“Drop here... ...Lift... ...Unlocking the door... ...Secured...” Emily drifted in and out of consciousness until she was blinded by a bright light in her face. After getting adjusted to the light, and after trying but failing to lift her hand, she was greeted by a figure wearing a silver mask. The mask had large, black holes for eyes and red paint, as it seemed, seeped down from the eyes to the bottom edge. A close-lipped, grim mouth was formed from the silver to forever hide the emotions of the wearer. Strands of brown hair could be seen on the sides of the mask, but little else was visible.
Emily backed her head to the headrest in the chair and wriggled her hands, but they were locked down tight. She couldn’t move much at all, which made her eyes widen further from being frightened. She began to hyperventilate as the masked figure began to speak. The figure spoke in a quiet woman’s voice, as if telling secrets.
“Hush now, child. You are safe from the monsters, I’ll keep you safe. They cannot get you here, no they will not. You are a special one, but I can guard you, have no fear.” The voice was quick and the woman spoke in short, but concise bursts of words. It was as if a new thought emerged each second that had to pull itself into the air. The mask shook with head bobs as they spoke and the woman didn’t appear to have anything but her head attached to an invisible body. It all frightened the already terrified Emily, so she began to scream.
The masked woman retreated and recoiled from the screams. “Quiet now, please...” She spoke in a quickened, but still hushed voice. “Shush, child...” The voice became louder and more agitated as Emily continued her screaming. “The monsters will hear you, be quiet now...” The voice became louder with its pleads until the masked woman moved her face inches from Emily’s and shouted,
“QUIET!” The world grew silent and Emily shot her eyes open. She stopped screaming after she realized that she no longer had a voice. She tried a few times to get her voice to sound, but had no luck. The masked woman had backed away and was back to head bobbing, surely sending a multitude of annoyed phrases at her. The woman stuck a finger, which was dark grey and thin, into Emily’s face like she was scolding a child. She shook her finger at Emily and then backed off, retreating into the darkness to leave Emily by herself.
Emily looked around, trying to make out what was behind the the curtains of light that the overhead lamp projected. She was unable to find anything, and wriggling her wrists did nothing. She looked down to see that stone had been encased over her wrists, making it impossible for her to get out. The chair she was sat in was also stone and the floor appeared to be some kind of polished granite. No, she thought to herself. This can’t be happening to me. Don’t leave me by myself here! She felt tears form and begin to seep down her cheeks, but there was nothing she could do about it. She wriggled, and then thrashed around until she was tired again. Emily hung her head, not at all ready for whatever fate awaited her here. What did I do? I wasn’t trying to hurt anyone.
“Well, well, well,” A chipper, friendly male voice chimed in from behind Emily. “What do we have here? The final heir to the throne of metal. My oh my, a wonderful day it is!” Emily turned her head right to see a younger man with slicked back, dark greyish hair step into the light. He stopped at her right and kneeled down closer to her. “You wandered into the wrong territory, my dear. Can’t be too bright to have gotten yourself captured already. I thought you Everlocks were supposed to be mastermind mages. Come on, then,” he beckoned her with his hands. “Wow me with some magic. Break free and rip me to shreds. I know you want to, don’t you?”
Emily opened her mouth and let out a small grunt before speaking quietly, having now found her voice again. “I... N- no, that’s not what I want.”
The man blinked at her, then moved a hand to cup her chin, which she resisted. Her face was guided to look directly at the man and he spoke while keeping a gentle grip on her. “Listen, darling. You cooperate and you’ll get to see the light of day again. You may even get to leave this fortress someday, too.”
“Wh- What do you want from me?” She was weak, but still managed to get out comprehensible sentences. “I didn’t do anything wron- Er, I didn’t mean to hurt anyone. I’m not a witch, I promise.”
The man gave a convincing nod while raising his eyebrows. “Oh, believe me, I know. You’re frail, like a broken-winged birdy trying to fly away. It was all self defense, I understand.”
“Then... I- I can go? I can leave here?”
To that, he closed his eyes empathetically and shook his head. “Can’t do that one, sugar plum. We have to keep you nice and safe in our little hole in the ground.”
Emily struggled against the restraints and pleaded, “Please just let me go, I won’t bother anyone else. I didn’t mean to do anything wrong.”
“Now now, what makes you think I’m going to keep you here forever? Just relaaaax and enjoy yourself. No one is making you upset but yourself, huh? Right?”
