TotTSM – Part 9
Coming soon! I swear!!!!! (check back this coming Monday – (August 29th)) With any luck anyway!!!
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The journey to this ‘friend’ of Voren’s was not what Phena* had anticipated.. Then again, when had anything been what she thought it would be as of late? As soon as her head hit the pillow, Phena was out cold. The exhaustion of the day had finally worn her out. Now with the adrenaline of her ‘attack’ having faded as well, she found there was no use in trying to keep her eyes open a second longer.
Able to rest securely for once, Phena’s dreams were relatively normal, all things considered. She dreamt of home, her family, of returning back to her parents and being accused of wandering off like a harlot, still in her evening clothes.. Only her mother seemed to believe her anymore that these trips of hers weren’t something Phena was doing intentionally, although whether or not she believed that Phena was being toyed with by some supernatural force remained to be seen.
Nevertheless, Phena slept on until long into the night when Voren went to wake her. His hand had barely touched upon her shoulder when she jolted awake; instinctively pulling the dagger from its hilt that was strapped to her thigh. Eyes wide, Phena looked almost feral for a moment there. A thought which caused Voren to chuckle a bit.
“Sorry to have disturbed you, Ms. Phena, but it’s time to go. It’s the dead of night and my friend is waiting. Do you still wish to come, or are you too exhausted? I wouldn’t blame you if you wanted to linger awhile.. But the Palace is going to be busy soon with the upcoming ‘festivities’ and so on, so I would suggest this night or wait several weeks.”
Regarding him for a long, pregnant minute, Phena sighed. Shoving the dagger back into its hilt as she swung her legs over the side of the bed and stood. Wobbling ever so slightly as she did so. With her hair as it was, that sleeping yet refreshed look on her face, and that night gown clinging to her slender frame, Voren could indeed see how she would have caught the attention of those ‘moral police’ now patrolling the streets of his former home. Another fact which disturbed him. He knew they had been searching for something or someone. But why? He had heard no rumors on the streets yet about anything that would prove useful. Everything his former friends spoke of was clouded in fear and uncertainty. Even worse- gradual acceptance that this was the life was going to be now. Cave in, don’t fight.. How could anyone cower to such a thing?!
“Well then, I suppose we better go, shan’t we? You seem nice enough Voren. But weeks more in this tiny shack may see me driven mad. Then where would we be?” A tiny smile playing on a corner of her soft lips.
“Right then, well come with me. And don this.” he said, shoving a thick wool clock in her direction.
“What for?” inquired Phena, looking at the tattered cloak with a puzzled expression. “It’s the dead of summer, not the winter..”
“It all boils back down to what you wear, Phena. That white is.. well, TOO white for sneaking into the Palace. I’d rather not take any chances. I’m hoping my friend will be able to lend you something more suited for this place.. It’s got to be a bit drafty I imagine.”
With a tiny smile, and slight shrug, Phena took the clock, slid it around her shoulders and fastened it. She eyed the clasp suddenly; drawing it closer to her face when she saw the symbol. It wasn’t from her own kingdom, certainly not. That much was evident, but there WAS something familiar about it! Soemthing that could NOT be ignored.
Where have I seen this before?! she questioned with a heavy exhaled breath. It was there.. Nagged at the back of her mind.. Was it something she had dreamt about before?
YES! she breathed; letting the clasp and cloak fall away back onto her shoulders.
It was in my dreams! That last one before I woke up to find myself here! It was on the gate! I remember.. The Gate around that place.. With the eyes. It was IN the eyes too! In the very back. So distant yet so clear!! Oh goddess, I remember now..
Phena’s heart gave a sudden hard pump.
She…. He… whatever It was… Said three others.. One of them ending in an ‘En’, ‘Et’ or ‘Ren’.. He couldn’t… This couldn’t…
“Madam Phena?” Voren asked, head cocked to the side as he stared at her, looking rather confused and almost alarmed. “Are you quite alright? You appear as if you’ve seen a ghost.. Was it something about the cloak? Are you allergic to wool? I have another. It’s plain cotton, but in even worse shape than that one..”
