Hi everyone, Ellie here again with chapter 28 of my book. Enjoy! Chapter 29 should be coming next week.
Chapter 28 – Treaties and Tortures
Ayla ran down the hall, not daring to look back. She scurried up a flight of stairs and took a left up another flight of stairs. She was totally lost, not even remembering how they got to where they had run into the tall man. At the top of the stairs she found herself in a long hallway ending in a dead end. She went down a ways, before picking a door and going in, slamming it behind her. She looked around quickly and stopped when she saw the room’s only inhabitant, who was sitting in a large, fur covered chair in the center of the room.
There was a long silence in the room as the sisters looked each other over.
“Tell me, Ayla girl, why are you here?”
“Um, because a hurricane’s about to hit the island, and this is apparently the only safe place to hide and we were sent to check it out.”
“We? Where are the others in your group?”
“Um, back there.”
“Where?” Starcaria said firmly.
“Trapped by a man in a room.” Ayla responded.
“You aren’t telling me everything, sister!” Starcaria yelled.
“You’re actually doing pretty good considering that on a normal day I wouldn’t have even said hi.”
“You didn’t say hi. But why is this not a ‘normal day’?”
“Because I need your help, sister.”
“Really. What can I do for you?”
“Look, there’s a massive hurricane that’s going to hit the island in about two days. Will you let all the people from Elena come and stay here?” Starcaria laughed.
“Let them stay here? You’ve got to be kidding! Let an enemy army spend the night inside my fortress and let them leave unchallenged.”
“I know Ellie will pay you very richly.”
“Ha! I’ve got everything that we can need!”
“Really? I know that you only have a few swords here that are from the master craftsmen of Elena. I know you could always use some more, and offers for your enemies to make you a batch of the world’s best steel in exchange for a night’s lodging don’t come very often.”
“I see. Bribery.”
“No, good honest payment.”
“Haha. Honest. Like you’re ever honest.”
“Well, I’m going to be honest right now and tell you something else.”
“There is another way things might turn out if you don’t help us.”
“And that is...?”
“You’ll die.” Ayla said quickly, drawing her sword and pinning it against Starcaria's neck, with her knee holding Starcaria's hands down. “If you don’t swear to let us spend the night encamped here, you’re head’s rolling.” Starcaria looked at her sister coolly. There was defiance in her eyes. Ayla pulled the sword slowly across her neck, cutting a seep gash into her flesh. Starcaria squirmed and opened her mouth.
“Yes?” Ayla said, moving the sword back a few inches.
“I will let you stay here, as long as I get 100 of your best swords.”
“Do you swear it?”
“By the bones of our father and of all the kings.”
Ayla dropped her sword and eyed her sister casually. “So, how’s this all going to work out?”
The tall man sliced at the three boys, and they instinctively backed away, and into the room. Soon they were trapped inside again and the man shut the door behind himself.
“Fool children! Did you think that you could fight me? But where is the girl! Oh, yes, now I remember. She got away! What a pity! She won’t be able to witness the torture I have in store for you three. Oh, yes, by the end of this day you’ll never wish you had ever met me, for I am the great Lafezah!”
“Well, what a name. It’d be hard to find a nickname to match that... Laf? Lafeze?” In response to this comment Jackson received a hard slap in the face.
“Child! I don’t want you fooling around!”
“Don’t like freedom of speech, huh?”
“Now shut up for good. We’ve got places to go.”
“Going? Good, I’m sick of his room.”
Lafezah wheeled upon Jackson and raised his hand to slap him a third time, but then lowered it.
“I would slap you,” he said, “but knowing that by tonight you’ll be too weak to speak takes the place of that slap. Now, all of you return those weapons to the shelves. Don’t try to keep any of them, or I will roast you slowly.”
The three boys did as commanded.
“Thank you. Now, you three come with me. Don’t try anything funny, or you’ll be in worse trouble that you already are.” Lafezah motioned them out the door and down the hall to the left. After a flight of stairs, the three boys found themselves in the small room where Lafezah had murdered Jackson’s guard. The body was still on the floor, but Lafezah paid it no attention.
