Anger pounds Aela’s mind, it feels like a kettle screaming to be let off the heat, but no one will come take her off the stove. She lays there screaming inside until the water boils entirely into steam. The water runs dry and the screaming has stopped but the stove keeps burning, the heat does not go away. When the sharp immediate pain subsides, it’s replaced with a more permanent, forceful wound. This is where dark thoughts are born. This is the place where all good things come to die. She can imagine herself bending the metal bars that surround her and ripping them apart, her anger exploding with a malice and power so great that her captors would turn to ash before her. Instead, she lies in the cage, still burning without any more water to boil. Her eye’s red from anger and swollen from the days of tears. In this anger, she finally finds sleep.
Aela jolts back to consciousness as the hunting party returns. The 14-foot-tall creatures look like men, but with skin like half dry concrete and eye’s so black that they look empty when they’re not reflecting light. When Aela wakes, it feels like someone has refilled her kettle and turned the heat back on high. The groggy thoughts of sleep are quickly replaced with sinking malice. But today, her malicious thoughts are spiraling with confusion and lost reminiscent memories. Was it her fault that Marrek died 4 days ago, was his drunken mistakes really bad enough to push her anger that far? It was always difficult for Aela to control her emotions, something Marrek never had a problem doing. Perhaps he controlled them a little too much and didn’t let them out as often as he should. Maybe they both had faults with that ability. Aela would speak her mind on every issue that plagued her thoughts, which often manifested with Marrek’s bad habits. Bad habits that now Aela had no issues overlooking. Their every problem felt so small now, so far away, still like a dream. She can’t help but wonder if she could have felt like this about Marrek without seeing him pinned to the ground by a 10-foot-long spear.
The spear at a 45-degree angle, stabbed through his back. The image of his body still held up-right from the spear’s tension with the ground. His head drooped forward and blood pouring from his slack mouth. This image reveals itself every time she closes her eyes, around every corner of every thought. The last time she saw him before being drug through the dirt away from her home, bound by the ’s crudely made rope.
“Would it be better if I was more like Abrim?” She wonders.
30 feet away from Aela, she can see Abrim sitting in a cage identical to hers. A perfect cube five feet in every direction made from a dark brown metal that the dwarves call adamantine. Abrim was always a skinny boy and he’s still a skinny man, but his skills are unmatched from where Aela comes from. He calls himself a leatherworker and that’s true, but his ingenuity has always made everybody’s lives easier. He has knowledge about how people lived before the Dark War. In the center of town, he dug a hole 300 foot deep and found a vast supply of underground water that we could draw from with a bucket tied to a length of rope. He told us that people from before called it a well. Such a brilliant man, the light of our village, and now here he is looking even skinnier now than he ever has. His brown locks of hair matted from being drug through the mud.
As the giant’s return from their hunt, Abrim jumps to attention. Aela watches his eyes as they examine every new person that’s hauled into camp. His eyes wide with hope that one of them could be his wife Feya. She watches as his eyes fill with tears as he realizes that none of them are. Would it be better that way, would it be better not knowing?
There are others here as well, 15 cages in total and only 2 of them are empty. Among the prisoners most of them are human, but there are also three dwarves. Short creatures but stout. They usually stand at about 4 and half feet tall, but their broad shoulders and thick limbs put them at about the same weight as a 6-foot-tall man. And they grow so much hair that if they let it go too long, their face disappears behind it all. One of the Dwarves is a perfect example of that, his brown eyebrows so massive that you can’t see his eyes. Aela’s first impression is that the only way the dwarf would be able to see anything is to raise his eyebrows so high as to be in a constant state of surprise. The second one seems rather trimmed with pearly white hair. His eyebrows thin and wispy and almost going passed his ears with a trimmed beard that’s also skinny and lengthy. The last one is clean shaven revealing a tremendously round face and immensely chubby protruding chin. Aela doesn’t know too much about the world before but they say that dwarves were the builders and made great empires with buildings that would pierce the sky, but that was hundreds of years ago. There are no more sky towers, there are only heaps of ancient stone that have deteriorated over the last few centuries.
