I watched from the stone arch window as an ochre haired girl was pushed to her knees, shamed in front of the king. She looked straight up at me, her eyes were faint but her aura of fear reached the top most towers of the castle. The moment she was dragged off to the arrest cells I moved on to my room. She was none of my concern, as far as I was aware she was someone who deserved to be in those cells.
Yet I felt restless. Looking out over the courtyard from my window the sun glinted on the white stone, and yet I couldn't forget the girl and the way she looked at me. The scene I had viewed replayed through my mind. The way her berries scattered and her hair fell over her face.
Turning from the window I started to pace at the foot of my bed. Thinking, plotting almost. I'd heard an unspoken plea from this girl, a want for help, to be heard. I sat in an oak chair at a matching desk, I traced my fingers over the grain of the wood. Each line different, depths and colour each to their own. I sighed and rested my head on my hand still tracing the grain.
A spark ignited in my brain, illuminating a plan. I grabbed a spare roll of parchment and loaded quill. Quickly I formulated a letter of request to my father, the king, to see the new prisoner. All it required was a seal, one that lay unattended in his study. If it bore the seal of the king, the guards wouldn't even question the contents of the letter. Folding the letter into the folds of my waistcoat, I grabbed my travelling cloak made of the finest lamvine wool and raced to the high study.
Down shadowed corridors and up darkened staircases. The setting sun cast darkened ghosts in the corners, and monstrous shadows across the walls. Finally I reached a mahogany door cast with iron. I pushed it open just a crack to make sure nobody was in there. Smoke trailed from a dying fire casting a warm glow across the room. The seal wax was already warm. The king always keeps a warm stash for emergencies. I poured the warm liquid on the folded letter and gently pressed the stamp against it. It felt soft to press, wax oozed out from under the stamp. I lifted it up, a crown with two swallows either side now upon the letter.
Steps. Faint but they grew louder as they climbed the stairwell. I darted out the door and closed it silently. Only the grating of the iron could be heard.
"Phoenix, is that you?" a familiar voice echoed up the stairs.
"Yes sire" I replied exhaling a breath of relief.
"What are you doing in my tower? And why are you wearing your travelling cloak?" the king enquired as he came to face me.
"I was just looking for you sire, I just wanted to let you know I fancied a walk across the courtyard and through the orchard. I didn't want you to worry if you couldn't find me later your highness."
"Oh, that's fine my boy, it's unlike you to be wandering at this hour though. Are you feeling quite okay?"
"Yes sire, I'm just feeling a little restless and as it's a beautiful and clear night I thought I might take a walk under the stars. Now if you don't mind. Can I be on my way?"
"Yes, yes of course. Good night Phoenix"
"Good evening sire" As I replied I passed the king and headed off as quickly as I could without it looking suspicious. Down the now candlelit stairwells and corridors and out the side tower door. I pulled the hood up on my cloak and headed towards the cells. I took a swift glance at the stars, all of which were burning bright, covering the court in a silver light.
Xefor stood at the arrest door, arms crossed, he too with his hood up.
"Evening Xefor, I have a letter requesting to see prisoner 702. If you could let me in to see her."
"Evenin' little sire, I'm going to have to see your papers for that" Xefor replied with a smile, "not sure why you would want to see her. She's dangerous, and I'm going to need to escort you down to her"
"I wish you wouldn't call me little sire any more, I'm not a child like I was once. You might still be 40 seasons my senior but I'm not so little. " I replied with a chuckle, " I know she's dangerous but my father thinks me capable of doing this one alone, I've got it in writing that I can be allowed to visit alone." I pulled out the letter I'd written not an hour prior to the meeting. Xefor opened the door to the chamber and handed me the brown key, upon seeing the crown's mark in red.
"Night Xefor" I said as I headed into the damp and rotting chambers.
"Night little-un" Xefor replied with a wink as he closed the door behind me. I took a torch from the rack to the right of me and headed down the narrow corridor. The walls were glistening slightly from the damp, areas twinkled where it had crystalised into frost. It made the dull, dank prison seem almost magical and hopeful. I passed doors, too many to count, 698, 699, 700, 701, 702.
702. The door was completely covered in the twinkling frost, no other was like it. The numbers etched into the door were completely silver grey, making them seem like jewels. Sliding the key into the door, it swung open with a click. She was sat in the corner, her knees pulled up to her chin, her green eyes wide as they looked up. They looked half hopeful, yet part of her seemed like she'd lost the last of her hope hours ago.
"Why are you here?" I enquired as I crouched down in front of her bringing my eyes level with hers.
"I don't know," she replied lowering her eyes to seemingly look at my feet, "I want to go home. I haven't done anything."
"I know. I'm getting you out of here," I said slightly unsure but somehow knowing.
"What? How?" she replied. "There's no way out of this place, I've heard about it before."
"Don't listen to what you've been told. Not everybody that put in these cells is innocent. Not everyone has a little helping hand" I stood up and wandered to the small hole that had been pummelled into the side of the cell.
"The moon is past the half night mark, Xefor should have left by now, if we're quick we can get out before the next guard takes watch. Hurry now, get up" I urged the girl to her feet, and opened the door for her. She looked at me warily as she disappeared into the corridor. I took her by the arm and started to walk towards the entrance.
"What's your name?" I asked as we turned another corner, the corridor sloping upwards slightly.
"Talyn" she replied
"That is one of the blood elves names isn't it? From the northern realms?"
"I don't know. I don't talk to many people who have travelled that far and lived to tell the tale," She replied sheepishly. I took it as an end to the conversation. The door ahead was in sight I picked up the pace, Talyn close behind. I slowed to a halt behind the door, checking through the cracks left by the warped wood to see if there was guard outside. The immediate coast was clear. Ducking out of the door and leaving the key on the side wall, I headed up out of the courtyard dragging Talyn with me. Quietly like thieves we stole through the city. Using the back alleys and quiet streets. No-one was about, all we heard or saw was the odd cat.
It wasn't long before we were at the large gates at the entrance of the city.
"Gatekeeper, can you let us out of the city, it's urgent. By request of the king" I thrust the letter into the drowsy gatekeepers hands. As soon as he saw the seal the gate was opened.
"On your way Master Xade," the gatekeeper bowed and ushered us out of the door.
I turned to face Talyn, "I have a cottage up in the forest, have you ever seen the black stallion in the paddock?" I whispered quickly.
"The black stallion, he's yours?" she replied.
"Yes. I want you to go up to him, and walk to the north of the paddock keep walking north through the forest until you see the cottage you'll be safe there. I'll come and see you tomorrow. Now go" I gave Talyn a slight push of encouragement.
"What will happen to you? Won't you be in trouble?" she whispered taking a step towards me.
"I have an alibi. Don't worry. Now go. Quick!" I pushed her slightly harder in the direction of the paddock. With a slight nod she disappeared into the dark. Her footsteps silent in the night.