Jailbreak

This is chapter 12 of my webnovel, The Elementals: Song of Spirit. If you’re on the wrong chapter, or are just starting to read, click here for the linked table of contents. And happy reading! ~ JR

Chapter 12
Jailbreak

Mae1

Mae watched water droplets splash against the metal of her prison bars and sighed tiredly. She had spent a great deal of time — she guessed at least two hours — searching every nook and cranny of her small cell, looking for a way out, to no avail. There was not even one tiny crack in the stone enclosure, not one bar even made a whispering promise of movement, and the only other substance in the cell — the pile of straw on which she now sat — was so damp and flimsy that she couldn’t fathom how it could be any kind of escape tool at all.

“Well, they are Earth-Born,” she mused to herself out loud. It was comforting in that silent, moss lit place to hear a familiar voice, even if it was her own. “I guess they know a few things about rock and metal.”

“As you know about Fire, my queen,” a voice said from just outside of her cell. It had a raspy feel to it, as if the speaker had a bad sore throat.

Startled, Mae jumped up, peering fearfully into the darkness. “Who’s there? Show yourself! I know kung-fu!” The last statement was a lie, and she hoped desperately that she would not have to prove it.

“Is that an order, my queen?” the voice asked.

At that, the first words sank in. “Q… queen?” Mae whispered, confusion replacing fear. She shook her head hard. “Y… yes. That is an order. Show yourself!”

A small creature suddenly scurried in right between the bars and straight up to Mae, getting on one knee and bowing low before her. It was the size of a hamster, but obviously reptilian, with dark red scales under a tiny red cloak, the only clothing it seemed to be wearing. Its head was crested with sharp looking purple spikes that seemed to run down its entire back, judging from the bumps underneath its cloak, and it had a long, pointed tail that wagged like a dog as it spoke to her, looking at its clawed feet and wringing its clawed hands together excitedly.

“Sorceress of Fire, Daughter of Alchemy, Wielder of Athenal! My queen! I have found you at last!”

Mae studied the creature for a moment, unsure of how to act when addressed as a queen. Finally, she spoke, hoping her tone sounded like the person this lizard-thing seemed to think she was. “You may stand.”

Shaking all over, the creature stood and faced the girl. It reminded Mae of her father’s pet lizards, its wide mouth curving into a perpetual grin on either side of its head, and its nose, simple slits at the end of its snout. Its eyes, however, were far from the blank, reptilian orbs of the pets. These were bright red with a black slit down the center, and they shone with an intelligence far beyond that of the average housepet as the lizard-creature gazed at her worshipfully.

“What is your name?” Mae demanded in the haughty tone she had adopted.

“Sethiss, my queen,” it replied, taking a sweeping bow. “I am forever at your service.”

“Sethiss,” Mae mused. “Good name. It fits you.”

“Thank you, my queen,” it said.

“So, Sethiss, what brings you here to the deep dungeons of the dwarves?” she asked, trying to sound nonchalant. The truth was, she hoped very badly that this little creature had come to help her escape… though she didn’t place much hope on the tiny being’s abilities. Still, more than a few weirder things had happened to her since leaving her home. It would be nice if, for once, one of those weird things actually helped her.

“Why, you my queen!” Sethiss cried, still wringing his hands. He continued to shake as well, and to Mae his tremors seemed to be getting worse. “I have been searching for the elf ever since my Lord heard that he was to bring you to us. We feared that the elf would drag his feet, as is the wont of the Spirit-Born, and we wished to have you with us with great haste. So my Lord sent me to pick you up, as it were.” Sethiss looked around the cell and hissed, revealing a row of razor-sharp teeth. “I did not expect to find you so treated, my queen. Not at all. My Lord will not be happy about this.”

Mae shook her head. “I’m not thrilled about being locked away, no. But I’m not exactly thrilled about why I was thrown in here either.”

Sethiss eyed her. “My queen?”

“Hephaestus seems to think that you guys are out to get the dwarf babies, so he threw me in here to punish you… or something,” Mae explained. “Any reason he might think that?”

Sethiss shook his head. “I have heard of no such thing, I assure you, my Queen,” he said. “But you should ask the Fire-Lord instead of me. He would know much better than I.”

