Episode 6 Chapter 28

Theodore shivered, feeling a chill on his bare skin. It made him wonder about what happened to his clothes. It bothered him knowing he was going to die here without first returning his uniform to the Laien government supply warehouse. Annual inventory was coming next month and the numbers would be off by one. It would be all his fault. He pulled against his shackles, yanking the chains taut, but it was no use.

The air was sweet with oils and perfume. He had to squint through his loose hanging hair. The world was a soft haze without his glasses. Somehow, the ant eyes Oboe had given him were better than his real ones. Even so, Bassoon’s bed chamber was grander than anything he had seen in the palace. A vibrant, white heaven of alabaster pillars and hanging silks. It was marred only by the old blood stains caked into the floor at his feet.

Oboe thrashed against the opposite wall, chains rattling, her breathing ragged. Where did she find the strength? The iron made her weak like him.

“Please stop,” he said. “You’re going to hurt yourself.”

“Don’t tell me what to do!!” Oboe said. “She’s not going to get away with this! I’ll punch her! Right in her big evil face! I’ll make her regret everything!”

“We need to stay calm and think of a plan,” Theodore said. Though he was at a loss on how to turn this hopeless situation around. If he had his hairpins he could try to pick the lock, but they were lost somewhere in the labyrinth along with his pants. “You won’t have the energy to fight if you keep this up.”

“I don’t know what else to do!!” Oboe stomped her hooves. “This is all my fault! It’s always my fault! Because I’m stupid! I spent my whole life wanting grandmother to love me, but she’s the worst creature in the world! I let her trick me, and then I ruined everything!”

Theodore glared. “Stop it. You’re not the one to blame. She tricked both of us. What matters is that you stood up to her. If you hadn’t done that, I’d be dead. Thank you.”

Oboe choked back a sniffle. “Theo…”

“We’re going to get out of this, okay? We’ll expose her for what she is and stop the invasion. But I need you stay calm and sharp, alright?”

She nodded. “Okay. You’re right. But how can we escape?”

Theodore gave a blank stare. He tugged at his shackles again. “Uh.” He had no idea. He scanned the room, trying to spot anything of use. Bassoon had hung the torn remains of Oboe’s mantle on a nearby silk veil in plain sight between them. Theodore assumed she did this to torment Oboe.

“Does your mantle have a pin clasp?” He said.

“Huh?” Oboe said. “It does. Why?”

It wasn’t an ideal lock pick, and he wasn’t even sure how he would use it with his hands bound, but it would have to do. The mantle itself was far out of reach, but it was attached to a curtain that ran across the room. Theodore pushed against his chains and reached for the edge of the curtain. His fingers brushed against it. He tried to stretch, feeding as much chain through the wall bolt as he could to give one arm more range. Lunging, on his third try he managed to snap a hold on a bit of cloth between his fingers. It was enough to get better grip, and then tear the silk down from its hangers. The mantle fell to the floor with a soft fwump.

“You did it!” Oboe said. Now Theodore just needed to reel it in.

The door burst open. Startled, Oboe and Theodore turned and saw Bassoon storming into the room.

“What did you do?!” The Fair Lady said, furious.

Theodore dropped the curtain, eyes wide, and offered a feeble smile. The Fair Lady strode past him, ignoring him, and leered at Oboe.

“Explain yourself, you wretch! What did you do?!”

“We’re just trying to escape!” Oboe said. “Give me a break! What did you expect us to do??”

“No!” Bassoon grabbed Oboe by the hair and bashed her head against the wall. She yelped in pain and Theodore clenched his teeth.

“I’m through playing games with you, child! The sword! Where is it?!”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about!” Oboe said.

“Did you think you could lie to me?!” Bassoon said, and lifted her mantle. Carved across her chest was a scar, glowing a hot angry white. “Did you think you could remove the sword without my noticing? Did you think you could kill me this way?” Oboe shrieked as Bassoon tore a handful of hair from her mane. “Think again. Tell me how you managed this, or I will make you the next sacrifice!”

“Leave her alone!” Theodore said, struggling against his chains.

“Wait your turn,” Bassoon said, sneering. “Daughter, this is your last chance. Tell me where the sword is, or I promise that I will make you suffer.”

Oboe glared back. “I told you! I don’t know!”

Before Bassoon could lash out again, a troop of nymphs came to the door.

“My Queen.” Their leader bowed. “The spriggan are on alert as you commanded. Also, the Feymire commander is requesting to speak to you again.”

“I could care less what that blowhard wants,” Bassoon said. “Tell him that if he wants to attack the capital so badly he can do it without our help. That will shut him up. He knows a direct assault on the wall is suicide. I don’t have time to babysit him right now. Our priority is finding the sword.”

“Yes, my Queen.”

“I’m going to the scrying pool to divine its location.” Bassoon gestured towards Theodore and Oboe. “I want a torturer brought to twist a confession out of these two. Report any news to my Whispers, understood?”

The spriggan beat their chests and got to work. The Fair Lady turned to face Oboe.

“How very clever you must think you are. Yet in the end it will not matter. I will find it again, and once I do, I will introduce you to a world of pain you could never have imagined.”

Theodore watched as Bassoon swept out the door into the hall, leaving them with the promise of suffering to come.

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