This place is like so many other ruins Aela has seen before. Half destroyed ancient stone walls have fallen to the ground, except there’s a major difference here. All the walls and stones on the ground are all new, not looking ancient at all. In fact, there are still piles of dust from the stones being shaped spread around the camp.
“This camp isn’t in ruins, it’s in the middle of being built!” She thinks to herself.
But it must still be in the early stages because the only thing built is a partial wall. The wall forms a half circle closing off the entrance to a natural rock formation. It all sits at the base of a mountain that stretches steeply upwards till the green pines become white and covered in snow. The wall closes off an area where the base of the mountain naturally concaves. The location is brilliant, with the mountain acting as the back of the fortress; the only thing that needs to be built to make this a formidable base is a wall. Now the weird quality of the cages starts to make sense. These perfectly square cages seem out of place as they are just freestanding and put to one side of the camp without actually being connected to anything. Aela could tip hers over again and again if she really wanted too, but that was a death sentence and she knew it. Other than that, the only structure behind the unfinished wall is a stone single story house made of the same stone as the walls. Everything about the home is square, the shape, the windows, even the chimney isn’t rectangular, it’s more like a cube. Another thing that is particularly interesting to Aela is that the home seems to be made of a solid piece. She’s seen ruins of stone castles and other buildings and they’ve all seemed to be made from thousands of individual stones, stacked and adhered together somehow. However, this building has no evidence of a single seam. It’s more like a perfectly cubed hollowed out boulder. Either way, the home is much too small to fit any of these giants inside of it. They must have taken this place under their control before the wall was finished.
“I wonder if things would have been different if the wall had been finished. Would whoever built this place still be here? Would the wall have giant heads hung from the tops as a warning to the others? Maybe I’ll put them there myself.” Aela contemplates as the giants go about locking up their new prisoners.
Her mind drifts back to the bloody images from the days before, “They killed everyone from Aukra, aside from Abrim and myself. Why would they do that? I understand Abrim, his skills might be useful, but I’m not foolish enough to think that I have any talents that giants would ever worry about. Would they even know about Abrim’s skills, have they been watching us?”
But then the answer to her question becomes quite clear as one the giants begins to speak. “Not enough cages Bograk.” one of the giants with a formidable forehead points out as he shoves one of the prisoners into the last empty cage.
“Eat them now, then more cages Kijak.” Bograk says with a grin.
The eight others in the camp immediately stop what they’re doing to look at the full cages. Almost at once the giants start towards them with looks of eagerness overtaking their faces, a hint of jealousy overtaking those who react slower than the rest. Aela’s stomach drops, and with every step they take the ground tremors which makes Aela’s stomach even more uneasy. She looks around for something, anything. She finds a rock the size of her fist within reach, she picks it up and holds it to her side. While the leather skinned behemoths clunk towards the prisoners she looks to Abrim. He’s hyperventilating as he meets the eyes of what must be a female giant, only apparent from her hairless face and softer looking skin, but her broad shoulders and legs are no different from the males.
“Old first and skinny one, before him skinnier!” Bograk says.
However, the giants don’t seem to follow orders very well as Aela notices them grabbing prisoners that got here after she did and some that were here before her. The female lifts Abrim’s cage off the ground.
“Aela!! Aela!!” Abrim screams.
Aela’s water starts to boil again. Here is the last person she knows from Aukra, about to be devoured in front of her. Aela goes deaf from the screaming anger inside of her. Her grip on the rock hidden to her side tightens with blinding purpose.
“What can I do with this?” she thinks. “It’s just a rock, and there are 10 of these giants”.
Her eyes swell up and tears start to stream down her cheeks. “Abrim! Calm down! Listen to me!” She demands, her voice sounding more commanding than it ever has before. It doesn’t even feel like her own. “I’m going to find Fey Abrim, I’ll find her! I will! I’m gonna get out of here!”.
