(I know this chapter seems long but there is a lot of dialogue so I change paragraphs often. These Perin chapters are really long anyway.... Perin is the main character after all.)
Before Perin knew it, the barrel of a gun was to his head. He did not have to be fully awake to realize what was happening – they had found him. A group of large men in uniform pulled him down from the tree. They grabbed his arms and bound them with rope. “What -?”
“Shut it,” the man holding the gun said gruffly.
“Okay, okay. Don’t have to tell me twice.”
There were ten of them all together. I must be a real threat, he thought. The men dragged him up the hill, almost the exact same way he had come down. They took him to the big stone building on the top of the hill. There were more of these uniformed men in front of the door. How many of them are there? Perin thought. They’re everywhere. With all this security you’d think that they would have found me faster. When he thought about it further, he realized that the soldiers weren’t as spread out as he first thought. He had never seen any of them in the city. So they just surround the wall and this building. Interesting.
“What is it?” one of the men in front of the door asked.
“We found that person they saw sneaking around outside last night.” They shoved Perin forward a bit.
“So he did get in.”
“Obviously,” Perin mumbled. The guard with the gun shoved the end of the gun into his neck as a warning.
“The guys on the wall aren’t going to be happy about that when Thesle finds out,” another door guard said.
“They’ll be even less enthusiastic when Lanstar finds out.”
“Indeed. Poor bastards.” The door guards moved out of the way and let them through.
Perin was taken to the inside of the building. He was in a front room. A set of stone stairs to his left divided into two. One went down and another went up to a balcony hallway that led along the back wall. The men pulled him to the right, through a large wooden door with a metal family crest engraving hanging on it. Perin did not get much time to look at the crest, but at a glance he could tell that it was quite elaborate. The door opened into a large hall made of stone that had a huge fireplace at the opposite end. Above the fireplace was a large painting of some very important looking man and on the mantle was a smaller representation of the same crest that was on the door. Large windows of blue and silver colored glass took up the wall space on the right side of the room, while the left was a stone wall with more paintings of more important looking people. An extremely long table with chairs all around it took up most of the center of the room. The table itself looked more lavish than anything Perin had ever seen. Only three of those chairs were occupied. One man sat at the head of the table, his back to the door, and two women sat on his sides. They stopped eating when the group entered.
“What is it?” the man at the head of the table said irritably. The governor, Perin thought. Has to be him. He looks too important to be anything less. Didn’t they say his name was Thesle? That’s him in the painting above the wall as well.
“Sir,” they all stood at attention suddenly.
“What is it?” he said again, more angry than the first time. Perin got a chance to look at the other members of the table. The woman to the left of Leroy had blond hair and was in all white. She looked a lot like a child. On the other side of Leroy was the woman he had seen before, the one in all red. She was staring at him, recognizing him as well. He stared back. Her face was unreadable, but her eyes scanned him intensely. Her red dress had turned an eerie shade of green from the light filtering through the blue glass. It made her look evil compared to the other woman, like Thesle had the good and the bad on his two sides.
“We found the person who was sneaking around last night.” They moved so that he could see Perin.
“That’s it?” Thesle grumbled. Perin quickly flicked his eyes from the woman in red to Thesle. “That’s what you were worried about?” Perin narrowed his eyes at him. “He’s just a boy. Who would have thought that one boy could make the whole Sulci army tremble?” Perin felt himself going red. He had to clamp his jaw shut to stop himself from saying anything. “How’d you get in here, boy?”
“Magic,” Perin said through clenched teeth.
Thesle laughed at him. “Really now?”
“How would you know? You were up here enjoying your own spoiled existence the whole time.”
Now Thesle was the one who was angry. “Don’t cross me, boy.”
“Don’t call me a boy.”
“Just shoot him and put an end to this,” Thesle said, going back to his food.
“But, sir -” one of the soldiers started.
“Kill him, and do it soon. I’m tired of him being here already.” The soldiers dragged Perin out. He got one last look at the governor, who was white as I ghost. The women looked confused.
Perin was yanked and pulled back out the way they had come in. There was a building to their right with bars on the windows. The men took Perin there. The inside looked like something Perin expected to see in Pons, not in Sulci. It was four floors of square cells with metal bars arranged along both sides. The only light was from the small windows at the end of each hall. The cells themselves had no windows. Perin wasn’t sure what he had expected a prison in Sulci to look like. It was still a prison, after all. Maybe more light. More space. Floors of marble. Something. For how rich Sulci looked, he expected everything to be glamorous. A giant white stone building with stained glass to house three people? A table that probably killed nine trees but is rarely ever filled with people? Come on now. Even Tyler doesn’t have anything that nice. It was definitely an improvement from the dungeons in Pons, though. For that he could be thankful. At least he wouldn’t drown.
