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The Timeless Tale


by chlo26

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That morning, unlike any other, Rhea awoke punctually, his spirits soaring. After years of monotony, he finally had something to look forward to: the time for his prisoner's meal. Two weeks had elapsed since his encounter with the enigmatic traveller, and every single day, Rhea approached the cell with genuine enthusiasm. Keraiem was a captivating character. His tales of traversing time and space had transformed Rhea's once-dull routine into moments of pure fascination. For the first time in his life, he had found someone he could call a friend.

     "Hi! Look what I managed to find for dessert!" Rhea cheerfully rummaged through his bag, revealing a doughnutfruit.

     "Tadaaa!"

     "Wow, thank you so much, Rhea. This is the first time this month I've eaten something other than mouldy bread..."

     "But it's not for free; it will cost you a story!"

     "Haha, never thought telling my story could save my life. So, what do you want me to talk about?"

     Rhea pretended to ponder for a moment and then said, "About Faerieland, please!"

     Keraiem smiled gently.

     "I should have guessed that. So let's see, this story takes place two years ago..."

     Keraiem commenced a new tale, and Rhea listened in silence, utterly captivated by his words.

     And day after day, the stories continued, never failing to engage Rhea.

      *******

     The young Ixi frolicked merrily in the corridor when a coworker intercepted him.

     "On your way to give the witch his last meal?" He cackled.

     "What do you mean?"

     "Oh, you haven't heard? The commander has given the order; the prisoner is to be moved to the second floor tonight!"

     Rhea shivered. The second floor was an ominous place. From what he knew, prisoners who refused to talk were sent there and subjected to unimaginable torture. Numerous stories circulated, but it was hard to discern the true ones since no one had ever returned from that place. What should he do? Rhea started to panic but concealed it to avoid arousing suspicion. He took a deep breath and forced a smile.

     "Oh really? Nice, that means I am finally on a break starting tomorrow! That mission was a real pain."

     His peer clicked his tongue. "Lucky you," he muttered before descending the stairs.

     Time was running, and so was Rhea. He sprinted to Keraiem's cell so fast that he almost tripped twice.

     "Hey, what's up? You don't look good."

     "We need to get you out of here. Right now."

     "What? Aren't you going to be in trouble if we do that? They know you have the keys to my cuffs, and right now, I am way too weak to teleport the both of us…"

     "Whatever, I’ll figure something out..." Rhea muttered while frantically rummaging through his bag. "Do you need anything to use your power?"

     "No, I just need to have both hands free."

     "Alright, done." Rhea exclaimed, looking triumphant. He let go of the loose handcuffs, causing a loud thud as they touched the ground. "I’m going back to my room now, wait until tonight, and when the guards come to take you from your cell, make sure they can see you clearly and travel to whatever time you want. This way they shouldn’t link your escape to me."

     "Thank you for everything, Rhea." Keraiem, who always looked so confident, was now paler than ever. Even he realized that this plan was totally flawed and that his friend had very little chance of escaping unscathed. "I’ll definitely find you again, so wait for me."

     "I’ll try to run away from here as soon as possible, and I’ll flee to Meridell." Rhea smiled brightly. "I’ll wait for you, so don’t let me down."

      *******

     "WHO LET HIM ESCAPE?!" Screamed the commander of the dungeons. Each word was accompanied by a violent punch against the cell bars. "Lord Darigan had explicitly stressed the importance of this prisoner. Don't think you're going to get away with this, you bunch of idiots! Despair, Grumpy, 0017628! Search every room of every guard in charge of this corridor, and report anything suspicious. The prisoner could not have escaped on his own; he must have had help from within."

     "At your service, General Graymin," the three guards claimed in unison. The general was known for his harshness and lack of patience. There was something strangely imposing about his slender figure and ruffled feathers. His curved beak and thin obsidian black legs created a petty and nasty look. He evoked in his men a strong sense of respect and admiration, and in his enemies, fear and disgust.

