Chapter 6: Spies
The dungeon felt the same. The stale and yet sharp odor of urine mixed with the tangy bite of blood, and the sickly rancid sweet smell of infection. The prickly straw on the smooth, hard, cold floor. The iron bars preventing escape. Manacles on my wrists connected to a wall.
This time Dan shared the cell with me.
“How long do you think they will keep us here?” His voice sounded hoarse, and he cleared his throat.
It felt surreal to be back here. This whole experience since coming out of the wasteland surrounding the city was like a dream, but at the same time it was all too real to be a dream.
“Hmmm. Probably till they kill us.” The manacles on my wrist were so tight. It made the skin under them hurt.
“Hmm?” Why was he yelling at me?
“You need to think and be prepared. We have to plan how to survive.” Dan’s desperation caught up with me.
I was here, now, in this dungeon. I was freezing cold and my wrists itched.
I closed my eyes for a minute, focusing in on the first question I nonchalantly answered, “We will have to make our move when they take us to be killed. If we are lucky, we might be able to talk to a sympathetic guard. If not, we might die.”
“We need a better plan than that…”
“What do you want!? If we try and fight our way out of custody on our own we will be killed instantly. We need support. If we try and escape now we will be caught. This prison is too well watched. I lived here ten years of my life. I know.
“Is there maybe another way in. Maybe we could escape under the cover of night…”
“We are in the City Dan. That dome over the city that make the sky look so weird, it also makes sure that the prison is properly illuminated at all time. Who knows if the city’s day and night cycle even match the outside world.”
“You can’t just give up. Ya planned for this. Ya had all that training in the Wall.”
“Yes Dan. This is my plan. My plan relies on the support of some of the guards here. It relies on the people to actually care. If it makes you feel better, everything is going according to plan. Relax. Lean back. Enjoy the easy life in prison for a couple days.” I was being too harsh, but for some reason I was feeling apathetic toward the whole situation. I should care more. I should be furious that the City betrayed its honor even though this was what was expected. I felt nothing.
I was back here. Is this how all the Dishonored came to simply accept their fates? Was this who I was. My sense of desperation for revenge, my strong guiding belief in honor, my desperation; was it all lost now to the confines of metal bars?
No. I forced myself to stretch, to look over at Dan who was staring at me like I’d lost my mind.
I had to get past this tired lackadaisical feeling.
“We will prevail. I believe, that there are good people in this city. There are people fed up with the way this city is run. Our rebellion will take off.
Dan’s face looked blank as he nodded. “There’s the Liv I know. You’d never been so pessimistic before.”
I hadn’t? I don’t think my plan is going to work. I don’t think I can escape from fate this time, but I had to, for Dan’s sake. I dragged him into all of this. I’d expected it. I had to keep going for him.
“I am going to take a nap though. I want to be well rested when it’s time to bring the King down.”
Dan nodded. We could take turns napping and exercising. We needed to keep up our strength for the fight.
Yes. I leaned back against the wall. We had to keep our hope alive.
I tensed, ready for a kick to the gut, but there was nothing. The footsteps thudded past.
I wasn’t in that cell anymore. That was a long time ago. Dan was asleep curled up against the wall he was chained to. It was strange being back in a prison cell with a different person I had dragged into my problems. The footsteps were coming back, and the light of the torch illuminated the dingy dim cell as it passed. For a second I saw scratched letters on the wall before the torch passed by and the footsteps walked away.
I ran my fingers over the letters trying to figure out what they were.S-P-I-E-S. A space, and the the scratchings of another letter I couldn’t reach. What had this previous cell occupant been trying to warn people about?
SPIES. The word felt familiar. Hadn’t someone said that before? I’d heard it… here? Reese. Hadn’t she called herself a spy? Was it someone else who had heard about the people that could slip into a role? But why scratch the word onto a cell wall? Once someone was in this cell, they were already done for.
Soft footsteps coming down the hall. I moved as far forward as the chains would let me. Was it just another guard? The light from a torch slowly infiltrated the cell walls, and the shadow of a cloaked person appeared in front of the door.
