Authors: Callie Kanno
E’nes shuddered as he stepped over the body. “I do not think I
will ever get used to such a sight.”
His companion set his mouth in determination. “It is not a matter
of getting used to it. It is remembering that an alarm is sounding and we have
work to do.”
This level of the fortress was set up in a maze of narrow
corridors with plain wooden doors every several feet. Sa’jan hurried to the
first one and tried the knob.
“It is unlocked,” he said in concern.
“Is that not a good thing?” asked E’nes.
The older man shook his head. “That means that security measures
have been placed elsewhere.”
He opened the door slowly and stepped inside. E’nes waited
anxiously until he was beckoned forward. He wasn’t sure what he expected, but
it certainly wasn’t the sight that met his eyes.
While the corridors were dimly lit with torches, this room was
filled with dozens of smokeless lamps. The walls were covered with hundreds of
small alcoves filled with jars and glass containers of every shape and size.
Some were filled with powders or what appeared to be odd colored pebbles.
Others were filled with vibrant liquids or phosphorescent sludge.
In the center of the room there was a stone well with large
rectangular tables on three of the sides. The tables were filled with books and
parchment, as well as tools that one might see in the shop of an alchemist—several
mortars and pestles, empty glass containers, scales, and miniature versions of
braziers where things could be heated.
The thing that caught E’nes’s eye was a series of large stone
bowls on the farthest table. They were filled to the brim with a dark red
liquid that almost appeared black, even in the bright light. He walked over to
it, not sure that he wanted a closer look.
Sa’jan only gave it a cursory glance as he moved to inspect the
contents of the alcoves. “Blood,” he grunted.
A wave of nausea swept over E’nes. “Whose?”
“I have a good idea,” he replied grimly.
After another moment of inspection, Sa’jan seemed to come to a
decision. “E’nes, go get a torch. We are destroying this place.”
The young man was only too happy to comply. He ran out into the
corridor, glancing to make sure that there were no other guards, and returned
to the room with the requested item.
“We had better hurry. I heard shouting getting closer.”
Sa’jan nodded curtly and got to work. He overturned the tables and
pushed them up against the walls, then he took the torch from his companion and
set them on fire.
They shut the door behind them as they left that room. Moving as
quickly and quietly as they could, they went on to the next room in the
This room was much smaller than the previous one and held nothing
but an elaborate chair with a young L’avan strapped to it. He was tied down so
tightly he couldn’t move, and there were long cuts on each of his arms. Large
bowls had been placed beneath his arms to catch the blood as it ran down.
E’nes ran forward to free the trapped L’avan. His eyes fluttered
weakly and he looked up at his rescuers in disbelief.
“Who are you?” the prisoner asked in their native language.
“I am E’nes, son of Me’shan. What is your name?”
“Van’dan.” he replied weakly.
Sa’jan began bandaging the young man’s arms. “How did you come to
He didn’t look very certain himself. “I…do not know. I was trading
in a village…and then I was here.”
They helped him to his feet.
“Well, it does not matter for now. You are coming with us.”
Tears of relief ran down Van’dan’s pale cheeks. “Thank you.”
E’nes tipped out the bowls of blood on the floor, not willing to
leave anything that would aid further Shimat experimentation.
Sa’jan’s attention was on the prisoner. “Do you know where the others
are being kept?”
He nodded slowly. “I know of a few others. We were all kept
together before I was brought here. There may be others that are being held in
a different cell.”
The sound of numerous footsteps running past caught their
attention. The L’avan looked at each other in a grim concern.
“It will not be long until we are discovered,” their leader
E’nes nodded his agreement. “They will probably begin searching
each of the rooms.”
“If they are not already,” added Van’dan.
They opened the door a crack to look out at the commotion down the
hall. A burly Shimat was splitting the others into groups and instructing them
on where to begin their search for the intruders.
One of the groups started in the room that the L’avan had set on
fire. Their cries of dismay echoed down the stone hallway when they discovered
the destruction in progress. Other Shimat ran towards them to aid in putting
the fire out.
While they were distracted, the three L’avan rushed across the
corridor to the next wooden door. They ducked into the room before checking to
see if it was secure; but their haste worked to their advantage, as they caught
the Shimat within by surprise.
She was a thick woman with blunt features that were wrinkled in
concentration as she bent over one of the three tables that had L’avan strapped
to them. She looked up in surprise as they ran in, and only paused for a moment
before springing into
action. There was just enough of a hesitation for Sa’jan to sprint
across the room to grapple with her.
The Shimat was unexpectedly quick and strong for her size. With a
fast spin she twisted out of his grasp and brought his arm behind his back.
E’nes rushed forward to aid his friend.
Seeing the impending attack, the Shimat jerked Sa’jan’s arm
upward, dislocating it with a sharp crack. She then pushed him away roughly and
turned to face the younger L’avan. She picked up a jar of sickly yellow liquid
that she had been testing on the skin of the prisoners and threw it at E’nes.
flared up to
deflect the projectile, but it did not save him from the powerful kick that
sent him flying backwards. He landed violently against one of the shelves on
the wall, breaking a number of other glass containers.
Most of these jars contained powders or dried leaves, but there
was one that broke over his arm that contained a thick, silvery slime. It
soaked through the material of his sleeve and left his skin feeling cold. The
chilling sensation ran up his arm and straight to his heart, weakening his
knees and muddling his thoughts.
