Chapter Three, Part Two: [SOW] Chapter Three, Part Two: A Royal Visit
It was morning, she knew by the sound of the Fendrelhawk perched above her. Somewhere beyond the enclosure of the building, it called out to its kin for the rising of the sun.
Yet, it was dark.
Emry rolled onto her side, unable to move her arms, which had been bound by heavy chains to the cold stone floor. On her hips and thighs, a thousand sharp pains followed her as she moved across the ground. The single window inside her building had been boarded closed, leaving only sliver-sized shafts of light to slip through and alight upon her.
The constant thud in her head didn’t help to ease her wooziness as she sat upright, the carpet of pin pricks covering her backside as she took stock of her surroundings. Beyond the darkness and the cold, she was itchy. Itchier than she thought one could be. All over her back and ears. Lugging her hands to scratch the itches was no small endeavor as she hoisted one of the thick chains and dragged it into her lap where a shooting pain rippled through her thigh. She recoiled, hoisting the chain up and sweeping her fingers along the pained patch, where they caught a drop of blood.
She brought it to her nose to sniff, and confirmed it was indeed blood. With a wipe on her shirt, she cleaned her finger and placed her hands on the ground to be met with another shock of similar pain. As soon as she pressed down on the stone to stand, she felt the gentle piercing of her skin as she shoved down. Withdrawing her hand, she glanced at the place she’d just touched and saw through the thin sliver of light a handful of tiny pins, wedged into the floor with mortar. The glinting of their metal barbs reflected the length of the room as far as the light touched them.
“Great.” She chided, placing a hand carefully on the tips to determine that they were, in fact, all over the floor of the holding cell.
The last thing she’d remembered was the run in with the guard who poisoned her, likely the same guard who brought her into her new cell. A fresh hell within the walls of Icehold it would take her a new season to escape from.
She reclined, drawing the back of her shirt up to her head to protect herself from the spines, and she stared up at the window as the Fendrelhawk called out until she drifted off into a fitful sleep.
Emry didn’t know how long she’d remained in that position when she awoke, but the sun had moved and the beam of light that illuminated her cell shot into her eyes. She sat up and peered around the room once more, hoping to discern anything she might be able to use to her advantage, but found that unfortunately, the entire cell was covered wall to ceiling with sharp metal needles that stuck out in the mortar. Anywhere she’d move in the cell would prod her, and she reclined again.
Though she didn’t fall asleep a second time, she did stare up at the roof of the room in quiet contemplation. Her days before imprisonment had been hardly fulfilling, though she did not regret them. She thought of her time in the valley with her father and brothers. The long nights they’d spent on hunts, or cooking dinner, or making themselves out to be great warriors like the ones from the books her father read. She reminisced on her mother’s garden, the hours she spent tending to the varied flowers and vines curated over a lifetime. How much she missed the garden couldn’t be put into words, and still, she missed her father more.
Since being locked away in Icehold she realized she hadn’t thought of her father, not like she had when she was still with him. The dying flame of rage still flickered within her as she remembered the look of fear on his face after she’d returned from Jokull’s cave. The way his eyes had glassed over, his blood pooled beneath him. A spark of rage flew into nothingness, recalling her brothers’ corpses piled in the corner of the room, bound and tossed without care. The embers crackled when the face of the scout flashed through her mind.
All of it wasted away behind the walls of a prison she’d only been able to see from the sky above the city.
Her mind wandered from her life in the Valley to the golden dragon, Balshenai, who’d sacrificed her life so Emry might have escaped.
“I should have run.” She muttered.
Because of her, the dragon was dead and she would soon meet the same fate.
She rolled onto her side, the constant scratch and pinch of pins on her back too irritating to remain where she was. She rested on her side, spreading herself as much as possible to ease the concentration of the pain while she stared, remembering her first flight atop the dragon’s back. The way the wind whipped past her and the forest sped beneath her. The leap of her heart into her throat as Balshenai careened down the side of the mountains and toward the city echoed in the solitary room and she giggled, reliving the memory perhaps for the final time.
“City folk are strange.” She murmured under her breath. “Locking people up and forcing them to clean the building they are trapped in doesn’t seem a punishment, more like a set of chores we get to do for a while.”
Her voice echoed back.
“I’d have built this place differently. Make the people here clean up other messes. Like the city, a whole city would have plenty to take care of. There were enough chores at the cabin, it would have been nice if we’d had our own prisoners.”
She laughed aloud at the thought, and her echo joined her.
She rolled onto her other side after a while and let the blood drip. There was no point in wiping it away.
She closed her eyes and bundled her long hair beneath her head and laid back. This was the first time since she’d been placed into the prison that she wished she’d gotten some of the slop they served everyone else. At least there would have been something worthwhile about her new room.
As if by premonition, footsteps approached from outside her cell. The familiar sound of the squeaky meal cart whined down the hall outside of her cell until it stopped at her door. Then, the slot slid open and a guard on the opposite end threw a sack into the room.