“I never thought I would get to see your wretched face again.” That voice. What it, why would she be here? Why when I was just thinking about her?
“Reese?” I whispered. Her. I, my heart pounded in my chest, I wanted so much to wrap my hand around her, to plunge an arrow in her that wicked heart, to slice her head off with a blade, to watch her burn in her own crimes!
“Resse?” She laughed, that same barking mocking laugh. Her hood came down, and I could see that same face that I remembered so well lit by the flames of her torch. “That was what I went by when I caught you wasn’t it. “I can’t believe you actually came back. Why after so long, would you re-enter? Did you get tired of being unable to see the light inside the wall? Did the wall dwellers fill your ears with false promises about how the city would welcome you back just to get that annoying voice out of their wall once they tired of you?”
“Still mocking people who can’t touch you I see.” I spat my words at her feet. “I left just like I was supposed to you bitch. And because I have honor I came back. I came back to show you that your tiny little kingdom is nothing. There is a world out there. A world you can’t control. And I will keep proclaiming until everyone has heard this. And the people will be free, free to chose to leave!”
“You were always so simple. You think people will leave just because you say something as you are standing on your execution platform? They might get riled up for a short amount of time, but eventually they will settle back down. People always want to do what they know. They do what is comfortable, and leaving the lives and families they know and love is too much to ask. You are asking people to trust the word of a crazy woman. You are asking them to risk their lives for your word. Even the dishonored are too comfortable to listen to the ramblings of a mad wom-”
“I’m not crazy!” I screamed at her, yanking against the chains. “They will rise up! The oppression upon the people will not be stood for! My execution will be prevented by the people!”
“Such hope in people that have done nothing for you. Where were these people when you walked out of the city with the fresh brand of an exile on your cheek? Where were the people when you were arrested and taken back to the dungeons you belong in?”
I could see her sick smile shining through the torch light. She was here simply to enjoy my anger. To make me mad; bring me to despair.
I took a deep breach. I’m not crazy. I’ve prepared for this. This place is a stagnant system ready for change. I smile. “You will see Reese. Your eyes will be opened when I have placed an arrow through your heart. When the revolution comes, I will search for you, and no matter who you pretend to be, no matter how you hide, I will remember the shape of your face, your voice, your laugh. And when I find you, I will personally end your life.”
“And look my friends, the caged cat makes cute little threatening hisses.” She spoke as if talking to an audience next to her, and then she looked back at me, her eyes glimmering with victory. “And you my dear little house cat, you will realize how right I am when the axe is above your head.”
She turned away, pulling the hood of her cloak back up. As she walked away, the light retreated, the shadows once again taking over the cell. In the fading light, I could see Dan at the back of the cell watching me.
“Who was that?” He asked. “Ya seemed to know ’em.”
“That was the evil bastard who infiltrated the dishonored ranks with plans to- to catch Kevin in the act of treason. Unfortunately, we made it really easy for her by actually having a childish plot to kill the king. I believed her!” I gripped my shaking fist in front of me, trying to control the anger that had no outlet. “ I thought she was trustworthy. I personally handed her all of the information she needed to incriminate both of us.”
His silence filled the air. I felt like I should say more, try to justify or explain my actions, but what more was there to say? I was an idiot for trusting her. My hands fell to my side as the anger slipped away and dissipated with stale reality that was the past.
“I- hmmm.” He spoke up and then stopped. “I guess-”
I could tell he was searching for the right word, afraid to stir my anger again.
I filled in his words for him, “-the past is the past. Can only go forward now.”
“Yes.” His word was agreement, but felt like it was hanging there, waiting for a qualifier, something more.
“I-” He started, and I waited, hoping he would cover the silence that was only interrupted by the soft clump of boots somewhere down the hall, but the silence dragged on.
