The door burst open in an instant as a familiar set of voices entered the room. Emily gasped and shoved a hand up against her mouth as the guard stepped closer to the pillar. From the side of her vision, she saw his looming shadow overtake the wall in front of her as he peeked around the corner, looking directly at where she was. She kept silent and still, not wanting to give away her position despite her inevitable fail. It was as if the guard was evaluating her presence for a few seconds before he turned back to face the table. With a tap of the toe of his boot against the wood floor, he began his rounds once more.
“This day can’t get any better. First, the monastery and now the girl! What more can a man want in life?” A chipper, boyish voice woke up the room.
“More doses of the serum,” sounded a quieter, calmer voice. The voices were that of the man and masked woman from before. Maybe they were using this room to plan something? If only I could... Emily peeked to her right, now able to see something she had not seen before. Of course, the guard was unable to see her because of an impulse use of her shadow magic. When the door opened so suddenly, she dropped back into the shadow of the pillar and filled the space, making herself seem to disappear. This was a trick she used many times in the Panther. The only problem is that she has had some... difficulties reversing the spell.
She twisted her head and shifted her body to look around the pillar, now able to see the two clearly under real lighting. The man had a shaped, good-looking face and slick hair. He was unlike many men you see, usually burly or laden with a beard, out in public places. The woman’s blonde hair fell to the middle of her back in a long braid while the mask covered nearly all of her face. Her ears were long, pointed, and very white; her skin was pale as can be without appearing to be an Aether Elf, as in having a truly pure white complexion. She was short but very skinny and clearly possessed great magical power; her figure and clothing, that being long, baggy robes, made her out to be quite the stereotypical mage. However, the mask was a bit odd, even for the great mages Emily had read and heard about. She was definitely hiding something that she didn’t want others to see.
“You’re going to drop dead after another dose today, Eleanor. Puliere’s serum is toxic, you know.”
“Silencing the urges and voices will make up for a chance of death, believe me.”
“Still toxic. They say the serum will kill any not magical person with half a dosage. Could be a good method of torture, no?”
“Tried it, too quick.”
“That’s upsetting.” The voices and footsteps lingered around the table before continuing down the stairs Emily came from, surely going to check on her. This was her quickly fleeting chance to get as far as she can away from here. After thinking of her mother’s teachings of the Dark Arts, she dropped farther into the shadow she was in before propelling herself to the door. To the guard, if he was looking, it would look as if a faint, flickering figure was creeping along the door, slowly slipping through the cracks. The shadow slipped to the other side of the door and pooled along one side so that she could get a good idea of what was in the hallway. Another door ahead and the hallway extended a long distance both ways but no one was in sight. Emily tiptoed out of the shadow seamlessly, as if naturally, and continued on her way to the right. The decorated hallway displayed pictures of modern technology including the cannon, crossbows, and muskets. Other pictures showed arcane advancements, like bone-tethered runes and shards of rare Elyse metals, which are said to amplify any mage’s power if just held.
Emily turned down one corner, then another. The hallways were winding, long, and empty. Statues and paintings lined the walls with portrayals of important families, the city, and, of course, the Lord of the house. Surely, the man had to of been the one in charge around here. She had never heard of or seen him before, but that was a bit over her head either way. Coming up to a large metal door, Emily decided she would explore a bit to maybe find some escape from the endless hallways. She turned the handle and the door creaked open, thankfully not to be heard by anyone in the halls. The door swung slow and wide, revealing iron bars. Behind the bars, a figure was sat in a chair. They spoke:
“Oh, poor me. A lost soul in a forgotten city. Do you remember, dear Lizzy? The days of old... old days. The streets have gone red and rampant. Maybe for the good... good like your pies. Do you still bake, darling? I long for your cooking. I have wanted it since you left. I still remember your silky smooth skin, your piercing eyes...” The pale voice droned on until Emily had stepped into the dim light in the room. The man, a younger one, maybe 25 or 30 years old, stared with dull, but forgiving eyes. His stare panned to her and his voice changed, now a bit louder and more confident. “Oh, what have we here? Come to pay the old man a visit, or do you just want me to answer your sick questions again?”
Emily slipped fully into the room and quietly swung the door shut again. She looked to him, “What are you in there for?”
“You ought to know. Do not play games with me, you hag!” His voice bit, but was still weak and low.
“I do not want to hurt you, sir. I need to leave this place.”
The man’s voice changed, now with an accent Emily had read about from boaters. “You and the rest of the crew, huh? Ole Sally’s been drowned a good few years and here they keep us locked up like a couple a sea dogs. Why don’t’cha move along now, lass?”
Emily pleaded, not having much of a choice, “Please. I can’t do this alone and you could use my help, too. I’ll get you out, and I want you to help me leave here.”
