Yea…lameeeeee, huh? It took me forever to actually get around to finishing this chapter =P BUT. I shall try to be good and write more now. Seriously. …however, “more” is a relative term…
Kidding. =P Here’s the next bit. =) …And again…I am coming up with NONE of the dialogue/description involving the warden…it’s all my brother. I’m just putting it in a nice creative form so it sounds in-character. Don’t kill me…=P IT WAS HIS IDEA. Honestly, I wasn’t going to write what I did, but he literally started freaking out…and I kinda value my life…O_O *grins* =P
…Oh. And by the way. His name means “Fat, ugly one.” Yep. That was his idea too. =) *whispers* and a good way for me to get revenge on him for all the stuff he wants his character to say…-___-
~Chapter Twenty Nine~
“What did you see? Are…are there guards? Can we get out?” Netya whispered as soon as I came back in sight around the curving tunnel.
I nodded. “There is a guard. The warden at the gate. However…he seems to be rather enjoying the fact that he’s the only guard around. He’s fast asleep,” I said, grinning.
Netya raised her eyebrows in surprise. “Really? How convenient is that. We’ll have to be careful…if he wakes up…” she trailed off, glancing at me in alarm. “That would not be good.”
“We’d all three of us land back where I came from,” Thalon said quietly. “It’s…not pretty.”
I smiled at him. “Come on. We can do this. We’ve come so far, and still in one piece. We’ll make it out of here alright.”
“Come on. Let’s go,” Netya said, turning up the passage. I followed behind her, my glance often darting back in concern to Thalon as he came behind. I could see the fatigue and pain in his face. Once we escaped from Pethnor’s stronghold, we could truly stop and rest for a while before starting off again on the long journey home, but until then, I knew we had to keep pushing hard. Each moment more that we stood within Pethnor’s walls passed as a death knoll in the dangerous air, throbbing about us.
We soon reached the top of the passage, and Netya looked out into the chamber before the gate. The warden still slept, dreaming peacefully of food and hearth. Netya looked back over her shoulder at me, shaking her head in amazement. As long as no soldiers walked past the gate outside, our way still lay open and free before us.
Carefully, Netya slipped out into the room, going swift and silent to the gate. She examined the bolt for a moment and soon stepped back, motioning over her shoulder for me to follow. I could see the look of relief and triumphant success in her eyes as I hurried softly to where she stood. The gate was locked from the inside. Hanging from a hook in the stone wall to our left, out of reach of anyone on the other side of the gate, was a thick ring of heavy keys. Netya indicated it excitedly, not daring to speak. I nodded, going swiftly to the wall and carefully lifting the ring from its place. The keys shifted as I took down the ring, grating against each other softly. Holding my breath, I handed it to Netya.
As she began trying each key in the lock, searching for the one that would let us out, I turned back to Thalon. I could see that the nearness of freedom and the relief from the burning air of the dungeons were slowly bringing strength flooding back into his bruised body. He saw me watching him and smiled, and the twinkle I knew so well and missed so much returned to his eyes. I almost laughed, forgetting for a moment where we stood. Smiling back up at him, I grabbed the hand he held out to me in reunited friendship, then dropped it quickly, giving him a fierce hug instead. I knew no other way to communicate without words the immense relief and joy I felt at his presence, again like a brother beside Netya and I. I felt rather than saw his silent answering laugh.
As we stood before the gate, Netya still searching through the keys for one to fit the lock, a soft stirring behind us interrupted the silence. Netya froze, her fingers gripping suddenly white around the key she held lifted towards the lock. I stiffened. Thalon reached swiftly back behind his head, fingers searching automatically for the arrows that always rested in a quiver on his shoulder, but finding none. Before I could recover from the chill that crept like fingers of death across my mind, a deep, good-humored voice spoke roughly behind us. “‘Ere you! What is this? What’s goin’ on, I say?”
I whirled around, stepping back against Thalon. The warden had recovered from his sleep and was standing beside his stone chair, glowering at us as we stood frozen by the gate. Without taking his eyes off us, he reached down for the short sword that stood leaning against the barrel on which the remains of his meal sat. His fingers encountered first the stem of the wineglass, however, and he froze for a moment as though thinking. Still without taking his eyes off our frightened faces, he picked up the cup. Then, glancing down into its contents, he tilted his head back, draining it. Looking away finally, he set the cup back down and came towards us, leaving his weapon where it lay.
Hooking his thumbs into the belt of his tunic, he stopped in front of us, eyes traveling over me as I stood pressing back against Thalon, shrinking from the fierceness of his glare. I felt Thalon pushing me and stepped back behind him as he stepped between Netya and I and the huge man confronting us.
For a moment, the warden stood silent, still looking me over and seeming not to notice the others. Finally, stepping back, he crossed his arms over his broad chest, leaning out around Thalon to address me in the same way he had spoken before. “‘Ere you. What’s goin’ on?” When I did not answer, he continued in the same rough voice, “What’s a pretty young scrap like you doin’ in my dungeons, ‘eh? Came you to see me? Because I can…but hold a moment!” he exclaimed suddenly, finally noticing Thalon. His eyes narrowed, flicking suspiciously from Thalon’s face to mine and back again. “You two aren’t…together, are you? Because that just ain’t allowed here, see. The only married woman in the camp is the Lady Lastare, by orders of Pethnor himself, thank you. Matter of superstition, ya see,” he added, leaning towards me and winking. “S’posed to bring some sort of luck. Don’t ask me how it works, ‘cause I don’t know. But if you is…” he looked back at Thalon, glowering darkly from under his thick brows. “If you is, soldier, you’s better be high-tailin’ it home right this minute, before someone less kindly ‘an me comes along and beats you into something more pretty. There.” He stepped back again, smiling broadly. I tried to speak but could not, still too frightened to understand what the man had said. Thalon shifted unconsciously away, glancing in confusion back at me, but I did not understand.
Behind me, a jingle of keys indicated that Netya had recovered from her shock. Hearing the sound as well, the warden suddenly jumped to attention, pushing Thalon aside. Upon seeing Netya standing beside me, a ring of keys in her hands, he gasped, shaking his head. “Well, well. A jailbreak, is it? …Ah…but no matter,” he added, grinning, “There’s plenty here for the two of us.” Laughing good-naturedly, he gave Thalon a hearty slap on the back, nearly knocking him over. Then, grabbing Netya’s arm in one hand, he led her away from the gate, sitting her down on his wide stone chair.
“Now,” he said, sitting himself heavily on the ground before her, “What may your name be? And how did two such lovely ladies get stuck with…that fellow?” he asked us genially, indicating Thalon with a nod of his head. “Everyone here calls me Warden,” he continued without waiting for an answer. “But,” he winked at Netya, “You may call me by my real name. Tugo, it is. What may I call you?”