Bograk walks up to each of the cages holding a small key in his hand. He unlocks the cages one by one while Abrim reaches for Aela. Reaching as if just one single touch of her hand would save him from this drooling giantess.
“Please Aela…” Abrim starts to say as Bograk unlocks his cage, “you..” but Abrim is cut off as the giant shakes his cage like a child shaking a present to figure out what’s inside. Abrim’s head hits the top of the cage and his body goes limp.
The giant opens her present and pulls Abrim out by the leg. Aela’s anger bursts and she doesn’t just imagine her anger exploding out of her, she can feel it. The other giants have already gotten to work on their meals. One of them grabs a human man by the neck and rips the head clean off before ripping off the other limbs. Another, flicks its human in the head with its finger, knocking it out and then skewers the man with a roasting stick. The giantess holds Abrim’s right leg in both hands like she’s about to eat a chicken wing.
Aela winds back her fist, the rock firmly in her hand. With a grunt, she hurls the rock with everything she can muster! It soars between the giant’s teeth and hits her right in the uvula, the rock goes down her throat and she starts to choke.
Bograk, Kijak, Helek and the others all look towards the female, most of them confused. Bograk bares his teeth, much like a human but slightly more carnivorous and about 10 times the size. He growls at Aela and stomps towards her cage. The giantess falls to her knees and grabs her throat with both hands, gasping for air.
“Brokka dying Kijak!” Helek says, pushing Kijak towards her.
Aela’s breath is heavy like the champion of a fist fight who just went 9 rounds. She barely feels the shaking as Bograk takes heavy steps towards her cage. He pulls back a kick and smashes his foot into the side of her cage. It leaves the ground and soars across the camp until crashing into the unfinished stone wall.
A while later Aela groans back into consciousness, her cage still at the base of the stone wall. Luckily the cage being a perfect cube, makes it not really matter that the cage has fallen to another side. It’s dark now and the new prisoners have been put into cages. Which Aela can only see from the radiating light shining from a large bonfire in the center of the camp. The flickering light stretches through most of the area but doesn’t quite reach Aela who’s now separated from the others, more alone than she was before. Aela turns to get a grip of her new surroundings, but it’s dark, very dark. However, next to her cage she sees there is a dark mass sitting next to her just outside the bars. Then she smells it, the blood, and she knows it’s a body, Abrim’s body. Is it possible to feel angrier than she had before? These emotions are becoming too hard for Aela to comprehend. Never before has she felt this much anger, sorrow, remorse, regret, and longing drawn out for so many days. “Aela″ a voice in the distance, with no light at the end of the tunnel, no mother’s solace to comfort her, “Aela are you awake?” She comes to the thought that she might not know the name of a single living creature in this world… “Kijak… Helek… Bograk… I guess maybe I do”
“Hey! I need you to wake up, it’s gonna be light soon!” A voice says, pulling Aela away from her thoughts, however the voice is not in the distance, but instead intertwined with her own thoughts. The voice you hear when making a decision, or reminiscing old possibilities to yourself. Except very clearly a man’s voice, very deep yet soft.
“I’m awake” Aela says, confused, but not loud enough to really be heard by anyone sitting in the camp which is far away from her now.
“Good, my brothers and I didn’t think you’d survive the impact. Are you broken? And don’t worry you can whisper, I’ll hear you.” Replies the voice.
“I don’t know, my leg is aching, and my ribs feel like shit. Is this magic? Who are you?” Whispers Aela, much quieter than before.
“My name is Fordar, I’m one of the three dwarves that were here when you arrived, and yes this is magic, it’s good to see that your level headed, most people think they’ve gone insane.” Says the deep voice.
“Good job killing that giant.” at last a little joy sparks into Aela’s thoughts, “it caused quite the commotion and in the midst of that, I was able to grab the key to the cages, you should be able to see it soon.”
Aela looks around and catches a glint of light shining from a small piece of metal in between her and the other cages. It comes closer into view and it doesn’t really look like anyone’s carrying it. Then the key that Bograk was using clinks against the metal of her cage as it passes through the bars floating there in the air by itself.
