“I think that’s enough for the day.”
The silver-haired jailor stood in the center of the cell once more. Okohke, the crow man, had just been thrown against the wall left of Engle upon the woman’s entrance. He was breathing very shallowly, covered in bruises, and painted in so much blood that Engle could not distinguish the man’s olive skin from underneath the scarlet and violet smears. The other man, his target, was in a similar state off to Engle’s right; they both had been absent from the cell since dawn, and the hours of the day were beginning to turn into those of dusk. Engle did not envy either one of the men in the slightest, but the sight of them both sprawled across the cobblestones in exhaustion evoked an overwhelming sympathy in him. He had been in that state before; it was a feeling that made most men beg for respite, for sleep, and, sometimes, even for a quick death in the face of future beatings.
“You’ll be next, big guy. Don’t worry,” the woman said to him. He looked up at her. “There are just so many prisoners here in Balinsteil. I can’t afford to let the three of you take up all of my time!” She stood with her hands on her hips and threw her scarred head back in a high, malevolent laugh that filled the small cell; it made a shiver run down Engle’s spine. She glanced around at the four inhabitants, settling her gaze on the elf. “The look on your face, prince, makes this all the better,” she said with a chuckle still in her voice. She turned her gaze back on Engle, and her lips curled sickeningly at the corners, distorting the many scars marring her fair skin. “Tomorrow. You and I. I’ll be counting the moments,” she whispered, playing with a blood-coated chain thrown over one of her shoulders. She turned on her heel and, with a wiggle of her fingers in the likes of a small wave, flounced from the room.
Engle stared expressionlessly after her, keeping his face blank. Desperate thoughts and emotions were only acceptable when no one who was around to extort them. That was a rule that the thief had broken when the woman had first entered the cell. Once the cell door had been sufficiently slammed and bolted, Engle glanced at the thief. He had seen Salleem try to use some sort of magic to escape earlier, and the curiosity had been eating away at Engle all day. The magic that he had used was most likely the reason why the thief was targeted by TIME. Wondering what the powers entailed, he craved to inquire the thief of them, but Bradley had been unconscious since being dumped on the cold stone floor.
The back of his hair prickled faintly, and he whirled to his left to find the red-haired elf staring at him. With a small jump, Thalaen dropped his bright green gaze. The dying light of the sun set the elf's hair aflame in a golden and crimson glow.
Engle snorted softly to himself and dropped his chin to his chest, settling against the wall with his legs propped up. He began humming one of Lyric’s songs while, behind his back, he quietly strained against his restraints. They were bound at the very base of his wrists, just beneath where the armor of his forearms ended. If it were not for this, he would have released the armor plating on his arms a long time ago in order to slip out of the chains. He also greatly doubted that, even on his best day, he would have been able to simply break the manacles with brute force; the steel was just too thick. In the meantime, he continued to pull at the metal and hum in an almost comforting lull while the sun continued its descent below the horizon.
He opened his eyes again at the end of the song. The jail cell was black save for the very faint moonlight seeping through the barred window above his head. He sighed to himself and stared at the ground in front of his feet, his brow furrowed. He would find a way out this place, one way or another. He just had to. It was as simple as that.
The moonlight coming through the window brightened slightly. Engle disregarded it at first, thinking it to be a cloud moving out of the moon’s path. However, the glow steadily grew brighter, and the blue light pulsed on the stone floor. Engle glanced up at the barred window and saw something that made his breath catch in his throat: A tiny figure with glistening wings stood in between the bars, looking around the cell with uncertainty. When it saw Engle staring, it gave the smallest of squeaks and jumped behind one of the bars, the soft illumination disappearing with it.
“No! Please wait,” Engle called softly up to the tiny thing. His voice was gravelly and rough from disuse. He held his breath, fearing that the figure had left, but, slowly, the faint shimmer grew around the window once more. “Please,” he whispered again, just as softly.
It cautiously stepped to the edge of the window, its toes hanging dangerously over the verge. After a moment, it hopped lightly from the precipice. Its wings beat the air with the merest of whispers. It floated down from the opening and alighted on one of Engle’s knees. He could now see that it was actually a petite girl with soft grey skin and jewel-like blue eyes. She had a pair of transparent gossamer wings behind her back that shimmered a pale blue as well; they reminded Engle of a one of those butterflies with the see-through wings. She stood on his armor, her fingers twining together, her shoulders hunched over, and her sparkling eyes not meeting his face. He was afraid to breathe for fear of startling her away.
“Are you Engle?” Her voice was high-pitched and soft enough that he had trouble understanding her.
“Yes,” he breathed. “Who are you?”
She wrung her hands together and mumbled something so faint that it was lost even in the silence of the cell.
“What did you say?”
She looked about the room like someone else was listening to their conversation. She opened her mouth to say something before closing it quickly. Instead, she motioned for Engle to come closer. He complied with reluctance, bending painfully forward and turning his ear to her. She stepped forward and off of his knee to hover near his face. Her wings brushed lightly against his cheek as she leaned closer.
“My name is Hiss,” she whispered into his ear. She fluttered back to his knee, and he pulled away, a look of wonder on his face.
“Hiss,” he repeated. She nodded fiercely, her hair bouncing and bobbing. “That’s a lovely name, Hiss.”
She turned away slightly, the skin on her cheeks darkening considerably in a blush. “Thank you,” she murmured.
"Are you a fairy, Hiss?"
She nodded sheepishly, still blushing. Engle could not believe it. In all of his travels, in all of the places, times, and worlds he had visited, he had never met a fairy before.
"My daughter loves fairies," he said softly. He could not help the smile that pulled at his lips. "She would be delighted to know that I met one." She remained quiet, and silence fell between them for a moment as she stared at his armor. Engle could tell that the fairy wanted to say something.
“Hiss?” he whispered. She chanced a peak up at him. “Why are you here in a place like this?” Engle gave the jail cell a cursory glance.
She hesitated at first, but then she leaned forward slightly, putting her hand to the side of her mouth as if to tell him a secret. “I came here to find you.”
“Me?” Engle cocked his head to the side. “Why are you here to find me?”
“I came because you needed help, and Heather asked me to find you, to help you.”
Engle's eyes widened. Heather was here? He could not remember the last time he had been so happy to just simply hear a name before.