What Lies Beneath

By Caitlin Fuhrman (Sun Valley High School, Aston, PA)

I’ve seen prisoners young and old, men and women alike tossed into cramped jails to rot under his majesty’s orders for petty crimes.

Every day someone was marched from their cell, screaming and begging for their life. Those poor fools would be publicly executed for the king’s entertainment. He wasted so many people, smothered out the flame of so many lives just because he could. Give a man like that power, and people die for it.

However, the guards had their own means of amusement outside of watching people hang. They enjoyed prodding at the elf that was caught trying to assassinate a noble. I’ve been in here for months, and have grown used to the tips of a blade digging into my side. I refused to give them the satisfaction of crying for mercy.

With the cycle of prisoners on death’s door every day, I know of one other that had remained in the prison without execution. I can only describe us both as the original prisoners. The other was a pirate, whose name escaped me most of the time. All I remember was his story. He was raiding the castle treasury, and was planning on leaving as soon as possible. Then the king stumbled in, drunk and vulnerable. Instead of sinking his blade into the bastard’s chest, the pirate hid away and hoped the king wouldn’t remember him. Later, knights dug him out from under a pile of gold and dragged him to his cell.

The pirate always said with a sneer. “The only thing I regret about that night is not killing that idiot when I had the chance to.”

Every day, we searched for a way to escape. The pirate and I promised that if one got out, we would let the other free. We waited for the knights to pass out, and fashioned lock pick after lock pick, but nothing worked. Then we both targeted a time, one where all the knights would be gone from the jail. Once they pulled someone from their cell, they disappeared for hours at a time to attend the death of a person.

Tonight, they pulled someone from their cell.All of them were drinking, as the person to be hanged that day was a noble that had disobeyed the king. Noble deaths were a special occasion. As they dragged the dead man walking out of the dungeon, a ring of keys dropped outside my cell. Once we heard the heavy door slam shut, I pressed myself against the bars of my cell and reached for the keys.

I could touch the ring with the tips of my fingers, but couldn’t nudge it close enough to grab. My shoulder whined from the pain of the bars digging into the bone, but I refused to give up. Something emerged from the pirate’s cage- a shepherd’s crook that was crudely fashioned from straw. He must have sacrificed some of his bedding. With the crook, he nudged the keys into my grasp.

I could practically taste the freedom, feel the wind in my hair, and my heart beat faster as I slid the key into my lock. The satisfying click and the screech of rusted metal were the sounds of my escape. I could finally stand to my full height instead of crouched in a cage. I quickly unlocked the pirate and made a dash for the door.

“Wait, you fool!” The pirate was standing by a chest, and was pulling out my gear. He held the items on my person that got confiscated when I was arrested. I ran over and gathered as much as I could carry, slinging my bow over my shoulder and securing my daggers into my boots.  The pirate armed himself as well, tucking pistols into his waistband and wrapping his coat around his shoulders.

We navigated the corridors and came to a large wooden door. I threw myself against in, as nothing would keep me from my freedom any longer. My companion helped, using the force of his shoulder to force the door open. The wood creaked and splintered, but the force let it burst open.

I ran out into the meadow, dropping onto the ground. Birds chirped overhead, and the fresh air bit my skin. I was finally free. The pirate snorted. “Daechir, I’ll be damned. Good to see you old friend.”

I stood up, staring at the pirate. I recognized him from a long time back, when I was nothing but an elven slave to the king. “Captain Clyde, you got captured? Not quite like the pirate captain I know.”

Clyde laughed, shaking his head. “Not quite the assassin I know. Didn’t you brag once that you could escape any situation without your presence being known?”

I shrugged. “We can’t always be perfect, captain.” I then looked away, adjusting my bow. “Well, looks like I have to go now, before we get thrown back in there.”

Clyde gave me a small salute. “I hope you don’t get caught again, friend. Stay out of trouble.”

I stared at the wooden door that led underground. “I have a feeling we both might never stay from trouble.”

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