“Grab it, so it doesn’t drop onto the metal” Fordar says somewhere in Aela’s thoughts.
Aela reaches out to grab the key and when it gets close it feels like her hand is entering into water as there is this thick energy around the key. Once she grabs it the energy fades away and the weight of the key sets in as the magic releases its hold.
“Is this the key to all the cages?” Aela whispers.
“Okay, Aela, that’s the key to all the cages. I think Bograk kicking you out of the fire light is going to be his downfall, but we don’t have a lot of time.” Fordar explains “Take the key and twist the handle clockwise until it returns back to true. This will retract a few teeth, do that and the key will unlock the building in the center of camp.”
Aela grabs the key in a twistable position and cranks. Just as explained the key gives and twists with a bit of effort retracting a few of the teeth into the shaft of the metal key.
“Okay, I did it.” She whispers.
She waits for a few moments waiting for a response until, “Okay did you do it?” Fordar asks.
“Umm, ya.” She replies feeling a little uncomfortable not knowing the proper way to talk using whatever magic this is. But despite the discomfort Fordar goes on.
“Good, now that you know how to use the key, turn it counterclockwise again in order to get it back to where it was. Once it’s there you can unlock the cage, sneak to the building, unlock it, and inside there will be bunks, three on the right and three on the left, go to the third farthest on the left and search the bedside table. There you will find..”
“Whoa whoa stop, please, hold on. How do you expect me to pull any of this off?” Aela questions.
“It’s not a matter of expectation, it’s a matter of hope. If you want to survive and believe me, I do want to survive, then you have to do this. You caused the commotion, you made this possible and now you’ve presented even more possibilities by being kicked so far away from camp. It’s the only way. Do you want to survive or don’t you?” Fordar questions and pleads with more than a hint of desperation.
“Okay, okay, just let me breathe for a moment.” She replies.
Her thoughts wander to the past few days, seeing Abrim when her eyes are open, seeing Marrek when her eyes are closed. Her instincts tell her to just sit and do nothing, it feels natural that way. The feeling of purpose and reason to move feels far away. It would be so easy to sit and sink into her deep thoughts, especially now that an opportunity presents itself for her to do something substantial. Something that she’s wished for these last few days. But now that action calls, she only wants to sit, and do nothing. The pressure is too much, it would be easier to stay here and let fate take control, but her surroundings more than show her what that would end up like.
Her mother would tell her legends of an afterlife, an endless hall filled with piles of bread and meat taller than any mountain, and barrels of beer deeper than the sea where you could drink and laugh with your long dead loved ones. The promise after death to those who died well.
“Was this dying well? Willfully accepting death to join those you’d lost, and was it even there? Or would there be nothing after death, like father used to say.” She ponders.
Both of Aela’s parents explained their difference in thought, and despite the misunderstandings and the endless debates they could always agree on one thing. To be true. Anyone who is true, will die well, and to die well is all we can hope for.
“I’ll find Fey, Abrim, I’m gonna get out of here” the memory of her own words coming back to her.
Her thoughts fluster and her breathing becomes hectic; her hands shake as she feels the weight of the heavy dwarven key in her hands.
“Okay, here we go,” Aela says to herself as she grips the key to return it to its original position.
She twists it back the other way until the teeth return to normal. Then she feels around the cage, searching for the lockbox. She finds it and realizes luck is on her side when she finds that the door is not facing the ground after being kicked through the air. The thought of this task being any harder than it is already is too much for Aela to imagine. Any small hiccup is going to ruin her motivation right now. She can see herself giving up and lying on the ground till the sun comes up if she fails one more time. She sticks the key into the box and twists, the click brings greater bliss to her ears than any music ever could.
“You think she’ll do it?” asks Bondor the hairiest of the dwarves
“She has to, you saw the look in her eyes. She meant what she said to that skinny lad, she’s strong, very strong.” Replies Fordar, the dwarf with pearly white hair, as he watches the shadow of Aela moving away from her cage.