The building was built into the side of the hill, so they entered onto the third floor. He could see the shapes of some other prisoners in the dark. A few of them began yelling at the guards as they passed. Perin was taken down two flights of metal stairs and flung into a cell. From the quiet, he could tell that he was the only inmate on this floor. So much for killing me immediately.
Perin stood up and moved his arms. His broken arm screamed in pain. He was in the very last cell on that side, so he could see out of the window. If he strained his neck, he could just see the city past the corner of the jail building. This side of the building faced the empty area by the drain in the wall. That’s probably why no one noticed me. Only inmates would have seen me.
He stopped for a second to admire the city. It was very green, very earthy. Pons was mostly rocks. There were so many plants. Perin had literally never seen that many plants in his life. It was refreshing to see so much nature. He fell onto the floor. Some nice predicament you’ve gotten yourself into, he thought. He was very glad now that he had stopped to eat before. If he massaged his broken arm lightly it did not hurt so badly. At least he could be in less pain.
Perin watched the sun go down through his little window. It looked beautiful from that angle. In Pons, it set behind the city which put everything into an odd orange glow. Here, it was a big yellow ball that sunk gracefully behind the wall. I could enjoy being here very much. Too bad I won’t be staying for long. For the rest of the night he lay on the floor, staring at the stones in the wall. He wondered how they would kill him, which torture they would invoke upon him. Hopefully they’ll just shoot me, or hang me, or something like that. Something humane. Something that doesn’t involve cats.
For days he stayed in that cell. Every day a guard would come past and throw some food at him. It was usually moldy bread or bad meat. Perin never ate it though. He figured it was better to starve to death than to vomit up his intestines. He spent the time just lying there and listened to the people outside, tending to his broken arm and trying to forget about his angry stomach.
One night, long before the sun was supposed to rise, he heard a noise out by the stairs. He thought it was only the guard who threw rotten food at him, so he did not bother moving. He was lying very close to the bars. He hoped that the guard would not bother to open the door to throw something at him.
Then he felt a hand on his face. He jumped and quickly pulled himself away. “Hello,” the person said. It was a woman, or a very young boy. Perin didn't respond. "I suppose you're not in the talking mood then. Can't say that I blame you. What’s you’re name?” He stayed quiet. “Oh, come on now. There’s no sense in being mute. I’m the nicest person you will ever talk to in here.”
“Ah, Perin. I’m Diana. So… what are you in here for?”
“What do you want?” he snapped. If she was going to kill him, he would rather her get to the point.
“I was going to break you out of here, but since you obviously want to stay…”
“Wait.” He was quiet for a minute. “Are – are you serious?”
“Sure, unless you’d like to stay here.”
Perin got to his feet slowly and came to the bars. It was still to dark to see her properly, but he caught a glimpse of red by her feet. “Why?”
“Don’t you think I’m dangerous?”
“Look, I don’t have a lot of time. Do you want out of here or not?”
He looked at the dark outline of her shape. “Is your father the governor?”
“Then why do you want to release me? And ‘because’ is not an answer.” He looked at what he assumed was her face. “Why do you trust me?”
She came closer to the bars. He could see her face now in the moonlight. She had a very angular face with smooth, pale skin, bright brown eyes, and deep red hair. “Because… you interest me.” Diana stared directly into his eyes.
Perin raised an eyebrow. Take it, a voice in the back of his mind said. If she opens the door you can escape. Go live in the forest. Just use her to get the hell out of here. “If they find out they’ll kill you.”
“They won’t find out if you don’t say anything.”
“Oh, you don’t have to worry about that.”
She reached into a large piece of cloth that was wrapped around her waist and pulled out a key ring. She slid the key into its lock, and it opened with a loud, echoing click. “Oh, and you can’t run. They have the drain blocked by dogs.”
Perin felt himself deflate a bit. No worries, you’ll find a way out. “Why would you think I’d want to leave?”
“Hmm, just a hunch.”
Perin stared at the open door. “If they find me they’ll throw me back in here, or worse.”
“I won’t let them find you. All you have to do is trust me, like how I trust you. I’ve done this twice before and I haven’t gotten caught. Granted, those two weren’t Pons soldiers… but I expect it works the same way.”