I leaned back against the cell wall, letting the tension that had held me up fade away, but he still didn’t say more. Had he fallen asleep? In the dark space that was the cell I could only make out his from leaning against the wall. Should I speak? Was he expecting me to say something else?
“Sit closer to me.” His voice broke through my thoughts.
“Huh?” Where the heck did that come from?
“Sorry, it’s cold ’ere. Just thought, you know, could be warmer if we sat closer.”
I hadn’t even considered the temperature of the cell. I guess it was a touch cold? But it wasn’t really that bad. Guess it couldn’t hurt to move closer. I shifted myself closer, and I could hear his chains jangling as he shifted closer. And then his elbow bumped into my side.
“Ah, sorry. Difficult to see ’ere.” He continued to shift until he was sitting pressed up against me, and I could feel him shaking slightly.
I guess he was actually pretty cold and just trying to hide it earlier.
We sat there with the silence slowly dragging along. Eventually his shivering quieted, his head leaned against the top of my own, and I could feel his breathing slow. I guess this time he had fallen asleep in the darkness of this false night.
The light woke me up. It filtered carefully through the bars of jail striping the darkness. The stripes slowly marched across the ground moving to the stacatto of heels touching the ground.
Dan’s snores were off kilter to the clicks of the coming person.
Was it a guard? Or someone else’s coming to gawk at us?
A woman in a close-fitting red dress walked in front of the cell. Her frame looked familiar, but yet it was different; framed in forget.
Why couldn’t I put a name to her?
I could see from her side turned silhouette a bun tied tightly behind her head.
She turned, her face illuminating in the light of her lantern as she turned.
Her face looked fuller than I had seen before, the planes filled in, but I still recognized her. It was Casia, my sister, in front of me.
“C-Casia?” Was it her? I hadn’t seen her in so long.
Dan moved next to me, sitting upright.
“Elizabeth.” It was her voice! She called my old name!
I stood, and ran toward the door, hitting the ends of my chains, yanked back at the end falling back to the floor. “Casia!” I yelled. Tears streaming down my face. I pulled at the edges of my chains trying to get closer to her.
“Why did you come back?” Her words cut me and stopped my frantic attempts to get closer.
I stuttered as I tried to answer her. “I - I had”
“No. She interrupted. “That’s not the question I wanted to ask. Why do you always show up at the most inconvenient time?”
The torch cast shadows on her face that looked like the prongs of a fork.
I shook my head, “I don’t understand. What are you accusing me of? I’ve always been trying to get revenge for father. For the was they treated us.”
She snarled, “How dare you claim that you snake!”
“You pretend not to know?” Her voice was rough like she had straw stuck in her throat.
“I’m not quite certain what you are referring to. I could be called stupid. Maybe a dog for being too trusting, but a snake? What have I done to be called a snake?
She laughed, but her laugh was not full of mirth. It was a bitter laugh that sounded hollow. “Maybe a dog for being loyal to your masters, the spies.”
“The spies? You know about them?”
“You don’t even try to hide it?”
“I mean - I _ yes, but -”
“Look at you straight up admitting your helping them!” Caisa spat at me as she said this.
“No! You’re wrong!”
“So now you’re back tracking?”
“No! I only know of them because -”
“Because your work for them, and you’re a terrible liar who they never should have recruited and that’s why they sent you away to die?”
“NO! I’ve never worked for them.”
“Oh? So you just unwittingly helped them find a reason to help them imprison and execute father? You just casually got your friend in trouble and his whole family dishonored; a family who just happened to be the biggest supporters of the king?
“I didn’t know Reese was a spy! If that was even her name. I thought she would help!”
“Help? You were an easy recruit for them. A little girl who’s mad at her father. Tell her there’s a way to punish her father and viola, a new recruit. What did they promise you for Kevin’s betrayal? A chance to not be dishonored anymore? How did their turn around betrayal of you feel?” She’s wrong!
“You don’t know anything! I didn’t do that! I would never have hurt father.” I scream at her. I remember watching him die! I’ve wanted revenge against the king since that incident.