Fordar reaches into his pocket and grabs the free end of a spool of copper wire, he pulls it gently and the spool whirls in his pocket feeding 6 inches of wire from within. He pinches the freed wire where it meets the spool between his fingers and whispers the phrase “budskap” instantly the wire starts to burn away giving off a blue aura like a small candle flame starting where his fingers are pinched. In a matter of seconds the wire burns to the tip and disappears, only a wisp of smoke and a smell of burning metal remains.
Fordar points at Aela’s shape in the darkness and whispers into her thoughts “Good job getting out of the cage without the giants noticing, but the house is lit up from the fire, it’ll be more difficult”.
“All of this is difficult, and I can’t imagine anything you have in that house is gonna get us out of this mess either, so tell me the rest of the plan.” Aela demands as she reaches the area where the darkness meets the flickering fire light.
“What now Bograk? Where is Jijah?” asks Helek as they stare into the fire. Bograk and Helek seem to be the only ones awake at the moment. An hour ago, it was Helek and another one they call Jachin. Bograk stretches, his hardened skin crunching and creaking as he leans back to look at the stars.
“Jijah say kill humans north river Bograk, big night fire Bograk. Then Jijah, Bara, Amzi kill elves downstream. They’ll find big fire at night Helek.” Bograk replies.
The building is on the edge of the fire light on the opposite side of camp that Aela’s on now. Staying low, she circles around the light until reaching the back of the building.
“Okay, so like I was saying before there will be bunks on the left and the right. Go to the third bedside table on the left and grab as many of those daggers as you can. On the back wall there are also longbows, halberds, and swords, but getting those out is going to be nearly impossible without stone brain catching you. So, we’ll just stick to the daggers for now, get them, put them in a bag, take them back to your cage and stay there.” Explains Fordar before going on, “You’ll need to go in through the front door that’s facing the fire. I’ll try my best to distract the giants, but after you’re in, you can unlock the back window and escape into the darkness. You should see the window right above you.”
Aela looks up and sees the square window 10 feet above the ground. “Great, I can see myself landing on one of the daggers now, bleeding out before I can even get back to my cage.”
Fordar looks straight up, slouches his shoulders and gives an exacerbated sigh before pulling another section of copper wire from his pocket, burning it up and pointing at Aela, “Are you ready?”
Aela pokes her head around the corner of the building and see’s Bograk and Helek staring into the night sky. Bograk’s feet are out of his shoes and perched in front of the fire. Aela always imagines failure, it’s the first thing that comes to her mind around every corner she walks around. This corner is no different. That’s how it was with Marrek, maybe that’s why she pointed out his every shortcoming or untimeliness he ever had. Because she felt like the relationship would fail even at the best of times and every mishap was only more proof that it would. She’s been so hung up on failure that it’s stopped her from truly enjoying the life she could have had with Marrek. It’s stopped her from really getting good at anything, and it feels like it’s about to stop her now. Why try and do this when someone else might succeed? How can someone jump into the fray without knowing the outcome that awaits them? Either way, it has to be better than how she feels now.
“Are you watching me Marrek? If I change now, would you smile at god’s table and think about what could have been?” She thinks as she looks up to the stars. She grips the key by the handle and twists it to the position that would supposedly match the door.
“Yes, I’m ready,” Aela finally replies.
Fordar puts his hand into a fist, and then raises his first two fingers to point straight up and puts them to his lip in preparation “Go!” commands Fordar.
Aela curls around the corner, hugging the wall as closely as she can but just far enough away that her clothes won’t rub against the stone. She slouches over just far enough so that her hands can touch the ground in an instant if she needs to change directions. The giants are quiet, but they really didn’t talk enough for her to wait for an opportunity, not with the sunlight brimming over the mountain peak. She gets to the corner that would bend around the front of the house and grips the key firmly in her hand.
