And it was him, kneeling over her with his brow wrinkled in concern.
“Thank god,” he whispered, a smile forming on his lips. He leaned over her and pulled her into a tight hug that took her breath away. “I thought you were....”
She hugged him back, not wanting to let go. He had come after all. She listened to his heartbeat for a few moments then remembered something that Lord Zarha had said to her. That if Richard came . . . .
“Richard, we have to get out of here,” she whispered as he stood up to let Brianna in. She was surprised to find her voice was hoarse.
Brianna leaned in and hugged her too. Katie saw a few tears roll off her face as she looked into her eyes.
“I’m so glad you are okay,” Brianna said to her, standing again.
“Richard,” Katie whispered.
“Can you stand?” Richard asked her.
“I think so,” Katie whispered. She took his hand and allowed him pull her to her feet. Her legs wobbled, but held her up. She took a few steps and stumbled. Richard placed his hand on her back to steady her.
“There they are!” a voice shouted from behind them, echoing against the walls of the dungeon. They turned and saw ten men running at them, their feet clattering against the ground. Katie didn’t have a weapon, but she didn’t think she would be able to fight even if she did.
“Brianna, be ready,” Richard said. “Katie, stay back.”
He and Brianna stepped in front of Katie. Brianna pulled free her sword and stood in a slightly crouch.
“I can take on half,” she said to him.
The men ran with their swords raised. They shouted battle cries. Katie knew that they wouldn’t leave without blood on their sword. They were there to kill, not to capture.
They all came at once, falling upon Richard and Brianna in moments. Katie knelt down, unable to stand anymore. She watched as the two people who had ever meant anything to her fought to keep her safe. If only she had a sword or knife.
The sound of sword upon sword rang around the quite hall. Richard parried the attack and spun into his own attack. Blood splashed across the ground as the first man went down in heap.
Two cornered Brianna. They came at her from opposite sides and swung. Brianna ducked under their swords and brought up her own. She slammed it into one of the men’s belly and yanked it back as she spun.
Richard slashed at one man before he was even close, giving the man an opening. Katie winced when he cried out in pain. He had been lucky; he had pulled back and only received a shallow cut. Blood ran freely from his sword arm.
Brianna took down the second man and ran towards Richard when she heard his cry. She slashed the man from behind, bringing him down in one swipe. She turned and parried another attack as the rest of the men closed in.
Two of the men rushed past Richard and Brianna and were coming at Katie. She used her legs to push herself back. They raised their swords above their heads. Katie tried desperately stand and move out of the way. Her head spun as she watched the swords glimmer in the torch light.
She moved back and her hand came in contact with something on the ground. She flickered her eyes at it for a moment to see what it was. The torch that Brianna had been carrying. Katie didn’t even know that Brianna had dropped it.
Her fingers curled around the handle of the torch.
“Katie!” Richard shouted from behind the men.
As the sword started to come down on her, Katie gripped the torch even tighter. She hoped that she had enough strength for this.
She pulled her hands above her head and blocked the swords. They sunk into the torch and as they pulled their swords back, they ripped the torch from her hands. She pushed herself back another pace and watched as one pulled free a knife at his waist.
“Hey,” a voice said from behind. “Why don’t you pick on someone your own size,” Richard said. They turned and Richard rammed his sword into one. He dodged the other’s attack and spun, taking him down as well.
Brianna was kneeling down next to Katie.
“Are you okay?” Brianna asked her.
“Yes,” Katie said, standing. Her legs were more steady and she was able to stand without any trouble now. Richard pulled her close again, hugging her to him. She hugged him back, glad to be able to be close to him again.
“Richard, we need to get out of here,” Brianna said.
“Yes,” Richard said, taking Katie’s hand and pulling her to her feet. After a quick nod from Katie, he took off running. She stumbled a bit, but was able to keep her footing.
They traveled down a hall and into another. Men in cells to all side looked through their bars to see what was happening. One whistled at them. Richard pulled Katie along, but she stopped to look back.
The man in the cell was grinning evilly. His eyes held something strange. For a moment she starred at it with confusion. Richard pulled her hand.
“Katie, come on,” he urged. “The door is not very far.”
She turned and followed after him again. A moment later, she started shaking. The fine hairs at the back of her neck rose. She knew what was so odd about that man. His eyes, they belonged to...
“Richard, is there another way out?” she asked desperately.
“I don’t think so,” he said, still pulling at her hand. “Why?”
“He’s coming!” she shouted at him.
“Who?” he asked. He smiled as a door had come into view.
“Richard, wait!” she shouted, pulling against him. He stopped and turned to look at her. Brianna ran into her, having looked back behind them.
“What?” he asked, concern across his face.
“Lord Zarha! He’s coming!” she shouted, pulling away from the door. They could heard footsteps outside of the door. He grabbed Brianna’s hand and pulled her with him.
“How do you know?” he asked. They turned a corner and walked away from the door.
“Because he can control people,” she said. “He did it to me.”
