I huffed a quick and raspy breath before I was instantly pinned down to the ground again.
“C’mon Princess, just tell us where he is. All your troubles will be over with. Just one sentence could potentially save your life,” came the rough mocking voice of my current captor.
“I already told you, I don’t know where he is,” I said between gasping breaths.
“Oh, but you do, Rayla, you know you do,” he said as he crushed my ribs with his foot.
I heard an unnerving crack, and a burning pain ran down my side.
“If our torture isn’t enough to get your secrets out, I hope you adjust to a life in prison, Rayla,” he said.
“I’m sure that would be rather nice. I’m already separated from my family, you’ve already gagged me and nearly suffocated me, and not to mention that time you dosed me in icy water just to make me tell you where he is. I can stand a month or two in prison,” I said as I held my side, grasping for breath.
He lifted his foot off my hip and grabbed my shirt, forcing me up to meet his swamp green eyes that reminded me of my brother.
“I’m not joking around, Rayla. I’ll leave you in prison until you tell us where he is. You’ll see just how cruel prison life can be,” he said. He turned to the two men beside him. “Put her in prison, she needs to learn a lesson,” he finished with a glint in his eye.
Before I could protest anymore, the guards hoisted me up. I winced as they squashed my newly broken rib close to them like a sandwich.
“WAIT!” I called out to the young captivator. He turned to me.
“What’s your name?” I asked.
“Jace,” he said slowly, as he narrowed his eyes at me. “Why?”
“You remind me of my brother, that's all,” I said.
“I haven’t met your brother in my life,” he said quickly, as if I had struck something inside him.
“I’m sorry if I offended you at all, I just-”
“No need to be sorry,” he said. He turned to his guards. “Now, take her away, I’m getting tired of her persisting attitude.”
They shoved me onward toward the dungeons. I begrudgingly went along with them. Once we arrived, they chained my wrists and feet ‘upon strict orders from Jace’, they assured me. The young boss couldn’t possibly be more than seventeen or eighteen, I figured, so why exactly were these big buff dudes following him? What exactly was so special about this Jace creature?
I shoved the thoughts aside as they shoved me in a cell (lots of shoving, I know).
So, they chained my wrists, feet, and basically my whole consciousness. Oh, and better yet, they blindfolded me. I didn’t have the energy to protest, and plus, my side was (quite literally) killing me. I laid on the hard and rough floor and cried my way to sleep. Throughout the night, I heard a few grumbles and roars that sounded like animals, but I assured myself that Jace and his henchmen were just partying like a bunch of animals.
I was awakened by an unusually loud rumble that shook the brick structure. Since I couldn’t see anything, I let my other senses kick in. Rocks were falling from the roof, shouts arose in the hall, the air smelt like rubble after an earthquake. I could sense something was happening, and before I knew what, the roof collapsed on top of me. Oblivion greeted me with pleasure.
I woke up gagging and coughing. Rocks were piled up all over the place, and most of the dungeons were wrecked or ruined. I found that my chains were lost in the rubbish, and my blindfold was also displaced. My rib still ached and pained. I saw a door that led down some stairs. From that doorway came vigorous roars and growls, much more intense than last night. Curiosity got the best of me, and I hobbled toward the sounds.
It sounded like many caged animals were enraged and begging for escape. The creaky wooden stairs barely supported me, so I stepped carefully, wincing ever so often. It was rather dark in this accent, but I managed. When I reached the bottom, the roars seemed more pleading. Other sounds accompanied the roars, there were growls, snarls, the sound of teeth gnashing together, wings flapping, and stomping.
Despite the pitch darkness, it seems like I was in a giant cavern, for the open space around me was eternal.
There must be enough animals in here to form an army...I thought.
A dragon came snapping at me on my left, but chains held him back. I jumped at the action, but rather at the surprise of seeing an actual dragon. On my right came a piercing howl and a werewolf pack’s gnashing teeth. Further up on the left, there was a glass pool of water that barely held the giant Loch Ness Monster inside. Across from the monster, unicorns, alicorns, griffins, hippogriffs laid in chains and cages. There were phoenixes, goblins, fairies, trolls, centaurs, ghosts, dwarfs, yetis, mermaids, and even BigFoot, all caged and outraged.
I stood in complete shock.
“So this is why all of the legends and myths are no more, they’ve been held captive here all these years…” I said aloud.
“You sound surprised,” a dwarf said casually.
I could only gape. My mouth opened and closed like a fish.
“You...you can talk…” I stuttered.