“Round the corner, key in lock, clockwise, counterclockwise but not too far, remove key, open door, slip in, close door.” She thinks, walking herself through such a simple task. She never realized how many steps there were to getting inside of a building, just this alone almost overwhelms her. She can feel the blood pumping through her temples, her nerves pushing to the edge, her breathing starts to shake. She puts her lips together like she’s blowing out a candle, the steady sound of her own breath calming her. Putting the key in her mouth and clenching it with her teeth, she puts her hands on the ground going down to all four and scurries around the corner. She slips into the frame of the door, and there it is, the key hole. She slides the key into the slot, it is not quiet, metal sliding across stone, it sounds smooth but it definitely sounds. Aela’s hair stands on end, and she gets so nervous that it suddenly feels like she’s underwater, with bricks for shoes. She can hear the creaking skin as one of them begins to move. Fordar not taking a moment to blink with his fingers still pressed to his lips, his eyes wide, he whispers “bål”
The loud sound of wood cracking snaps through the air and the campfire warming Bograk’s feet suddenly expands out of the fire pit as if someone poured gasoline into it. The flames engulf Bograk’s feet and half way up his shins before the flames return back to normal.
“Agh! Burns!” screams Bograk as he shoots backwards from where he was sitting, falling onto his back and curling his legs to his chest and grabbing his feet with his hands. Aela twists the key, twists it back, opens the door, slips in, turns around and puts both hands and her left shoulder against the door to push it with the most control. Stone rubs against stone, smooth, but still noisy.
“Gahahaha, too close to the fire Bograk! Gahaha!” explodes Helek waking up the others. “Bograk too close to the fire Kijak! Gahahaha too close to the fire Jachin!” continues Helek.
Jachin picks up a stone and throws it at Helek, it thumps him right in the head, and a decent amount of blood starts running down the side of his face.
“Gahh!” Helek screams.
“Too close to the stone Helek, now shut your hole or I’ll bash it in next time! Your turn on watch, my turn to sleep!” shouts Jachin.
If the others weren’t laughing before they are now, but most of them roll back over to try to get some more sleep. Kijak and another giant who’s only wearing a pair of ragged pants get up and join the others by the fire,
“Sun’s almost up” says the one with ragged pants, “Any more of that, gnomish tea?”
“Sounds good Zibah, we share the last of it, if you walk humans back today.” Kijak responds. Zibah grunts and nods while pulling the hollowed-out tusk of a mammoth.
Entering the doorway of the cubed stone home brings Aela to the top of a set of stairs that goes farther down to a lower floor. Inside, there are no hallways, doorways, or interior walls, the home is just one big cube. Her whole life Aela had lived in a wooden cabin that her father had built 30 years ago from the surrounding pine trees, and before that her mother had told her the stories of traveling from one ruin to another. Some infected with rats, some with the bones of those before the Dark; and others with monstrous creatures who had claimed the territory before they could. It wasn’t until finding the Jakobs, another family that was doing the same, that they would join together and try to survive the harsh conditions as one. Together the Jakobs and the Elstahds had enough knowledge to build a home that could stand the harsh winters of this mountainous terrain.
Following the building of the cabin came comfort, and with comfort, came rising smoke from the warmth of a wooden stove. Which called others who were lost and alone towards them and together the town of Aukra was born. Some strangers brought death with them that plagued the village, some through malice, some through disease, but Aukra endured, until now. Now there was nothing left, aside from Aela, and maybe Fey. She prays that Feya is still alive, it’s the only driving thought she has right now. Aela takes in a deep breath before scanning the room. The home is actually quite beautiful, what was plain white stone on the outside is marbled on the inside with black baseboards and molding, trimmed with gold. So finished and elegant, with disheveled thin metal bed frames that look as if they could easily fold up and be put into a pack within a matter of minutes. The home appears complete but the bedding seems temporary. Like Fordar had said, there are three beds on either side of the room and a rack of bows, swords, and axes lining the back wall where it meets the corner.
“There must have been 6 dwarves before the giants showed up.” Aela thinks as the images of her village being slaughtered in front of her reappears.
