I never thought there would come a time when I longed so badly for food and water. I never thought there would come a time when I longed to see the sun or breathe in the fresh air. But then again, I never thought I would refuse to kill a griffin in the Sun Festival battle and then be thrown into a pitch-black dungeon with that same griffin. But here I am.
It feels like we've been in this prison for ages. I have no idea exactly how much time has passed, since this cell is completely dark. There are no windows to keep track of the sun. Not even a sliver of light shines into this place. The darkness is so thick you can practically feel it. It's driving me crazy.
It has not been that long, Kora, Astri, the griffin, says—or I guess I should say, thinks—to me. We have only been here for three days.
I still haven't gotten used to the fact that she can hear what I'm thinking.
"Are you sure? It feels like so much longer than that," I groan.
Yes. We griffins can sense these things, and a griffin's senses never lie—something you will learn soon enough.
“Well then, can your griffin senses tell us when we’re getting out of here? Because I don’t know how long we’re going to be able to survive in this place.”
Our senses tell us many things, but they do not enable us to predict the future. Only Lumenos has that power.
I tilt my head. “You mentioned Lumenos before. You said he controls everything and watches over us. You said we can trust him to take care of us. But you know what? I don’t think I believe you. Because why would he allow this to happen to us, especially to you? Sure, I tried to kill you, so maybe I got what was coming for me. But you? You’re innocent! Even when I was chasing you around the arena, you didn’t fight back. You’re way stronger than me—you could have taken me out with one swipe of your paw! But you didn’t. You even chose to lay down in front of me, allowing me to kill you if I wanted to. You didn’t have to do that, but you did.”
I would never kill my own daughter, Astri says.
“Still, you don’t deserve this! And yet this is how Lumenos repays you, letting you be thrown into a dungeon to starve to death?” I shake my head.
Astri doesn’t reply right away, but even in the dark, somehow I can feel her eyes on me. As seconds go by, I start to squirm. Griffin stares are intense!
Finally, she sighs. Kora, I do not know why Lumenos has allowed this to happen to us. But I do know that he has done it for a reason, and no matter what, he will take care of us.
“But how do you know that?” I ask.
Because I know Lumenos, Astri replies. And I hope that one day you will, too.
“Well, Lumenos or not, I’m not staying here for a moment longer. Remember when you said we should save our energy if we want to escape? I’m pretty sure we have as much energy saved up as we ever will, considering neither of us have had food or water for three days now. So let’s figure out how to get out of here.”
I reach my hands out, stumbling around the dark cell until I feel one of the rough stone walls. There’s got to be a door around here somewhere…
I run my hands over the surface of the walls until I feel something different. More like...metal. “This is it! This has to be the door.”
Even so, there may not be a way to open it from the inside, Astri warns. After all, this is a dungeon.
“I know, but…” I continue to feel all around, until… “Yes! I think I found some kind of keyhole. All we need is something to pick it with and we’ll be out of here in no time!”
I believe you have forgotten what you are, Astri says. This dungeon was specifically designed only to hold animal prisoners, and you are not as limited by your size as I am.
She says the most confusing things sometimes. “What’s that supposed to mean?”
She doesn’t reply, which I guess means she wants me to figure it out for myself. As if we have any more time to waste.
I sigh in frustration, but try to think about what Astri could mean.
After what feels like hours, but is probably more like a few minutes, I finally get it. And now—duh! I can’t believe I didn’t realize it sooner!
As a fairy, I can shrink from normal size to the size of a bug whenever I want. I rarely do it, since there’s a higher risk of getting crushed or animals mistaking me for food, but if there was ever a time to use that ability, it’s now.
I knew you would figure it out, Astri says.
“Had I thought of this sooner we could’ve been out of here the day we came in,” I grumble.
I shrink down as small as I can and slip through the keyhole, out of the dark cell. I’m free! “Ha! No dark prison can contain the powerful Kora Joltaire!” I shout triumphantly.
But as I return to normal size, I realize there’s another problem: The door’s still locked. And I can’t get Astri out of there unless I have the key.
Still, if this is going to be a successful escape, it’s going to be for both of us—or neither.
“I’ll be back,” I whisper to the griffin through the keyhole. “I’m going to find the key.”
