10 Apr

TRIGGER WARNING: Themes of torture and gore ahead. Reader discretion is advised. 

I could see the mouth of the prison from my perch atop the east hill of Rao.

It was a little way up from the base of the hill; A wide fissure in the ground illuminated ever so slightly by torchlight emanating from down in the cavern where they were being held prisoner. A ways behind it glowed Rao, only guards were supposed to be still mulling about in these lonely hours of evening, yet the streets were still.

Just inside of the fissure, the two I’d seen just briefly on the beach all those days ago were being held captive.

I couldn't even begin to imagine what horrors those two had faced. Tokar was well known for pushing defectors and rebels to the brink of death, and I knew that better than most.

Two strangers, untied to any rebel group and yet taking the responsibility for it. Endlessly probed for information they don't even have.

What bad luck they had to have landed here, of all places.

The moon was nowhere in sight; visibility out here was almost nonexistent without the use of fire. 

Ideal for a rescue. 

Not many guards were patrolling down there either. It made some sense, this was most likely the best time for everyone to get rest without much worry or fear of Tokar coming through to badger them about sleeping on the job. 

I unfurled my wings and glided down the hill. I dove right down into the hole, silently landing on the cold, damp stone of the cave. 

Six torches lit the two small caverns on my left and right. Three barred openings with locked doors sat to the left, and two to the right. Four guards stood stationed against the walls, but not even one was conscious enough to notice me. Nevertheless, I snuck by them with haste. 

I finally spotted them at the end of the right cavern. Two bodies that matched what I remembered: a fishman, colored various shades of blue. And one human, an islander with long flowing brown hair, much like my own. 

Even in the dim flickering light of the torch, I could tell they were in pretty rough shape. Tokar and his goons had been clearly bored and were taking it out on the poor kids. Bloody, welted lashes and bruised covered them all over. Most had been washed away by water, and not in the good, pleasant way of a bath. 

It was a wonder they’d managed to survive all this time. It was the night of the third day since their capture, the night before their execution. Most rebel prisoners didn’t make it to the execution. Not with Tokar as their warden. 

No wonder She was so determined to rescue them.

I unlatched the door and picked up a bucket of water, dipping my hand into it and flicking the droplets on both their faces. The fishman seemed unnafected, taking short, fitful breaths in his sleep. His lip twitched and curled up just slightly, but it seemed unrelated to what I'd done.

The human boy on the other hand slowly opened his eyes. 

He looked so tired.

I felt his forehead and cheek, making sure he wasn’t hurt too bad. His skin was warm and smooth like tanned leather where it wasn’t weeping and raw from the whip. Too warm.

Not good. He must've had a fever.

“What now…” He looked up at me behind his half-lidded eyes, drooping from the haze of being woken up and from sickness.

I put my hand over his mouth and shushed him. “I’m help from the goddess. If you keep quiet, I can get you out of here.”

He sighed, his head dropping just a little more. He breathed quietly for a moment more, then flames from his hands burst to life, melting his chains and dropping him to the floor.He stiffly rotated his shoulders around, cringing at the movements. He flexed his wrists, bloody and cut up by the chain bindings. He looked otherwise numb to the blood that now leaked from fresh wounds at the new movement.

He silently melted his fish friend’s chains. Once he was on the ground, he picked his friend up without a second thought and bolted out the door, not letting a moment go to waste. I followed after him, anxiously watching as our footsteps stirred the guards from their slumber. 

I watched on in horror as two pouli guards lunged at him with spears, shouting the alarm to others. The boy clapped his hands together underneath his friend and shot a tornado of fire, unlike anything which I'd ever seen before. 

I was completely baffled. Where did all this energy come from?

Did he really need me to rescue him? 

You would think the days of near-constant torture with no food or water would exhaust him, but it was as if he’d been saving all this energy for this one moment.

“The exit, where is it?” He shouted at me as we ran through the cavern. 

“A hole in the ceiling right up ahead!” I replied.

We both looked up. It was pitch black up there. No moon tonight, remember?

“Where?” Aku shouted to me.

“Follow me!” I said, slamming my wings down hard and pulling myself into the air.

Fire shot from out his feet that propelled him through the air after me as we exploded through the hole and back onto the surface. 

Once we landed, we could hear a massive amount of wings flapping toward us.


His voice came out from the flock: Tokar. And for the first time, I learned the boy’s name. 


Even after everything they’d seen, Tokar’s voice had Aku shaking.

* The email will not be published on the website.