“I..” Emily cut her sentence off and looked down to avoid eye contact. She wasn’t happy, but what could she do? She could try something like what happened in the town center, but she forgot how to use magic that her mother taught her. It was a lost cause, after all. This is pointless... Unless...
The man stood up, did a turn on a heel, and was gliding out of the room as quickly as he came. “Ta-ta!” he called behind. The door slowly shut with a thud. At that, Emily looked down at her restrained wrists. The stone was thick, but might be able to be manipulated. She was taught about the wonders of Elemental Magic and how easy it could be. What made me use that Pyromancy in the town? Was it my fear? Being anxious? Emily closed her eyes, then moved her wrists to be pushing up against the restraints. She began to think about the Panther and her mother; she thought of everything that made her afraid or upset. As flashes of blood and gore from that night entered her mind, she began to tremble. Her breathing grew heavy and her head began to hurt. With every flashing image that came up, she felt herself draw closer and closer to breaking down. She couldn’t stop herself, though. Got to keep pushing... Must... Have to...”
CREEEEEEK. Emily’s eyes shot open. The restraints that previously held her down were now unclasped and crumbling to the ground. Her wrists, bruised and bloody, were shakily held up near her face. It worked! Emily was unsure of what to think, but she wasted no time getting herself out of the chair she was sat in. The room she was in was very dark and she was disoriented, so finding her way straight forward to the door was still no easy feat. She was tired and sore, but determined not to stay in this place. The door was unlocked, thankfully. This can’t be too hard, she thought. Mother taught me how to get my way around without being seen.
The outside corridor was dark, just like the room. Emily stepped out, only hearing the creaking sound of the door as she opened and then closed it. The corridor went right, left, and forward, so she had to make a decision. That decision was made pretty quick after she heard footsteps descending stairs to her right. She quickly but quietly moved forward down the hall and turned the next corner she found. Around it was another door, but the doorway hid her from the main hallway where her room was. The footsteps, paired with the idle chit chat of two guards, Emily presumed, passed the hall she went down and continued on without a sign of detecting her. This isn’t going to be easy, is it?
Emily turned back around the corner and slid her way back up the hall where she now took a left to go the way the guards came from. She peeked her head around to see an empty staircase, which she quickly ascended. As she climbed the steps, a resounding voice light up the halls: “All Miransari personnel, shift change is at midnight. Don’t be late or you just earned yourself another shift. Unpaid.” The voice cut off with a click shortly after the message had played. Interesting, Emily thought to herself. What kind of magic lets the people here do that?
The stairs led up to a wide room with a large table. Banners were hanging off pillars that held up a circling balcony above. A patrol of a single guard roamed the far side of the room, probably with intentions to walk by the door Emily peeked from. The table held many small items on it. It was as if someone had just been moving pieces of a chessboard and left them to leave the room for a moment. There was another door on the other side of the room near the guard, but that was the only way out save for backtracking.
Emily slipped out of the doorway and slid her way to the left corner behind one of the pillars. She heard the footsteps, quite audible under the guard’s boots, and a soft whistling. The tune was distinct and a classic, but forgettable. Perhaps composed by the late Byrd... or maybe Dowland? Her mother’s teachings had long slipped away from her memory in the past few weeks, but bits of information still lingered in her head. Most of her magical teachings came to and from her mind like muscle memory, but that was all in times of need, it seemed.
The footsteps neared the pillar, then, after a quick skrt, the footsteps got quieter moving in the direction towards the door Emily came in at. To that, she began her quiet movements down the side of the room. This was the longer leg of the room, so any lackadaisical movements could mean the end of her stealth. Halfway through the room, she heard a low, but distinct voice say, “What?” She twisted her head to the right as she pushed into a pillar to look back, now seeing the guard staring at the open doorway. “Was this open before?” he questioned. After a moment or two of contemplation, the guard pushed the door shut and shrugged off the moment before continuing his rounds.
Emily finished her movements to the far side of the room and pressed herself against the pillar, keeping herself as out of sight as possible. All was well as long as the guard didn’t go outside his route. He made it to one corner of the table, then the next, then began his walk towards the corner pointing at Emily’s position. She held her breath and sucked in her body to look as thin as possible while the steps neared the pillar. The guard stopped at the corner, paused, then sniffed the air, which was quite unlike his previous behavior. Emily shut her eyes tightly as she prayed he would walk away. The silence was deafening as she felt his presence nearly a few feet away from her. It was all she could do to keep from making a noise. Must... hold on, just a little longer.