Ardrion woke up in his dark and silent chamber. He couldn't figure out what it was that had woken him as he sat up for a moment listening. There was nothing there he assured himself and lay back down. But something compelled him to investigate. He took the low burning candle from his bed side, slid on his pants and quietly traversed the chamber. The door gave a low moan so he tried to open it faster, hoping no one had heard. As he passed each room, he began to feel as though he was just wandering aimlessly. With a quick shake of his head he turned to climb the stairs, but froze. After a moment, he could not decide if it was real or imagined; he heard something in the distance. A moan, a shriek, something. Another eventually followed and seemed to echo faintly beneath his feet. The dungeon. He extinguished the flame and quickly made his way to the doorway. The route was effortless in the dark because he had imagined countless times of opening the door and finding all sorts of mythical creatures and secret stashes of treasure.
He waited at the closed door fearing he would wake someone, or something, if he opened it. His ear was pressed to the wood, listening for anything that might be on the other side. He waited there, breathlessly, minute after minute. The longer he waited, the more it convinced him it was all in his head. He turned to trudge back o his chamber to await another day in the castle.
Footsteps echoed against the door, getting closer. Ardrion fled around the corner, hopefully out of sight. The door swung open, and a Kolrav'an stepped out. His dark hair reflected the fire’s orange glow and the markings all over his skin glistened in the shadows. Ardrion watched him silently disappear into the darkness, and then listened for his footsteps to fade up the stairwell.
He inched around the corner to find the door closed. He knew that something was going on, and his curiosity was getting the best of him. He swung the door open as the Kolrav'an did lest it creak and moan like the others and he stared into a black abyss.
Back around the corner, he grabbed a fire-lit wall sconce and headed into the unknown. As he descended, the air became more and more saturated with water and the misted walls began to reflect his makeshift torch. As he headed down one narrow hallway, a smell wafted over the heavy water vapor. He had smelled it before, but couldn't place it. He spotted a clear reflection of himself in a puddle. It just looked black, but the stark light revealed some sort of film flowing through the water. He dipped his finger in the water, and brought it close to inspect. His fingertips were slightly red. Blood.
Of all the things he had imagined in the dungeon, this was something he had not really expected. This was serious. He lifted his head and shifted to glance at both ends of the narrow hall. He picked a direction and tried to tread quietly, listening for any signs of life. A row of cells appeared to his left and he inspected each one. They were all empty. The moonlight burst through small windows carved into the uneven rock patterning the hallway floor. There was no more blood or even signs that any one at all had even used this part of the dungeon. The other half might be more promising, he thought.
He quickly crossed the space to where he had begun. As he started down the other arm of the hallway, Ardrion began to hear someone's breathing. It was labored and struggling. He raced to a row of cells near the end of the room and then slowed his pace wary of what he might find. He peered around the corner, and met the eyes of a girl. The floor around her was tinted red in a narrow ray of moonlight. Each froze for a moment, measuring the other.
Her frailty suggested nothing of what she could have ever done to warrant imprisonment by the King. Well, he reconsidered, to warrant imprisonment by a rational person, at least. The girl slid herself away from the bars and out of the dusty stream of moonlight, apprehensive. As Ardrion knelt to her level, her voiced echoed from the stark shadow. “Who are you?” Her voice echoed demand.
Her accent was pervasive, but Ardrion couldn't place it. “Ardrion.” he answered positively. “What's your name?” he kept looking back to the stairway, paranoid that someone would catch him.
Her scanning eyes reflected hesitation, but her shallow breathing made her pace herself. “Kaelyth.”
Ardion couldn't tell where she was bleeding, but she was definitely in bad shape. “What happened?” He continued to check the stairway.
“Roszmirrh.” she exhaled.
He debated his next step for a desperate moment. “Listen, Kaelyth,” he spoke quickly, “I can't stay here, but I'll be back for you.” He stood and turned to leave.
“Wait.” she coughed. “Why...?” she struggled to speak.
“I guess I'm just not cut out for royalty.” He said cryptically and ran for the stairs. Before he turned the corner, he glanced back toward the girl. She wouldn't last long collapsed on the chilled and rotting floor.
Kaelyth could only wait, exhausted, and more than anything, frustrated. Numb from the cold and unable to even shiver, she collapsed on the floor. Only Ardrion's fading footsteps penetrated the dark. Her eyes closed with the final thud of the door.
Ardrion raced to his chamber, though his mind raced even faster. Questions and half-plans spun wildly through his head, making him dizzy. He slumped against the door as soon as it rested comfortably against the jamb, and slid to the floor. The still chilled air suggested he crawl to his bed, though he knew nothing would come of that.
He sat for hours, his joints stiffening undetected, and imagined and planned his next moves. What will I tell the king? What if I steal her away in the night? What does 'Roszmirrh' mean?