Secrat said nothing. Confused, he looked to Samuel Syi for confirmation of what he was seeing. Samuel stared stone-faced. The fire carried on for a moment or two, but then went out.
The Knight's face showed no burn-marks, no blisters, not even a singed mustache. The Knight sat up, the look on his face was astonishment and surprise. He climbed back to his feet. The steam no longer fleeing his ring, he marveled at it. Every bit as caught off-guard by it as they were. "Looks like I have something watching out for me!" The Knight exclaimed, waving his hand around with excitement.
In that moment, in that exact moment, an arrow went through the side of his skull. His face now neither smiling nor intact.
The Knight slammed down to the ground before Copé even fully understood what had happened. Blood leaked out his skull like yolk from a cracked egg, but Secrat's eyes were no longer fixed on The Knight. Instead, his eyes looked for the man who shot the arrow.
Obscured from view, the man's boots stamping down against the steps could be heard. At once, Marc Sero came into Secrat's view, walking beyond the cells, looking back at them. He wore a plain expression, no smile and no smirk, no real assurance he was even on their side. Except the dead Italina Knight, of course.
"I'll be damned," Brutus said, beneath his breath with a quiet amusement on his face.
"Marc Sero could kill you before you even knew you were dead." Copé was understanding that statement a little more now, "He was just that good."
"What took you so long?" Samuel jested, which drew a blank stare from Sero, like he thought Syi was serious.
"Sorry," Sero began, throwing a wooden bow onto the writing desk, "I had one idea laid out, but I could find where I buried the damn suit of armor."
"I hate when that happens," Secrat Copé said, biting his bottom lip and not knowing quite what to do with his hands. His thumbs were interesting though, and well-worth twiddling.
Lukas Lewis seemed mostly unamused by Marc Sero's rescue; his eyes shifted toward the massacred head of The Knight.
On the bright-side, they wouldn't have to worry about a lack of sauce for the noodles anymore. Blood aplenty! Copé laughed some at the thought but knew Lukas would share his sense of humor.
But while Lukas looked beaten and depleted, he still wasn't as broken up as Taison, who continued to sob and yell, holding his misshapen arm.
"How did you make it past the guards?" Samuel asked.
"Guards?" Marc Sero responded, "What guards?" He stopped for a moment, looking at how bad his arrow tore into The Knight. "Oh, they're at King Harries' speech.”
"All of them?"
"Well, all of them ... now," Sero said, nudging at The Knight with his boot. "Since I couldn't find the suit, I decided to do something else to make it easier on myself. A letter proclaiming I'd kill the King of Italina during his commemorative speech tonight. Paid a peasant off to deliver the letter with some ill-gotten coin, and it all worked out pretty well."
"Pretty well!?" Taison yelled out, his face drooling with snot, tears and spit, "Is this what you call pretty well!?" The bone of his arm bulged out against his skin.
Marc Sero looked down at him, less than sympathetic. "Let's find a way to get you guys out of those cells."
"I think I have that covered," Copé said, a small victory, if nothing else, "I took it from the Knight."
Sero nodded his head approvingly. Walking over to the writing desk, Sero began inspected various pieces of parchment. The Thief held the key in his hands, going over to the door of the cell. It took some maneuvering to fit his hands in-between the bars with the shackles, but he was eventually able to reach the keyhole. He smiled as he did it, for some reason, he found himself wanting the admiration of Marc Sero. Still, part of Secrat hated Sero for stealing his thunder.
The key didn't fit and Sero realized it the same moment as Secrat.
Sero shook his head disapprovingly. Then, leaned over behind the desk for a second. The second after, a ring of keys came flying from his hand into
"It's as if to say that, just because you're in a prison cell, the world doesn't bend at your will, making every key the one that leads to freedom," Sero said.
"One of those keys should do the trick though."
It was difficult to distinguish for certain whether Marc Sero was annoyed or being playful. His voice stayed dry and without any hint toward his mindset. The Thief shook it off, however, choosing not to dwell. He reached for the key and a sharp jolt of pain surged through his broken hand. After wincing, he grabbed them with the opposite hand and freed himself from his shackles. The cuffs left impressions on his wrists. He opened the cell-door using another one of the keys, tossing them off to Samuel once doing so.
It felt nice to be free, although, he knew entirely too well freedom would only come beyond the walls of Italina.
Secrat walked toward Marc Sero and the writing desk. Sheets of parchment alluded to different things, Wanted Posters, drawings of Brutus and Secrat. They hadn't had a reason to make composites of anyone else. Secrat shredded both sheets in-half. They weren't the best likenesses anyways.
Samuel Syi's cell opened. Syi, hurriedly, and shackle free, ran over to The Knight. Copé watched him. Syi inspected the ring on his hand for a moment, then twisted it off. A burn-mark was left on The Knight's hand, not unlike the one on Samuel's.
"A special ring," Secrat remarked, his eyes looking over as Lukas Lewis left his cell.
Samuel looked up at him. And smiled. "A very special ring."