“This window is the only other known way in and out of here besides the gate. It does require a bit of climbing and some swimming. You with the curly hair and disrespectful mouth, you go first!”
“Me?” Jackson asked.
“Yes, you, you idiot!”
“Oh, cállate idiota!”
“What was that?”
“Nothing. I’m just glad you don’t know Spanish.”
Lafezah glared a Jackson for a moment before shooing him to the window.
“Climb out, then down the rock to the moat. If you fall, you’ll just hit the moat.”
“Why can’t we jump, then?”
“Because that would attract the attention of the guards.”
“Then why is falling off fine?”
“I didn’t say falling off was fine!” Lafezah said exasperatedly.
“Lo que sea, entonces, que poco apestoso.”
“Stop speaking other languages and go!”
Jackson obeyed and Tryg and Cooper followed. After he was sure they were a ways down, Lafezah followed them. Soon all four were at the bottom.
“Now,” Lafezah said. “I want you three to swim over silently.” The boys obeyed quickly, and Lafezah followed them. The “moat” was in all actuality a river that had been directed around the base of the fort. It never ran dry, and never smelled. In most places it was swift and rocky, but where the boys were swimming it was calm and deep. They swiftly got to the side, and watched Lafezah, who was taking quite a long time to loudly dog paddle across. When he was over he motioned for the boys to follow, and they set off into the woods on the other side of the river.
“I didn’t know you three could swim so well.” Lafezah said.
“And we didn’t know you could swim so badly!” Jackson replied.
“Remember, here in Cherokeland few at all can swim as well as I.” Lafezah said.
“Oh yeah. Don’t you guys have some national freak water fear?” Jackson said.
“It’s not a freak fear. We just have no need to swim here.” Lafezah said.
“Well, you might have to soon, depending on where you’re going.” Cooper said. “A massive hurricane is supposed to hit the island in two days.”
“The hurricane? That was the thing that crashed our forefather’s ships here so many years ago. Ho do you know it’s going to hit soon?” Lafezah said.
“The local library weather channel.” Jackson replied.
“He means the book we found in the library with weather predictions.” Tryg said.
“Is that so. Well, we’re not going very far from here, and I know that this is the place on the island that’s safe from the hurricane.”
“That’s good. It appears you know your book of safe hurricane hideouts better than you know the daily almanac.” Jackson said. Lafezah chuckled.
“Well, you really are the jolly sort. Maybe I’ll keep you on as my personal secretary and weather predictor after I kill the others!”
Later that afternoon, the column of Elenans arrived peacefully in Azagren. They had been given and some had brought their own tents. The main populace camped outside the walls, and the weak and elderly were given a few special rooms inside along with Ellie and the Anwips.
The meeting between the two queens was cold and uneventful. Ellie reinforced the agreements made between Starcaria and Ayla, and gave half of the swords up front. Then they had a little chat.
“So, this seems kinda odd, but how are you doing?” Ellie asked.
“Hmm, formalities, formalities. I’m quite well. And you?” Starcaria replied.
“Fine. Actually better that usual since this agreement is working out nicely. I just have a few problems.”
“Can I be of any help in fixing them.”
“Yes, you can. You see, I sent a young friend of mine, Jackson, to explore this place before we moved in. We thought it was deserted, but it obviously wasn’t and he was caught. Early this morning, I sent three other after him. Two boys named Tryg and Cooper and Ayla here. Do you know at all what happened to the three boys?”
“I do, Ellie.” Ayla said.
“Speak on, Ayla.”
“Well, when we approached the fort we precived movement on the walls, and decided to park our uorses on the edge of the jungle and approach carefully on foot. We found a place to climb up the wall and we crawled through a window. We had just ventured down the hall when we bumped into a tall man. We were intent on going our way, but he decided to attack us. He had us all at his mercy in a moment, being an excellent fighter, and he had just shut us in his room when Jackson was thrown in there also. He said he had been under one of Starcaria's guard when the man killed his guard and took him prisoner. We knew we had to get news to you about the initiation and proposed unsafeness of the fortress, so we decided that the next time the tall man opened the door, the boys would tackle him and I would slip out and return to you. Only I bumped into Starcaria here and made a little treaty with her first. As for what happened to the boys, they were, I am sure, overpowered in a few moments, and most probably back in that room.
