No One Will Believe Them: Part Two
The way the Symols handled intruders, Cove was soon to find out, was by shoving them into a cage that hung several feet above the floor in the dungeon. He grabbed hold of the cold iron bars and began to shake them fiercely.
“Let me out of here! My owner knows I’m here! She’ll come looking for me!” Cove threatened.
After letting the commotion of shouts and a rattling cage proceed for several minutes, because he knew how it felt, the inmate of a cage hanging not far from Cove’s piped up, “Let it go, bub. Your owner can’t get down here, and anyone else that tries will just end up like us.”
Cove flung himself away from the bars and dropped down to sit on the floor of the cage.
“They can’t do this! They can’t do this!” he yelled angrily, mostly to himself.
“They can, they have, and they will,” the inmate disagreed.
Furious, Cove looked over at his pessimistic jail mate. It was a Gruslen, one of the petpets Cove thought to be the most fierce.
“You’re a Gruslen?” Cove asked incredulously. “Why didn’t you just eat them?”
The Gruslen snickered. “If only it was that easy, kid. They outnumbered me.”
Cove frowned. “I would have eaten them,” he persisted.
The Gruslen laughed again, but the sound wasn’t happy. It was filled with lost hope and a sadness that he knew his knew friend would come to feel the same way soon.
“The name’s Gio, short for Giovanni. I’ve been here for a long time now, but I can’t measure up to the amount of time Old Oscar’s done,” the Gruslen introduced himself.
Cove looked around, surprised to see that there were many more petpets incased in the dungeon than just himself and Gio. The one he pointed out as Oscar was a graying Harris in a cage two away from Gio’s.
“How long have you been here?” Cove asked him.
Oscar laughed. “You don’t want to know, kid, but I can tell you anything else you want to know about this place.”
“How do you get out of here?” Cove asked.
This caused several of the petpets to erupt in laughter.
“Wouldn’t we like to know,” Oscar told him.
Cove slumped against the cage bars. He had known from the beginning, when his owner had demanded he jump into the Symol Hole, that this day was going to turn out sour, but he never would have guessed just how sour. Now he was locked in a dungeon with no hope for escape..
“Wait!” Cove said suddenly, causing several of the other inhabitants of the dungeon to jump. “Ronan is still out there!”
Gio’s eyes narrowed, but he had been here too long to be foolish enough to let his hopes rise. “Who’s Ronan?”
“My Lightmite,” Cove told him. “He got away. He’ll come back for me.”
The kid’s optimism was killing him, Gio thought. “Don’t get your hopes up, kid. It’s likely your petpetpet will get away, but he’ll be caught if he tries to get back here. You have to go through the throne room to get here, and they watch it like hawks.”
Cove frowned at him. “My name is Cove, not kid, and it’s sad that you’ve lost the will to hope, but Ronan will get here. He’s the most loyal friend I’ve ever had, and he won’t leave me here. He’ll make it.”
Gio shook his head. “Believe what you want, ki- Cove, but we’ve been around long enough to know how this place works.”
Cove wasn’t given the chance to argue, because the sound of the metal door to the dungeon swinging open had them all dropping quickly into silence. Several guards slinked in with plates that looked to be filled to brimming with gruel. Cove’s stomach churned as they began to pass out the plates to the inmates. He backed away from his own, holding his nose sickly.
“Enjoy the meal, friends. We fixed it with all of you in mind!” one guard told them, and the rest of his friends laughed heartily.
“Yeah, you can expect more where this came from!” another one added.
“It’s the least we could do,” added a third.
The guards exited in uproarious laughter, slapping each other on the backs.
“What is this?” Cove demanded when they were gone.
“It’s the food you'd better get used to,” Gio told him, shoveling his own into his mouth, “because it’s what you’re going to have to live on.”
Cove’s stomach turned over once, sharply. He pushed the plate as far away from him as possible.
“I’d rather starve,” he declared, and curled up into a ball, hoping to fall asleep so that he wouldn’t be able to feel the way his stomach was rumbling with hunger.
He dreamt that he was home. Even the countless hours he had to spend listening to his owner’s incessant ramblings were better than this cold, damp cage he was confined to. In his dream, his owner was playing in the gardens with him. They were playing hide-and-seek, their favorite game to play together, on a warm summer day.