Be careful, Kora, she warns. If your life or safety is threatened, do not try to risk it for me. You are my number-one concern.
I guess that’s something a mother would say.
I mean it, Kora. Her mental voice sounds stern.
“Okay,” I reply. But I don’t mean it. I will get both of us out of here—whatever it takes.
I take off, flying down the dim corridor lit with torches on the walls and filled with so many twists and turns that it feels like a maze. I fly up a long flight of stairs, leading to a pair of iron doors at the end. I use all of my body weight to push open one of the heavy doors—and come face-to-face with a prison guard.
My heart stops. Busted.
He looks just as surprised to see me as I am to see him. In the moment, I spot something shiny hanging from the belt around his waist. A ring of keys.
The guard gets over his surprise and frowns, drawing his sword. “Halt, Kora Joltaire!”
I scowl. “You can’t tell me what to do.”
I leap into the air and kick the sword out of his hand. I zoom after it, snatching it before it even hits the ground. Pointing the sword at the guard, I demand, “Now give me those keys.”
“No—you drop that sword,” a voice behind me commands. “You’re surrounded.”
I turn around to see that more guards have shown up. They advance towards me, closing me in. While I’m distracted, the first guard grabs the sword back from me.
Well, my plan sure backfired quickly.
Think, Kora, think. There has to be a way out of this.
But if there is, why can’t I see it?
My heart pounds as the guards move closer. I know I’m only seconds away from full-blown panic, but I can’t help it. For the first time in my life, I feel...trapped. Helpless.
The only thing left for me to do is send a mental message to Astri. “I’m sorry. I won’t be able to save you—or myself. The guards have me surrounded. I don’t know what else to do.”
There is one more thing you can do, Astri replies. Ask Lumenos.
Here we go with Lumenos again. “Ask him what? How do I even talk to him? And what if he doesn’t listen to me?”
Just talk to him the way you’re talking to me. He will listen.
“Okay…” I can’t believe I’m about to do this, but it’s my last hope.
“Um, Lumenos? I don’t know if you can hear me, or if you’re even real. But Astri believes in you, and she thinks I should too, so if you are real, can you help me?”
My heart sinks when nothing happens. But I guess I shouldn’t be too disappointed. I mean, what did I really expect, all of the guards to suddenly disappear or drop dead?
But wait—something is happening. My body is strangely tingling all over, like a current is running through me. The sensation grows more and more intense until I can’t take it anymore. What is happening to me?!
The guards seem to be wondering the same thing as they stop and stare at me.
Suddenly, I feel a huge jolt at the same time there’s a bright flash of light and a crackling sound. The guards are now lying on the floor, unconscious.
Okay, what just happened? Was that...lightning?
I don’t have time to figure it out right now. I have to get to Astri.
I grab the keys from the first guard and fly through the maze-like hallway back to Astri’s cell. After about a dozen attempts to unlock the door with each of the keys on the ring, I finally manage to find the right one.
“Hurry,” I urge Astri. “We have to get out of here quickly. I don’t know how long those guards will be out.” Seeing the griffin’s confused expression, I add, “I’ll explain later.”
She slowly struggles to her feet. “Are you okay?” I ask, rushing to her side.
I am fine. But my energy is drained from being in darkness for so long. I need sunlight.
“Then we’ve got to get outside as soon as possible. Follow me!”
Together, we make our way through the twisting corridor and up the stairs, tiptoeing past the unconscious guards near the iron doors. After a few more twists and turns, we come to another pair of doors, which open to…
“Freedom!” I shout, squinting in the sunlight and taking a deep breath in the fresh air. “We did it. We actually escaped!”
Astri turns her face up to the sky, spreading her enormous wings as she absorbs the sun’s energy. Yes, we did. It is all thanks to Lumenos.
Maybe she’s right. After all, where could that lightning have come from?
I push the thought to the back of my mind as Astri tells me, But we are not safe yet. We must get out of Tyren before anyone notices us. She crouches down. Hop on.
I climb on her back, settling between her wings. “Um, you know I can fly too, though, right?”
Of course. But what I am about to do is something you cannot.
She flaps her wings, taking off into the sky. The wind blows through my hair as we fly towards the sun, towards the light.