“But there was one little problem with the whole situation. Like I said, we had just been in the room barely a minute when Jackson was thrown in too. But he said that he had been hiding from the man for a full ten minutes before he was captured. We guessed that there might be two identical men working together, but we aren’t sure.”
“Huh. That’s weird.” Ellie said.
“Yes. I know nothing of multiple tall men with powerful fighting skills.” Starcaria said. “But let’s go have a look in this room, Ayla.” The three headed out with a few guards on their tails. Ayla led the way back to the room, and, finding the door locked, they knocked. A tall man opened the door to find the guards with their arrows at the ready. He put his hands up and stood where he was.
“This is the man that captured us.” Ayla said.
“What. I did not capture you? I just captured that little curly-haired nitwit.” The man replied angrily.
“What is your name?” Starcaria asked coolly.
“Do you happened to have an identical twin?” Ellie asked.
“Yes, how did you know? His name is Lafezah, and I have no idea where he, or my curly-haired prisoner is.”
“Hmm. Very interesting.” Ayla said. “Lafezah must have captured Cooper, Tryg and I and put us in here a few moments before Ambeka here brought in Jackson. Then that must have been Lafezah who we attacked and I got free. He must have done something with the boys.”
“I swear I do not know anything about this Tryg or this Cooper of whom you speak. My brother and I rarely talk, and rarely bump into each other. Of what he does, I know not.”
“Well, why did you capture this boy, Jackson, in the first place, and why are you and your brother even here to begin with?” Starcaria asked. The man looked at her coldly and kept his mouth shut. Starcaria growled.
“Are you unaware of what I could to to you?” She asked.
“I am perfectly aware of your capabilities to control my body and to inflict tortures upon me.” The man replied.
“Well, I’m going to do just that if you don’t answer me.” Starcaria raged.
“Fine by me.” The man replied. Starcaria let out a yell.
“Starcaria, it’s no use. I can see that he’s the type of man that will never tell his secrets. We won’t be getting any information out of him, no matter how hard we try. For now let’s shut him in prison, and do a quick search of his room. Maybe something will turn up there which will lead to his identity. But it is getting quite late, and we can look into this more tomorrow.”
“Yes, that is a wise plan. But what do I care what this Lafezah did with your men anyways. But I would like to know, and I want to see how Ambeka and Lafezah got here in the first place.” Starcaria motioned for the guards to take the man to the dungeons, and said goodnight to Ellie and Ayla before retiring go her quarters. Ellie and Ayla were sharing the same room, and they discussed the matter as they got ready for bed.
“Ellie, don’t you think it unwise to not send men out after the boys immediately?”
“Why. They can do nothing in the dark with basically the whole island to search. I’m sure the boys will be just fine.”
“No, I think not. I’ve witnessed the power of this Lafezah guy, and I know that he could, and did, take them all out in a fair fight. I’m afraid he’s going to do something nasty to them.”
“But I know the boys much better than you, and I can tell you that they aren’t very easy people to kill.”
“What, have you tried to kill them before?”
Ellie laughed. “No, But I know each has great resourcefulness in different ways, and together they are almost unstoppable. Don’t worry your little head, they’ll be just fine.”
The three boys trudged through the jungle, Lafezah taking up the rear. Soon, it was getting dark. Lafezah told the boys to stop. They had reached a small clearing, and Lafezah told them to begin gathering dry wood. The boys obeyed, and scattered into the jungle. They had no idea where they were, and they knew that Lafezah was the one who had all the tools that they would need to survive, so they had no intention of running away. They collected their wood and returned to camp.
