Caution: Quills may be sharp Circulation: 106,046,831 Issue: 211 | 7th day of Collecting, Y7
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Escape: Part One

by firedragon9078


The November sunlight filtered in all windows of the Meridell Castle leaving everything bathed in a golden radiance. Valrigard the Draik sat in front of a small open window, taking in the breathtaking landscape with a lazy sweep of his eyes. Below, villagers were just beginning to wake up to find their rows and rows of cornfields, berry bushes, and potato plants soaking in the morning sun. Valrigard sighed and reluctantly pulled his eyes away from the view. "I still have two more days of labor ahead of me before I can relax," he sighed.

     Slowly, he made his way over to a quaint wooden mirror for a glance at his reflection. A rather handsome looking navy-blue Draik gazed back at him. Its eyes were a fierce shade of burgundy, which welcomed friends, but warned adversaries to approach with caution. A coat of silver chain mail protected its chest and stomach while a sparkling silver helmet adorned its head. Satisfied, Valrigard made his way to the front of his room; and gently lifted a dazzling Million-Degree Sword off its place on the wall. "My pride and joy," he thought fondly. Many a battle he had wielded its magnificent steel blade to bring down unwanted intruders just outside of the castle. He quickly sheathed it as the mournful sound of a tolling bell met his ear. "My job awaits," he thought rather tenebrously. His claws clicked hollowly upon the stone floor as he made his way down the caliginous hallway, which was completely deserted at this hour. He walked past many beautiful paintings of royalty, all with enchanting smiles and elegant clothing. It was strange that he had only just noticed how their eyes seemed to watch you, following your every move.

     All of these thoughts forsook him though, as he heard the resounding thud of heavy footsteps a little way ahead. "Who could be up at this hour," he pondered. "Most of the other guards have rooms on the first floor." As he was about to round the corner he heard the crackle of paper and realized he had trampled over a letter. "Someone must have dropped it," he thought. "They'll be wanting it back." He stooped to pick it up but realized that the footfalls were only feet away. He hurriedly hid the letter beneath his claws; for some reason he didn't feel like anyone else should descry it.

     As the footsteps rounded the corner Valrigard noticed that the owner of them was a colossal purple Grarrl. He also noticed that its standing was far above his. Golden chainmail covered his chest. In his claws he grasped a jewel-encrusted sword and an iron shield hung freely at his side. One of the king's most trusted advisors, no doubt. As the guard caught sight of him he smiled wickedly and said, "Valrigard, is it? You are fortunate you ran into me; I happen to know that the king wants a word with you."

     At that he turned on his heel and strode authoritatively to the chambers of King Skarl. Valrigard looked curiously after him and started walking the same way himself. "What could the King want with me?" he deliberated. After a few minutes of striding in the most official way he could contrive, Valrigard finally reached an enormous door with the words "So the King demands, so the King shall have." A quiver ran through him as he trekked toward the door. Suddenly he realized that he felt crumpled paper in his claws. "I must have picked up the letter without realizing it," he thought. An imperious voice broke him out of his reverie and he recognized it as the King's.

     "Valrigard," it boomed, "you have committed an atrocity not seen in this citadel for at least one hundred years. What do you have to say for yourself?"

     Valrigard stood there looking dumbfounded and found himself incapable of saying anything at all.

     "Well?" the King demanded.

     "Arrg!" Valrigard thought, "someone seems to have found out about my stealing that extra portion of apple pie during meal!"

     "Since it seems that you do not have the courage to make amends I shall dole out a punishment worthy of the crime," the King shouted. "Guards, to the dungeons with this knave!"

     As two muscular guards grabbed him by the arms all Valrigard could think of to say was "I'm innocent!"

     He knew that was what all the criminals said. Valrigard looked around his cell with dismay. It was dark and damp with a tiny window and only a pile of fodder for a bed. For the past half hour he had tried to convince the guards that he had no idea what he had done to deserve punishment but all he had managed to do was make them disregard him completely. He dejectedly leaned against the stone wall and was lost in thoughts of his nice warm and cozy bed when suddenly a sharp tapping noise interrupted him. Valrigard looked up to see one of the Royal Guards sneering at him. "So, how did you manage it?" he questioned.

     "Manage what?"

     "Manage to steal the most safeguarded and valuable sword in all of Meridell."

     "I don't know what you are talking about!"

     The words had burst out of Valrigard without a second thought, but as the Grarrl snarled and bared his fangs, he started to wish he hadn't said anything. The guard regained his composure after a few minutes and, feigning nonchalance, asked where he had hidden it. This time it was Valrigard's turn to snarl. "I have not stolen any sword and I can prove-" The Grarrl interrupted him.

     "Save it for the judge," he growled, "and believe me, Meridellian judges are not at all merciful on thieves."

     With that statement out of the way, the Grarrl stomped off and left Valrigard alone again. "Great, just great," he thought bitterly, "and I was having such a good day before all of this!" It was then that he remembered the paper he had picked up. He gingerly walked over to the very corner of his prison and opened it as noiselessly as possible.

     Well it worked! The heist went off splendidly and the sword is finally ours. I have even found a scapegoat to pin it on! Won't that poor chap be surprised? In two days from now, meet me at the rendezvous. The sword will be waiting.


     Your accomplice in crime.

     Valrigard sat down hard upon the stone floor. That "scapegoat" was him! Revulsion and anger filled his thoughts. He had to inform someone about this! Then the realization hit him. If he showed this to anyone they would just be even more convinced of his culpability. The only one he had ever heard use the innocent until proven guilty phrase was the Faerie Queen. But in his prison Valrigard was as good as a world away from her. He would have to escape this place to… Wait a minute, escape? This was really the first time it had occurred to him. Mulling it over in his mind for a few minutes Valrigard did not find his options to his liking. It was either find a way out or stay here permanently. Or he could be killed. So, even if the Faeries were against him he had to try to get out. Looking around his cell he noticed that there were no windows. Not that he had thought there would be any as Meridell's dungeons were miles below the earth. No, he would have to think of another way to go about it. Valrigard stepped forward slowly, feeling the mud and dirt that lined his cell squelch beneath his toes, and suddenly stopped.

     Mud and dirt? Why, that was the best camouflage he could have ever asked for! It would have to mean that he would escape after nightfall, but it just might work! Valrigard stifled a yawn as he crouched in the back of his cell; two hours of waiting for darkness to arrive had resulted in aching feet and a nervous kind of tension that was practically unbearable. Now had come the time to enact the dangerous plan he had formed. There was no time to wonder if he was ready; every second counted.

     He slowly walked into the middle of the room and crouched down near the floor. The guards should be in the upper levels by now, if he knew anything about their procedure. Valrigard then put in motion the first part of the plan, to cover himself completely in mud and dirt. Though Valrigard knew it would leave tracks it seemed worth it to have a good cover that would blend in sufficiently with the darkness. Next, he donned his ragged blanket as a cloak and prepared to use his fire breath ability. He'd heard that the only way to melt metal was to use the ability in a concentrated area for at least five minutes.

To be continued...

Author's Note: What is Valrigard's plan to escape Meridell Castle? What awaits him on the next floor? Just who is the accomplice in crime mentioned in the letter? Find out on next week's edition of Escape! Well, no, you won't find out that last one until the end, but enjoy the story anyway! Also feel free to neomail any comments or suggestions to firedragon9078.    

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