Phena’s gaze snapped over and she nodded.
“You’re concern is duly noted and appreciated. Dare I say even cute, Voren. But I’m fine. Really. Thank you though. I just had one of those deja vu moments… Shall we be off then?”
Another faint smile touched Voren’s lips and he nodded. Saying nothing more as he plucked an unlit torch off his wall and started outside, trusting Phena to follow, but remember to close his door as well. Which she did without thinking twice about it.
When the subject of this visit was first broached, Phena was massively distrusting of this Voren. He had attacked her before, but for reasons which were not quite clear.. And yet not, as they started out for this friend of his, Phena noted that she was rather curious to know the person Voren spoke so highly of.. Dare she say even excited? She couldn’t say that the idea of trespassing into the bloody palace of all places terribly excited her, but there didn’t seem to be any choice. She could go around this city and such, but Voren said there were guards everywhere, and she still did not know which direction her home was in..
They paused then at the corner of the old brick wall which surrounded the city.
“Well? Where to? Why have we stopped?” she inquired. Noting that Voren was fiddling by a normal-sized, albeit old and very worn door cleverly hidden in said wall. She hadn’t noticed it before mostly because they were in a hurry and it was hidden by a vines and a great deal of brush.
With a shove, the door opened inward and Voren was urging her inside.
“Quick now.” once she was inside, he closed the door behind them, turned the lock across the door and finally struck the torch into life. Causing Phena to jump slightly. “Follow me, don’t stop. Don’t turn back. This tunnel pretty much goes in a straight line, but it does dip and turn a bit. Some of the bricks are lose and unstable.”
“Be right behind you.” Phena assured in a whisper and soon they were off.
Phena didn’t think this damned tunnel was ever going to end. As Voren promised its direction was pretty much linear but it DID dip in a few places, sometimes quite noticeably. And then there were these slight turns in either direction which, if one was not careful, COULD be disorienting.
Finally, whens she thought her legs and back were going to give out, they stopped at another door, against which Voren leaned for some time. She could tell by his expression that she was not to talk, not to make a sound of any kind until he gave her the all clear.. Which he soon did at the same time as he extinguished the torch, leaving it on an almost invisible peg on the wall by the door he had just been leaning upon.
“This way. Walk silently.” he noted, and pushed the door open with a small grunt of effort. Phena did as she was told. Noting that they were indeed inside the Palace, just by this store room alone. The royal crests where everywhere, although perhaps not as obvious as one might expect. Voren noted that it was as it had been the last time he was here. Clearly this was not a room used very often, but for that he was glad.
Voren turned and left the room then. Leaving Phena to scramble to keep up with him. In this little adventure of theirs, she couldn’t help but notice how light his steps were. And how quiet. She had never seen a man who moved like that. Normally they were big stumbling, bumbling idiots. Save for a select few. After another long, painfully silent walk, feeling more like a rat in a maze than anything else, Phena watched Voren come to a rather innocent looking door and give three quiet knocks.
“Come!” came the quiet, feminine voice on the other side. Cracking the door open, Voren stepped inside, beckoning Phena with him.
“Ori dear? Where are you? It’s so dark in here. Are we disturbing you? I have someone for you to meet. She came only today.. but she’s lost. Needs help. I told her we could trust you dea–” Voren’s foot caught on something in the middle of the dark floor then and he toppled over, grunting a little as his knee hit the floor. “What the hell…” he blinked, groping for one of the gas lamps on the wall, he turned the thumb piece, soon filling the room with illumination… And a horrible sight he had never wished to behold.
“ORI!” he gasped, immediately crouching again at her side with Phena beside him. His mother-like friend was on the floor on her stomach, arms slightly above her head. There was blood everywhere. All over her, the floor, the walls. Her lamps were knocked off her tables and broken upon the floor.. It was a wonder he hadn’t fallen on any.. “Goddess.. what happened? Who did this to you?!”