“Food.” He grumbled, then slammed it shut as quickly as he’d opened it. He didn’t wait to have a conversation with her.
The bag was barely out of reach, and she stretched for it, the pins prodding at her underarm and upper chest as she leaned forward, wrapping a finger around the thin cord that cinched it closed. With a painful drag, she brought the bag to her and opened it. Inside she found three pieces of hardtack and a raw potato which, judging by the vines that stretched from it, had been left in the pantry for a few months or more.Silently she withdrew the potato and set it aside for later, then dug into the bag for the hardtack.
The bread, if she could call it that, was not only stiff and dry, but burnt on one side. The bitter taste of scorched wheat mixed with the dryness of the bread and she gagged, but she continued.
If this was to be her breakfast, so be it. At least they continued to feed her.
She munched on the hardtack and once more let her mind carry her to places more joyous than the confines of the prickly cell. She thought of rafting with her brothers in the spring, hunting for flowers with her mother, hunting with her father.
Some would believe she led a simple life, but she looked upon each moment pleased with the way her life had been. For all of the times she’d disobeyed her father she began to apologize aloud.
“I am sorry I didn’t listen when you told me not to go to the ridge.” She choked on a piece of hardtack and her eyes began to water.
“I wanted to see what was there, and you told me my curiosity could be quelled in other ways, but I didn’t listen.” She took another bite and eyed the rooting potato on the ground beside her.
“Father, I am sorry for the time I snuck sleeping powder into your tea so that I could go pluck berries, I’m sure saving me from the bear wasn’t what you had in mind that day.”
She finished her first piece and reached for a second with another apology already on her lips.
“I’m sorry I kept asking about mom, despite how many times you’d told me not to. I’m sorry about the day we got into the argument when I found those weird machines in your room.” She sighed. “I didn’t know what was out here beyond the house.”
She took another bite and listened to her echo as footsteps popped along the stone outside of her cell, only this time, they did not come from the hall connected to her room.
Above her, someone was walking on the ceiling.
“There couldn’t be cells above this, unless they took me to a new building.” She whispered aloud, watching the roof where each new footfall landed. “Maybe I am underground.” She shrugged and reclined, not bothered further as she opened her mouth again.
“I am sorry…”
A voice cut her off
“—to interrupt, young lady.” It was a deep voice, feminine. “I have word for you from a concerned individual. Are you Emry, of the River?”
She shot up, ignoring the pain of the needles.
“Who is asking?”
The cracked wood shielded their face from her view, but she saw above her in the window, a woman hanging from above, looking down through the crack that lit her cell.
“You don’t know her.” The woman said, swinging down to stand on something outside of the window.
“Then why would she want to tell me anything? Doesn’t she know I’m a witch?”
The woman laughed.
“You aren’t the first witch I’ve met. You’ll likely not be the last.”
Emry cocked an eyebrow.
“So, what’s this news you have for me then?”
“Tomorrow night, they will be coming for you.” The woman pushed something through the crack in the window and it fell softly to the floor, wrapped tight in wool. “Keep this close and ready. You’ll know when they’re on their way.”
She reached for the bundle and plucked it into her hands.
“By the way, Emry, when Jundal tells you to move, don’t hesitate. You can trust him.”
She looked back at the woman.
“How can I trust you?”
“If you don’t risk it, you’ll die here. It’s your choice.”
“That wasn’t very convincing.”
The woman shrugged. “I’m not here to be convincing. I’m here to deliver a message.”
Then, cutting their talk short, she stepped off of whatever had been holding her and plummeted down the side of the prison wall out of sight.
Emry stared up at the window for a moment, fearing it was a hallucination, before she remembered the bundle that had been given to her.
She untwisted the twine and rolled out the linen wrapping, but realized what it was long before it was unwrapped.
It was a knife, and a beautifully crafted one at that. A sturdy antler made up the handle and set a sizable blade that glistened with shimmering, wavy lines against the grain of the blade itself. It was gray, as all metal was, but outside of the strange stripes it did not shimmer and the reflection fell flat. The steel of the knife almost looked like stone. She flicked it across her finger and found it deadly sharp. Far too large to be a hunting knife, it would be difficult to hide, but it didn’t seem as though anyone would come investigating her there.
She gently placed the knife on the ground, careful to do so as silently as possible, and unfurled the linen wrapping to see that it was, in fact, actually a hood. She slipped her head through and lifted it over her ears.
“Finally,” She whispered. “A pillow.”
She slipped the knife into her tunic and laid back, absentmindedly fiddling with the handle as she stared up above her once again.
As she played with the handle, and brushed her fingertip against the sharp point tucked between the joint that held the hilt and blade together, where she found a note stuffed into the tiny crease. She unfurled it and read it to herself, a few short words that made her heart once more leap into her throat.
“The golden dragon lives.”
[…] Chapter Three, Part Three: [SOW] Chapter Three, Part Three: Alone […]