Tythel was taken to her cell with a black bag over her head, roughly shoved along as she was dragged down hallways by the chains on her wrists. Several times, it was all she could do to keep from falling over, but she knew if she had she’d earn herself another kick to the side. That motivated her to find her footing, as difficult as the chains on her ankles made that. I wonder if they could fit more chains on me if they tried.
Her blind journey ended at the bottom of a staircase, tossed into a cell and shackled to the wall by chains that ran through the wall, so when she reached out with her right hand her left was pulled back and away, and visa versa. Until her throat healed, she wouldn’t be able to melt the steel, and even then the angle would make that a dicey proposition.
It also meant she had to eat the food that was sitting in the cell, a bowl of cold grits, one handed. A part of her was tempted to refuse any food they gave her on principal, but she knew she needed her strength, so she forced it down her raw throat. The guards chuckled as she spilled some of it. “Flath you both,” Tythel muttered, but not too loudly – she didn’t want to get another beating.
Once she had eaten and the guards had taken away both bowl and spoon, she slumped against the wall. I have to get out. She started to wrack her brain for any examples of prisoners who had made escapes for some inspiration. Gulon of Brathi had done so by sharpening his spoon to a point and picking the lock, but she didn’t know how to pick locks. Devarah the Kind had used her magic to enlist the aid of passing birds to send messages and organized her rescue that way, but Tythel didn’t think she could entice them with dragonfire and was underground anyway. Phenelo, the Thief Saint, had – in spite of the what the legends claimed – bribed his guards.
Again Tythel thought of Karjon’s hoard. The idea of giving the guards directions to it if they set her free was galling, their grubby hands raking through his treasures, with some of it sure to end up in Alohym coffers…but she added it to the mental list of escape options. It was at least something for the list, which right now consisted of that and “Fake sick so the guards rush in and then do…something clever.”
She had to acknowledge it was a very poor list right now.
“Tythel? That you over there, girl?”
Tythel gasped in surprise. “Oh Light, Nicandros?”
“No, this is The Winter Father,” he growled, and Tythel choked out a much needed laugh. “How are you over there?”
Tythel opened her mouth to reflexively say fine, then shut it and shook her head. He needs the truth. “In pain, but I can manage. Throat hurts so can’t flame, and my hands can’t…I’m stuck right now. How about you?”
“I’m better, but I think – flath.” He didn’t say any more, and Tythel heard why the moment he cut off, footsteps coming down the stairs. You need to focus, Tythel. You shouldn’t be waiting to let him hear them. The conversation Nicandros had with whoever’s footsteps those were was short, and to the point. The man was offering him a chance to give up the rest of the resistance in exchange for Nicandros’ life being spared. Nicandros’ response was colorful, full of invectives, and anatomically impossible – if Tythel understood male anatomy properly.
For his trouble, he was dragged out of the cell, leaving Tythel alone with her thoughts. Oh all the little gods, are they executing him now? No, they want the rest of the resistance, they wouldn’t…but any of us knows where they are, so they might be and… Tythel couldn’t stop her mind from racing in circles for a few minutes.
She crossed her legs as much as the chains would allow and began to go through the breathing exercises Karjon had taught her. A slow breath in, over the space of a count to five, and then an exhalation over the count of seven, followed by another breath in to the count of five and repeating the cycle. It was a good precursor to meditation, but in this instance it served to help calm her nerves and focus herself on the task at hand – escaping.
She took stock of her cell. It was a solid room, built of large blocks of rock with mortar between them, completely lacking in windows within the cell. The door was wooden and stout, with bars set to make a small portal people could peek through before entering. Two of the glowing orbs the Alohym used for light were in the corners of the cell, their illumination casting everything into sharp relief.
If she could get her fire back, she could burn through the door. It wouldn’t do anything about the shackles on her wrists and ankles, though. Glancing at them out of the corner of her eye, she thought she might be able to melt her way through them with enough time, but wasn’t sure how long it would take the Alohym’s servants to notice her attempt to escape. The chains were thick, each link over a finger long, and they were set too far into the stone for her to break out with brute strength. It would take several minutes, if not longer, to burn through them.
She tried to step forward, only to find that the chains on her ankles were set up the same as those on her wrists – she could pull one leg forward, but doing so tugged the other leg back. Standing was possible, but laying down would be beyond her ability. If I’m here for more than a day, I’ll have serious problems with sleep. The morbid realization struck her that if she was here for too much longer than a day, the Alohym would be happy to accommodate her with sleep unending in the Shadow’s embrace, and she wasn’t sure whether to laugh or cry.
Either way, she was hoping they’d let her off the chains eventually. Not only would it make escape easier, but there was a hole in the far corner of the room that would serve as a latrine, and there was a pile of straw that could function for a bed, but neither were within reach of her current predicament.
Then all thoughts of escape were driven from her mind as she heard approaching footsteps. They were larger and heavier than the one that had taken Nicandros, but they weren’t alone, and the steps of a heavier human were far less worrying than the other ones. Along with them came a series of skittering steps, a staccato tk-tk-tk-tk across the stone.
Tythel braced herself as the door swung open. She first saw the man, a tall individual with a scarred face, his eyes wide and going cloudy with cataracts. He entered the room and sniffed at her. “Rise, you blessed fool. I am Theognis Aigner, Wizard of the tenth order, and I command you to rise. Rise for Rephylon, Long may Her light Illuminate your Life, short though it may be.” He pointed his staff at her as she did, and the tip glowed with the power of a true mage.
Only it wasn’t normal light. To Tythel’s growing horror, somehow this man, this mage, was calling upon Unlight like he was one of the Alohym. She scrambled to her feet before he could call upon some horrid spell, and earned an approving nod as she did so.
He stood aside from the doorway, and into the room scuttled Rephylon, the first Alohym to whom she could give a name. Its wedge shaped head was tilted to give all three eyes the best view of Tythel, and as it peered at her she felt like it was seeing into her soul.
“Now, then, you blessed fool,” Theognis continued in that dull drone he had used before. “You have the honor of being interrogated by Rephylon herself. I will interpret her holy words. Answer her questions, or face torment unending.”
Her heart pounding, Tythel did her best to meet the monstrous gaze of a god.