“We’re going to keep you here in a cell for a few days, and get to know you better,” Rien continues. “You behave, and we’ll see about getting you better quarters. You feel like helping us?”
“Sure,” I reply. Given that the choice is help or die, it doesn’t require much thought. But somewhere in a long-forgotten corner within me is another thought. That maybe I can make a difference in getting the elves out of here. In achieving freedom. I remind myself that thoughts like that got Alvar killed and I suppress it.
“All right, then,” Rien says. “We’ll see.” He leaves, followed by Lynae, who flashes us a smile before locking the cell door behind her. I am not amused.
I look over at Enturi. I’m not really sure what to say. I settle for “Thanks.” He blushes. Great.
“That was beautiful,” he breathes.
“It’s a moving song,” I allow. “One of my favorites, when I was young.” Something occurs to me. “I said I knew the songs. I didn’t say I could sing. For all you knew I could have ended up caterwauling like a ship cat in heat.”
“You said elves preserve our history through song. That would be pretty impish if we weren’t natural singers. Besides, why would your Nana have chosen to teach you the songs if you couldn’t sing them?”
A few moments later, several rough-looking elves come in. Rien’s enforcers, I would guess. A couple of them unshackle Enturi and take him out. The others put down a few items – blankets, a pitcher of water, some bread, a chamber pot – and then unshackle me as well. I decide not to attack them or try to escape. Right now, anyway. I have a chance here. I think I might play it out.
“What about my gear?” I ask.
“You’ll get it,” one of them answers. “But not tonight.” They leave, locking me in the cell, alone. But alive.
* * *
Two days pass. It’s duller than waiting for the rain to stop. Enturi comes to visit me both days for a few minutes in the evening, always accompanied by an escort of four watching guards. He doesn’t have much to say. He is staying in a cell that has been converted to a bedchamber further down the tunnel. Past the door is a larger hall surrounded by cells converted to barracks, storage rooms and living chambers for those, like Lynae, who appear to have some degree of authority amongst the plotters. He hasn’t been let outside yet, though they let him wander around the large hall, where enforcers are practicing marksmanship with bows that they built from smuggled in bits of wood and other elves are doing something with small pots and casks of oil. At least once a day, he is visited by Raichon or Rien to discuss his part in the upcoming liberation.
Our conversations are awkward. I can tell that he is afraid to tell me too much, for fear the guards will believe that he is passing information to me for use in an escape attempt. And Enturi seems different now than the scheming, self-promoting pretty boy I grew to despise while working for Jet. I suspect that he is embarrassed by his disclosure. Whatever. I am just pleased for the break in the monotony of the imprisonment that his visits provide.
On the morning of the third day, I am visited by another elf. He too is accompanied by guards, but they wait outside the cell, locking it after his entrance. He is young, skinny and dirty, with eyes just a little too bright and movements just a little too frenetic. I know him. Mýldir. A back alley herbseller with a reputation for unsavory products that come in two forms – dangerously potent or completely impotent, and buyers never knew which they were getting. More than one desperate elf has died from his concoctions. Even I, an enforcer for a petty crime boss, look down on him. And yet here he is, visiting me in the dungeon of the elven liberation underground accompanied by the movement’s guards.
Interesting. I wouldn’t have guessed him to be a part of any philanthropic cause.
“Looks like they’ll take anyone,” I observe drily.
He smirks. “Lucky for you, that’s true, Arq.”
“Lucky for both of us.” I say.
He shrugs. “Good herbs are tough to come by in Elftown. I do the best I can with what I can get. Sometimes, it doesn’t work so well, and an already sick elf or an irredeemable addict dies a little earlier than they would have otherwise. I don’t like it, but if it means others are saved, then so be it. At least the harm wasn’t intentional.” He looks at me challengingly. “If your reputation is accurate, you’ve killed a lot of elves in your work, Arq. How many of those were accidental?”
“A few,” I say evenly. “But not most.”
“They told me about you. That you know the songs. So you understand that things are different here than up north in the homelands. Here, you do what you have to do to survive, and sometimes it’s not very nice. You’ve done things that would get you banished from the homelands forever. So have I. So has almost everyone in this slum. If we didn’t, we’d be dead.”
“Fair enough.” I say.