"It come with a story?"
"It does." Syi said. Turning as Lukas joined his side.
"You'll have to tell me it sometime," Copé said, watching Brutus fumble with the keys, now in his cell.
"I am afraid that one's going to my grave."
Secrat opted not to question further. The ring's power is what he pondered on, but Samuel was allowed his secrets.
Brutus opened his cell-door, the swelling on his face had gone down considerably, but his movements remained peculiar.
"I don't know about all of you, but I've done 'bout had enough of Italina for one lifetime." His voice was less high-pitched and raspy. Brutus, like the rest of them, was exhausted by the day's occurrences.
"The guards won't be gone for too much longer, and for all I know, there could still be one or two of them roaming about the castle." Sero said, lifting his bow off from the table and advising them to leave.
"Do you have a means of transportation? We'll need to get far from the castle fast." Lukas asked, first words he had said in a while. Copé's wishes of him going mute in vein.
"Yes, yes, I stole one of their big ugly carriages," Marc answered.
"Where is it?" Lukas asked next.
"Oh, well, it's in my back pocket, I didn't want to look obvious.
"Answered Sero, then added: "It's outside, where else would it be, you idiot!?"
"The Knights won't let us through the gates, so this carriage will be of no use to us after a point." Secrat interjected.
"I'll smuggle you all, cover you with sheets and blankets."
"They'll recognize their own carriage," Secrat interjected.
"Then we'll string them up by their necks!" Marc exclaimed. "You'll have to forgive me for not thinking of everything." Once more, Copé found himself unsure on if Marc was annoyed or being playful.
"Can somebody help me?" the loud whimpering voice of Taison called out from behind them. Secrat had almost forgot he existed. What a pleasant time that was.
“I dunno, are you going to try and be a hero again?” Copé asked, throwing a smile at Brutus, who seemed equally amused by Taison's suffering.
“You didn't exactly do a lot of good with your heroics either,” Lukas said back, in Taison's defense.
“How was I supposed to know he was fireproof?” Copé asked, as he started walking toward Taison's cell.
His chubby-faced acquaintance sat uncomfortably suffering in his cell, Copé extended his hand between the bars. Frightened, Taison reached Copé's hand. “Not quite,” quipped The Thief, bowing his head at where Lukas Lewis threw the keys in Taison's cell. Taison reciprocated the nod, now knowingly, and with his good hand, gave Secrat the key-ring.
Copé resisted the urge to walk away and leave him as a joke. Must have been tired like Brutus. Instead, he unlocked the cell-door and walked inside the cell in-front of Taison. The round thief held his good hand up for Secrat, who obliged and exerted himself to assist Taison.
He had a half idea to lift him up by his neck, twist him and ring out the idiot from him like water from a rag, and that half-desire was all but enough to hatch an idea.
Secrat freed his hand from Taison, causing him to fall backward to the floor and let out a shriek of dismay. Lukas glared at him, but Copé didn't care much. “String 'em by their necks,” he kept hearing Marc Sero say repeatedly. He didn't know why. Didn't know why the words meant something. Until, at last, he looked up to the end of the room, at The Gallows. Nooses hanging from the ceiling over a platform. Copé twirled the Useless Key around in his hands.
“Ascend the walls,” Secrat announced. Drawing eyes from about everyone except for Lukas, who tended to Taison.
“That's thirty feet, slugger,” Brutus fired back. “If I wouldn't been shot with an arrow, I still wouldn't be able to climb that damn thing.”
“We'll pull you up by a rope,” Copé said, pointing at the nooses.
“Start one little bar-fight and suddenly you're ready to kill me off?” Brutus feigned being offended.
Copé ignored him; he looked over to Samuel Syi and Marc Sero instead.
Marc shrugged his shoulders, “Sounds about as good as anything I can think of.”
Secrat Copé and a reluctant Lukas Lewis dispatched some of the nooses, each carrying two of them, about ten feet apiece, over the back of their necks. They, and the rest, ascended up the stairs, wasting little time, with knowledge that very soon King Harries' speech would conclude and he, along with all the knights would arrive back at the Castle. The next floor up was filled with chairs and a stand front-and-center, a presentation of Italina's trial system.
Soon after, they arrived at the ground-floor, back to the entrance where Secrat had once been. The Thief realized, had he taken the left-hand side instead of the right, he'd have eventually found the prison-cells.
As they made it to the steps, Secrat stopped dead in his tracks. “We'll be leaving Italina empty-handed,” Copé realized. “All of this, will have been for nothing.”
Amid their hurried movement, they all stopped as well. Samuel was the first to look at Secrat. “If it's about our survival or a heist, always choose survival, Copé.”
“But what if we could have both?” He countered. “I killed a Knight, only hours ago. Marc Sero killed a Knight. I have a broken-hand. Taison, a brokenarm. Brutus, well, look at him. All of this will have been for nothing at all. All of this pain, and I say, what if we could have both?”
The Red Flux & the Wunderkind THief
Chapter One (1 - 2 - 3)