The castle was quiet—almost too quiet, to play into the hands of fable—but Dagger raised his blaster in Grimwald's hands. Aside from the creeping around, he—or, rather, Grimwald—had every right to show his protection for the king. Dagger smirked and an old scar on his cheek twinged. Another reason to love this body: the irony of seeing the old king fall to a CTO.
He hissed an incantation, and a globe of light appeared at his ear, shimmering and clear but light pale enough for his eyes alone. It illuminated wooden floors, along which ran a carpet. In this light, it looked the colour of the slum roofs, but Dagger bet it was as blue as the King's oppressive eyes.
Other palm-sized globes illuminated his way through the back of the castle, through winding corridors of the same passive blue. He'd clambered in through a window, placing him in the lowest floor of what the Monarchy considered 'socially' acceptable. The downstairs of the upstairs, so to speak. Thus, here the decor was considered and proper, rather than lavish and tasteless. Even so, the castle already spread into a maze of mezzanines, stairs to nowhere, and doors that simply returned one to the outside. To get to the King's chamber would be a walk and some navigational skills at least.
Lucky, Dagger was prepared for them. He whipped out a sketched floorplan of the castle, orientated it, and was about to cross the atrium he'd arrived at, when something made him halt.
Footsteps. Voices. Danger.
He tensed. They’d come to pick him off, had they? Not on his life. Besides, in Grimald's skin, he'd lie his way out of anything situation. The bugger always had.
He exhaled. Nobody. A pair of servants, heads together in quick conversation. Dagger ducked into an alcove and lifted his blaster to his chin.
"...climbing up the towers!"
"After everything the maggots have done lately, and you're doubting we saw a dragon climbing the rooftops?"
Devil. Ah, his servant had come through for once. Shouldering his blaster in anticipation of other servants or any others maggots who would recognise him for who he really was, Dagger remembered that meeting with Devil, an assignment he'd had no wish to undertake.
The slow drip of water echoing from some corridor far from his cell mocked his parched tongue. He willed a CTO to interrogate him, if only that they needed his throat watered for his information.
But no one came. Devil drifted in and out of consciousness for what felt like two hours, and every time he lifted his head, the walls displayed the same blank facade that trapped him by the second.
Eventually, he was roused by footsteps. Flat, heavy footsteps that betrayed the man they foretold – heavy-set, dressed well, and decorated with chains. But young, younger than he should be for one wielding a bloody knife so.
"Devil, yes?" he whispered across the bars whilst his fingers knitted at the lock. He twisted the knife in and out, as if he planned to cut an egress instead of spelling one.
"Can't undo these bars without magic? Oh, I'm aware. Trust me, I know what I'm doing."
Devil didn't trust him, but he was hardly in a position to argue with the man unlocking his cell.
In fact, that there was any man unlocking his cell was something rare. It might well be a trick, for all Devil’s luck.
"All magic needs a bit of elbow grease, wouldn't you agree?" The man retreated from the door, dug his heels into the ground, and splayed his palm.
Now where had Devil heard those words before...?
A flare of blue light began seeping from the man's palm, dangerous and, even from where Devil was hanging, thrumming with energy. His face crumpled with determination—but, for his age, he had a grasp of magic Devil hadn't.
"Ceridwen," he said.
"I beg your pardon?" Devil asked.
"You look like you're trying to remember. And it's who said that quote. Ceridwen Amley. Oakstaff taught us together a number of times." He glanced at the blue energy. "Now, hold still. You don't want to me to shoot you when I'm just aiming for the door."
Well, it was a lot of energy for a cell door alone...
The aforementioned door sizzled in the blue light, and the bars warped. One twisted outwards from its bearings; the other bent inwards, as if an invisible bubble of steel had been wedged between them. The man raised an eyebrow and sidled between them. In spite of his size, he was a shadow amongst material objects.
Then he stopped. Devil expected him to creep forward, unshackle him from the wall, but the man simply studied him with opalescent eyes.
"Well," he said once. Softly.
Devil strained against the chains. He had to. The iron and dehydration had sapped his magic; without the stranger, he was but a hanging duck for the CTOs to make an execution of.
"Help me. Why are you--?"
He stopped, understanding—and bitter at that—reaching him.
"You just came here to taunt me, didn't you?" He spat on the ground. "I didn't know there were maggots as disgusting as non-magic users."
The man crossed his arms. "Hey. Enough of the insults, Devil. I was told to get you out and I did, but it's only fair if I get something in return, no?"
Devil snorted. "For saving my life?"
"A small price for something so great."
A life only equated a life. But the man stood blocking the doorway with his whole mass—and a palm that would knock Devil back into the stone wall if he so much but thought about dragon form.
"You know what they will do to me." Or the rumours, at least. Testing, testing, and more testing on those of them with uncommon genetics.
The man's upper lip curled. He did.
"Blast it...! What is it worth?"
The man's eyes flashed. Bingo. Damn. "Well, I suffered recently the loss of an...assistant, let us say. I need someone for jobs the underground send me on that I'd rather not get my hands dirty for. Gritty jobs. A dragon would be someone reliable for them."
They had no time to argue.
"Fine," Devil said. “Now are you going to un-shackle me or not?"
The silence from this fake crusader made Devil's stomach flip. If he had any solid in his stomach, it would be flooding the floor.
"Get me out of the effing manacles, man, unless you want your head blown off. And not by fire."
He could do that. Energy burst. Dragon's prerogative.
“Yes, I suppose a deal is a deal.” With almost a laugh and the curl of a malicious grin on his lips, the man used his combination of force and fizzle to leave the two shackles in halves on the cell floor. Devil shot them a glare, but nothing more would come of dwelling on entrapments. He sighed, grabbed the man by the arm and pulled him down the corridor.
It was sealed when they had escaped to the maggot's chambers underground: a blood-magic pact enhanced only by dint of Devil's dragon blood. His magic...it was a curse more than a power.
"Devil in name, I bind you as my servant until the occasion of my soul's death, to serve my will in its event. I will need you one day, Devil, remember that. The non-magics will not oppress us for ever."
Dagger nearly laughed aloud at how easy it had been. How needy Devil had been, made more so by his being a dragon. And now he was nowhere but under Dagger’s will, eliminating the final obstacles in his plan.
Something square and flat smacked the crown of his head. He registered it as a blaster butt, before the pain reverberated. Dark spots in his vision crowded into black, and Dagger had time to swear a choice word. He always left his head unguarded from the back.