You can find the 4th and 5th chapters of the story here. [Check the Author’s note at the top for links to chapters 1-3.]
Enjoy! More to come soon!
She sang at night, loud as she could, for the others. The prison walls were thick and she was not certain she could even be heard. Every night, she sang until she fell asleep. Music had always comforted her, and she longed for it enough to make her own.
The night did not frighten her. It was only the morning she feared. The rising sun brought with it the lifting latch, the cold floor, and the cracking whip. She knew that if she withstood what the mornings brought her, she could hide in the dusk and darkness for solace. The night was her sanctuary.
In its stillness she tried to remember herself, she would wait in the quiet, praying for the return of her memory. Lately, she found her hope in dreams. Shards of her old life met her there; it was as if she could lie moments of her past side by side and move them about till they made sense.
That night she did not dream. She only hid in the black void of sleep.
The sound of the latch jostled her awake. She fumbled around for the cloak, but could not draw it about herself in time. She cowered on her knees, pressing her face to the floor and bracing herself, “I am sorry, My Lord,” she said, “I was yet asleep.” She heard the sound of the door scraping across the floor as it was being closed. She had not yet been ordered to stand, so she remained face-down, waiting for a command.
She felt a hand gently brush her fingers. A calm voice said to her, “Fear not,” and the prisoner looked into the eyes of the guard who had fed her and broken her fall.
“It’s you,” she said, “You are alone, sir. Did he send you?”
“No,” he said, “I came of my own accord. To thank you.”
“To thank me?” she looked to him for an explanation.
“You sing beautifully,” he said, “My nightmares wake me often. Which leads me here to your songs. And in that, I am thankful for them.”
She beamed at him. The green amulet around his neck glowed. He could feel its warmth.
“Please, sir,” she said, “a name. I must know who I am to thank for the kindness shown to me of late.”
“Liem,” he said. He took her hand in his with intent to shake it. But he could only hold it there.
“And you, dear lady,” Liem smiled, “Who are you?”
“I- I do not remember,” she admitted, “I have known only these dark halls and cold rooms for so long. There are only flashes of the past that are clear to me, and those only come to me in dreams. So I know not how much I can trust them.”
“Dreams can be very powerful,” Liem assured her, “Don’t worry, we will find out who you are. I am sure of it.”
“We?” the prisoner asked him, “But I remember only moments, and we are strangers. And I must remain here.”
“Not for long,” Liem said, “You’re coming with me. We have both been trapped here far too long. I am not afraid of him. And while you are with me, you need not be.”
“We could be killed,” she said as Liem helped her to her feet, “And how will we escape? Surely we will be caught.”
“Put on your cloak, “ Liem said, as if he had not heard her concern, “and hold out your hands.” She did so, and he clasped the irons about her wrists, gently. He did the same with her feet, “Follow me,” he said when he finished.
He hesitated before he lifted the latch, “I am sorry,” he looked into her eyes and fumbled for his next words, “For not helping you sooner. Forgive me.”
“Sir—“, she began.
“Liem,” he corrected her.
“Liem,” she said timidly, “There is nothing to forgive. Unless you forgive me– for never being able to repay you.”
He shook his head, dismissing her obligation with his smile.
Liem produced a key from some hidden pocket, and used it to open the huge door. The prisoner noticed with surprise that her companion opened it with little effort. The sunrise was sending reckless beams of light through the hall and into the room. Liem closed the door, having to restrain himself to keep from slamming it. He locked it once more and replaced the latch.
“I know it will seem difficult, especially since I put you back in irons, “ Liem said, facing the prisoner, “But I must ask you to trust me. I will let no one harm you.”
“I believe you,” she said.
He smiled at the prisoner and pulled the hood of her cloak over her head. She blushed deeply and looked at the floor in front of her.
Liem led her to the familiar staircase and down it, carefully. They reached the bottom and she had to stifle a gasp when she noticed the man with the green eyes waiting for them there.
“Ah, anxious to begin were you?” he asked Liem.
“Yes, sir,” Liem said with an air of confidence.
The man with the green eyes laughed, “Good lad,” he said, “I knew when I went to her cell and saw it empty that I could expect you here.”
“Of course, sir,” Liem answered him dutifully.
The man with the green eyes nodded approvingly.
“For your diligence, I will let you conduct the inquiry. You have proved yourself worthy of handling additional responsibilities with the prisoner.”
“Thank you sir, “ Liem said. The prisoner could scarce believe that the guard she heard speaking now was the same one who had been so gentle when they were alone.
The man with the green eyes opened the door in front of them. Liem entered first. The prisoner and the man with the green eyes followed. She removed her cloak and stood in silence. She trusted Liem, but there was uncertainty in his eyes.
“Begin,” the man with the green eyes said, with satisfaction.
Liem took a deep breath. He cleared his throat.
“Do you renounce your crimes?” he asked her, taking great care to remove the feeling from his words.
“I do not,” she answered.
Liem looked to the man with the green eyes. He hesitated.
“Go on, boy,” the man with the green eyes said.
Liem raised his arm. He thought of the prisoner and his promise to her. He thought of her voice, its sweet song, even when she spoke. He thought of her hair and her eyes. He felt the amulet burning against his skin. He reared back, closed his eyes, and struck her. She fell to the floor.
“Well done,” his audience was pleased, “Fifteen and take her back.”
“Yes sir,” he heard the words coming out of his own mouth, but felt as if someone else was saying them. The man with the green eyes exited, the door slammed shut, and they were alone. As the sound of the footsteps from the hall grew faint, Liem turned toward the prisoner. Falling to his knees, he looked at her face. Her eyes were opened; she was smiling. Her face had not even a mark on it from his blow.
“God, forgive me,” he pleaded, as much to her as to God, “I’m sorry for that. I just, I –“
“It’s alright, it’s alright,” she said, “I don’t know how, but it didn’t hurt me.”
“What?” he was confused, “I don’t understand.”
“Me either, “ she put her hand on his shoulder, “It’s alright. Now, what do we do next?”
Liem looked around the room, and went to a pile of straw in the corner. He cleared the straw away to find only stones. He withdrew a piece of paper from his pocket, took a deep breath, and said “Open”.
The stones fell into what appeared to be a bottomless hole.
“Are you ready?” he asked her, his eyes glittering with mischief.
“Yes,” she did not have time to consider how a hole opened up in a stone floor. She went to Liem.
“Hold on tight,” he said. Her arms clenched around him.
The amulet lit up green.
And Liem jumped.