Every inch of me trembled. Fury, but more than that, panic. Cold fear. Each time I tried to think, my thoughts flew to my brothers.
One of them would die. If Ross’s promise could be trusted, painfully.
And there was nothing left for me to do about it. I tried to force myself to let go, to consider escape so I could at least rescue my other brother. But every fiber of me wanted to scream. I wanted to let loose everything I had been containing inside for the past eight hours. I wanted to stop pretending I was strong enough for this.
But I couldn’t even do that. So I sat in the corner of my cell, thankful for the shadows that hid my distress, and the presence of the guards to prevent Dana from breaking my concentration. Right now the sound of his voice would only crack the barriers I was trying to construct for myself. It would be a time before the intensity of the emotions numbed me. I needed that time to myself.
Minute upon minute slipped by. The shaking in my muscles ceased except for the occasional one due to the chill in the dank air. Slowly, I began to come out of my own thoughts, aware of my surroundings once more. My breath evened, and the throb from Set’s complimentary bruise on my jaw eased somewhat as I focused my gaze, flicking it towards Dana’s cell.
He stood pacing in front of the bars of his cell, back and forth like a caged panther. I wondered how long he’d been doing that, feeling my senses return fully to the present reality, and the door click shut on my emotions. How long they would remain as such, I did not know, but I would take as much time as I could get.
As I contemplated how to begin a conversation on the topic of escape, Dana halted his footsteps, tense. A breath of a moment passed, then he moved to the back of the cell and sat down as casually as ever. His gaze caught mine.
“Talk.” He mouthed silently.
I narrowed my eyes briefly, conjuring back the connection to his thoughts. “Out loud?”
“No, like this.” He kept a blank expression, gaze wandering aimlessly. “I can sense a way. You have to be ready.”
It took several moments for his words to sink in so soon after accepting a fate supremely less miraculous. He would not tell me of a way, though, unless he was sure of it. That much I trusted.
“Just wait for it.” His gaze flitted across my corner once more, then suddenly he frowned, clutching his stomach with a groan, and doubled against the floor.
I started. The echoes of his cry bounced down the hall, followed by others. The guards glanced towards him.
I stood. “You had better be faking that…”
“Well, I can’t say I enjoyed my breakfast after that punch.”
How he could still think of jokes, considering our situation, I could not fathom, but for some unaccountable reason it gave me an unbidden spark of hope.
The sound of marching steps drowned out the last of the echoes of Dana’s distress, catching my attention. A man I recognized as Ross’s captain came into view leading six soldiers in formation behind him, halting by our cells. The guards straightened in attention.
I knew what they were here for. My muscles stiffened.
“Ross intends to torture me until I tell the truth. Give me the name of a location – any location – so I can tell them that’s where I heard the rest of our army is.”
Lying limp, shaking, and whimpering a muffled moan at intervals, Dana opened his eyes and flashed me a smile. “Who said that was the way?”
I blinked, now completely thrown, and unable to think of a response.
“I don’t like taking chances.”
“If you don’t trust me, I understand, but this is the only chance we’ll have.”
“Unlock the door,” The lieutenant ordered one of the guards. “We’re here to transport the girl to another cell.” He nodded sharply towards Dana. “What’s wrong with him? Sick?”
Rolling onto his back, Dana gave a cry of ‘agony’, that incited the lieutenant to bang the bars. “Silence, prisoner!”
The guard inserted the keys into the lock on my cell door. My insides coiled tighter and tighter.
Unable to see Dana, I whispered my thoughts in his direction. “Alright. I trust you.”
The hinges on the door creaked dolefully as two soldiers entered. I stepped into my place between them without need of their physical assistance, and walked out into the hall as bidden. My heartbeat fluttered in my ears.
Two more soldiers took up their positions in front of me, and the lieutenant let out a sigh.
“You might as well take the other with us while there’s enough of us to manage them both. Lord Set wouldn’t want anything happening to him.” He muttered.
“Aye, sir.” Along with the remaining two soldiers, the guards moved to Dana’s cell.
My pulse jumped. The guards entered, dragged Dana to his feet, and shoved him roughly out into the hall.
His gaze met mine for no more than a second. “Now.”
With the speed of speed and force of an unbridled stallion, Dana tore free from the grip of his captors, and charged through the gathering of warriors into the freedom of the hall beyond. Cries erupted from those present. Two soldiers immediately grasped my arms, pulling me back in spite of my struggles, while the lieutenant ordered his other men into a line, weapons drawing with a symphony of metal blades ringing on metal scabbards. Dana stood weaponless mere yards away, daring them to advance upon him.
I took my cue. Amidst the confused hesitation, I let every muscle go limp, causing my own captors to lose their secure hold. With a twist, I slipped free. The lieutenant shouted. I burst through the line holding its attention on Dana, stumbling, knocking one of them into his companion, and made it into the freedom Dana had already acquired.
He caught my arm, helping me regain my balance, and pulling me alongside him until I adjusted my momentum to his as we both took off down the hall.
“Either we’re both getting whipped for this, or you have a plan.” I glanced behind us, speaking above the lieutenant’s fury.
Dana motioned down a side passage. “Call it a hunch.”
At the moment, that was good enough for me. I followed him without hesitation.