The keyhole rattled, and I looked up from where I was sitting. Ethan stopped pacing and Tallis stood from the lumpy mat in the corner. We were all tense as the door opened. We were about to find out how long we had to live.
The door creaked open, but no one was standing there.
“Samel?” I asked, standing up. Stupid question. What other invisible person would come unlock our door?
The curly-headed dwarf appeared holding a set of keys. He grinned. “Aren’t you glad you let me come along?”
I pulled him in with one arm and gave his head a roughing up.
“Watch the hair. Just because I go around invisibly doesn’t mean I don’t care if my head looks like a porcupine.” He ran his hand over his hair causing it to stick up even more.
“Samel?” called Rachael’s voice from the cell next to ours.
Ethan, Tallis, and I spilled into the hall as Samel hurried to unlock the girl’s cell. The other keys on the ring clanged together as he stuck the key into the hole. The noise made me cringe, but I knew we were too far into the dungeon for the guards to hear.
The door opened and Rachael and Faiza hurried out. Rachael wrapped her arms around Samel and held him there until he croaked, “Are you and Dalan trying to squeeze me to death? I’m small boned you know.”
Rachael let go and hugged her father, then she hugged me. I was just as surprised by the hug as by the warmth that surged through me.
“What are we going to do now?” she asked as she let go of me.
“First we get King Radon out,” I said. I turned to the door on the other side of the hall to find King Radon’s face in the tiny square window.
“That one?” asked Samel, coming forward with the keys. “He hardly looks like King Radon.”
“Samel,” Rachael scolded. Her cheeks turned red as if she’d been the one to say it.
“If you were in a cell for three years, you wouldn’t look yourself either,” Radon said as Samel opened his door.
Now that we were all out, we stood around looking at each other like jittery rabbits. We were out of our cell, but not past the guards.
“You wouldn’t happen to have brought some weapons with you,” I asked Samel.
“Know how hard it was to keep these things from clanging together?” He held up the keys. “Weapon would have made a ton of noise. Besides, I only have two arms. And they aren’t made for carrying your giant people weapons.”
“We’ll need something to get past the guards,” Radon said.
“I can do it.” Rachael lifted her chin.
King Radon looked her over. “How?”
He frowned doubtfully.
“She has good aim,” I said. “She’s killed a grimulin when I was fighting it and didn’t hit me.”
“But is her magic strong enough to kill two armed guards?”
“She’s stronger than she looks,” Faiza said. I was a bit surprised that she was speaking on Rachael’s behalf. “Besides, she’s the only one who can do anything without a weapon.”
“True enough,” Radon said. “It looks like it’s up to you to get us out of here, girl.”
“What are we going to do once we’re past the guards?” Ethan asked.
“We leave,” said Tallis. “We get as far away from the castle as we can. I know a way out where we won’t run into anyone.”
“If my brother didn’t have the stone, I would say we gather what men are loyal to me and fight.” Radon lowered his head. “But I suppose we will fight another day.”
I was relieved we were leaving. The farther we got from Bayvlad and Ryker, the farther we were from death.
Radon began walking and the rest of us followed. As we walked past the cells, the prisoners called out to us.
“Are any of them loyal to you?” I asked Radon, thinking maybe some of them were thrown in here for knowing the truth about Ryker.
Radon shook his head. “Anyone who knew that it was Ryker on the throne was killed.”
I thought of my father and suddenly wished we could stay here and get rid of Ryker and Bayvlad. No one else should have to die.
We slowed as we reached the dungeon steps and tried to keep quiet. We stopped a few feet away and let Rachael through to the front of the group. She stood at the bottom of the stairs and hid behind the wall. She peaked around it just enough so she could see the guard at the top. She held her hand up and white light blasted up the staircase. A muffled scream, then a thud.
There was a metallic zing as the second guard drew his sword. Slow footfalls came down the stairs. Before he could make it all the way down, Rachael jumped from behind the wall and blasted him with a huge glow of light with both hands.
The guard crumpled on the steps. Rachael swayed and Tallis caught her shoulders. “Are you alright?”
“I’m fine,” Rachael said. I remembered how she’d passed out from using too much magic when we rescued those orphan kids from the soldiers on our way here and hoped she was really alright.
Radon took the sword from the guard’s body. “Anyone else know how to swing a sword?”
“I do,” I said.
“Get the other one’s sword,” Radon said, motioning to the top of the stairs where the other guard fell.
We clambered up the steps, no longer caring about the noise we made. The other guard was slumped over sideways against the wall. The others went ahead of me as I approached the body.
Of course he would fall to his left so the sword was underneath him. I couldn’t push him over because the wall was holding him up, so I pulled his arm, dragging his body away from the wall so he was lying on his back.
The arm I had a hold of twisted and the man’s hand grabbed my wrist. His other hand sprang to my shoulder, pulling me down. I tried to pull away but his head crashed against mine in a head butt. Everything was blurry and I stumbled as the man used me to pull himself up.
His hand reached for his sword.
He froze and began tilting forward. I barely jumped out of the way in time to avoid being crushed beneath his falling body. Radon stood behind him, sword red.
“Get his sword,” was all he said before turning.
My hands were shaking as I went for the man’s sword a second time. I expected him to jump up again, but Radon had made sure that wouldn’t happen. A pool of red was seeping from his body.
I pulled the sword from its sheath. It was heavier than my sword and felt all wrong in my hands, but it was better than nothing.
I caught up to the group and Tallis led us through the castle.
A servant girl ran from one hall and nearly knocked me over. She didn’t even apologize. Her face was white and her eyes wide.
“Are you alright?” Rachael asked, catching the girl’s shoulder.
“Grimulin.” Her lower lip trembled. “They’re all over the south wing.” She broke away from Rachael and ran off.
“South wing,” Tallis muttered. “That’s where Bayvlad’s chambers are.”
“He must have decided to fight when Ryker confronted him with his treachery,” Radon said. He turned down the hall the servant girl had come from. “Now is the time.”
“My king!” Tallis went after him. “We must leave. It is perfect. No one will notice us in the distraction.”
“It is perfect,” Radon said. “Perfect time to attack. With my brother busy fighting Bayvlad, we can find a way to capture him. You can leave if you must, but I am tired of waiting and rotting.”
Radon spun and continued down the hall without looking to see if we followed.
I looked to Rachael, pale and shaky, then to Tallis who had no training as a warrior, then to Samel who was great at getting us out of places, but not much help in a fight. Faiza looked ready to follow the king. Ethan looked at me, waiting to follow my lead.
I lifted the sword in my hand. It was too big, not the right fit. But if we waited for perfect circumstances, would we be waiting forever?
This is it everyone. This is that really important decision I told you about back at chapter 27. This vote will completely change the outcome of the story. It is also the last vote of the story, so whatever you decided determines what happens in the last few chapters of the story.
Please choose wisely. My characters’ fate is in you hands! 😉
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