Râegan… Râegan! Can you hear me? Please… we don’t have much time. I need you to get up. Please… please…
Shakily, I stood. Everything around me was black, but I could still hear the insistent voice.
Are you alright?!
“Who… are you?” I asked.
Râegan, it’s me, Éif! came the voice. Where are you? Nothing is working!
“I… don’t know,” I managed.
Râegan, we have used our best tracking spells. Why can’t we find you?!
“Iron prison… keeps out magic…” I replied.
Do you have any idea where that is?
“Somewhere in the humanlands… Hâfléngs… many many Hâfléngs,” I muttered.
How did you get there?
“Ambush… fight…” I said warily, not sure I wanted to say everything.
My voice was becoming more stable now, as my exhaustion faded.
“Yes, Éif. I’m a prisoner here. I need you to keep Miranda safe.”
What did they do to you?!
“Magic overextension,” I replied. “Hurts. I’ll recover, I’m sure.”
How can we get to you?
“You can’t,” I replied quietly. “There are thousands of them down here.”
Râegan, you can’t talk like that. We’re going to find you.
“Éif…” I said softly.
We’ll find you, Râegan. She repeated. Then she was gone.
The world shook back into focus and I awoke. I was lying on the cot in my metal room. I tried to move, but the world wavered, swinging and blurring dangerously. I stopped, and it fell still.
Still not strong enough. I cursed myself for losing focus. It was costing me dearly. Each day I lost because of this weakness was a day I could have spent trying to, say, escape. Or at least find out what was going on. Usually Hâfléngs didn’t gather in large numbers like this. This… was an empire of them, just out of sight.
And I am in the center of it all. For some reason that I do not yet understand.
I groaned but it was a mistake. The simple noise sent shards of pain through my skull.
Overextension was a dangerous thing. I was amazed that I wasn’t dead. I closed my eyes and let myself rest. Unnecessary movement would cause me excessive pain. And it would not help me regain my strength any faster.
I heard angry voices outside of my prison. Then the door slammed open, and the leader Hâfléng stormed in, flanked by two guards.
I cursed under my breath. What does he want now?
He seemed frantic about something, and he gestured at me. “Take her.”
The two Hâfléngs obeyed, pulling me upright. But my legs could still not hold me, and I dropped to my knees.
“She still can’t walk,” one of the Hâfléngs told the leader.
The leader sighed angrily. “Well bring her anyways!”
The two nodded and hauled me up again. The Hâfléngs then hurried out of my prison and into the hallway dragging me along with them.
Slowly, my energy began to return, along with my magic. I was careful to avoid killing myself. A single spell, and I would be dead.
What’s going on? I wondered.
I had no answer to that, as I was forced along. Then I realized.
For some reason, I’m being taken deeper into the building. Even if someone does come, they’ll never find me!
Slowly, as my strength returned, I began to be able to stumble along, rather than being dragged, which was a relief.
I was hurried through several more hallways, then down, as if I were being funneled straight into the heart of the earth. Immediately, we took a branching corridor to the right. Finally, after so many twists and turns that I got lost, we reached a room. The door was opened, and I was shoved inside. The door slammed and locked but I could hear the leader Hâfléng on the other side.
“Good. Now make sure she stays there. We will not lose her. Not at this stage.”
This stage? I wondered.
Their plan must have started. And for some unknown reason, I was essential to that plan.
Why would they need a Sivva? So far, the only reason I seemed to be here was for entertainment. But I somehow got the feeling that I still could not see the grand plan. And when I did find out, I would not like it.
I sighed. The good news was that most of my energy had returned. The brief freedom from the iron cell had allowed my magic to return, restoring my energy and healing my injuries.
I must have dozed off, because I was awoken by the sound of the cell door slamming open.
Immediately I could tell something was wrong. Fortunately, my fast instincts kicked in, and I rolled off the cot I had been sleeping on and onto my feet in seconds.
The leader of the Hâfléngs was advancing on me, eyes furious.
All of a sudden, he was beside me. He shoved me backwards and I stumbled, surprised. I still wasn’t back to full strength, and he had caught me off guard.
He pushed me back with more power than he should have had. His eyes were dark with anger.
How is he so strong?! I thought, alarmed.
“What did you do, Sivva?!” he snapped.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about!” I answered, confused.
His grip tightened around my throat. “I asked you a question, Sivva. What did you do?!”
“I did nothing!” I repeated.
“Oh yes, you did something. You, or those other Sivva friends of yours. A strong tracking pulse was detected. We managed to redirect it, but it was definitely a magic source. So I’m going to ask you one more time before I resort to force, what did you do.”
“Nothing!” I snapped. But, secretly, I was hopeful. Maybe they have found me.
The Hâfléng apparently didn’t like that answer, because he dropped me, causing me to stumble back, away from him. I recovered quickly, eyes blazing. The Hâfléng leader reached out and shoved me backwards. I hit the wall behind me, and he advanced on me again. I went to move, but he pulled out a blade and pressed it against my throat.
“Don’t move, Sivva.”
I sighed, but froze. I did not want my throat cut.
“Now, we can talk,” he said dangerously. “And we’re going to figure out what you did.”
“I did nothing, I told you!” I snapped.
Apparently the Hâfléng leader didn’t approve of that. He pressed the blade closer to my throat.
“You are going to tell me the truth, Sivva. Or I’m going to force you to tell us everything you might not have- including all your other little secrets.”
I felt a surge of fear. That was the problem. I knew things. Things that, if the Hâfléngs knew… could make things very dangerous.
Immediately, I forced the fear away. I would not give them any satisfaction.
“It doesn’t matter what you do,” I replied. “Because I’ve told you the truth. I did nothing.”
Once again, a slight jab at the throat stopped me from talking more.
“Enough with the lies, Sivva. I’m asking you where that pulse came from.”
And so we return to this topic.
“I don’t know,” I replied.
The Hâfléng seemed amused. “Well, we’ll just have to see if we can get you to remember, then. Because that was a homing pulse. Located right on you. So you do know something.” He pulled the blade away, and smirked at me. “I suggest you get some rest, Sivva. Because then we’re going to have to start asking questions. And you’re going to have to start answering them.”
Then he left, slamming the door. I heard the locks click once more, then silence.
This was the first time I had been threatened, truly threatened like this. And this time, he seemed determined to carry through.
Might as well get some rest. Before they start… whatever form of interrogation they have planned…
I lay back on my cot and closed my eyes, drifting rapidly into a deep sleep.
Until my internal senses warned me to wake up.
I went to bolt upright, when hands grabbed me and pulled me up. I was guessing there was a Hâfléng there who was holding my arms behind my back so that I couldn’t resist or fight.
I felt liquid go into my mouth, and a hand covered it, so I was forced to swallow. Immediately, I became dizzy. I stopped struggling so much.
Some sort of drug… I thought worriedly. But already my mind was becoming foggy. Then the world spiraled away and faded to black.