Chapter 8: The Knight and The Maiden
People. What’s cooking in that pot is people. John had been unfortunate enough to come across the scent of cooked flesh before. One of the more unsavory moments of his time as an adventurer during a deep expedition into the great forest. He had hoped to never come across it again. But here, in the bowels of the dungeon, the past revisited him.
John’s stomach churned with nausea.
Slowly, methodically, John crept towards the cage. Though the going was slow, he was able to reach the bars without issue.
The glow from his [Twin Axe] revealed that inside the cage, huddled in opposite corners, were people. Actual people.
They lay cowered, wrapped up in themselves as quiet sobs wracked their bodies. They must have heard that terrible voice speaking too. Unlike the unworthy, these people looked mostly healthy, albiet miserable. They can’t have been here long.
They wore actual clothes instead of rags. The man appeared to be well-muscled from what John could see, and the woman seemed to be lithe, but not thin. Between them on the cage floor, there was a smear of bright red blood in a trail that lead towards the cell door. Similar, older stains adorned the cage, but this one was fresh. That explained the meat that I had seen before.
These people must have been the ones that the voice had spoken of. People like him had not made it through this floor of the dungeon. I’d be in that cage if one of those unworthy had captured me. Now, they awaited their fate.
Neither of the occupants of the cage stirred when he came near. John imagined that they were hesitant to move at all. Any sound that they made would draw the attention of the unworthy, and though John knew the pair were in danger, they were not in immediate danger from the unworthy.
The cage was not locked. That spoke volumes as to the situation they were in. If these two had not tried to escape, then they must truly think that it was not possible. The hinges of the door to the cage were rusty. If it were opened, the unworthy would know and be on them. John was reminded of something an old mentor of his used to say, “A cage without a lock, is a distraction from the real cage.”
But he couldn’t simply leave these people here to die. He had to try and help them. He had to let them know that there was hope, even though he wasn’t certain that he would be able to deliver on it. Besides, getting out of here is dependent on saving them, I’m sure of it.
Carefully, John held up one of his [Twin Axes] and began to wave it in from the cage, careful not to hit it against the metal bars. That would mean a swift and terrible retribution by the unworthy, and John knew would be killed on the spot or tossed into the cage along with them.
At first, the prisoners didn’t react at all. But, as they realized that this new light was not something that they were used to, they slowly started to unfurl themselves from their defensive positions on the ground.
The woman saw John first. Her eyes went wide, and she almost cried out, but John hastily put a finger to his lips, and she restrained herself.
The man was a bit slower, but when his gaze finally settled on John, his look was solemn. This man looked like he had seen to much in his life. Looking at him now, John could tell that he was a bit older. Seasoned. One brown eye staring at him while the other was a milky white with a scar across his brow. The man had a look of a Paladin about him. Whereas the woman was younger, closer to Johns's age.
They both stared at him and the light of his axes like they were a beacon in the darkness. John supposed that they actually were.
He didn’t risk trying to talk to them. That would draw the attention of the unworthy which is exactly what they did not want to do.
John had to resort to using his hands to communicate, carefully sheathing his [Twin Axe] back at his sides.
With a gesture, he pointed to the door of the cage, them he brought his hands flat together, side by side, and opened them apart.
Should I try opening the door?
The woman hastily shook her head no, pointing to the rusted hinges. It was as John feared. The cage opening would make noise, and noise was deadly.
John mimed throwing something to the far end of the kitchen. Maybe he could lure the unworthy away with a distraction and use the commotion to cover the sound of the cage opening.
The two occupants looked at each other. Then the man held out a hand and rotated his wrist so it shook from side to side.
“Risky.” The man mouthed soundlessly.
John shrugged his shoulders. It was the best plan they had. Once they were free, it would be three on twelve. A much more manageable number, even if the prisoners were unarmed.
If anything, John could lend one of them an axe, and they could find a suitable weapon for the others. There had to be knives around for cutting up the meat at least.
They would cross that bridge when they got to it. For now, John had to put his plan into motion. He got the sense that he only had one shot at this. If he failed, it would end badly for him and his fellow adventurers.
Steeling himself, John crept back through the kitchen on silent feet to retrieve one of the discarded bones. Don't store this.
This plan has merits. Using the weakness of an enemy to obscure and distract is resourceful. Though I wonder if these abominations will be cintent with mere bone when meat is so close.
With it firmly in his grasp, he returned to the cage. The faces that peered back at him were desperate but hopeful.
John held up three fingers, indicating that he was about to cause the distraction and that they should get ready.
One. I hope they're ready.
John wound his arm back to throw, and just then, there was a booming voice from slightly far off.
It was not the sound of the forgotten god. This one was more guttural. Higher. It came from behind a set of large wooden doors that dominated the right side of the kitchen, one of which was cracked.
The voice only spoke one word.
<Disembodied Whispering Voice>
He comes. The first of many to fail at a crossroad.