Mae nodded, looking around at her confinement. “So… know of any way to get me out of here?”

The lizard-creature snorted and hissed, a sound that somewhat resembled laughter. “My Queen, you ask me this? I am a lowly nobody salamander! My glamour is minimal, at best. But you! Well, I am amazed you did not come home on your own the moment they threw you in here!”

Mae gave the salamander a heavy-lidded look that her mother called her ‘are you a moron’ stare. “In case you can’t tell, Sethiss, it’s a bit wet in here to use fire magic. That is, if I even knew how.”

Sethiss gasped. “But my queen! How can you have forgotten your way home?”

Mae sighed, remembering what Romin had told the other sidhe about her siblings. “Oh, I don’t know. Maybe a few bazillion generations of time?” She pinched the bridge of her nose. “OK, so I’m willing to try. Heck, I mean, what else do I have to do down here anyway? But I’m thinking you may need to give me a bit of a reminder?”

The salamander nodded vigorously. “Y… y… yes, yes. Of c… c… course my queen. I am here to s.. s.. serve.” His shakes had gotten so bad they were beginning to affect his speech.

“Are you OK, Sethiss?” Mae asked, concerned. He was probably her only way out of here, plus he was growing on her a bit. She kind of liked him.

He nodded. “Never… b… b… better, my q… q… queen!”

Suddenly she realized the problem. “You’re freezing, aren’t you?”

Reluctantly, he nodded, no longer able to speak.

Mae slapped her forehead. Of course! Coming from the fire-driven Pyre Plane into the dank, cold underground dungeon could not be good for the little salamander, or any Fire-Born used to the warmth of their home, for that matter. Quickly, she unzipped her hoodie and draped it over his shivering form. It was somewhat damp, as were all of her clothes, but the fuzzy lining still maintained some of its warming qualities.

Sethiss sighed happily, snuggling under the downy hoodie. “My queen, I thank you for saving my life.”

“You weren’t going to tell me you were hurting,” Mae accused.

He shook his head. “Of course not, my queen! I am nothing compared to you. I would gladly die in your service, if that was what had to be done.”

Mae rolled her eyes. “OK, Mister Martyr. Tell me how, exactly, your dying would serve me down here?”

The salamander thought for a moment. “I’m sure I don’t know, my Queen. I simply thought …”

“I don’t know how this Lord of yours operates, but I won’t have my servants dying on me for no good reason, do you hear?” she ordered, shaking a finger at him.

He nodded. “Yes, my queen. As you command.”

“Now, speaking of commands, how about we get on with the lesson?” Mae said, eagerly. “I want to get out of here, and I have to admit, this whole fire magic thing sounds pretty cool.”

Sethiss cocked his head at her, a jerky movement that gave him a birdlike quality. “Cool, my queen?”

She laughed, surprising herself. “Sorry. I mean, it sounds neat. Like something I’d like to do.”

The salamander nodded. “I would think it would be, my queen. Fire runs in your very blood, after all! Now, then. Do you know where the nearest source of fire is?”

Mae thought for a moment, then shrugged. “I don’t know. But I can remember where the huge fire pit in their forge is from here, I think. Why?”

“That will do just fine,” the salamander replied. “All you must do is call to it and it will come to you. It is not mere glamour you possess, my queen, but the ability to command the very element of fire itself. Call to it, and it will come.”

Mae closed her eyes, trying to envision the fire pit that stood at least five stories of rock above her. For a moment, she could have sworn she felt a flicker of warmth, but it was gone in an instant. She opened her eyes, frustrated. “I can’t do it. Maybe my abilities got as weak as my memory.”

“Not your memory, my queen. The memory of your ancestor, long dead. Memories are a personal thing, and you have your own as did he. But your powers were given to by your parentage as surely as was your hair color was. You are still powerful, my queen. Please try again.”

Mae eyed the salamander. “I thought you said you were just a lowly salamander,” she said, pursing her lips. “But you seem a little too smart to be a grunt, as my dad would say.”

Sethiss grinned. Or, at least she thought he did. It was difficult to read his reptilian expressions. “I am a Wisen, my queen,” he admitted.