“Hang on, madam Ori,” Phena whispered, looking for something to staunch the blood with on any number of the stab wounds on her back, lords only knew how many Ori possessed in total, especially on her chest. “We’ll fetch you a doctor.” Knowing that sounded quite foolish. “Erm.. we’ll take you out of here, back to Voren’s house..”
A weak smile flickered onto Ori’s face; her eyes closing for a moment.
“We all know .. it is too late… too late for that..” she breathed. Clearly struggling with that much.
Phena’s eyes rose to look upon Voren, who appeared to be quite shaken up over this. Shaken and distraught.. Phena didn’t know it yet, but Ori had become the mother her lost so long ago. She had been kind to him in these few weeks. Given him what clothes she could pilfer from the soldiers laundry. Food from the pantry, affection, a kind ear to talk to, a figure to him he could look to for comfort, company and a good story, and advice to boot.
“Who did this to you?” Voren murmured, his voice shaky; close to breaking as tears welled in his eyes. He had never felt so helpless.
“Men… The men from the… guards.. The Palace.. monsters..” Ori whispered, laying one of her hands upon Vorens own. “They know you’re here… Phena… And you too… Voren…”
“Here in the Palace?” Phena gasped, her blood running cold. She was consumed with the urge to flee. To hide herself where no one would think to look. Escape, she had to escape!!
“Here… in the city…” Ori continued, her breaths coming harder, quicker. “They know you… are sheltering her.. Voren..”
“How?! She only just arrived today..” He argued, and Ori picked her head up slightly.
Phena gasped. She could see Ori’s throat had been sliced open in addition to having been stabbed numerous times.
“I.. don’t know.. dear Voren. I just know… THEY know.. They have… dark… Workers… Eyes.. see deep… They’ve… been waiting. Not knowing for what… They feel her here. They feel YOU here.. Voren… Not.. in the palace per se.. but here. Helping her…”
“Save your strength..” Phena urged, still attempting to stop the bleeding. This didn’t make sense. How could anyone have known she was here? How could they have known Voren was helping her? Or that Ori was helping Voren?
“They… brought you here… Like a leaf caught… caught in the wind of a storm… You’re special to them.. Phena.. You.. you’re catalyst… for.. for.. great…ness… And Voren… And…” Ori cringed. “Mm… You … have to go now.. both of you.. Phena… on.. in that chest… a dress for you.. A pair of slacks to take with… Voren.. take what you need from this room.. Be quick. In that same chest is a box.. red box.. gold leaf… Only one.. Take it with you. My money.. my earnings, under my pillow. Take too… The ring.. on the… desk.. Be quick, you must leave this place. Not just to the shack, but the… the city– the kingdom all together.. GO.. back through the tunnel… Stop at the yellow tile… turn.. to the left… There’s a weird block that protrudes slightly.. Three suns upon it… Press it, another tunnel will open.. You… you need to hurry through for the door will be swift to shut again.. Follow it to its end, it will lead you out of the palace.. out of the city… Follow… follow the river… to the bend..”
“Oh gods Ori.. I’m so sorry.. I didn’t mean… I didn’t want any of this to happen… If I had known..” Voren wept, brushing at his eyes.
“Don’t be… foolish… I regret.. no moment knowing you..” Smiling weakly as if to make a point. “Phena..” she continued, hoarsely. “Our time short… but… I am happy to have met you too… Fare…. farewell… My darling son..” her grip upon Vorens hand suddenly tightened for a moment… then went limp. A strangled sob leaving Voren as all life left Ori’s eyes and she spoke no more.
Phena sat there stunned. Tears sliding down her own face as she took in what just occurred. This Ori woman was sweet, she was kind.. And had obviously meant a great deal to Voren.. To see him struggle with this loss after everything else he had been deprived of for so long was gut-wrenching..
