Friday, April 17, 2009
The blood lust of sweet revenge coursed through my veins, and I surrendered to the rage held in check these past months.
Eric’s forearms furred and with one swift breath, the iron bars which caged me melted into pools of glowing metal. The heaving orange mass littering the dungeon’s stone floor pulsed in cadence with my Dragør heartbeat.
“Stay your wrath,” my brother hissed. “Make haste, Leif, we cannot linger.”
Loath to confess the weakness which had denied me the use of my powers, I clamped my lips together and obeyed Eric’s frantic whisper. Movements jerky and uncontrolled, I latched onto an undamaged bar and levered to a standing position.
“Can you walk unaided?” Leif shot me a glance over one broad shoulder.
Nodding, I traced his footsteps. Mindful of the need for stealth we slunk forward together; shoulders brushing the slime layered brick walls. Each contact released a stench akin to rotting animal flesh, the sole light a flickering torch in the far distance.
Limbs enfeebled by days of inactivity, save the cursed orgies, had me stumbling forward in clumsy fits and starts. Drunk on the pulse of freedom, my mind fogged and veiled I drew on what little remained of my Dragør strength to lay one foot in front of the other.
Ahead of me Eric stifled a curse as he rounded a corner and halted, his drawn sword glinting sparks in the stark morning sunlight. Spinning to face me, dark brows slashed together, he wore an expression I knew only too well.
“One of the cooks I bribed drew me a map. ‘ Tis flawed.” The repressed fury in his low murmur did not deter my growing awareness of our surroundings.
Blinking to ease the ache the glare wrought in my eyes, I stifled a roar.
“Are you mad?” My stiff fingers slammed into palms coated with dirt and rat waste. I stifled the urge to howl and rail at his stupidity. “’Tis daylight by the Gods. We attempt escape in broad daylight?”
“The Caliph’s son weds tonight. The palace and city are over run with visitors, even some Norse.” Eric studied the three forks facing us.
“His son?” I shook my head. “The Caliph’s heir is long dead, lost to the cursed maze of reflections.”
“His second son Leif. Move brother, we have no time for idle discourse.” Eric pointed his sword to the left. “Arabs favor the right.”
The stink receded as we advanced. A breeze lifted the heaviness of the air and dust motes danced in the faint rays snaking through a line of decorative holes where roof and marble met high above us.
Vision still fuzzy from the darkness of the dungeons I squinted unable to differentiate a clear path in the half-shadows ahead. The hallway narrowed and we could no longer stalk side by side, I fell behind.
We came to a curve, Eric crept around a dung-caked wall and I followed shooting a glance over my shoulder to ensure no one pursued us.
I bumped into my brother, lost my balance, and teetered forward clutching air to prevent a fall. My hand found purchase on a dusty ledge; I clasped the graveled surface and steadied my feet.
We stood, hips brushing, and peered at the point where our lone corridor divided into two.
“Which way brother?”
Bells rang and a male voice chanted in Arabic. I recognized, Dhuhr, the call to second prayers. Inhaling the pungent aroma of Frankincense, my lungs ceased functioning as visions of the last forced orgy stampeded my pupils. Remnants of aphrodisiacs and opiates dulled my reactions and I faltered, my knees weakening. One hand braced against the cool wall for support, I assessed the hall’s light searching for the East.
“We go left.” A surge of energy straightened my shoulders, and I breathed in the heady scent of freedom. Pointing, I said, “The markets are that direction. Make haste. All the men will be at the mosque. 'Tis our best chance for escape. How far to the langskip?”
“We are anchored at the north end of the bay.”
The passage widened into an empty antechamber which I did not recall ever entering. A row of traditional oval air and light holes let full sunlight into the vestibule. Opposite a door faced us, one I did not recognize. A low rumble of voices came from behind muffled at first, but becoming clearer as we stood in the middle of the circular space hesitating.
When the harem master’s voice reached my ears, a momentary wave of panic rushed the air out of my lungs. Bile, foul and bitter, raced up my gullet. Before my captivity I had never known fear had a taste, had thought myself immune to the terror I so oft saw in the eyes of mere mortals. Swallowing, I forced my mind to the task at hand; escape.
I signaled my brother and he nodded acquiescence. He took the left wall, I the right, but to no avail. We found no hidden entrances, no other way out other then the door in front of us or the path from whence we came.
Gritting my teeth, I pushed open the heavy oak and opened and closed my eyes, once, twice, thrice, not certain my sight held true.
“Brother?” Eric mumbled, and the words echoed around the room, coming back to my ears, again and again.
“Odin has deserted us.” I knew not which fed my dread more, the drugs corrupting my blue and scarlet blood or the frail mortal flaws newly arisen in my mind “‘Tis the cursed maze of reflections. ‘Tis said un-bested by beast or man.”
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