Mae made a face. “Wisen?”

“Yes, my queen,” Sethiss explained. “What you would probably call a teacher or a mentor. My Lord sent me to bring you back and help you with anything you may need on the journey, though he, himself, will be training you …”

“For Adams,” Mae said, remembering Romin’s words to the Earth and Water Lords.

“Yes,” the salamander said. “Now, may I humbly ask that we continue your training?”

Mae nodded. “Yeah, I’d like to get out of here.”

Taking a deep breath, she closed her eyes again, trying to envision the forge once more. In her mind’s eye, she quested around the upper stories, most of which were pitch-black, naturally or out of her own memory’s lack she couldn’t tell. All was cold and dark, and she felt entirely lost.

Biting her bottom lip in concentration, she decided to restart from where she knew, picturing the hallway outside of her cell and wishing she had paid more attention to her surroundings instead of kicking and screaming like a child as she was brought down here. Slowly, she walked the hall in her mind, traveling back up from where she had come, trying hard to remember how it had gone. Suddenly to her right she felt warmth. Not as hot as the forge had been, but warmth nonetheless. Questing further, her mind’s eye saw a flaming torch attached to the stone wall, one that she had seen on her way down but had thought nothing special of.

It was very special to her now.

“I have a torch, Sethiss,” she said, her eyes still closed, her concentration fixed on holding the image — and the warmth — in her mind.

“Good,” the salamander said. “Now, call to it.”

She nodded. Come to me, firelight, I beckon you forth, she thought. The words were strange to her, and not what she had originally planned to say, but they were much cooler-sounding, anyway.

Nothing happened. The torch in her mind’s eye remained where it was.

She grumbled, opening her eyes. “Well, that was a waste … ” She stopped, her eye catching sight of a reddish glow around the corner outside. Not the steady yellow of the moss. No, this was …

“Fire,” Sethiss whispered in excitement.

Slowly, it came, running along the wet rock like a streak of hot orange-red paint. It burned between the bars and stopped before her, blazing as an impossible torch on the inflammable wall. She stared at it, mouth open, amazed.

Suddenly, she saw another faint flicker in the darkness outside, and with it, heard the heavy trod of boots. The dwarves were returning! She looked at Sethiss desperately. It was all well and good to summon fire, but she was still stuck inside the cell and now she had incriminating evidence of an attempted jailbreak.

The salamander spoke quickly and quietly, his eyes darting back and forth between Mae and the hall outside. “Hold your hands to the flame as if you were warming yourself. Then, command it to form a Gate.”

“How on earth am I supposed to do that?” Mae asked, incredulous.

“Just do it,” the salamander snapped, then quickly slapped clawed hands against his mouth. “Oh, OH! Forgive me, my queen! I did not mean … ”

Mae held her hand up. The dwarves were coming closer; she could now hear their voices, though could not make out what they said. “No, I deserved it. No time for whining.” She held her hands up toward the burning wall and closed her eyes, thinking about a doorway and what she could imagine the Pyre Plane to look like.

“Look there! Be that the flicker o’ fire I see ahead?” a dwarven voice bellowed.

A second answered. “I do believe tis so! The Sorceress is tryin’ ta escape! Hurry lads!”

Mae forced herself to ignore the thunder of running dwarven boots as she continued to imagine a doorway to the Pyre Plane. It was far from easy. Thankfully, as before, words came unbidden to her lips.

“Grant me and mine access to the Lands of your birth, firelight, for I am your champion among the planes, and I command it of thee.”

“My Queen, they are upon us!” Sethiss cried. Mae’s eyes shot open and she scooped the salamander up in her arms, hoodie and all, as the fire blazed bright and whipped itself against the wall, spreading in flickering tendrils.

The thwarted dwarves stood outside of her cell, arms shielding their eyes against both the glare and the heat. They could come no further or risk being burnt alive. Among them, Mae recognized Quinn. As the fire tendrils continued to grow and began to form an intricate, blazing gate against the rock, she stuck her tongue out at him.

“You’re not the only one with power, dork!” she cried. The Fire Gate swung open. Not bothering to look where she was headed, Mae dashed through it with Sethiss in her arms.

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