She taps down the stairs to the lower level, and moves to the third bedside table on the left side of the room. She remains in her crouched walk to stay low; she doesn’t think that will help, but it gives her more confidence that it will. She rounds the bed and kneels down before the bedside table, which is another perfect cube made of a darker marble with 6 drawers and blackened metal handles. Opening the top most drawer reveals an array of hammers, chisels, pitons, and wedges. The next has spools of thin wire, string, and chain. Opening the third drawer reveals the daggers. Each of them identical with a 9-inch blade made of the same dark brown metal as the cages. Aela’s father used to tell her stories of Dwarves with interlocking shields made of adamantine. He said that they could form a shield wall so solid that it would form a perfect dome and not a single drop of rain would be able to find a crack wide enough to squeeze through. Seeing about 30 daggers in the drawer Aela stares at them for a moment before thinking, “bag.” She scans the room and there’s a pile of backpacks to the side of the stairs that enter from the doorway. All of them with rope, mining pick, hammer, and a metal pike attached to their sides. Aela scurries over to them and grabs one. Carefully taking all of the metal tools off the sides and placing them on the ground, then opening the big pouch of the bag reveals it to be stuffed with pouches full of various sized metal.
After creating a heap of tools and pouches next to herself, the bag is finally empty, a little big for 30 daggers but perhaps she could keep it quieter that way. She returns to the still open bedside table and begins taking out the knives. Before putting them into the backpack another thought comes to her. Aela grabs the furled-up blanket from the bed and sprawls it out on the floor. She puts the first knife on the outermost edge and rolls the blanket to cover the dagger. Then she puts the next one down, making a layer of blanket between them. 30 daggers later wrapped up in woolen blanket, Aela is left with quite the bundle. She moves smoothly to the pile of tools that she created while emptying the backpack and grabs a spool of rope. Stringing it around the blanket of daggers she ties the two ends of rope together like you would a bundle of wood. She jostles the blanket.
“Seems secure enough.” She thinks. Then she shoves it into the big pouch and tightens a few of the straps to make it even more secure.
“What’s taking her so long!” angrily whispers Bondor. “The sun’s peaking over the mountain peak! This is our only chance Ford, light a fire under her ass would ya?”
Fordar slumps back against the bars and whispers “The spell doesn’t go through walls brother; we just have to wait.” Bondor gives a grumble, which from a dwarf, sounds like rocks crunching together in his throat.
Aela spent most of her childhood climbing trees with Marrek, but these marbled walls are completely smooth. She could move some of the bed frames around, maybe stack them onto each other, but one collapse, metal against stone, and the giants would smash their way in to find out what’s inside. She looks back at the window and notices the night’s darkness is beginning to fade into a dim dawn.
“No other choice” she says to herself, “If I’m not in my cage when the sun comes up, they’ll be looking for me and I’ll never make it out of here.”
Aela looks to the bed frame; she throws the bedding onto the floor till only the wiry frame remains. “Looks light enough. It can hold a dwarf, should be able to hold me.”
She folds the compactable bed frame to its packable shape and lugs it to the windowed wall. She unfolds it back to normal, putting the head of the bed against the wall directly under the window, she hoists it up from the foot of the bed so that the head is now resting directly on the ground and the frame is perpendicular to the floor. Then she runs over to the pile of backpacks leaving them full of tools and metal and brings them over to the upright bed frame one by one. She places the heavy bags on the bed frames headboard, hopefully anchoring it to the floor. She slings the backpack full of daggers around her shoulders and tightens the straps. Pursing her lips, she blows out another candle and starts to climb. The thin metal bars that would hold the mattress creak, but they hold. Taking deep breaths after every step and testing her foot placement with a small jostle before putting her weight into it, she makes it to the top. The bedframe sways softly from the top weight counteracting the anchor of backpacks.
