I sneak towards the dungeon, treading on light feet. It is silent and dark. The only light I have is from a strange glowing object from the high cities, made by crafters. It’s not very reliable, and keeps flickering and shuddering. I glower at it, slapping it a couple times. It flickers once more, then begins to glow steadily.
I reach Kane’s prison, and pause for a second, taking a deep breath. I am about to destroy the only life I’ve ever known. And yet… it feels good. I feel powerful. Strong. For once, I am the one calling the shots.
Slowly, I insert the key into the lock, and open the prison door. Kane is asleep, and I cross the space between us in a few short, quick strides. He is asleep, and I hesitate, not wanting to wake him roughly. Slowly, gently, I reach out, placing a hand on his shoulder. I give it a gently shake, then speak softly.
“Kane. Kane. Wake up. We need to leave.”
His eyes flutter open, and he looks up, dazed. He squints at the light, confused. “Who… who are you? Why… what do you want?”
“Kane, we need to leave,” I repeat. “I’m getting you out of here.”
He hesitates, and for a moment, I dare to hope that he will come with me. Then recognition fills his face, and he pulls away from me. His face darkens, and I can see the pain return to his eyes.
“Natalia. Can you not leave me alone? What new lie is this? What has the Queen ordered you to do this time? Lie to me, pretend we are escaping, then betray me yet again? Just go. Leave me alone. I can’t take any more of your torture.”
I grit my teeth, and go to speak. And then, all hell breaks loose.
Shadowy figures spill from the darkness around us. My one source of light is knocked from my hands. Blind, I spin in the dark, searching for opponents, with no success.
And then, just like that, they are all around me. I feel a sharp spike of pain as a hand yanks me back by my hair, and another strong arm circles my throat in a vicious choke hold. I struggle, but my air supply is dwindling, and slowly I grow weaker and weaker, until I slump, half conscious, only held up by whoever has their arm around my throat.
Suddenly, there is a bright light being shone in my face, and the pressure on my throat decreases. I gasp for air, but my limbs are still weak. I can only try to look away- but now my head is being held in a steel grip, forcing my face back towards the light. Once I am well and truly stuck, a rough, male voice speaks from the darkness.
“Who are you?” he demands. “We weren’t expecting anyone to be here but the inventor.”
“Where’s Kane?” I hiss softly. “Where is he?”
“He’s right there.” For a second, the light shines away from me, to one side of the room, where Kane is standing beside two figures in black. His arms are crossed, and his eyes are cold and hard as he looks at me. That’s the only glimpse of him I get, before the light goes back onto my face, blinding me once again.
“Now answer, girl. Who are you? You’re obviously not one of the servants, and you’re not a commoner. So who are you?”
Kane’s voice answers from across the room. “She’s one of the Queen’s Devias. Perhaps you’ve heard of them.”
Fury fills the man’s voice when he speaks. “Oh yes, I’ve heard of them. They took my girl away from me when she was just a child. Dragged her off to become of of the Queen’s little mutts. So you’re a Devia, girl? Imagine that. Now what were you doing here, with the inventor? Planning on sticking a knife into him while he slept? That’s how you people usually operate, isn’t it?”
“I wasn’t going to hurt him,” I growl. “I was going to get him out of here.”
“I’m sure you were, Devia,” the man mocks scornfully. “When has a Devia every had any good intentions. However, if that was your intention, then you’ll be happy to know that he will be leaving this place. With us.”
“And then what?” I snarl. “Are you just going to take him out of one prison and into another?”
“Of course not. We are not like the monsters of the Queen. Kane will be free to go where he wishes once he is out of here.”
I grit my teeth, and look in Kane’s direction, even though I can’t see him. “Kane. Listen to what they’re saying. They’re going to imprison you. Your best bet isn’t with them. They’ll just use you, like everyone else has tried to.”
“Like you?” I hear him approach. “Well. Let me tell you a story, Natalia.”
“Kane,” I whisper, “please.”
He ignores my pleading, his tone taking on a hard edge. “Once there was a boy. He was young, but the world had already beaten him as much as it could. So he hid away. Then, one day, a girl came out of nowhere. She was nearly dead, but he chose to help her, even though he should have let her die there and then.”
“Kane, please don’t do this,” I beg.
Once again, he gives no signs of hearing me. “He saved her life. And despite the fact that she was an enemy, he let her go. And do you know why?”
I shake my head, miserably resigned.
“He loved her. He saw her, and listened to her speak, and fell in love. He couldn’t control it. When she promised to help him he thought, ‘how could someone like this lie to me?’ So he let her go. And you know what she did?” he hisses, voice turning bitter and vicious. “She betrayed him. She tricked him, lied to him, and sold him to slavery, under a cruel master. She let others hurt him. But the story wasn’t over then, was it? She dared try to pretend that she actually cared, and before all she’d done was follow orders. She dared to come back and tell him she was going to escape with him, and save him once and for all. Well you know what? I’ve learned my lesson. You’ve taught me about betrayal now. I won’t fall for your little tricks again. This time, I will make my own choices. Thanks to you, I’ve learned.”
“Kane!” I insist, the words hurting like physical blows. “You think these people are any better? You think they’ll let you go so easily? You’re wrong. They’ll lie to you, imprison you, and treat you the same way the Queen has. And this time you won’t have anyone who cares about you there trying to help you. If you go with them, you’ll sell yourself into slavery a second time, voluntarily. You’re no less naive than you were before! You’re just falling for the same tricks again!”
“You really think you can change my mind with your pretty lies?” he hisses. “You’re wrong.”
“Kane please, I-”
I get no further. The person holding me drives a fist into my gut. I choke, my words cut off as all the air in my lungs escapes me. My knees buckle, and the person drops me. My head hits the stone floor with a loud crack and I groan quietly. I go to rise, but feel the cold, hard edge of a blade pressing against my throat.
“Should we kill this one?” The voice is a woman’s; silky and smooth.
“No!” Kane speaks with sudden force.
There is silence for a moment. Then the woman speaks again. “Why would you want to save her? She hurt you, betrayed you, and brought you here. One less Devia in the world would do us good. Are you sure you want her alive?”
“I have something else in mind. Bring her over here.”
The knife vanishes from my back, and I am hauled to my feet. I let out a soft groan of protest, and get a kick for it. After a moment, we reach the wall. I am pushed against it, and I feel two cold links of metal circle my wrists. Then I am dropped, and I fall to my knees as my arms are jerked painfully over my head.
“There,” Kane sounds satisfied. “See how you like it.”
The man speaks suddenly. “And give this to my little girl if you see her. Tell her that her father misses her.” Something is tossed to the ground next to my feet. I hear a clang as well- the sound of the door- and then they are gone, and I am alone in the darkness.