Authors: Farah Oomerbhoy
“That’s enough,” said Finn. “Kalen, you can’t tell her everything; she may be one of them. Who knows why they have put her in here?”
Again Kalen looked worried and his eyes turned silver. I felt sorry for him. It wasn’t his fault, he just talked too much, and his tongue had obviously run away from him countless times before. I decided I needed to trust someone. I had no idea where I was or why I was sitting in a dungeon.
“Isn’t there any way we can escape from here?” I asked Kalen finally, in a whisper.
He stared at me as if I had grown horns.
“Do you have magic?” he asked. “Are you a mage?”
My eyes widened. “Magic?” I repeated.
What was a mage? I had read about magicians—was this the same? Was Oblek a mage? He had some sort of magic—I had seen him use it on Christopher, and I had felt it when he tried to choke the life out of me.
“I am not a mage,” I said quickly, trying to cover up my dumbfounded look. “I am just an ordinary girl, and I need to get away from Lord Oblek, or he is going to take me to Queen Morgana.” I hoped that using their hatred for Morgana would spur them to help me.
“Why, what did you do?” Kalen asked, his eyes wide.
“I didn’t do anything. It’s because of my family,” I said, not wanting to say too much. Not that I knew much to begin with. I still wasn’t sure whom I could trust here, but these fae definitely seemed like a safer bet than that horrible Oblek.
“So who is your family?” asked, Finn moving out of the shadows. “Oblek would not have abducted just any girl. If we manage to escape, and you are with us, Oblek will have guards everywhere looking for you, so you will not get far. He must be planning to ransom you, not kill you. Just wait for your family to pay him and you will be able to go home. We, on the other hand, are to be executed at dawn.” There was an edge to his voice.
“No, you don’t understand,” I said desperately. “He said very clearly that he will take me to Morgana. Please, there must be a way out of this place.”
“No one leaves Oblek’s dungeons alive. There is no way out,” said Finn, glaring at me.
“Don’t scare her, Finn,” said Kalen in my defense, moving in front of me, as if to shield me from him.
I couldn’t understand what I had done to make Finn dislike me, but I was more concerned with how we were going to get out of that dungeon. I turned to Kalen. “Don’t you want to find a way out? You said yourself that you are to be executed at dawn,” I said. “Don’t any of you have magic? I thought all fairies—sorry, fae—would have magic?”
Kalen looked at me intently. “It’s a little more complicated than that. Not all fae have the same sort of magic. And we are still young—babies, really—in the fae world. Our magic may not emerge for many years to come.”
I hung my head. We had no plan and no weapons, and Kalen and Finn didn’t look like they were old enough to fight the guards. We were doomed. I sat down on the cold stone floor, hugging my legs. I clasped my medallion in my palm for comfort. I couldn’t help a few tears from escaping again, and I brushed them away with the back of my hand, irritated at myself for being so utterly useless.
Kalen came up and patted me on my back awkwardly. “Please, my lady, don’t cry. I am sorry we can’t help you, but we are in the same predicament. Our best chance now is to pray to the goddess, Dana. Only she can help us now.”
Suddenly, there was a scraping noise at the dungeon door. I looked up through watery eyes.
“Shh,” said Kalen.
I stopped crying, wiped my tears with my fingers, and tried not to sniffle. The other two were silent, too. I held my breath. Terror welled up inside my chest. Had they come for me? Or were they going to take one of the others? My hands had gone clammy, and I clutched them together to stop them from shaking.
We waited as the grating noise went on. After what seemed like hours but was really only a few seconds, the thick and battered wooden door to the cell opened slowly.
A young man in a billowing black cloak, with the hood over his head, stepped inside. He removed his cowl and turned towards me, just as a shaft of moonlight streamed in through the tiny barred window, illuminating the stranger. I stared up at him through my tear-soaked lashes. He wore a black mask over his glittering eyes. His dark, untidy hair fell in soft waves that framed his finely chiseled features, but his grey eyes looked like storm clouds as he scanned the room in one quick sweep.
He was over six feet tall, I thought absently, completely forgetting for the moment to wonder why he was here. He was lean, muscular, and dressed in a loose white shirt worn over fitted brown leather trousers. A dark leather belt round his waist had a whole arsenal of weapons tucked into it, including a sleek sword and a small knife. I also noticed another knife strapped to his thigh and an additional pair tucked into his high brown boots.