“How did you know I’m from Pons?”
She smiled. “No one else would make Leroy go white. You’re either from Pons or from somewhere far worse.”
He smiled as well. “It’s Pons, but I’m not a soldier,” he lied. Why he lied, he did not know.Why else would I be here if I wasn’t a soldier? It doesn’t even make sense. Technically, when he left Pons, he really wasn’t a soldier anymore.Tyler had removed him from his positions before throwing him into the dungeon. So,technically, it wasn’t a lie…
“Hmm… yes, like I said, you are very interesting. Now, come on before the sun comes up.” Diana moved so that Perin could walk from his cell, and then relocked the door. He followed her as she expertly navigated the dark hallways. On their way out, Diana stopped in front of the guard. He was sleeping. Perin snorted.No wonder they have no security in this place. Diana slid the key ring into a pocket in the guard’s pants. Perin smiled at her trickery. They’ll be wondering for hours how I got out when they had the keys. Clever, very clever.
Then she led Perin back up to the governor’s house. He followed her closely. Once inside the house she led him to the stairs that went down. The basement of the house was one big square. Along the walls were a large fireplace along with several wash basins and cabinets. Several piles of dirty laundry lie on the floor. The dishes from that night’s dinner were left in a wash basin. The whole thing was lit only by a small window where the moonlight came through.
Along the right side of the square were seven doors. “What’s this?”
“Maid’s storage closets.” She pulled out a large robe and threw it over his head quickly.
“What the -”
“Shh. It’s a maid’s robe. I’m disguising you. Now, follow me, and don’t talk to anyone.”
“Who would be awake at this hour?”
“You’d be surprised. Now be quiet.”
Diana led Perin back up to the front room, and then up the other stairs. The house was mostly deserted except for a few soldiers that walked around sleepily. Then, suddenly, she stopped. "'Ello there," a man said. Perin could tell by the smell that this other man was completely drunk.
"Hello," she said. "Sorry but I'm in a hurry."
"Oh, come on. What could such a lovely lady as yourself have to do that is so important?"
"I have to get up to my room. Terribly sorry, but it is very important."
"And who is this?" the man asked, obviously meaning Perin.
"Oh, a maid. She's very shy and is feeling unwell today so -"
"Is that right miss?" the man asked Perin. He nodded quickly without picking his head up. "Well, I -"
"We really have to be going." Diana grabbed Perin's arm and yanked him toward her. She had grabbed his broken arm, and Perin had to try very hard not to yell out. They continued to move up the stairs. At the top of the stairs was the balcony, which continued on to a long hallway. Again, there were seven doors. She led him into the very last one on the right. Diana pulled him inside quickly and then locked the door. She closed all of the window blinds and the door to a square balcony that led along the outside wall. The only light came from a few small candles.
Perin pulled the robe off of himself. He looked around him. The room was a square, with a large, fluffy bed at one end and several places for clothes. A big improvement from where he was only a few minutes ago. “So, now what?” he asked.
“You can stay here for tonight. I’ll arrange whatever you like in the morning. Hard to get people to cooperate at midnight, you know. You’ll have to wait for tomorrow before I can get you anything to eat. Oh, if you see a little blond girl come in here, don’t worry. Your arm’s broken.”
“Your arm, it’s broken. I felt the bones move when I grabbed it.”
“How bad is it?”
“Well, it hurts a lot. I had a sling for it before.”
She set a candle on a small table. “Come here. Let’s have a look at it.” Perin sat on the edge of her bed and set his arm gingerly on the table. Diana knelt on the opposite side, and ran her fingers along his arm, gently squeezing it. He winced. The pain medicine had completely worn off. “It’s really broken. What happened?”
Perin shook his head. “I fell.”
“Hmm, yes. Here.” She took the cloth from around her waist and tied it over his neck, making him a new sling. “This will have to do for now. I can get you something for it in the morning.” Perin nodded. “You look tired.”
“I can’t say that I’ve slept properly since I arrived here.”
She stood up. “Well, you could sleep here. Hmm, no, wait, that’s not good. If they burst in here in the night we don’t want you out in the open.” Perin nodded. Between the pain in his arm, his hunger, and his tiredness, he could not think very clearly. “Under the bed.”
“Is there room under there?”
“Well, you’re a small man, you should fit.” He got down onto the floor slowly and flattened himself. Diana pulled up the blankets. He could just squeeze under the bed frame. She handed him down a pillow.
“Thank you,” he said quietly.
“Get some rest. We can think of a plan tomorrow.”