“Of course we can talk. Humans just skip over us like we’re nothing. They capture us, and use us for their own benefit. They don’t even think we feel anything like they do,” he said.
I almost felt sorry for the little caged animals. But then my senses kicked in.
“But you guys are dangerous! Dragons kill people, BigFoot is a supposed monster, yetis are monsters as well, The Loch Ness Monster has ‘monster’ in his name, ghosts haunt people and places, and the list goes on and on!” I said.
“Only in Urban legends and superstitions, Rayla. And Loch Ness is a she,” he said.
“Okay, but still...WAIT WHAT!?!?!” I couldn’t contain myself.
“Sure, we want revenge on the humans because they capture us and our offspring, but other than that, we aren’t that mean and cruel as the legends depict us to be,” he said.
“What’s your name anyway? And how did you know mine?” I asked.
“I’m Loth Thunderge. I know your name because my little beetle assistant helped me. His name is Jester. Did anyone ever tell you that your eyes are pretty?” Loth said.
I could tell the little dwarf had a short attention span.
“Okay, uh Loth. Jester...that’s a nice name. You really think so?”
“Of course I really think so! They’re a very interesting shade of blue that not many have. Anyway, do you plan on standing there or actually freeing us? Cause if not, we’re just wasting time…” Loth said. I took a moment to size up the dwarf. He had a fiery orange beard and mustache with brown hazel eyes to top it all off. He was wearing light brown leather and a dark blue cloak.
“Right, right. How exactly do I let you out now?” I asked.
“Well, think about it, Rayla. I’d assume that there is some kind of key or button perhaps. Check it out, explore a little. Isn’t that what you always do? Getting yourself and others into trouble because of your expeditions?” Loth said.
“You will not go there. My brother dragged me into this, not the other way around. I already said I don’t know where he is!” I nearly yelled. I hobbled away briskly in a huff.
I ignored the caged animals as I stormed on into the dark.
Why did he leave me like he did? We were safer as a pair, but he just had to be the lone wolf in this situation. I wonder how Mother and Father’s kingdom is behaving…perhaps they finally got those rebel clans under control…
My thoughts were all over the place, but they mainly went back to Peter. He was such a good older brother to me, always cheering up the mood, playing great songs on his harmonica, and he had that good spirited dog, Chester, I believe. They were certainly the ‘run-away’ type, and I fit in perfectly.
But one piece of the puzzle was missing...where was Peter (and Chester for that matter), and what does Jace have to do with anything? I shook my thoughts aside and searched for a method of escape. I soon came across a control panel that had many buttons and levers and whatnot (thankfully, they were all labeled), and soon, the animals were out in no time.
One piece of my plan failed though. The mystical creatures wanted to get revenge on the humans...and I was a human in the thick of it, with a broken rib, nonetheless. I gulped and stumbled back to Loth’s cage which was no longer occupied since the animals were running about. I noticed that a beautiful black Pegasus was struggling to escape through the open door. I rushed over to its aid, even if it might cost me greatly.
“It’s alright, boy, I’m here to help,” I said softly, not wanting to startle the beast. He whinnied softly and stopped struggling. I didn’t notice the ghost that came up from behind me.
“My word, a human! What a nuisance, I tell you, a nuisance! This must be stopped at once!” He exclaimed.
“I’m just trying to help the Pegasus, Ghost. If you have a problem with that, you can leave,” I said with full confidence.
“Help? Whatever for? Why would you, a mere human, wish to help Peg, a highly beast of the heavens?” came the ghost’s empty voice.
“Peg? That’s a nice name,” I countered, avoiding his question.
“Yes, Peg is she, and I am Martin. But what puzzles me is why you wish to help Peg. Or any of us for that matter,” Martin said.
“I just have a heart for animals and I hate to see you all suffer. I’ll do anything that I can to help if you just give me the chance, even if it costs me my life,” I said. It shut him up quite a bit after that.
I finished freeing Peg and she gave me a small nudge and whinny to show her appreciation.
“Can’t she talk?” I asked Martin.
“Well, no, horses, and Pegasi alike cannot talk even though Pegasi are mystical,” he replied.
“Hm. That’s sad though, I bet she has so much to say, don’t you girl?” I asked.
She replied with another whinny. I stroked her obsidian black coat, and her muscles hummed under my fingertips. Once I finished petting her, I remembered the task at hand.
“We gotta get out of here,” I said.