She laughs. “What, have you forgotten your own guilt? I’ve seen the official reports. How you were the one cited for bringing father’s incriminating paperwork to the local official.” I vaguely remember that I made a mistake when it came to father, or maybe I dreamed a mistake, but I would have never done that.
“What!? I never would have touched any of Father’s documents.” Why? Why is she blaming me for everything? Why is she doing this to me?
Dan is behind me, crouched at the end of his chain. One hand gently touches my arm in support. “She didn’t do that. She told me herself what she did when we were riding back to da city.”
Cassia looks so cold and aloof, standing there looking down at us from the doorway of the cell. The shadows from the torchlight dance on the ragged edges of her face. No one speaks for a moment.
Cassia finally breaks the silence, “If you are taking her side, mister who conveniently claims to be from beyond the wall, please do tell me what she told you.”
“All she did was tell someone to clean his study. She was a child. She didn’t do anything on purpose or with malicious intent.” Dan’s voice is so steady and calm compared to our bitter bickering.
“All she did.” Casia’s grating laugh roles over me like the rocks poured on top of me. “You didn’t know lively little Elizabeth as a child.”
I grimace at her use of Father’s pet name. I’m not that child. Just Liv.
“Elizabeth was a rambunctious child. She ran with street gangs like a hooligan child. Along with being a hooligan she was a spoiled monster. Father gave into her every whim and didn’t punish her for anything. Such a brat would have had no problem wanting to take revenge on father for not giving into her whims. Tell yourself whatever you want, Elizabeth, but you are the reason our father died.”
“Why?” My voice chokes out through my closed throat. Why has Casia decided I am the route of all evil? She used to protect me and care about me. “What made you decide this?” What made you so biter, my beloved big sister.
“Why?” Her voice is harsh like the lash of a whip. I questioned everything after you didn’t follow a simple ask not to do anything. “Why did my little sister get herself into trouble? Why would she ruin my plans right after I asked her not to do anything stupid? The timing felt so convenient, and then I managed to find some of the spies documents on you. I bet they meant to burn them with your death. The documents filled me in on everything I couldn’t understand. They kept mentioning your name, and how useful you were. It was then that I realized they got rid of you to silence you. You were the missing link in all the puzzles; the spy so close to me I couldn’t see her.”
I wiped away the tears on my cheeks. Poor Casia. She had no idea about the true extent of the spies. They have her tangled tightly in their spider web. “Casia, they probably planted those documents. I’m not the link in any puzzle. I’m just a gullible fool who befriended a spy unknowingly. All I know is the fake name of one spy, and the guards that served her directly.”
“Like I would ever believe you about that! I won’t fall for your tricks. You probably won’t even tell me the information you claim you know.”
She’s so similar to me. Casia had always been this grand figure to me. My big sister who was graceful and could do anything, but it seems both of us are stubborn fools. Easily convinced we are right and everyone else is wrong. The spies’ favorite play things. “Beware of a woman who went by the name Reese when I knew her. She was Dishonored at the time, but knowing her she is some other name and honor rank now. She moves through society like a rat scurrying through the sewers. One of her guards was named Christopher. He had black hair and pale blue eyes. If you ever see him, you will know him. I’ve never seen someone so - so dark with such pale eyes before. The other guard was Raymond. Burly orange haired muscle man with a temper to match. You know the type that defines the stereotype.”
Casia looked surprised. As if she hadn’t expected me to just tell her everything I knew. Honestly, I was even a bit surprised with how easily the names and faces came to me. The two guards were both so unique that it suddenly struck me as strange that they were spies. Why would the spies recruit unique looking individuals that would stand out the way they did?
And yet, I didn’t remember seeing those two before getting caught by Reese. I also hadn’t seen them since coming back here. It was a big city, but when it came to guards, ones that stood out that much would have been noticed. There weren’t that many guards. Were they not actually guards?
As if reading my suspicion, Casia shook her head, her eyes crinkled in at the corners and her brow was pulled down by deep thought. “I haven’t seen anyone that looks like that in the city. Are you speaking of ghosts?”
