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Rated: 18+ · Short Story · Fantasy · #2179522
Don't get caught in this land!
[Word Count: 1023 - Word List: Both]

The cudgel make its own dull wooden thud on the stone steps. A foul smelling creature made the footsteps. The two unfortunate humans down in the dank air of the basement knew the sound all too well. The one who had been there longer had tried to keep track of time. Being shackled most of the time, and having undergone sleep deprivation, he only had a decent guess. Droyn figured he had been there for fourteen annaks, and Mehenilda was approaching one. They had been discussing it. That was enough time to know she wasn’t some kind of spy, and really, he had no important information to give anyway. He had taken a chore for his people, to make a timely delivery, and there was only one way to accomplish the task. He had crossed the Aarpar region, full well knowing the inhabitants and the penalty if he were caught. One of the inhabitants that had captured him was headed down to see them.

The woman was another story, just the victim of a broken compass, who had wandered into the territory. None of that mattered to the Aarpen, when the border was violated, the captured were all treated alike. They would be tortured for the remainder of their life. He could tell by the gait it was the younger of the two guards. Both of them had hairless skin that was smooth and had no pores, but one was more taut than the other.

“Sounds like the youngster.” Droyn said. “He’s a laugh.”
She sighed. “Yes, he sure is quite the scream.”
“Anyone ever say you look like a big salamander that had his tail pulled off, Stinky?” It hissed. “Look it up and see for yourself, Amphibian Boy.”
“Why do you provoke them?” Mehenilda asked.
The Aarpen guard unshackled him. “I’ve found you get the same treatment either way. So why not?”
“Really?” She seemed to find it odd. “I never noticed.”
“Indeed, it is true.” He was led away, but over his shoulder he said, “I don’t think they even speak our language!”

They took him to the same room, and seemingly on a certain schedule, them beat on Droyn. As they began, he had an odd thought. This was Windday, and he could keep track of time in that manner. Every time they made a point to knock the wind out of him, it would be a new revolution. It almost gave him a smile to be able to keep time. The creature he liked to call “Sal” dragged him past the cell holding Mehenilda.

He risked a surreptitious word to her. “Be strong, I’ll show you a way out of here.”
She nodded and mouthed, “Good.”

She returned from her session with the beast, as she called them, and he waited on her. The smell was part of their own waste mixed with a hint of sodden earth. It dripped in a constant meter, and Droyn used it to keep shorter lengths time. It was twenty-two of his “clicks” before she was ready to talk. She came to the extent of the restraints, but he spoke first.

“By my count it was Fireday for you?” He asked, but already knew.
“Yes.” She replied. It involved implements white hot from the fire held near certain body parts.
“Did I hear you right?” She asked. “That you can free us from here?”
“Well, in a way.” He replied.
She paused. “In what way?”
“You can escape using your mind.” He explained. “I learned it when I was very young.”
She sighed, “I thought you had a real way out of this hole.”
“It really is… I mean, do you think I’m just passed out over...”
Mehenilda cut him off sharply. “I don’t want some magic elixir! I want to escape!”
He waited for her to calm a bit. “It is a bit of magic, and though my grandmother enjoyed her port wine, it isn’t required.”
“Fine. Show me.” He couldn’t see her look of curiosity.

It was very simple, he explained. You repeat the saying. It was handed down for generations, and you repeated it using a constant beat. The dripping water was perfect for keeping time. Droyn would teach her the words first, then they would work on the cadence. It was a tough sell, but in the end, there wasn’t much to do. She relented and he recited the old words for her:

Féach san aer le haghaidh comhlachtaí celestacha
Bain sult as am ar domhan
Téigh tú féin le tine
Buaiteoirí sásta ar an ghaoth
Fhaigheann compás do chalafort do ghá
Uisce milis an elixir éalú

It took her a good while to get it all right, especially since she had to concentrate on her "perfect place to be" while repeating the incantation. But finally it worked. She found herself in an old meadow from her childhood. Evening was coming, and it was a spectacular night. As a child she had adored the idea of a winged horse, and out of the tree line, one stepped into the field. Even if it was imagination, it was glorious. Mehenilda watched the fireflies for a bit as twilight came on, then lay back in the grass to count celestial bodies. Just as she did as a child. A loud noise brought her back to the chamber, and the smell was bad enough to taste. It was like a mouthful of mud.

What had brought her out of the spell was one of the guards in the adjacent cell. She could only hear the sounds of a box with electrical leads. The leads had been attached to Droyn’s temples, and the box had a large hand crank. As the pitch of the winding crank rose, so did the screams of the man in the next cell. When it was finally over, all that was left was incoherent mumbling. Then it spoke.

“Stupid human.” The Aarpen hissed as it looked at Droyn. “We listen to every word. You having a smile for so long was quite curious. Enjoy the rest of your life without any memories!”

Mehenilda knew she was next.
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