At that moment, Cove was hiding behind his owner’s prized Feepit statue, stifling the urge to laugh as the seeker was unable to find him. The scent of flowers enriched the air, and Cove listened happily to the bees humming around them. Just as soon as his owner got a little farther away, he could make a dash to the tree and be safe and win the game. Any second now. Any second.
And then Ronan was in his face, squeaking away in his high-pitched Lightmite voice, darting around, back and forth, glowing madly, and giving away his hiding spot. Cove swatted at him.
“Go away, Ronan!” he hissed. “You’re going to make me lose!”
But Ronan was persistent, and his squeaks began to get louder. Until Cove rolled over and woke up.
With a blurred gaze, he opened his eyes, looked around, and was in complete disbelief when he saw Ronan hovering above him. He sat straight up with a jolt.
“Ronan!” he cried, having never been more delighted to see his small friend.
The small bug began to squeak rapidly in a hurried, scared tone, but Cove turned toward Gio and Oscar instead, and yelped, “See! I told you he’d come for me!”
Gio was staring at the Lightmite with confused apprehension, not quite believing his eyes.
Annoyed at being ignored, Ronan swooped down and tugged roughly on Cove’s nose.
“Okay, okay!” Cove snapped. “I’m listening. How do we get out of here?”
In a series of squeaks, Ronan answered him. Cove’s brows furrowed. He hadn’t realized that the keys were hanging by the door until Ronan had just told him.
“All right, but are you sure you can lift them?” he asked.
Ronan gave an indignant squeak.
Cove smiled a little. “Yes, I know you’re stronger than you look. I have faith in you. Now, get me out of here, please.”
All the inmates watched in surprise, fear, and anticipation as Ronan sailed down to get the keys. His tiny legs clamped around the key ring, and with a furious flutter of wings, he began the trying climb upward.
Cove held his breath. He didn’t think he’d ever be able to breathe again if Ronan didn’t start climbing upward soon.
The Lightmite put his all into it, his wings pounding the air furiously, but Cove was beginning to think that the keys were too heavy.
Until Ronan began his ascent.
“Come on, kid, you can do it!” Gio called out softly, surprising everyone.
“Yeah, we have faith in you!” Oscar added his support.
The support seemed to work. Slowly but surely, Ronan made the climb up to Cove’s cage. As soon as he was in reach, Cove snatched both the keys and his petpetpet out of the air.
A soft cheer went around the dungeon.
“Thanks, buddy. You’ve done your job. Now, just ride on my shoulder as I get us out of here.”
He scooped Ronan up and dropped him on his shoulder, then, quickly, he stuck his arm through the bars and unlocked his cage door. Freedom. Finally.
He jumped down and went to work on the cages of his new friends. Gio stepped out of his cage in awe, not quite sure if he believed what he saw. Cove patted his shoulder.
“It’s real. You’re free. Now, let’s get out of here.”
All Gio could manage was a nod.
“All right, anyone have a plan?” Cove asked.
Oscar stepped forward. “Yeah, it’s a straight shot from here to the tunnel to get out of here. We open the door and run for it.”
Cove frowned. “But that would leave some of us at risk of being caught.”
Oscar looked down. “It’s a risk we have to take. There’s no other way.”
Silence held for a moment as the petpets looked at each other gravely, each one hoping the one caught wouldn’t be them.
“No,” Cove shot in firmly. “No one’s going to get left behind. I’ll be the diversion.”
Gio grabbed him by the shoulders. “No, kid, you haven’t been here that long. You don’t know what it’s like. Don’t take that risk.”
Cove pulled out of his grasp. “Look, I’ll be fine. Besides, I still have to get a present for my owner. She’ll be mad if I come back empty-handed.”
Oscar shook his head, feeling as if he’d finally met someone with a completely brave heart, or maybe a crazy mind. “I’d think she’d care more if you didn’t return at all, but do what you think you must. Let’s just get out of here, please.”
“All right. I’ll go first. When they start chasing me, get going.”
Cove didn’t leave them the opportunity to reply or talk him out of his crazy deed. He swung the door open and raced out into the bright light of the throne room.
“Good luck, kid,” Gio whispered as surprised shouts went up from the guards.
To be continued...