I shrugged. I had no idea. All I could tell her is what I saw that day.
Casia glared down at me, waiting for me to say something else, but I didn’t know what to say. I was still struggling to understand Casia’s hatred. She hadn’t hated me before I was exiled. Why was she so convinced now? The only people who could have changed her mind so much were - the spies? No. But who else? They didn’t let people just go around knowing about them. Was Casia the very thing she was claiming that I was? A carefully groomed spy?
“Casia, who told you about the spies?” The moment the words left my mouth her expression changed from disdainful disgust to alarm.
“You have no need to know that!” And she immediately turned and walked away.
Who was she protecting?
Arms wrap around me. Dan’s arms warm and comforting, pulling me back toward him, away from the being at the absolute end of my chain. “I am here for you. No matter what.”
The warmth from his arms seeped through me and made everything feel like it would be fine. I lean back into him. I don’t want him to let go of me.
“Liv?” His voice tickles my ear. I can feel the facial hair he has been growing against my cheek.
“I -” He sighed as his words trailed off and his hands fell away from me.
The comfortable warmth is gone, and the anxiety, cold, and fear settle back in. I want his warmth again. I heard the clanking of chains, and turned to see him making his way back to the wall. I follow him back to the wall.
“I appreciated you standing up for me to Casia.”
“Why wouldn’t I? Its the truth.”
Truth. “Dan, why did you follow me here?” He’d always been there for me. Comforting me. Following me. I lean against him, attempting to pull more warmth from him.
“You needed someone to come with you. You wouldn’t have made it to the wall on your own.” His answer is so simple, but there has to be more. He chose to leave everyone he cared about.
“Do you care about me?”
“Of course I care about you. I wouldn’t have chosen to leave the village if I didn’t.”
Of course. That was a dumb question. I want him to never stop being with me. I want to lean against him like this everyday. I want nothing more than him.
This feeling, this want to be near him might be something more than just friendship. I remember my feelings for Kevin and for Rod. Does Dan feel similarly? I remember his arms wrapping around me just moments before. Am I just a really good friend to him? Is he that crazy that he would come all the way to the city for just a friend? But, even if he does care for me as more than a friend, I can’t say anything. I can’t let feelings make me sloppy.
If I get sentenced to execution, they have no good reason to also execute him. If they decide he is a wall dweller, they will probably just try to send him back to the wall. If my death will cause the people to rise up… I can’t think that way. I have to try and survive this, but no matter what, I want him to live. He doesn’t deserve to be in this crazy messy situation.
“Dan, if they chose to execute me, and I don’t escape death, and it seems like no one will rise up in revolt, please just go back to the village. Please don’t sacrifice your life for me.”
“Enough of the doubting! Your plan will work fine. The people will revolt -”
“You aren’t dying!” The whole prison probably heard him say that.
“But what if! We have to plan for contingencies to. What if it doesn’t work out and I die? What if nothing goes to plan?”
He trunks towards me and grabs my shoulders, looking down into my eyes. “If you die, then I will die with you. That is all there is to that.”
“I can’t do that to you. You are innocent of this city. You’ve done nothing to deserve being caught up in this craziness.”
“And neither have you! All you did was to be born to this place. You told me about it; about being dishonored. I chose to come here with you, to fight for you, and if that means I die with you, then so be it.”
“Dan -” I don’t want him to die! Tears abscond my eyes.
He pulls me close, and I bury my face in his shoulder. “I don’t want you to die.” I whisper into his shoulder.
“And I don’t want you to die either, so let’s agree that we both won’t die, and that we will fight with all we have to live. We will win.”
Dan’s words are comforting. I want nothing more than to believe him.
The heavy clunk of metal shod feet clunks down the hallway, but I ignore them. It’s probably another guard just making the rounds. I would much rather just stay here in Dan’s embrace for a moment longer.
The footsteps grew louder as the guard drew closer. The footsteps stopped. It couldn’t be time for my execution already, right?