Who was he? Was he one of Oblek’s men?
I looked down at the floor, trying to wipe my tear-stained face, then stood up. I smoothed my hair and tucked stray strands behind my ears. I must have looked a sight.
“Well, well, if it isn’t the infamous Black Wolf,” said Finn in a whispered sneer, coming out of the shadows. “Come to save the day again, have you? And how do you propose to do that this time? Oblek has doubled the guard, and there is a price on your head. Morgana’s men have been given instructions to kill you on sight.”
The mysterious stranger just turned and smiled at Finn. He didn’t look perturbed in the least.
“Rafe, you came,” said Kalen softly.
Rafe nodded as he shut the heavy wooden door quietly. “Did you doubt that I would?”
“Finn said you didn’t have time to come get a useless pair of fae like us and that you were going to let them kill us,” said Kalen. “But I told him that I knew you would find a way to save us,” he added with a smug glance at Finn.
“Ah yes, Finn . . . quite the pessimist, isn’t he?” said Rafe, looking Finn straight in the eyes.
Finn, quite surprisingly, appeared embarrassed and decided to keep quiet.
“Well, we’re not out of danger yet,” Rafe said, turning to Kalen.
“You shouldn’t have come, Rafe,” said Kalen seriously. “Your life is in enough danger as it is. We could have escaped on our own, you know.”
Rafe smiled and patted Kalen on the back. “You know I would never let down my friends, Kalen, no matter the dangers. And I don’t think your mother would have ever forgiven me if I let anything happen to you.”
Kalen beamed at Rafe.
I glanced over at Finn, who looked very angry. I couldn’t understand why. Wasn’t he happy that Rafe or the Black Wolf or whoever he was had come to save us?
“And who is this?” Rafe asked Kalen, as if suddenly remembering I was there. He glanced over at me with an amused expression on his face.
“Another prisoner,” answered Kalen quickly, and proceeded to give Rafe a quick summary of who I was and why I was here.
“So you see,” he was saying to Rafe, “if we don’t take her with us, she will surely die.” Kalen was being quite dramatic, but I think it worked.
Rafe looked serious, obviously weighing the options of whether to help me or not.
“She comes with us,” he said, after a moment of hesitation.
Finn didn’t argue as we followed Rafe out of the dungeon.
“Who are you?” I asked as we moved quietly and swiftly in a line up the stairs.
“A friend,” Rafe said simply, glancing back for a moment to smile at me. And I have to say it was the cutest smile I had ever seen. I didn’t even know him, but whoever he was, I was intrigued to say the least.
Somehow he had managed to get the lower dungeon door open, and he stepped out first.
“Wait here,” he whispered to us.
I heard a scuffle, and, sooner than expected, Rafe was back.
“All clear,” he said in a jovial tone, as if he was enjoying this. Rafe seemed very confident, as though it was a hobby of his to break in and out of castles.
We gingerly stepped over two dazed guards, and Rafe took us through a narrow stone tunnel, which was a different path to the one where I had entered the dungeons. The stone tunnel was dark and damp as we silently followed Rafe. The only glow was from Rafe’s hand, which illuminated the tunnel with a ball of light.
I gaped at him. Was he one of the mages Kalen had talked about? I was fascinated to see real magic at work once again, as long as it wasn’t directed at me.
The tunnel opened into a small, shadowy alcove in the main castle. The corridors were deserted at this time of night, and we ran as quietly as we could through the dark passages of the eerie castle. Rafe seemed to know exactly where he was going, and the others followed him without question. As we entered the courtyard, we had to keep to the shadows, crouching at times and flattening ourselves against the dark stone walls as we moved.
“How did you get into the castle?” I asked, following Rafe.
“It wasn’t difficult,” he said, with a faint smile. “Oblek’s guards are not very well trained. The eastern gate is poorly guarded, and half of them are drunk or passed out at this time of night. The hour before dawn is the best time for an escape.”
“Or a robbery,” I added, glancing at him from the corner of my eye. I guessed he was some sort of thief or outlaw from the way Finn spoke earlier.
He seemed to find that funny and chuckled. “True,” he agreed.
“How do I know if I can trust you?” I asked. After all, I knew absolutely nothing about him except that he was a wanted man.