Van’dan rushed over to E’nes and began tearing at the infected
sleeve. He ripped the material just above where it was saturated and flung it
away from them. Then he immersed E’nes’ arm in a nearby bucket of water.
The effects of the slime were lessened somewhat, and he became
aware that the fight between the Shimat and Sa’jan was still going on.
The L’avan was doing everything with his left hand, as it was his
right shoulder that was dislocated, but he still seemed to be holding up fairly
well. Unfortunately, not well enough to win. The pain Sa’jan felt detracted
power from his
, and the most he
could do was slow the Shimat’s movements enough to keep up with her.
Van’dan, seeing the problem, got to his feet and looked around
frantically. He grabbed the torch that E’nes had been carrying and began using
it to smash all of the glass containers in the room. The Shimat was distracted,
first by the noise and then by the destruction of her life’s work.
Sa’jan lunged forward to jab his dagger into her side. Her eyes
widened as she fell to her knees, clutching her side in pain. The wound did not
kill her, but it left her momentarily disabled.
Sa’jan went down on one knee to look directly in her face. “Where
are the others being kept?”
She tried to smile mockingly, but it turned into a grimace. When
it became clear that she would not cooperate, a sharp blow to the head rendered
Van’dan, who had finished destroying all of the experiments in the
room, spoke in the L’avan language. “It does not matter. I will help you find
all of them.”
He examined Sa’jan’s shoulder and then popped it back into place
with a deliberate motion. Sa’jan bit back a cry of pain, but nodded his thanks.
E’nes tried to get to his feet, but fell down again. The two other
L’avan hurried over to help him.
“What is wrong with him?” asked Sa’jan.
Van’dan pointed to his arm, which was still colored silver from
the slime. “It is some kind of
poison. They used it
on all of the L’avan because it makes us easier to control.”
The older L’avan frowned in confusion. “Why?”
spent on eradicating the poison from the body. If a L’avan uses their
for anything else,
the poison takes hold and kills them.”
He opened his ragged tunic to show a silver streak of his own
painted on his chest. “It
neutralizes our gifts and weakens our physical strength at the same time. As
long as they do not use it too frequently, they can keep us this way
“What happens if it is used too often?”
He glanced at the sleeve he had ripped from E’nes. “Then the
poison overcomes the
, and the
E’nes looked up at Van’dan in despair. “I cannot use my
The former prisoner shook his head sadly. “You will die if you
Sa’jan was pacing back and forth. “Is there a cure?”
“Only time,” was the reply. “A L’avan’s
will eventually rid the body of the poison, but it takes
“How long?” he asked gruffly.
Van’dan shrugged. “We were re-poisoned once a week, so it probably
does not last much longer than that.”
Tears of frustration welled up in E’nes’ eyes. “A week? We will be
on our way home again by then! How can I…” He paused to steady his voice. “How
can I help my sister if I am like this?”
An ominous silence filled the room.
Sa’jan broke it by walking over to the L’avan strapped on the
table and untying their bond. “You can help by looking after all the prisoners
All three of them were barely conscious, and it took a bit of
effort to get them to their feet. The reality of how weak these L’avan were
gave the rescuers pause. How were they going to be able to save others while
trying to help these prisoners along, all the while avoiding the Shimat guards?
Their leader surveyed them and then came to a decision.
“E’nes, you will take these prisoners and hide them in the
stables. Then meet me back here to get the next group and take them to hiding.”
The young L’avan started to protest, but he was sternly cut off.
“We stand a much better chance of remaining undiscovered if we
split up. Also, if something should happen to me, then at least some of you
E’nes still shook his head stubbornly. “What about you? You cannot
take on the entire Shimat army.”
Sa’jan smiled. “That is not my intention.”
He opened the door and glanced around, making sure that the coast
was clear before stepping into the corridor. The others followed him,
supporting each other.
Then, without warning, a group of Shimat turned the corner.
“Go!” shouted Sa’jan as he drew his sword.
Without waiting to see what his companions would do, he charged
into the midst of his enemies.
King L’unn’s horse shifted nervously beneath him. The tension in
the air was so thick that it left a bitter taste in his mouth. The L’avan army
waited in the grasslands just beyond the mountain pass, and the mercenary army
was closing in. It was only a matter of time until the battle would begin.
Fear was the dominant emotion on the faces of each individual, and
L’unn couldn’t blame them. They were outnumbered at least two to one, maybe
more, and a good portion of the army had no training beyond what they had been
given in the last few days. They all looked to him, searching for some measure
of comfort, and he did his best to reassure them.
He sat tall and proud, appearing to be confident. He rode his
horse along the lines of waiting men, giving words of encouragement and
grasping shoulders of friends.
There was some consolation in knowing that the younger soldiers
were acting as archers placed in the trees of the forest behind them. They
would be shielded from most of the danger. L’unn was also glad to know that all
the L’avan citizens were well protected in their strongholds.
His beloved wife was safe. That much, at least, he knew. His eyes
turned to his eldest son, who was also riding among the men to help abate their
fears. His thoughts turned to his younger children who were many miles away,
and still in grave danger. What if none of his children survived?