“Right-o, laddy. Hoist yerself onto the platform and drop the lever there.” To the left of the door, a control panel sat. A long and wide cord poured out of the main control box and connected to the wall next to it, probably the electricity. Emily stepped over and took hold of the rather conspicuous lever protruding from the box. She pulled it into a downwards position, which took quite a bit of strength to do, and the barred door to the cell *clicked* loudly. The man jumped up and prodded his way through the door, as if carrying a sword. He nodded to Emily upon receiving freedom. “I thank thee, lass. A bit longer here, and I be sleepin’ with the fishes. Off we go, then.” He led the way out the door, purposefully making his right leg stiff like it was a peg leg.
Emily followed him out and to the left, continuing down the way she was going beforehand. He tapped open one door, then another, and then grumbled before quickening the pace down the hall. The loud voice lit up the halls again, this time a bit more intense:
“Attention, all Miransari personnel. The woman by the name of Emily Everlock, high-value treasonist and daughter of the tyrant, Elektra Everlock, has escaped her rightful imprisonment. All guards must be on high alert and will return the girl alive. The man to bring her in cuffs will receive increased pay and access to the VIP rooms for a month.”
“Arrgh, don’t tell me, yer the one they’re after,” the man’s pirate-y voice spoke up.
“I’m afraid so,” Emily was a bit winded from all the quick walking but managed to keep her cool, despite the danger around.
“Ya hearda the proclamation o’ war, then, haven’t ye? Magic versus anti-magic. Whatta time to be kicken!”
“War? I’ve heard nothing of a war...”
“Daughter o’ the tyrant and ye don’t know? Whatcha been doin’, livin’ under a rock?”
“Something like that...” Emily quieted down. She then narrowed her eyes, despite the man looking straight ahead. “Tyrant? My mother was a wonderful woman, no tyrant!”
“Whateva helps ye sleep at night, lassie. Hurry along now, we don’t got time. See, I know this ol’ hatch’ll drop ya right below the decks. Just gotta remember if it was right.. Left.. or was it down? Ah, right-o!” The man slid to a halt and turned. “Drop a few paces back and sit pretty, lad.” He looked around intensely, then reached to pull a candle. It snapped off the hook it was on, doing nothing. He cursed, then tried another. This time, it dropped a few inches. Gears could be heard turning and before she could react, the floor dropped out from under Emily and the darkness below took her in.
Her feet ran into the ground first. Then, she crashed down onto her rear, taking in a sharp breath. The ground was cold and solid; she was no longer on the elegant, hardwood floors. The area was very dark and didn’t give away any secret of what it was hiding. As if by habit, Emily snapped her fingers to create a flicker of flames in her hand. The ball of fire danced in her palm as she led it around the area to get her bearing. She was in a corridor, much smaller than the wide hallways. The walls and ceiling looked to be made of flimsy metal, but the ground was smooth and stone. It was cold and a bit disheartening, but she knew that she had to continue. After all, the pirate man said this leads to the exit.
After a few minutes of walking with the flame held in front of her, Emily began thinking to herself. This is taking forever. Where is this even at? Am I going the right way? IS there a right way? She was becoming less excited about seeing the real world more and more since leaving the Panther. The world was nothing like she expected. She read about damsels in distress being saved by white knights and brilliantly incandescent kingdoms purging the world of evil. Was this to be her life? Wandering around a giant mansion until she no longer could continue? Had she made the right decision to leave the Panther in the first place?
The corridors began to show little bits of light with each new corner being turned. They were few and far in between, but the light brightened a small bit each time. As Emily turned the final corner, she saw light pouring from a grate ahead. Alas, she had found an exit! She ran to it despite the aching in her legs. She made it to the grate and pushed her hands against it, curling her fingers around the slits. Past it, she saw real daylight. The bright red sun lit up the world and trees and grass covered the area. Sounds of a consistently blaring horn rang in the distance, but a running river could also be heard nearby. This would be her chance to leave this place for good, so Emily looked around to find a small lever to the side of the opening. She pulled it, which slid the bottom half of the grate down. Going under the grate, she had finally left the dark corridor.
After exiting, Emily heard the grate slide back up into place. She felt the sunlight on her face and the grass under her bare feet. She was happy for just one moment, but knew there was more to come. At the sound of voices in the near distance, she moved forward into some bushes closeby. She looked back to get a good sight of the building, which made her gasp. It was absolutely beautiful; the white stone walls and pillars pushed up into a castle with spires surrounding it. A moderately-sized beast was curled around one of the top cones, sleeping lazily with its massive tail hanging over the side. The building was straight from a storybook; it was amazing. Although... the more truly amazing it was, the more it made Emily think.
War between mages and anti-mages... I’m a wanted criminal, and my mother is supposedly a tyrant.. Are... are these the good guys? The knights in shining armor and I am the evil witch? They said it themselves in the town.. I’m an evil witch trying to take away everything good. The thoughts manifested into tears welling up in her eyes. She pushed them back, but was weak and tired. It took all she had not to fall over in the bushes. While focusing on her thoughts and the sight in front of her, Emily failed to notice the manifesting darkness around her.