     In the general uproar of Graymin's announcement, Rhea quietly made his way to his room. Time was running out, and he still had no idea how to escape this nightmare. He glanced out the window and estimated the distance to the floor. If he landed well, he could get away with a broken leg at best. But then how to get down from the Citadel to Meridell? While pondering the different possibilities, he gathered all of his belongings on his bed. Not much, really. His uniform, his treasure box, and Gin, his faithful yuma who had kept him company all these years. He put Gin on one shoulder and his bundle on the other before slowly leaving his room. Look to the right, look to the left, nothing to report. He closed the door as gently as he could without making a sound and prepared to make his escape with his heart beating loudly.

     "Going somewhere?"

     The husky voice made Rhea freeze. His heart stopped beating, and his blood left his face. He turned around slowly and widened his eyes in horror. He would have recognized the silhouette in front of him a mile away.

     "Good evening, Ge-general…" Rhea stuttered. "Can I help you in any way?"

     "If you can help me?" The Lenny paused for a moment before bursting into a cold, joyless laugh. "If YOU can help ME? That's what we're about to find out. Grab his bag!"

     No sooner had he given the order that Despair, the vicious Meerca, threw himself on Rhea and snatched his bundle from him, spilling its entire contents on the pavement. 0017628 grabbed Gin roughly as the third guard opened the box that had fallen to the ground.

     "No, please, this is not what it looks like!" Rhea tried to fight back and justify himself, but no plausible excuse came to mind.

     Not a sound was heard in the corridor where all the curious jailers had gathered. Everyone was shocked at what they saw. Then suddenly, the heavy silence was replaced by hilarity.

     "Is that what I think It is?" "No way, is it really Faerieland? This guy is a real freak!" "Hahah, I always knew he was a loser, but this is beyond anything I ever imagined."

     "Please, give me back my drawings!" But no matter how much Rhea screamed, no one would listen. The sheets on which he'd drawn his favourite idols were flying around, passing from hand to hand.

     "Enough!" Ordered the general, with a grin still stuck on his face. "Although this situation is hilarious, we don't have time for such futility. So our dear comrade is a faerie lover? Well, that's fortunate because I'm in a generous mood. BRING ME THE POTIONS."

     A young Jubjub stepped out of the row and rushed to the end of the corridor, running and stumbling over the cobblestones. He came back a few minutes later hopping back, a black leather suitcase balanced on his head. Graymin quickly seized the luggage and turned his attention slowly to his prisoner.

     "You are no longer worthy of bearing the colors of the Citadel. If you like Faeries so much, why don’t you look like one?" His evil eyes were sparkling with malice. He chose a bottle from the suitcase and grabbed Rhea’s face with his other hand. The poor little Ixi tried to escape his grasp but two guards were maintaining him still. The general forcefully made him drink the potion, and the bottle was almost empty when Rhea finally managed to kick the guards and free himself. The vial fell to the floor and shattered into a thousand pieces. But the damage was done. Rhea felt his body shrink and his hooves diminish. He howled in pain as his horns retracted, leaving two tiny, sharp bumps. Before his astonished eyes, his fur faded completely, leaving an entirely grey fleece, and his uniform became too wide as he became smaller. His head began to spin, and from the corner of his eye, he saw his reflection in one of the dungeon's windows. He had become a Grey Ixi.

     "Now you look just like Baelia. Aren’t I nice?" The general was smirking. "Now get rid of this traitor; I don’t want to see him roaming in the Citadel any longer."

     Two muscular Skeiths grabbed Rhea and dragged him abruptly towards the exit. The dizziness caused by his transformation grew worse and worse until he lost consciousness completely. The last thing he saw was an evil-looking Acara lifting Gin by his nape and dragging him in the opposite direction to his own. He tried to protest, but the muscles of his mouth were completely useless. His vision blurred; then it was total darkness.

To be continued…

 
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