Dark, dank, and drafty were better adjectives than Velum ever would give his cramped cell; however, he coveted his position a bit more than that of the voices which echoed through the piss grates at the edges of the freezing cold stone floor. Sometimes when the echos vibrated loudly he crept to the edge of the smelly hole, peering down on the torture and violence below. As time past his gag reflex relaxed until he could watch coldly as another nameless prisoner became broken beneath the sociopathic torture master’s hands.
“Day three hundred and…. I can’t remember anymore,” Velum said with deep melancholy, throwing his sharpened rock against the back wall, accompanied by a loud crack which echod. “Shut up down there,” yelled a familiar guard’s voice. “Only if you come down here and make me,” antagonized Velum. Keys rang on a belt loop and boot steps closed in on the cell bringing Sam’s face, red and breathing hard, pressed against the cell bars.
“I told ya, shut up!”
Staring Sam the guard down Velum’s face twitched, resolved to not give Sam the pleasure of killing him. In fact, wanting to die of old age to spite Sam, the masters, and the Queen. Letting a few more seconds pass Velum held up his hands and nodded, his mouth shut in submission, albeit protested.
Huffing, Sam kicked a little dust into the cell, “If I need to come down that hallway other than to feed you slop, I’ll stick you.” Patting the sword at his side, he turned about face and marched back to the guard’s area. Velum listened as Sam disappeared behind a half shut door, laughter and racious language picked back up. Shaking his head and wondering what fun his guards could be having. Pondering who would be next on the torture rack
Depression dug deeper into Velum’s heart, he had fought the dark thoughts off long and hard, unfortunately this depression could never be cured. As long as he was trapped in his cell the longing to see the day’s sky would burn. A small window was perched near the roof of the cell, letting a small shaft of sunlight into a corner of the cell. Every day, he repeated the ritual of attempting to climb the slimy walls, always ending up defeated on the floor, a tired ball of aching muscles, darkened heart, and heavy sobs. His joy deflated and gay spirit destroyed.
Queen Tiana had watched every day for a month as her prize prisoner scraped at her dungeon wall through her scrying orb until boredom overwhelmed her and the pleasure of watching Velum deceased in her soul.
Deep orange leaves surrounded Princess Tiana as her white stead trotted over the lightly graveled road. Her Page ran ahead of her as commanded for disobeying an order which had long drifted from her memory. “Velum,” she called out with royal command!
The Page in front of her came to a stop, stooping over and breathing hard briefly before with as much speed as he could, turning and bowing deeply, “yes your highness?”
:”I suppose you have learned your lesson,” she asked, raising a flirty eyebrow?
“Oh yes your highness,” taking another deep breath, still struggling to catch it, “I have your highness.”
“Come over here.”
Velum hurried his small legs back towards Princess Tiana until he stood barely head high to the beginning of the stead’s large chest.
“Move so I may step on you to lower myself safely to the ground, hurry,” she urged Velum on.
Stooping low enough that Tiana could set her foot easily on his right shoulder, Velum braced himself for her weight. As she shifted to dismount an arrow whizzed by, she screamed and the stead bucked. Falling to the ground Velum looked up at a large group of charging legs and boots. Princess Tiana screamed as she hit the ground and men, swords drawn pounced upon their ambushed prey.
“Do you know who I am,” Tiana demanded with question and venom in her voice?
“Don’t know, don’t care, all we care about is gold, ain’t that right Velum,” a heavily scarred man sneered with spittle flying from his mouth, covering his unkempt beard and Tiana with a large wet stream of drool.
Tiana’s head snapped to Velum and her eyes widened, gears grinding to a halt. Her most trusted servant had betrayed her. The realization sunk in and burned deep. The one man below her status she had ever shared a bed with.
Steel bit into Tiana’s neck as the impatient bandit ordered his men to run after the horse and search Velum. Being held prisoner at the edge of a blade infuriated her royal highness. Her station demanded respect. Young, stupid, or brave, she would never know as she remembered this moment in the future. She quickly snapped her wrist which unsheathed a hidden dagger in her sleeve. Jerking her arm upwards, deflecting the sword she rolled and used the momentum to stumble to a standing position and began to sprint forward.