Lafezah had placed a few rocks in a small circle as the fire pit. He gave Jackson his flint and steel, and told him to light a small fire. The other boys helped him set out dinner, which was smoked fish and bread. After Jackson got the fire started, they warmed their food over it and ate.
After dinner, Lafezah told them to get moss and grass and make themselves each a comfortable place to lie. After that, he motioned them to himself.
“Thought I know you won’t run away when I have all the supplies here, in the night you might attempt to try something, so I am going to bind your hands and feet.” He did this and saw that the boys were asleep before going to bed himself.
The next morning was cool and overcast. Cooper helped Lafezah with breakfast, and Jackson and Tryg were out collecting wood together.
“Oooh, I’m sore from last night.” Tryg moaned. “I’m not used to sleeping in such a funny position. It was painful.”
“Pain is weakness leaving the body.” Jackson said.
Tryg laughed. “Well, it looks like it’s going to be a stormy day.”
“Yeah, no kidding. I bet a gigantic hurricane is going to hit the island.”
“Jackson! Stop being such a nitwit. Look, you’re even collecting green wood.”
“Is that a problem?”
“Well the heck it is! You call yourself a boy scout, but you don’t even know what’s wrong with a fire lit using green wood! Don’t you know that we’ll be smoked out of house and home?”
“Yes I do know that green wood makes a smoky fire, but I’ll make sure that it doesn't smoke us out of house and home. Well, for number one, we already are out of house and home, but I’ll make sure the smoke isn't enough to attract the attention of Lafezah.”
“Yeah, but why do you want the fire to smoke anyways?”
“Because, you loon, if Ellie has sent somebody to look for us three, we could help them by leading them to us with a few smoke signals.”
“Oh. I see.”
“Good. Now let’s go get breakfast.”
At Azagren, Ellie and Ayla took breakfast in their room. Afterwords, they discussed what to do.
“If Lafezah took the boys outside of Azagren, they could be anywhere by now.” Ellie said. “Especially if Lafezah is cruel enough to force them to march through the night. Hopefully they stayed in a close proximity to Azagren, because if they’re on the lowlands when that hurricane hits, it’s going to be bad.”
“Yeah. But I’m sure the boys would have notified him of the approaching storm, and he didn’t seem like the type of person who would stupidly ignore them or ignore the power of a hurricane.” Ayla replied. “I bet they’re either still in the fortress, or just nearby. The strangest thing is why Lafezah would capture us in the first place. Do you know of any reason why he would?”
“Hmm. Let me think. Maybe he has a project that would need the strength and intellect of someone other than his brother and him.”
“But then why didn’t he just capture a few guards from around here?”
“Because they would be soon missed, and Starcaria’s not one to calmly accept the slimming down of her army.”
Ellie and Ayla sat on the edge of the bed in silence, thinking it all over. After a while, ayla got up and paced around the room before going and opening the wooden shutter over the window. She stuck her head out into the cool morning air. Ellie joined her and they peered down at the tiny tents of the Elenans. Suddenly Ayla grabbed Ellie’s arm.
“Look over there! Don't you see it?”
Ellie looked where Ayla was pointing. “See what.”
“The smoke. It must be from a campfire and I’m betting that it’s Lafezah and company.”
“Hmm. That’s interesting. I still can’t see it, but then you know my vision was never very good without my glasses, which were left on my Uncle’s ship.” There was a short knock at the door behind them and someone entered.
“Hey girls, what’s up?” Hara asked lightly, joining them at the window.
“Not a lot. Have you heard about the disappearance of the boys?” Ayla asked.
“Yeah. And I head all about your fight with Lafezah. I’m betting he took them out in the nearby forest to help him with some project.” Hara replied.
“That’s what we were thinking.” Ellie said. “And now we actually know where they are. Ayla says she saw some smoke in that section of the jungle.” Hara poked her head out the window and peered around.
“Oh, I see it now. What should we do? Ayla and I could go out to investigate?”
“I’d have to think it over, though if you did leave you should probably leave now because the smoke can guide you in the right direction. Just let me think for a moment.”