“Voren.. We must go.. She said time is of the essence.. They’re going to come back for her.. We have to go..” Rising from Ori’s side, Phena went to the trunk as directed and pulled out the dress Ori said was there waiting for her. It was a warm, moss-y green with a low front, long sleeves that flared at the wrists quite a bit, and faded gold trip around the cuffs, middle and end of the dress.
Not thinking twice about it, she put it on over her evening gown and tied the sash around the middle as tight as she could. She then plucked the pair of slacks out, as well as the box and the bit of coins under Ori’s pillow as directed. Sad as she was, someone had to think about getting out of here. Finally, after pulling the plain gold ring off of Ori’s hand, Voren looked to Phena and nodded.
“She said take what we needed. I think we have it all. She has no weapons.. I think whatever is in that box will help us plenty. I have enough supplies to fend for us.. We have no choice. There’s no time to go back to my hut for anything.. There’s nothing there either we can’t do without.. We have to go on.. She’s right. They’re coming for us. I can sense it.”
“So can I.” Phena shivered unhappily.
“Let’s go then.” Crouching down, Voren gave Ori’s grey head a final kiss, then rose and lead the way out of her room and back to that storage room in record time. Flinging the door open, he urged Phena inside first, then darted in, yanked it shut and turned the strong iron bar over it, just as several loud foot steps could be heard darting down the hall and barging into Ori’s room with enough force to have surely broken the door off its hinges.
Perhaps it was best he and Phena were running down through the tunnel at record speed. Voren would have been utterly broken if he had heard what they said of Ori.. and then what they did to her.. Since her body was still ‘warm’ and her womanhood still wet..
Racing through the tunnel, the only sounds that could be heard were their hard breaths and rapid retreating footsteps. All the sudden, they came to that tile on the floor. The one that seemed so pretty but out of place amongst the cobblestones. Their eyes snapped up together, to the wall Ori had spoken of and both went to mash the slightly protruding brick at the same time.
The small door, barely wide enough for them to crawl through, fell open with a dull thud and Phena was the first one through it, with Voren right behind her. And it was a good thing too since the door suddenly rose just as his feet had been pulled through. Had he not moved them in time, there was enough force in that thing to snap his feet in half, he had no doubt.
“I don’t think the torch will help us now.” Voren hissed, trying to catch his breath.
“But can we be sure this tunnel leads to where she says it does? What if it doesn’t? What is the path is blocked at some point and we have to turn back. She didn’t say how to get out in that case!!!” Phena stressed.
“Well, we haven’t a choice now.. If something like that happens, we’ll just have to figure it out.. No time to turn back. Let’s go Phena. Please.. I am done with this place. The only good, decent person that was in it before you is gone.”
“I’m sorry..” Phena noted sadly.
“As am I.. We don’t have time to waste though. Quickly now.”
With a nod, Phena turned her gave in front of herself and began to crawl as quickly as she could. She wasn’t so concerned with seeing the outside again, as she was about getting away from the danger walking above her. What was it they wanted her so badly for? And Voren too? Why had this city become a nightmare and its people happy to have become mindless fools?
“For.. for what’s worth..” Voren panted behind her. “I’m glad you came.. here…”
Phena didn’t glance back, but she smiled. Hoping the tenderness of her voice relayed how touched she was by that statement.
“Thank you.. For what it’s worth.. I am too…”
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* = Editors Note: From here on Kaeda = Phena. Kaeda was never going to be her official name, but when I started this that was the only name which came to mind. I think Phena is what I’m sticking with now. So bare with me while I go back and change all of that. – S.
** = ALSO!! This Phena, is in no relation to the ‘Phena’ in my Wednesday exercises. It’s just a name I thought of and happened to like. And actually I used that name for the Wednesday exercises before deciding to change Kaeda (a name I didn’t really think suited this character anyway) to ‘Phena’. – S.
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