Dragonflame made digging a far easier task than it would have been without it. It still wasn’t quick going – after an hour, she’d just gotten down far enough to where she could start turning sideways without the floor collapsing on top of her. She left enough of a lip around the edge so, when she slid the stone back into place above her, it looked like any other stone. Even if someone came into her cell, they wouldn’t be able to see how she had escaped. It should buy her some time. The dirt from the initial dig was packed into the cracks between the other stones and hidden under the pile of hay that would have been her bed.
As she dug, Tythel had to remind herself that once she got to the others they couldn’t endure the heat of the flames in this confined space. As it was, she was grateful that the silk she wore was as flame proof as her skin, else she would have been making her escape in a rather indecent fashion. Then again, you would have had that problem when the factory collapsed on you.
A plan began to form as she dug. Armin and Ossman were injured. Even if Ossman didn’t get healed, he’d be too big to burrow through this pathway. She’d have to get Nicandros and Eupheme first. Once she had them, they’d need to go through the doors to get Armin and Ossman, and form there, make their escape. With what weapons? They’d have to make do with what they could steal off the guards.
Thinking about weapons got her to stop digging as a horrible realizing washed over her. Her pack. The one that had Karjon’s notes in it, the few belongings she’d salvaged from his lair. She’d stashed it in the woods near the fight to recover after they’d left. Urdin had seen her stash it. He’d turned it over to the Alohym, surely. And if he hadn’t, she didn’t know if she could find it again. Karjon had other notes back at the hoard, and other mementos she could recover.
But not the egg.
The thought made her shove her face into the dirt to try not to scream. She hadn’t even thought about it, not since her capture, but now that she was aware of it, it was an all consuming thought. It was gone. The last piece of her father she had, something she secretly hoped would give him life again, was gone. You could still have him back, her thoughts whispered.
She could. She could turn around and crawl out of the hole, seal it up behind her. Maybe even give the others a way to escape first. And then she could crawl back. The Alohym needed her, she could probably demand Lucien’s head as part of her deal. And even if they wouldn’t grant it, what did it matter? Her father would be alive again. She wouldn’t need to mourn the loss of the pack, the notes, the mementos, the egg. It wouldn’t matter because she’d have him back. What was she doing, crawling in the dirt?
And what would he say if he found out what you betrayed to bring him back. Am I now truly gone because of mere things? Tythe wasn’t sure that’s what he would say. She knew she would never truly know, never truly be able to ask him. The idea that he could somehow be reborn from an egg had been a stupid one, and the idea that he would ever want her to sacrifice everything to restore him to life was an insult to his memory.
Tythel took a few deep, ragged breaths. Clenched and unclenched her fists. Mourn objects later, Tythel. Your friends need you.
She forced herself to resume digging. The excitement and fear of earlier had been washed away by the grief, and now she was acutely aware of tired she was. Her arms were aching with every stroke, her breathing labored. Very labored. It was getting hard to breath in here. The cave began to seem to spin, as if the world was turning, and she felt her concentration waiver.
The flames on her hands went out. She gasped for breath, and although it came rushing into her lungs, she still felt weak and dizzy, like she was breathing dead air. She started to relight her hands, then stopped and cursed herself. Stupid, stupid stupid. Much like a candle placed under a glass, she was burning up all the air in the tunnel, before it could be refreshed from outside.
Turning around in the tunnel was difficult, especially without the light from her hands to guide her. With every second she could feel the dizziness intensify, and spots of color began to dot the darkness in front of her vision, motes of light that shouldn’t be there. I think I’m hallucinating. Delirum made that thought funnier than it actually was, and she had to fight back a giggle as she began scooting towards the entrance.
The tunnel was spinning now, she was sure of it. Rotating over and over again, but when she flopped to stay on the new ‘bottom,’ gravity made that impossible. You’re going to die in here. That thought brought another spout of giggles mixed with adrenaline-soaked terror as she pushed herself harder to move. She wondered if she would have survived this far without Karjon’s adoption.
She wondered if she’d be seeing him again soon.
Even though it was pitch black down here, she could tell her vision was darkening. Darker darkness, she thought with another fit of laughter. She had come all this way, and now she was going to die deep under the earth of the cell in a failed escape attempt because she’d forgotten how fire uses up air. The spinning was so intense it threatened to make her vomit, but she fought back the urge, pushing herself until finally her fingers scraped the back of the tunnel, where it bent upwards.
Finally, just as she thought it was too late, the moment Tythel felt she was going to collapse despite her best effort, she brushed the underside of the stone and with frantic clawing, opened a gap for air to flow in. It dispelled the dizziness almost immediately, and she spent a full minute just sitting there, her mouth as close to the thin gap as she could manage, breathing deeply.
Okay. Back to work, Tythel. She spent some time clearing out two opposite sides of the stone. It was less stable now – if someone stepped on it hard, it would collapse into the tunnel – but at least she wouldn’t suffocate herself.
She didn’t know how long she’d been digging, but she’d gotten a sense of how far. When she got back to the end of the tunnel, she angled upwards towards Nicandros’ floor until her fingers brushed stone. She placed both of her hands on it and pushed until Nicandros could slide it out. “Hey there,” she said, grinning up at him, her face streaked with sweat and dirt.
“Nicely done, girl,” Nicandros said with a nod. “Time to tunnel over to Eupheme?”
Tythel shook her head. “There’s not enough time.” She crawled out of the hole, and with Nicandros’ help slid the stone back into place. “Someone’s coming. It’s now or never.” She glanced at him and frowned. “They didn’t even chain you, did they?”
Nicandros shook his head, and Tythel sighed, moving over to the door, listening to the other side as carefully as she could for the approaching footsteps. They were getting closer. Taking a deep breath, she braced herself, laying down on her back on the ground, hooking her fingers into the gaps between the stones. Nicandros gave her look, one of furrowed eyebrows, and Light was it good to see his expressions again even if she couldn’t read them.
The moment the footsteps were directly opposite the door, she reared back with both feet and kicked the door with every ounce of strength she could muster. The impact would have sent her flying if she hadn’t grabbed the stone. Since she had, something had to give. She was too strong, and the stones were too solid. All that was left was for the door to go exploding outwards in a shower of splinters and wood.
The person on the other side had been a guard bringing a tray of gruel for them. When the wood hit him, he rocked back in surprise. Before he could shout a warning, Nicandros leapt over Tythel and twisted the guard’s neck, causing him to look abruptly and fatally to the left. Before the other guard could scream, Nicandros had reached and grabbed the corpse’s arcwand and put two bolts of Unlight into his target’s chest.
Tythel gaped at seeing that. It had been one fluid motion, one swift kill. It was a good reminder of how dangerous Nicandros really was.
“Come on, girl. They surely heard that crash upstairs. We’ll have company soon.”
Nodding, Tythel got up and joined him to free the others.