I limped toward the stairwell that led to the dungeons. As I slowly made my way up the spiraling steps, I heard a whimper. I looked around for the sound source and found that a dragon was wedged in the stairwell, his fiery red wings outstretched and covering something. There stood Jace’s smirking face as he threatened the dragon. My eyes widened in surprise, and then narrowed in anger.
“JACE!” I called out.
His smirk changed to something between an annoyed smile and a scowl.
“You again, Rayla? Can’t you see these animals are escaping! Help me herd them back to their cells,” Jace said.
“Nope. Not gonna happen, Jace. These animals are harmless! I’m glad I let them go. No wonder your parents don’t love you, I can see why.” As I finished my mini rant, the dragon started speaking to me.
“Rayla, please take Asher and Sue, they must escape alive. I’ll hold off Jace and his henchmen until you do.” I was confused by what he said at first, but then he moved his red wing to reveal a werewolf pup and a little sparkly light which I realized must be a fairy.
“Uh okay, I’ll keep them safe,” I said with a questionable tone.
The dragon nodded a solemn nod and turned to face Jace. I was surprised at how much trust the dragon had in me. I scooped up Asher, the werewolf pup, and Sue, the fairy, and I climbed onto Peg. Martin was having his doubts, but in the end, he clung onto Peg’s tail as she went airborne.
Peg soared above the dragon who was breathing a yellowish orange fire at Jace. I clung to her back gently and held Asher and Sue very carefully and lightly. Martin slashed about behind us, occasionally letting out some foul language about us humans and how careless we are. I paid him no mind, my mind was already occupied with grasping everything that just happened.
Peg flew us out of the wreckage and into broad daylight. The forest was as big as ever from this view in the sky.
We eventually landed in a small clearing that gave us plenty of cover, but was still large enough to give us all a little space. I headed over to a tall thick tree and sat with my back to its trunk. I let out a sigh of relief as I leaned my head back and closed my eyes. Peter rushed back to my thoughts.
“RAYLA! RUN! Don’t ever look back, trust me, it’ll be alright, just go!” Peter yelled at me.
“Don’t ‘but Peter’ me, do as I tell you and run!” Tears were streaming down my face.
“Peter, I-I love you,” I stuttered.
“I love you too sis, now run before they come. It’ll be alright,” he said. His voice was more than a plea, it was a promise.
It’ll be alright, he had said. I hope that it’ll be alright.
I was dragged from my thoughts when Martin shouted “INCOMING! MOVE YOU SILLY ANIMALS!” I opened my eyes to see what the chatter was about. The big red dragon from earlier was coming toward us. In his dark talons were two figures, one like a normal teenage boy, and the other like a dwarf. I rushed up, but my hopes faded when it was Jace instead of Peter.
I nearly turned and went back to my tree, but Jace’s voice caught me off guard.
“Rayla, wait!” he said, stumbling out of the dragon’s grip. Loth broke free as well and went over to Asher and Sue.
“What do you want, Jace?” I asked through a clenched jaw.
“I just want to talk to you for a moment. Listen, I’m sorry about everything that I did to you, I really am. Putting you in jail was a bit extreme, and I am sorry.” His swamp green eyes were pleading for me to forgive him.
“You’re pretty persuasive, just as Peter was. I say that past experiences are to be lived through and forgotten about, so yes, in a way, I forgive you,” I said with a small smile.
His eyes sparkled and shined, bringing light on the darkest of days, just like Peter…
“So, I do believe we haven’t been properly introduced. This is Finely,” he pointed to the dragon. “Loth and Jester,” he said, as he pointed to the dwarf and his beetle. “Martin, Sue, and Asher,” he said, as he pointed to the ghost, the fairy, and the werewolf pup.
“Your turn,” he said to me.
“I’m Rayla as you apparently know already,” I said with a pout on my face.
“Of course I would know, sis. A brother should know everything about his sister,” he replied.
“Wait wait wait, you mean to say that it was all an act?” I asked.
“That’s exactly what I mean, sis. I told you everything would be alright, but you didn’t listen,” Jace-now-Peter said.
“But you literally broke my rib! You captured mystical animals for pleasure! You-”
“For everything there is a purpose, Rayla. I broke your rib to teach you a lesson. I ‘captured’ these animals because I wanted to save them from being hunted. For everything there is a time and a season. And now, I think it’s the perfect time to rebuild our own castle,” he finished.
“Why stop at a castle? How about a garden so all the animals can be safe? With a waterfall of course, and perhaps a smaller castle in the middle…” I said.
“Sounds like a plan to me! I’ll get to work on building that castle, Princess,” he said, very much like himself again.