“I don’t think you really have a choice right now, my lady,” said Rafe, stopping abruptly and turning towards me.
I looked down. He was right; I didn’t have a choice. He was my escape route, and I had to trust him, for now at least.
“We go to the stables,” said Rafe softly, signaling Kalen and Finn to follow.
I glanced back. Finn was still scowling, but he didn’t dare question Rafe.
There were three guards in the stables. They drew their weapons when they saw us, but were too surprised to cry out immediately for help. They just stood there, gaping at us.
Rafe raised his right hand and shot two bolts of white light from his palm. Both guards crumpled to the ground, just as Christopher had when Oblek’s bolt had stuck him. The third guard tried to shout for assistance, but when he opened his mouth nothing came out. Rafe had done something with his magic, rendering the guard unable to speak.
Frustrated, the guard rushed towards us, his sword raised. Rafe already had his sword in his hand. He blocked a blow to the head from the remaining guard and pushed him backward, slicing him cleanly on the back of his knees, then hit him in the face with the hilt of his sword. The guard went down just as fast as the other two.
I watched Rafe, mesmerized.
“Come on everyone,” said Rafe, quite casually, in spite of the situation. “We should leave now. It will be dawn soon.”
I nodded. Was he for real?
Kalen grinned. “Whatever you say, Rafe,” he said.
“Get the horses,” Rafe ordered Kalen and Finn.
They untied and led three horses quietly out of the stable. I followed Rafe, but I was still nervous. I hoped that I wasn’t making a mistake trusting him, but he was my only escape route, even though he could just as easily betray me to Morgana.
Suddenly a shout snapped me out of my silent contemplation.
“The prisoners are escaping,” a guard yelled, spotting us.
“Kalen, we will regroup at the meeting place,” Rafe said quietly, so Finn couldn’t hear. The two fae mounted up. “You,” he then said to me, and held out his hand.
“Come with me,” he urged.
Before I could respond, he jumped up onto the horse in one fluid stroke, clasped my hand in his, and swung me up behind him. I held onto his waist for dear life, as Rafe gathered up the reins and rode out of the stable.
Dawn was upon us.
The gates had just been opened to let traders and farmers into the castle, and our three horses galloped across the courtyard towards the drawbridge.
Shouts of, “Close the gates, close the gates,” rang in my ears.
My heart was hammering in my chest. Everything was happening so fast. We were nearing the drawbridge, which was being slowly pulled up by creaking iron chains. Rafe let Finn and Kalen’s horses go first. He held out his hand and shot jets of white light like before, and made a path for us through the guards. Kalen and Finn cleared the drawbridge. They galloped ahead, already out of harm’s way.
A few of the guards had now pulled themselves together and started shooting arrows at us.
“It’s the Black Wolf,” shouted one guard.
“Get him,” shouted another. “The queen is offering a fortune for his head.”
A frenzy of chattering broke out as the word spread. More guards hastened to help their comrades. An arrow whizzed past my head, and I was suddenly terrified. If we were caught now, they would definitely kill us. What if an arrow hit our horse? What if an arrow hit me? Various scenarios started playing out in my head, all of them ending in a gruesome death. I was petrified, but I clung on to Rafe, determined not to fall off the horse.
Our mount galloped furiously towards the drawbridge, which was now at an angle, chains creaking as guards tried desperately to raise it. We had neared the gate, and Rafe spurred the horse faster and faster. The drawbridge was now a steep slope. The horse slipped once, and I nearly fell off; I screamed, but we were still thundering on.
I closed my eyes and prayed.
Finally, I felt the horse jump, and my heart jumped with it. I had never been so scared in my life. I could hear arrows whizzing past my head and the guards shouting. I felt a jarring impact as we hit the ground, but miraculously we were still on the horse.
When I finally opened my eyes, I realized that we had cleared the moat and were now heading towards the forest that lay in wait behind Oblek’s dark castle.
I could see Kalen and Finn in the distance; they were galloping towards the forest and away from Morgana’s minions.
The guards chased us, but we had a considerable lead, and Rafe was a magnificent horseman, so we managed to shake them off. We lost them as soon as we entered the gnarled forest. For some reason, they didn’t seem to want to follow us there. I had no idea where Kalen and Finn were; we had split up, and I was all alone with Rafe.