His belt had been lazily thrown onto the table, its contents strewn about the scarred wooden surface as if the guards had rifled through its contents and immediately lost interest in the seemingly useless and odd implements. His guns laid at the center of his other things, and the sight of the silver instruments was sad enough to make him angry; the smooth metal pieces that had previously come apart with graceful finesse had been wrenched and torn from their rails and threads to lay in gnarled, dented segments. He grimaced and began sifting through the scattered items.
“There you are,” he mumbled. He picked a small cylindrical container from the collection of objects and rolled it between his fingers. Thin cracks ran along the surface of the glass tube, but the vessel itself seemed to still be sound, holding the deep indigo liquid safely inside. He searched through the remaining items, drawing from the pile four more small glass tubes. He was amazed to find all of them intact.
“We need to leave soon. Mouse is getting restless.” Heather was standing at his side, her forehead crinkled with worry and her fingers wringing themselves. She glanced nervously at the others. “I don’t know how we’re going to get them out. They’re not going to make it far if we have… problems.”
Engle looked to them as well, and Heather was right. Both Okohke and Salleem looked terrible. The crow-man was leaning against the far wall, breathing heavily, and the thief sat slumped on the floor, his head cupped in his hands. Their progress would be slow, and they would be useless if a fight broke out. Engle could not risk being caught again, but he could not leave them behind either. He needed Salleem. At least, he needed the thief’s life, but he knew that now was not the time to take it.
He could only see one option. Engle looked down at the small containers in his palm, and he groaned inwardly. This would complicate things.
“Here,” he said grudgingly. He grabbed Heather’s hand and pressed two of the small containers into her palm, curling her fingers over the glass. “Break these in your fist, and then apply it directly to their injuries. Be careful not to cut yourself.” The nymph looked somewhat perplexed, but she did as she was told, handing one of the containers to Thalaen while crushing the other in her fist.
Engle ran two fingers down the side of his chest plate, and a compartment snapped open. He slid a single glass tube into the opening, and then closed it shut with a small click. Immediately, the pain in his ribs ebbed, and soon the entirety of the ache in his sides disappeared, washed away as the thick blue liquid was injected into his body. He took a deep breath for the first time in days, filling his lungs with air until they burned. His skin began to prickle and itch where it had been split open due to his many recent encounters with the wrong ends of sword points. He mildly scratched at the areas, finding not open gashes, but scabbed and puckered flesh that, as he stood there, slowly melted away to soft and perfectly smooth tissue. His own sigh of relief was met by those of both Okohke and Salleem.
Engle placed the two remaining glass containers into his belt with the upmost delicacy. Once they were safely stored away, he rushed to fill the remaining pouches with his belongings. He stuffed the mismatched items into the pockets with deft fingers. Cinching the belt around his waist after it was full, he began salvaging what he could of his weapons. He slid the pieces together with a practiced skill that had been drilled into him from days long-since past but never forgotten.
Engle swung the rifle over his shoulder and slipped the pistol into the holster at his thigh. He could not find his combat knife though, so perhaps that one unlucky guard still had it. Too bad, Engle thought. He had liked that knife. He dismissed the slight bitterness and reached for his helmet, which rested on a corner of the table. Right over where his left eye would be, a long, jagged fracture twisted its way down the front of the faceplate. Engle could not remember when that had happened, but he shrugged the thought off, slipped the armor over his ears, and clasped it shut.
He turned to find the others all standing upright and looking much healthier. Neither Salleem nor Okohke had any injuries visible in the dim lighting. The thief’s eyes looked brighter, and Okohke now sat perched atop a nearby table as an ebon crow with a wooden bow nestled between his ragged wings and draped across the ruffled feathers on his chest.
Engle looked to Heather and nodded. “Where to now?”
Engle had expected a fight. He had expected a horde of guards to swarm through the many hallways like a rushing tide, catching the seven fugitives in a bloody undertow as they fought their way to the outskirts of the prison where they would attempt to vault over the tall walls in a mad dash for freedom.
He was pleasantly disappointed.
They silently made their escape due to Mouse’s expert navigation through the many labyrinthine passageways. The path that they were led down was that of a small service tunnel with only a single guard to stand by its unkempt wooden doors. This guard was simply silenced, restrained, and placed in an easily over-looked, discrete area. They proceeded down the narrow tunnel that smelled of what could only be described as horse stables in a mid-summer heat.
The tunnel ended near the entrance of the prison itself. The opening hung above the ground at a significant height, but they lowered each other down without much difficulty. Okohke threw himself from the opening, buoyed on inky feathers, and Engle exited the tunnel last, dropping to the ground and landing in a crouch on the hard-packed dirt. He straightened and brushed himself off.
“Let’s find some cover before daybreak and before the guard patrols decide to come by.” He squinted at the horizon which was just beginning to bear signs of a golden sunrise. “If it gets any lighter before we’re a mile away from this place, we’ll be--”
A scoff cut through the air, and the hair at the back of Engle’s neck stood on end. “I was wondering when you’d decide to finally come out of there. Being in your position, Engle,” his name was sneered, “I wouldn’t have stopped for anything while getting out of there. Tell me, how did you manage to get locked up so fast and in Balinsteil no less?”
“Son of a bitch,” Engle mumbled.