underneath was a picture of a leaf with a clock beside it.
“Time leaf,” Valeena whispered, wondering how she was going to pass the message on to Elden. But she had no time to think as the guard returned, swinging his arms and laughing.
Valeena panicked and forced the plate to fit between two of the bars of her window, shoving it hard. She hoped that Akari was right as she peered at the moon, knowing that it might truly be her last night on Gaia.