Cursed bloody wenths, he thought with a growl rising in his throat. He thought of his friends, those who weren’t “gifted” with powers such as his, running about happily in the old lands of Acaethia, gathering this year’s harvest of iilybaen leaves. He’d waited nineteen years to do that, and he was missing his chance.
If only some innocent Morphe walked by my cell, he thought, racking his brain for ideas. Or a Shifter. Or a cat.
But with no other beings around him, he was completely powerless. He figured that his guards knew just that. No wonder he'd been put in isolation.
Then, from somewhere far out of sight, he heard a heavy door open. Two strange voices could be heard—just barely—echoing down the long corridor of the dungeon. Caldaeo held still, careful not to shift his chains, so he could hear them.
“—mustn’t say a word. I already fear they’ll find out, and my life is on the line.”
“I understand.” Caldaeo’s ear twitched. That voice was familiar, though he couldn’t place it. “We can’t express our gratitude for how you’ve helped us. Your service will be remembered.”
“Thank you, Aetherdayu. You do our people honor.”
Aetherdayu! Caldaeo couldn’t help but jump at the name. The rendarth, the leader, of his own tribe…here? Why?
“Can you show me to him?”
Footsteps echoed as the two walked nearer.
“That cell, there. He’s been in isolation for a couple days.”
The door to Caldaeo’s cell rattled. Through the small, barred window, he could see very little. In a moment, the door creaked open. Aetherdayu himself stood there, his red-rimmed eyes falling on Caldaeo’s miserable form.
“How's your stay been, Caldaeo?”
“Never mind that now.” He stepped in and immediately set to fiddling with the shackles on Caldaeo’s wrists. “We’ve come to get you out.”
“The Fire Tribe, Rendarth?”
A strange, sly smile spread over his face. “No, son. Not the tribe.”
“I’ll explain later. We have to get out of the Eiben Citadel without being seen.”
“If we can get down to cell twelve, I think I can help with that.”
“What’s in cell twelve?”
Caldaeo shrugged. “Some old bat locked up for his crazy. But he’s a Leaper. Do you have a spare piece of cloth? An extra blade perhaps?”
Aetherdayu felt about his clothes nervously, as if he didn’t fully trust what Caldaeo meant to do with whatever he gave him.
Caldaeo led the Fire Rendarth and the guard out of his cell and down the corridor, past many other locked cells. “Come now,” he said distractedly. “It doesn’t matter what it is. Something you won’t mind parting with. I’d use a scrap of my own clothes, but as you see, I have none.”
Aetherdayu clumsily tore a strip of cloth from the hem of his shirt that hung out from underneath his chest plate and handed it to Caldaeo.
“Thanks,” he said, taking the scrap. “I suppose that will do.”
Caldaeo stopped suddenly before a cell door. “Hello there,” he said into the small window, standing on his tip-toes so he could see in. “Are you awake Brachna?”
An old man grumbled from inside.
“What is he doing?” the guard whispered to Aetherdayu.
The Fire Rendarth could only shrug.
“Wake up, then. I need to speak with you,” Caldaeo said, his tone casual. No one might have known he was in the middle of a jail break. “That’s it. How have you been, old man?” He held the cloth up to the window, just in front of his face. “They feeding you enough?”
The prisoner laughed loudly in response. He disappeared and reappeared in the far corner of his cell.
“That’s it, grandpa,” Caldaeo continued. “This barrier won’t let you out, huh? That’s too bad…”
Suddenly, the cloth in his hand began glowing. His fist was tight around it, and it glowed brighter and brighter as he spoke to the unstable prisoner.
“Alright, then, I’ve got to leave. But you keep your chin up, old man. Prison’s not so bad.”
He dropped down from the window and held the scrap out before him. Aetherdayu and the guard both held their eyes fixed on the strip of cloth. As it laid in Caldaeo’s open hands, the glow faded until it looked no different than it had when Aetherdayu had torn it from his suit.
“Phenomenal,” Aetherdayu said in an astonished whisper.
He shrugged. “It’s nothing. Now let’s get out of here.”
Aetherdayu turned to face the guard. “Thank you, friend.”
“Hope’s speed,” the guard replied, bowing.
Caldaeo was already on his way down the corridor toward the exit. The leader of the Fire Tribe hurried after him.
“How long will it last?” Aetherdayu asked as he caught up.
“The cloth. How long will its power last?”
“Until I say,” was the reply, as if it should have been obvious.
They continued down the corridor, running past many closed cell doors until they reached a small flight of dark stairs. A heavy wooden door, one that Caldaeo had heard open and close many times in the last two days, stood at the top of the last step.
“There will be a pair of guards on the other side of that door,” Aetherdayu whispered.
Caldaeo grinned, gripping the cloth tight in his hand. With his other, he grabbed Aetherdayu by the shoulder. “Hold your breath,” he said.
Before Aetherdayu had a chance to response with anything other than a gasp, they disappeared from the corridor leaving nothing but a warm place on the stone floor where they had just stood.
It was weird, the feeling of whiplash that Caldaeo experienced as they reappeared somewhere outside of the isolation cell corridor. Everything around looked just as Caldaeo remembered it—luckily. That was the tricky part about using a Leaper's power: you could only travel to the places you pictured in your mind. Any deviation could send the Leaper somewhere just off of their destination...and in a situation like this, such a mistake could mean their lives.
Caldaeo peered around the corner. He spotted the two guards on either side of the door, the door behind which he had just been. He pulled back from the corner quickly, keeping out of sight.
Aetherdayu was breathing heavily. He looked disoriented and enraged. Caldaeo thought he might have shouted at him for the sudden teleport, if silence hadn’t been so crucial.
Caldaeo’s eyes scanned the area. He spotted the next flight of stairs that led up to the ground level of the castle. They needed to be in that stairwell to remain unseen. Adjusting his fingers around the thin body of the cloth, Caldaeo closed his eyes and squeezed the Fire Rendarth’s shoulder again. With a deep breath, they vanished from the corner.
The stairs were suddenly under their feet, and Caldaeo was already running up them as if he’d been a Leaper all his life. He couldn’t remember what laid beyond this door. His token of power, without a clear vision of his destination, was useless.
“We’ll have to go through this door the old-fashioned way,” Caldaeo said in the quietest voice he could manage.
“It should lead outside,” Aetherdayu replied. “Open it.”
Caldaeo unlatched the knob and pushed it out. Sunlight struck them like fire. They stumbled out onto the grassy ground like gravity itself had shifted.
Aetherdayu stumbled to his feet, brushed himself off, though there wasn't a speck to be seen on him. “Can you take us out over the ocean? We’ll be seen leaving the island for sure if we try leaving from the shore.”
“Won’t they notice that you came into the castle and never came out?” Caldaeo said, tying the cloth around his sore wrist
Aetherdayu's gaze darkened. “That won’t matter for much longer.”
“Well, let’s go. I won’t wait around for the guards to discover I’ve escaped.” Caldaeo held a hand out to Aetherdayu.
The leader of his tribe took the offered hand and in a second, their were hovering out over the water.
“I thought you couldn’t fly, Caldaeo,” Aetherdayu said.
“I can’t. But the old man could.” He held up his wrist to show Aetherdayu the token. “So where to?”
“I’m sorry,” was Aetherdayu reply.
Then, the world went dark.