“What... you saw him?” Richard asked.
“Yes,” she whispered.
The door behind them burst open. By the sound of footsteps that clattered onto the floor, Katie guessed there had to be about twenty men. A voice shouted over the clatter.
“They can’t be far! Search for them!”
“That’s him,” Katie whispered to the others. Brianna’s eyes showed the fear that Katie felt.
“What can we do?” she asked. Katie shook her head.
“There has to be another door to this place,” Richard said, glancing around.
“Yes, but do you want us to travel around here and probably get caught while looking for it?” Brianna asked him.
“Of coarse not,” Richard whispered back. The footsteps were everywhere. They were surrounding the hall where they were, but none actually came into that particular hall.
“Richard, do you think this is what Myles was talking about?” Brianna asked. “What, me having to fight Lord Zarha?” he asked her. She nodded. “I don’t know.” He shook his head.
“Richard, we need to get out of here,” Katie whispered.
“We will,” he assured her. They carefully walked down the hall.
“Do you have a weapon for me?” she asked them. Brianna pulled a sheath from her waist which held a dagger. Katie nodded her thanks and slipped it around her own waist. Richard looked at her for a moment and looked away. Then his eyes turned back to her again.
“Where is the ring?” he asked her. Katie touched her neck and found it odd that she had not thought about it. She momentarily thought that she had to have lost it. Then she remembered.
“Lord Zarha has is,” she whispered.
“Why?” he asked, raising an eyebrow. He held her hand tight in his as he led them around a corner. They could hear footsteps everywhere. “It’s not really worth anything.”
“I--” she whispered. She knew that she should tell him, but something made her stop. “I don’t know.”
“This way,” Brianna whispered. “I think there is a door over there.” She was pointing across another hall, to the left. A hand reached out to grab her wrist from inside the cell, but she took a step back and pulled away from it, glaring at the owner of the hand.
“Hurry!” Richard whispered to her. She nodded and poked her head out into the hall. She waved for them to follow her.
Richard still held Katie’s hand. She found that she liked it when he gave it a slight squeeze, and returned it every time he gave her one. She smiled at him, and, when he saw it, he smiled back.
They followed behind Brianna into a long and dirty hall. Richard quickly scanned both directions and found that no one was there. Up ahead was a wooden door along the wall opposite them. Brianna crossed the hall and reached for the knob. Richard pulled Katie across the hall as Brianna turned the knob.
It came open on clean hinges.
Richard pulled Katie through the door. Katie thought it strange that the only other door in the dungeon was unlocked.
The room was circular and fairly small. It was probably the size of ten of her cells all put together. Richard stopped her from going too far into the room. There was a tiny window and a large wooden board laying on the ground on the far side of the room. It looked like there was something, perhaps a ladder or stairs, hidden underneath it.
Katie felt something wet touch her hand. She looked down at the hand in Richard’s. There was blood running down his arm and onto her hand.
“Richard, you’re bleeding,” she said, startled.
“It’s fine,” he whispered to her.
“No, we have to close the wound,” she said.
“It’ll have to wait,” he said.
Katie released him hand and knelt down until she was eye level with Richard’s wrist.
“Do you have any strips of cloth?” she asked him. Richard let a sigh and reached into his back pocket. He extracted three strips of white cloth and handed them to Katie. She smiled and set to work, carefully tying the cloth over his wound. She noticed small healed cuts around his wrists. It made her wonder what had happened.
“Here,” Katie said, handing Richard the last cloth. He wiped his blood off his hand, nodding his thanks. Katie turned to Brianna.
Brianna took a step towards the board on the ground but stopped.
“What is it?” Katie asked her.
“I hear something,” Brianna said. Katie remained silent, listening hard. She didn’t hear anything.
“Brianna, what are you--?” Richard started to ask.
“Sh!” she said.
This time, Katie heard it.
A low growl came from a far corner. Something was waiting in the darkness of a corner. Katie hadn’t noticed it before, but saw it when it moved.
“What is that?” Richard asked, taking a step in front of Katie. Katie reached forward and pulled Brianna back.
“Richard,” Katie whispered. Whatever was in the corner was moving, as if lifting its head. “I think we’d better get out of here.”
“Yes,” Richard said, turning and urging them back. Katie and Brianna followed Richard to the door. She looked over her shoulder. The thing in the corner was slowly lifting itself up. It looked like some kind of creature. It looked huge. She turned back to Richard.
“Locked,” he said after he tried the doorknob. “How could it have locked after we entered?”
“I don’t know,” Brianna said, sounding nervous. She tugged at the door as well, but it still wouldn’t budge. “Strange.”
“Very,” Richard said. “Maybe there’s another way out of this room.” He turned and suddenly froze. Katie turned around to follow but bumped into him. Brianna gasped.
Looking up, Katie saw what had caused their strange reactions. Standing taller than any of them was a huge hairy creature. Katie had seen pictures before in a child’s book when she was young. It was a griffin.
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