Catching his balance the leader quickly recovered from shock, a veteran at combat he gave chase. Tree branches slapping ahead of him, some catching his face and stomach. Slowing him enough that Tiana began to take a major lead in their chase. Suddenly the ground gave way under Tiana and she fell 12 feet against hard rock, her blow softened by a rotting bed of leaves. The smell of rotting vegetation reverberated across her senses. Laying as still as she could she listened to the crunch of leaves above as more men joined the search for her. Staring up she prayed the roots would give her visual cover as the hole looked small and nearly invisible.
“Found the horse, it’s loaded with gold,” a young voice rang above. The leader’s voice overpowered anything said after that, “That damn girl, she was our pay day, there better be a lot of gold on that horse or Velum’s a dead man.” Tiana almost gasped, but clamped a hand over her mouth to keep silent. A burning desire to see Velum rot in the dungeons began to build in her stomach. Footsteps continued to pace around the hole as they looked, some more leaves and debris must have fallen over the hole because they continued to miss it, even when it sounded as if they might fall in. She silently prayed to the gods they would go away, and simultaneously fought the dread that she may never escape this pit.
Cold bit deep that night. Tiana worked at keeping herself warm by burying herself under the newer leaves and shifting her shall. As she continued to think of how to escape she was ever thankful she wore her warmer riding clothes. Nonetheless a light shiver drifted over her body and her teeth chattered like chipmunks. Hope seemed to come and go in waves. She grasped in faith the idea her father would send his Rangers to search for her when Velum and she never returned from their ride.
Early light crept across the sky, a few shafts of light drifted lazily down lighting a silver piece of metal lodged in the corner of the hold. The cold long gone, Tiana stood, brushed herself off, picking a few leaves from her disheveled black hair. Lazily looking up, with frustrated sigh she began to look for foot and hand holds, crawling up and sliding down many times until she managed to grab hold of a thick root above. Swinging her weight she managed to maintain a hold of the root while using her feet to walk up the wall. Feeling the root start to pull away from the soil she scrambled to climb higher managing to grab hold of another root. She thanked the gods that she could see solid light now.
Managing to get a grip on the trunk that jetted upwards from her earthly prison she pulled with all her strengthstregnth, throwing herself three feet from the pit onto solid ground. Silence reigned the clearing. No birds chirped, not an animal skittered. Quiet and foreboding echoed in muteness.silence. Throwing her head back and forth she observed her surroundings, perceiving the stillness. A trap remained
Pulling herself up to full height, she radiated royalty. Her core demanded respect and her eyes burned into the environment. Her green eyes bit deep into the foliage, and the trap sprang. ‘Snap,’ a rope reverberated and a small body of a man flew into the air hanging by a loop. Walking under the man she immediately recognized his short stubby body, Velum. “It seems the tables have turned my friend.” She hummed a nursery rhyme to herself as she circled the tree, carefully studying the trap.
“I never expected you to betray me Velum,” she sighed deeply, finding the best place to cut the tense rope. “Do you see something lying about I can cut this with?”
“Nothing is as it seems your highness, they.”
Cutting Velum off with authority, “the court will hear your useless excuses, now if you want down, do as I say and look for a blade or rock.” Stooping down she browsed the underside of a few shrubs, “ah, here we have it.” The sound of metal scraping against stone and tree bark rang loudly through the clearing. A light short sword, used by skilled swordsmen to parry attacks instead of using a shield. As she hefted the blade she noticed the workmanship and was impressed by the quality and watermark; this blade came from her father’s armory.
‘Whack,’ Tiana swung the blade, severing the rope and dropping Velum to the forest floor. He landed much like a sack of potatoes, heavy and with a thud. “Stay where you are if you wish to live, traitor.” She pointed the short sword, a light enough weapon, and very capable in her skilled hands, at Velum. Each word, poignant and powerful.
Plan, think as your enemy, predict multiple outcomes, collect resources, her father’s words rang in her mind as she gathered herself and the predicament she was now in. Her heart broken, she felt emotion bubble at the edge of the logic bubble. How could Velum betray her. They had grown up from sackcloth to their positions in life together. Shared a bed in their teenage angst and passion. For what she could offer Velum, she had given him the best positions, not only because he was admirable; but, she loved him, used to love him, she corrected the thought.
She predicted the men would be back if they had gone to the trouble of setting a trap. Also concluding other traps might be about. Looking at the sword she feared the skill of these men more than she had when they confronted her. Realizing her mistake in her underestimation of a group of bandits to be skill less people..