It wasn’t a complicated lock. No safecrackers or skeleton keys were needed. Even a basic lockpicking kit was unnecessary. It was an insultingly simple turn-lever-just-so-out-of-this-hole-and-pull-straight-back kind of lock.
Eschia was baffled by it. I’d assumed that someone like Mark Caten would invest in top quality locks for his dungeon.
She opened the door and entered the cell. She didn’t have to do any major searching to find Robin. He was straight ahead of her, plain as plain. No uncertainty about it. It was clearly him. As Preyuna had said, he was wearing a tuxedo.
And he was manacled tight to the wall.
Then again, I guess it makes sense. He must truly believe that no one can break free of such bonds. But really? Who would expect otherwise?
She approached Robin with a great deal of caution. He seemed to be very well fastened to the wall, but there was a marginal possibility that he was faking it. That he was waiting for her to come close enough so he could knock her out and escape.
Eschia stopped in front of him. This is so strange and surreal. After hearing Isellta talk him up and Her Majesty talk him down, after seeing him only as a memory in Isellta’s mind, here he is. This is him. This is Robin. No illusions. No tricks. He is real. Flesh and blood. Clothes and hair.
And he smells like tangerines.
But is he worth all of Lady Queen Preyuna’s anger and all of Isellta Mal Hoven’s love/lust?
Eschia looked over the muzzle, trying to find the simplest way to open it. She smiled as she found the latch. Only one way to know for certain…
Robin sank through layers of exhaustion and hunger—plush black velvet blankets and thick chenille pillows. Burlap bags filled with sharp rocks and iron stakes. He knew that if he could just sink all the way down, if he could just reach that last layer and break through it, he’d find comfort. He’d find rest.
That’s how it was last time.
Before he could make it even halfway down, there came a sound. A distant sound. A quiet sound. Yet, it caught his attention and halted his progress. He looked up and listened. The sound was not here in the darkness with him. It was elsewhere.
He heard it again and recognized it for what it was—the sound of a metal door either opening or closing. He couldn’t be sure which.
Robin needed to know. He floated upwards through the soft and sharp, through the exhaustion and the hunger, all the way to the top.
Eschia fastened the muzzle to the wall so it would stop falling down. She waited a moment to see what he would do.
His eyes stayed closed. He exhaled dry huffs through his nostrils. He occasionally inhaled sharp breaths as if something were hurting him. But that was all that he did. He didn’t make any sudden moves.
Feeling somewhat reassured, Eschia studied the visible part of his face. Her gaze was immediately drawn to the scar.
The terrible irregularity of its shape.
Its width on his eyelid.
The knowledge that there was more to it than just what she was presently seeing.
She lightly trailed her fingers over the hard metal that seemed to be molded to the lower part of his face. Is it even possible to remove this? It goes under his chin. “Hmm.” She inspected it. “Oh!” Her wings emerged and flapped as she discovered the buckles holding the metal piece in place. I’ll unfasten the right side only, just to play it safe.
Eschia unbuckled it.
The metal piece swung forward and hung in place by the left side.
She searched Robin’s face, trying to find the good and the beauty that Isellta found in it.
Something ain’t right, ‘sellta. Or…I dunno. It’s diff’rent, I guess. But what? Robin reached the top.
He woke up, but he didn’t want to open his eyes. Keeping them closed felt so easy, so good, so effortless. No work at all. Opening them, on the other hand, would be a struggle and he knew it.
But somethin’s all messed up and wrong. But it ain’t all wrong at the same time.
That’s dumb. I ain’t e’en got a clue what I’m thinkin’ about. Might as well open my eyes and see what all’s goin’ on.
“Hnn!” He sucked in a deep breath as his hunger woke up as well. Not that I expect all that much to be goin’ on. Darn blasted Ambrose. Why’d he leave without me? Why didn’t he get me outta here? Why the freakin’ heck did he go and rescue some no name WQX no one and leave me behind? What the heck did I do wrong?
Robin startled as something featherweight touched his right sideburns.
Such very light fingers.
They unfastened the buckle on that side. The metal piece covering his face slumped out of place.
He opened his eyes in a hurry. The muzzle’s bars no longer striped his view. His eyes widened.
A pretty blonde fey with black wings stood in front of him. She studied and scrutinized his face.
His mouth dropped open and he thought nothing of it. Hope mingled with despair, yes with no, possible with impossible.
Joy with sorrow.
His mouth twitched its way into an uncertain smile, even as his chin wobbled and his eyes filled with tears. “‘sellta?”