T W E N T Y - S E V E N

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The prison bells ring late the next day, or at least it seemed so. A dim light peeks through the crack of the door. I can no longer tell whether or not it's the afternoon already or how time flies in here. Food, my lunch if it is the afternoon, appears on the floor next to me. Some sort of green, muddy slush. The stench of it hits me and my stomach reels. A whisper of a headache starts pounding at the sight of food. I've eaten much worse on the streets, but my stomach refuses to take anything right now. I just nudge the plate aside with my feet and lay back down. Pain ripples sharply along my back at the movement.

I stare at the wall next to me lined with hundreds of carvings and strokes from the prisoners before me. I make my own mark with my nails in the vacant spot. One single line. Day One.

My hands run over the day counters that fill half the wall. Some are curved, some even triangular. They seem to form symbols, characters I do not understand. A line with a triangle through it. A loop entertwined with a drawing of a water droplet. Through and through, hidden within the simple day counters. I trace one of them with my fingers. Nothing happens. Just normal day counts and doodles.

That's when I notice them. Thousands of marks scribbled along the borders of the walls adjacent to the ceiling. Almost unseeable from a distance, considering their small size. If only there was some way to get up there, to look at them more closely. But there were no tables or chairs. Nothing.

I reach inside me for that thread of fumbling magic then. I meet an unmoving wall restricting me from reaching that dark power. A barrier to keep me from doing anything, from escaping. I turn back to the marks on the wall near me and memorize them. Line through triangle. Loop through river. Line through triangle, loop through–

The door lock clicks. I whip my head around. The door opens, revealing guards. They storm in and handcuff me quickly. I frown at the chains. "What's happening?"

"His Majesty wants you moved somewhere secure."

The guards don't explain anything after that. They just drag me out and down the flame-lit hallway. I mark every exit, every piece of the surroundings. If I could escape now, if–

I feel the wall blocking my well of magic thin out a little, but not enough for me to access my powers. Something keeps me from getting to them. The steel chains. I tug at them. They don't budge.

The guards lead me to a cramped area I never saw before. Rows and rows of metal chambers, the size of less than half a prison cell, line the room. Each one is marked with a series of three strange symbols–like the one in my cells, but more advanced. Complicated. From a chamber nearby, steam rises. From another seeps water, writhing like a snake down the drain. I struggle against my binds, but to no avail. The guard nearby sees my desperation and slaps me.

A chamber marked with two zig-zag lines crossing each other, a triangle with a slash through it, and a fire-like symbol opens. The guards push me into it, into the cage of metal. I catch a glimpse of a dark cloak in the corner before the door slams shut. Something in me hollows out, begins draining away. My magic. I grasp at it but the last of it leaks away. Metal lines every wall of the cage. I try standing, only to hit my head. I cannot extend my limbs. Trapped. Utterly trapped.

Then steam flowed in, hot and suffocating. I choke, breathing in and out, in and out. Breathe. The hot air fills my nose, my mouth. I see the heat waves in the corner. In a matter of a few seconds, bile burns in my throat. I gasp for breath. More and more steam flowed in. Endure. I curl over on my side and close my eyes, as if it will take the steam away.

A dark gust of wind peeks in from the door and mingles with the steam. The air cools just a little. Whispering fills my ears, loud and chaotic. I clutch my head. Thousands of voices, shouting, crying–

You will not surrender.

A voice glides on top of all the screaming. Dark as night, yet somehow comforting.

You will be free.

The voice of a king, but not Abaddon. One not of monsters and fire, but of the nighttime stars. A king not known to the horrors of this palace.

I close my eyes and block out the feeling of hot air against my skin. The feeling of the metal walls pressing closer, suffocating–

You will not surrender.

You will be free.

The words ring in my ears, a steady beat against the onslaught of the treacherous air.

You will not surrender.

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Hey–

thanks for reading! I hope you enjoyed this chapter. This is dedicated to immitje for the amazing support and comments. :3 If you liked the chapter, please, don't forget to press the vote button and leave your thoughts in the comments! thanku ❤

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