Several footsteps echoed through the darkened hallways. With only torches lighting up the path, Aliester could barely see the captives being housed in their respective cells. Some were looking up with hopeless blank stares while others were begging to be released.
There was an instance where several hands tried to reach out and grab him, but the guards would lash at the hands and hit the steel bars. The sharp vibrating clang would prevent the prisoners from acting up.
Aliester kept walking until he saw a familiar face. When he tried to stop, the guards would harshly push him to keep him walking, not allowing him to have a chance to talk to the other prisoner.
They trudged on until they had reached the dungeon’s innermost cell where the most dangerous criminals were being held.
Aliester grunted as he was pushed inside one of the darkened cells. Stumbling on the cold floor, he grimaced as he caught a whiff of the pungent odor. The dungeon in itself reeked but the prison cell was even worse.
Before he could get up, the thick steel door was shut behind him with a resounding creak and a loud thud.
“I could not believe that even you were captured as well, Lord Aliester.” The familiar voice of the Earl of Cayenne filtered through his ears. “I thought the duke was able to allow you to escape in time.”
“Kain.” Rising to his feet, Aliester acknowledged the other gentry.
The earl looked far from the image of the lord that he is. It seemed that he was not able to shave for a few weeks and his clothing still had blood stains he had acquired from fighting prior to being captured.
“I was not able to get away. Father did warn me to make haste, but it was too late. They had barricaded the borders before I could get out.”
“So it is hopeless.” Blaze muttered as he drew near the duke’s son. “Almost all of the nobles were captured and the Enclave was under a strong spell. We have counted on you to lift the curse but you also got captured.”
“Can’t you defeat her Blaze?” Aliester asked as he eyed the wizard. For a man of craft, he was quite young-only in his twenties. Just like the earl, the wizard’s robe had blood splatters. “You are one of the strongest casters in the entire kingdom.”
“Are you kidding?” the wizard replied. “If I were to compare our level, I am just a mere toddler while that old hag is already a high levelled professional.”
“She is that good-so good that the Enclave fell in her trap.” Kain muttered as he made himself comfortable sitting in one corner. “They were not able to know until it was too late.”
“How are we going to defeat her?” one of the prisoners from the other cell butted in. “All of the kings are under her spell including my father.”
“Prince Conrad, we cannot defeat her. Most of the heirs lack power. Not to mention most of the heirs of the Enclave, were held captive in this stinking dungeon.” Kain said as he addressed the other captive.
Among the princes, Conrad was the youngest one. But it seemed that this young prince is also the most strong-willed one. Despite going through torture, he spirit did not break.
“The Enclave may be powerful but since they were cursed, they could do nothing.” A knight who was Conrad’s inmate joined in.
“Daxton’s right! Under the curse of that witch, they are rendered useless.” Kain nodded at the Verbanian knight.
“So what are we going to do? Wait here until we die?” Conrad asked dripping with sarcasm.
Aliester was silent but clearly the lad was thinking about something. A face flashed before his eyes. That innocent smile, the strong aura, determination and the will to never gave up without a fight… he shook his head to shake the thoughts away.
The duke’s son then gave the other captives a once over before he opened his mouth. “There is one other person whom the witch was not able to capture. And that person is strong enough to stop the old hag.”
With creased brows, Kain asked. “Then where is this person you speak of? Who is this person?”
“Innocia.” Aliester’s reply made his cell mates perked up. It is just a mere name, but it made his other companions uncomfortable.
“Innocia! But, that child is missing.” Kain commented with a hint of bitterness.
“Missing?” Conrad repeated. “I think I had heard news akin to that. -Verbana’s heiress went missing a few years ago.”
“That was a sham.” Daxton said. “That news was released to cover the real reason why the princess vanished.”
“She was not missing… but exiled.” Aliester retorted. His face turned sour at the reminder of that child’s banishment.
“Exiled!” Conrad exclaimed in disbelief. “How come she was exiled? Only the worst crimes are being punished by exile or in most cases death. Did she commit treason?”
No one from Verbana answered him.
“You are going to ask help from an exile?” the earl asked his companions.
“Do we have a choice?” the duke’s son bit back.
“But how are we going to get that exiled back?” Conrad asked his companions.
“We need a few requirements and the perfect timing.” The wizard said. “I could not use my magic because of the spell cast by the old hag. However, if someone is strong enough to break the spell, we might be able to do something.”