“Liv?” The voice sounded familiar. A voice in my memories. I pulled away from Dan, just enough to look at the guard, and Dan’s arms fell away; letting me go free.
The guard standing there looked like any other guard in the flickering light.
“Yes?” I didn’t want to go yet. I wasn’t ready.
Next to me, Dan leans back against the wall. His jaw is clenched slightly, and I wonder what he’s thinking, but he says nothing.
“Liv, it’s me. Bryan.” He stepped closer to the cell door, but he still looked like any other guard. Muscular, with close shaven hair. The name was familiar.
Oh, it was him. The guard who I spent a night with once. Right before Reese arrested me.
“Are you here to take me to my execution?” He wasn’t the worst guard that could be here for me.
“No, I just came to see if it really was you. I saw Casia coming up from the dungeon and asked her. She said it was you. You look quite different now.”
Of course I looked a bit different. Good food, growing out my hair, the wonderful sun outside.
“It’s been almost three years since you last saw me. I spent two of those years outside the wall.” I moved my ash brown hair away from my cheek where my old exile brand was. “But see, I am still the same branded exile Liv.”
“I can’t see the brand from this far away, but I believe you on that. Why did you come back if you could live on outside the wall?” He made no move to come closer.
“I had to. I got sick with a disease that only the people of the wall could cure, and in return for their help they wanted me to come back into the city. Dan came with me from the village I was living in.” I turn and motion to Dan next to me.
“The person they claim is from the wall.”
“He is not from the wall. If he was from the wall then you would know. All the wall dwellers have pale skin, white hair, and red eyes. The sun makes their skin burn. I dated one for a short amount of time. He left the wall with me because he didn’t fit in to the highly scholarly world inside the wall. He found the village to his liking, and the freedom to his taste.We ended up separating shortly after reaching the village.” I was challenging Bryan to deny me with my voice as I spoke, flippantly flinging my knowledge of the world at him.
He sighed. “I wish I could leave and see the things you’ve seen. I’m tired of this life.” He lifted his hands and looked down at them. “The mask I’ve been wearing has been consuming me. I’ve killed people just to pretend to fit in. I’ve thought about abandoning my honor to escape this life, but I can’t for my family.”
“Why not just leave? Take your family and head into exile.”
He shook his head. “A couple people asked for exile since you rode in, and they’ve all been executed on the spot. They will probably sentence you to death soon for lying. It’s the only way they can control the city.”
People were starting to get rebellious! Maybe my plan could work after all.
“Bryan, I have a favor to ask of you.”
“A favor?” His voice sounded tired.
“Yes, when they send someone for me, can you volunteer? And if the people rise up against the current system, can you join them?” If I got him to take me to the execution, he might protect me if the people rebelled.
He was silent. Had he changed from the Bryan who had warned me of informants? Was he a spy now? He shifted slightly, and then finally spoke, “I will volunteer to take you to your execution, but I cannot promise anything else. I will think on your second request further.”
I nod, and then realize he might not be able to see that. “Ok. At least I will have someone I know going with me.”
“For what it is worth, I wish they would at least open exile as an option. I can’t understand why they won’t let people leave, but I guess that means admitting you are correct and there is a world outside these walls.” He puts a hand against the cell door. “I will be back when it is time for your execution. Until then, goodbye.” His hand drops and he turns away.
“Good bye.” I say to his departing back. He gives no sign of hearing me.
“Who was that exactly?” Dan asks.
“A guard who was kind to me. He warned me of informants and to be careful, but I did not heed his warning. I hope he can help us by protecting me when the people rebel.”
Dan nods. “He mentioned that people want to leave. Everything is working according to plan.”
According to plan. Yes. This was expected. We can survive this. Bryan being on my side will help us survive this.
I lean back against the wall, and Dan pulls me close. “Get some sleep. We will need our wits when we leave this cell.”
Yes. We will need to be out the top of our game. The revolution will start when Bryan comes for me.