Aela has to stand straight up in order for her head to be level with the square window. She examines it for a moment, never having experienced a window that could be opened before. There’s a small latch on the bottom, and a sort of tube on the top attached to a hinge. Aela fiddles with the latch and it spins to the left, unhooking itself from an eyehole that the latch was piercing. Giving the window a slight push the tube at the top starts to expand, revealing a smaller tube from within that extends out as to hold the window in an open position. No way can the backpack and Aela squeeze through the window at the same time, so she unstraps the backpack and swings it into the window sill. She pushes it out of the window keeping a tight hold letting it gently fall through the other side. Resting it on the outside wall and keeping hold of the bag, she leaps from the bed to get her arms through the window, her hands sticking outside with the inside corner of the window sill resting in her armpits. The leap jostles the bedframe making it lean back slightly, but the heavy backpacks force it back the other way. A small clang of metal against stone sounds through the room and Aela sits there, her feet dangling down the inside wall, her heart in her throat.
“Here she comes,” points out Fordar. Bondor looks to the giants around the fire and they don’t seem disrupted from sipping their tea from their hollowed horns.
Aela bends her elbows, bringing her hands to the outside lip of the window, trying to get a grip on it while still holding the bag. Doing this while kicking up the wall gives her the leverage she needs to pull herself up so that her stomach is resting on the window sill with her head now poking outside. The bag dangles in front of her, 6 feet between the bag and the ground. Fordar unspools a section of copper wire, “Budskap” the copper burns and Fordar points at Aela.
“Drop the bag Aela! I’ll catch it.” Fordar says into Aela’s thoughts, while simultaneously reaching into one of his coat pockets, grabbing hold of one of the many feathers that he’d collected from his pillows as they poked his head through the night.
He pulls it out and holds it in front of his lips like a dandelion, he whispers the word “fjær” and from the breath it took to say the word the feather crumbles into little particles of itself and blows away with the wind. Aela drops the bag, and it falls, slowly, one one-thousand, two one-thousand, it touches the ground without a sound.
Pocket, copper wire, “Budskap” burning, pointing “You’re turn Aela, drop down.”
Coat pocket, feather in front of his lips “fjær” feather crumbles, Aela falls. Her hands hit the ground first and she rolls into a slow-motion somersault. Fordar slumps back onto the bars letting out a few air catching pants. Aela slips the pack back on, gets on all fours and crawls back towards her cage through the quickly lightening darkness. She crawls behind a pile of stones that are shaped but not yet put onto the wall.
“I might be able to get away with having a blanket but they made sure no one came here with any gear; they’ll know something’s up if they see the backpack” Aela thinks to herself. She slings the backpack onto the ground, pops open the big pouch and pulls the blanketed bundle of daggers out.
“Leave the key there on the ground, I’ll grab it now while you work your way back.” Whispers Fordar.
Aela takes the key from her pocket, places it on the ground and then curls the bundle of daggers in her arms before continuing in a low slouch.
“There it is!” Aela thinks to herself as her cage comes into view, “Abrim…” The second immediate thought comes to her mind. A kettle screams in Aela’s thoughts, she forces herself to look the other way as she opens the door to her cage. She gently places the blanket in first before crawling in herself. Grabbing the door again she gently closes it and it clunks into place. She puts her back against the bars facing away from Abrim. The water boils and tears stream out of her eyes.
“Take the daggers out one by one, quick! While the sun is dim!” Fordar’s voice not interrupting Aela’s panic.
Huffing in distress, Aela forces herself to carry on. No longer sneaking, instead she moves at a hectic shaking pace, the only way she can muster right now. She pulls out one of the daggers and holds it, a moment later her hand is engulfed with a thick energy that feels like she’s dipping her hand into a pool of water. Aela drops the dagger and it floats in the air. Fordar brings it inches from the ground before pulling it from the cage and closer to the other prisoners. The dagger floats not to one of the dwarves, but instead to one of the newest prisoners. A mountain of a man, dark leathery skin, barely able to fit in the cage that the giants have stuffed him into. The newcomer is facing away from Aela, and all she can see is his thick black hair, like a mane falling half way down his back. The dagger goes all the way to him, it goes through the bars and taps the man on his hip. The man grabs it, slides it under him, sits on it, and remains still.
“Again” whispers Fordar into Aela thoughts.