Captured by the Silver Circle, Casey awaits his fate at the sadistic hands of Lord Gredus.
Casey felt a boot kick him in the ribs and roll him over. A soldier who looked to be no more than 16 years old stood above him, with the tip of his sword pressed against Casey’s neck.
“Send word to Lord Gredus!” The soldier shouted behind him, not taking his eyes off of Casey. “I caught the abomination!”
“Look, I’m no abomination. I’m just trying to get home.” Casey said, trying his best to pull off a calm and charismatic tone. However, the words came out in a halting cadence, making him sound a little like William Shatner but with a shitload of anxiety.
“Silence!” the soldier shouted, pressing his sword harder into Casey’s neck. Casey heard another soldier approaching from behind the one who had him subdued. The hoofbeats stopped, and he saw someone with dark brown boots walk up to the soldier. Casey looked up, and it was him. The soldier he had bumped into in the tavern in Viarin.
“Good work, lad,” he said, patting the younger soldier on the back.
“Thank you, my lord,” the young soldier said to Gredus, clearly in admiration of him. Casey silently marveled at how much respect the young soldier said, “my lord.” It sounded nothing like the townsfolk when they said it to him.
Two burly soldiers came from behind Gredus, and each grasped Casey by an arm, hauling him onto his feet. The two soldiers dragged Casey back the way he had come across the field, then across the stream, and finally to a wagon sitting on the road a few yards from the stream. Casey no longer wondered how they could have found him. He hadn’t realized he was so close to the road. He could have kicked himself if he wasn’t being dragged against his will.
The wagon was little more than a cage on two wooden wheels. It was made of wooden rods, tied together with heavy rope. One guard undid the clasp keeping the cage door shut, while the other put a burlap sack over his head. Then they unceremoniously threw Casey into it. Finally, the guards chained his hands on the floor of the wagon and shut the door.
Casey sat on the wooden floor of the cage wagon. The guards had chained his hands behind his back so that he couldn’t remove the sack. Outside, the sounds of a flurry of activity permeated the cage and filtered through the hood. Hoofbeats from soldiers presumably arriving back from searching for him. A gruff voice that commanded, “Fall in!” The cart shook, and he heard the thud of what Casey thought was someone sitting down. Then he heard the crack of a whip, and the cart lurched forward.
Casey wasn’t sure how long they had traveled before they finally stopped. It could have been an hour, or it could have been 5. He was too busy trying not to throw up with the back-and-forth swaying of the cart. However, less and less light shone through the fibers of the hood, and the air grew a little chillier. Mercifully, they finally stopped. Behind him, he heard the jangling of keys and felt someone working the lock binding his hands. The cage door creaked open, and someone yanked him out of it by the collar of his shirt. Two burly hands grabbed each of his arms and dragged him for a few feet, then down a flight of stairs. One guard removed the hood, and the two threw him onto the ground. While Casey got his bearings, the guards disappeared up the stairs and through a door, shutting it behind them.
Casey looked around but could not see much in the darkened room. He stumbled around, trying to get an idea of where he was by the feel. He felt the splintery wood of something round and about waist high. Probably a barrel. He bumped into a wall, his fingers scraping on cold stone. If he had to guess, he was in some sort of cellar.
Casey heard the creak of the door behind him, and warm light flooded into the cellar. Three men descended the stairs, two of them with lanterns. The third was the one he had bumped into in the tavern. The one, the young soldier, had called “Lord Gredus.”
“I apologize if these accommodations leave a little to be desired,” Gredus said as he hit the bottom step. “It is difficult to find proper lodging when traveling.” The lantern light reflected off of Gredus’s face, accentuating the deep crevices of scars. Combined with the smile on his face, this made him look even more sinister than Casey had already thought.
“What did you want with me?”
“Just to talk about what you were doing in Viarin,” Gredus said, pacing around the room. “Who sent you there?”
“No one,” Casey said, lying on instinct. He didn’t exactly trust Rhiun, but he trusted this guy even less. What’s not to trust about someone whose soldiers chase you down and lock you in someone’s basement. “I went there on my own.”
“Are you certain? Because I’ve heard whispers about you from Aveinha.” Gredus was staring at him, and it felt like his eyes were boring into Casey’s soul. Casey sat as still as possible, trying not to respond to any of Gredus’ questions. “Appeared in a farmer’s home from thin air. Arrived in Aveinha dressed in strange clothing.” Gredus paused for an uncomfortably long moment, waiting for Casey to say something or react in a way that would give him away. “Spoke to a black mage in the town inn. Someone named Rhiun.”
Casey blinked. It was clear Gredus knew everything about him. Why was he asking these questions then? What did he want then? Probably another piece of information he didn’t have but thought Casey did.
“Is that look I see on your face recognition? Maybe I can make it worth your while to tell us what you know. Wouldn’t you like to know how you came to this world?”
Gredus paused as his words permeated Casey’s consciousness. Casey opened his mouth, then closed it. How would Gredus know how he got here? Is Gredus a mage too? He seemed to be even less helpful than Rhiun in getting Casey home if that was possible.
“But if you won’t respond to the carrot, maybe you will to the stick. My associates here are experts in loosening the tongues of those who feign ignorance.” The two burly soldiers flanking Gredus stared at Casey, presumably imagining doing horrible things to his extremities.
“Think about it. But not for too long; It’s getting late. Didn’t your friend Rhiun say not to fall asleep?” Gredus gestured toward the stairs, and the two burly soldiers followed him up.
How did he know that? Casey wondered as the door slammed shut, leaving Casey in darkness. Maybe he heard it from one of his spies in Aveinha. It wouldn’t have been that hard for one of them to hear the conversation he had with Rhiun in the tavern. But didn’t she tell him about not falling asleep when they were in private?
Casey crumpled to the floor as the questions swirled around in his mind. He felt like a toy being fought over by two spoiled children. One, trying to manipulate him into doing some unknown task, and the other tries to get him to do another using threats. Casey rested his arms on his knees and his forehead on his arms. He felt the energy drain from his body and into the dirt floor of the cellar. He felt the events of the day weigh down upon him. How long had it been since he had woken up? Casey wondered what would happen if he fell asleep. It couldn’t be any worse than what he was going through now.
As Casey sat, pondering his situation, an unknown amount of time passed. He didn’t know how long it was. It could have been a few minutes or a few hours. It all felt the same, sitting in the dark, alone with his thoughts. Outside, he heard a crash that made him jump. It was immediately followed by shouting and the clanging of metal striking metal. Then an explosion rocked the structure above him, causing dirt to filter down from the ceiling. The door to the cellar flew open, nearly coming loose from its hinges. Faint torch light filled the inky blackness of the cellar. The silhouette of an enormous man blocked the torchlight for an instance. Casey squinted to see who it was. Could it be…
“Oi, get off your arse, and let’s go!” Gilmyn shouted. Casey jumped up and ran towards the stairs.
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