(IP) The Great Escape
Darkness descended upon the land, blanketing it under the cover of dark, swirling storm clouds.
The snow-capped mountains ringed the crumbling stone fortress, a gray stone barrier that protected it and the mines that went down deep into the mountains, built on the backs of the broken and downtrodden. Still, the castle is a buzzing hive of activity, even this close to evening. Servants traveled the halls inside, often in pairs and small groups, heads close together as they whispered to one another; if one looked closely, they’d see dark, red-rimmed eyes, pale faces, bitten lips and torn clothing.
A hooded figure slipped through the crowded hallways, unnoticed, head lowered in deference, heading toward the dungeons. The chaos of the castle is such that no one even gives the figure a sideways glance. That was good; the interloper intended it that way.
She’d come all this way for a reason, and it would not do to stand out. She needed to blend in, though it took everything in her power to stay quiet. The rage inside of her chest burned bright, a flame that would not be doused by anything but vengeance, retribution. If she could, she would burn this building down to the foundations. It had been built on the backs of her people, and many others, people that weren’t rich and privileged and able to hide their darkest secrets: anything to hold their positions. To profit from every immoral thing that they’d ever committed. She had to swallow to prevent her gorge from rising, to hold in the screams of frustration that were building inside of her throat, longing to be loosed. But none of that mattered now; she’d come to free the prisoners that were rotting in the dungeons.
Her priority now had to be to get them out of the castle alive, for fear that the Queen’s Guard would spot them and murder them where they stood. She forced herself to take a deep breath; she had to stay calm. If she slipped up, if she made even the smallest error, it wouldn’t just be her life at risk.
And she hadn’t taken on this mission to lose it. She’d sacrificed everything to become a member of the Resistance; her station, her lover, her family, and almost her sanity. She’d come too far to turn tail and run now.
She found the staircase that led down into the dungeons and quickly but carefully made the descent, the stench of mold and mildew hitting her face like a blow. She put one arm over her face and used her free hand to guide her way down the steps, wincing when her fingers met wet moss. Her eyes streamed; the awful smell of rotting flesh seemed to sink into her cloak, hair, and skin, and she swallowed, resisting the urge to gag.
At last, she reached the bottom floor, and she hurried to the cells, noticing more than one shadow curled up in the eerie light of the torches on the walls, tucked into sconces. She heard someone coughing, hacking as though they were choking, and she approached slowly, looking for a cap of bright red hair.
When she found the right cell, she knelt in front of the door, shoving the key into the lock with trembling hands.
A wasted little girl sat against the stone wall, arms wrapped around her knees. Her fine gown had once been white, but now it was black with sick and other filth. Her face was deathly pale, her eyes bright amber hollows in the dim light, and her long hair was matted and tangled, full of sticks, blood, and leaves. She looked up at the hooded figure, full lips parted.
“Who are you?”
"I’m a friend. We’ll talk later, when I get you out of here, Princess.”