I knew right away I wouldn’t be able to stay in a closed room with the torch for very long, so with the torch in my left hand and the sword in my right, I pulled the door open and went back into the tunnel. Like most dungeon or torture areas, not a lot of traffic came through. I listened for a moment, trying to determine what was in each direction.
The left seemed quieter, so I walked down the gray stone tunnel to the next door, this one on my right. After using my senses to check inside, I pushed the door open. Upon seeing the contents of the room, I quickly put the torch in the holder for it carved into the wall just inside and shut the door. Piled carelessly on tables around the room was clothing from prisoners, including mine. Once fully wearing armor again, including my own sword on my hip and bow and quiver on my back, I looked through the other belongings.
It didn’t take long for me to realize the rest of the cloaks and coats were child sized. I took a little comfort that almost all of it would go over other clothing. Walking back to the thick wooden door, I listened again, and then pulled it open. Turning right, I went to the next door on the left, also made of wood but with metal bars in a window high up on the door. Well, to be honest, it would have been perfect height for a shorter credaril.
Before I could look through the window, however, I heard the stone door of the torture room start to open. Whipping off my bow, I already had the arrow nocked as the soldier I hamstrung limped into the hall. Since I carried the torch, he looked my way first and held up his hands when he saw the arrow. “I speak common,” he forced out.
“Why should I care?” I asked.
“I can help you if you’ll keep me from bleeding to death,” he answered.
“Why should I trust you and why would you help me?” I asked.
“Credarils are not, how would you say, death lovers, any more than you are. We don’t embrace it or seek it. I do know I will bleed to death if you don’t bind this up for me,” he said, looking down at his leg. “We can’t help the kids already taken to the breeding camps, but I will help you get the ones down here up to the surface.”
“Lay face down and grasp your hands behind your back. If they come apart before I’m standing on you, I will put an arrow into the back of your skull,” I said. The credaril complied, head facing me. I stepped one foot onto his back and put enough pressure on to keep him down, but not crush him. The torch lit the hallway from where I dropped it.
I used a bandage wrap from my pouch to wrap the wound, a heavy knee in his lower back. Then I used another one to tie his hands together. Slinging my bow over my back, I stood up and drew my blade. “I’m going to help you up, if you try anything I escape on my own with four dead credarils behind me, got it?” I asked.
“Yes, I understand,” he said and I used my left hand to pick him up. He limped ahead of me to where the torch lay on the ground. “This is one of two rooms with kids in it.”
I scooped up the torch, never putting myself in a vulnerable position. The credaril stuck out his right hip to me, which is when I noticed the keys. Six kids under ten staggered out into the hallway, wearing bed clothes. “Go into that room over there and find more clothing,” I told them, pointing to the door where the credarils kept their clothing. They complied silently and quickly, as I hoped they would. I felt sure a little shock and abject terror had made them quite eager to obey a pale faced human holding a sword to a captor.
Gesturing to the credaril that he should move to the storage room, I followed him over. I did not want kids ending up between me and any guards that might come into the tunnel. “How often do guards and others come down here?” I asked, while the kids rummaged through the clothing in the light of my torch.
“My partner and I are the only soldiers assigned for this shift. Sorcerers only come down here for torture, but wouldn’t come check on their fellows not reporting,” he answered.
“How long do we have?” I asked.
“Long enough to get the second group of kids dressed and up the back side of this part of the credaril kingdom,” he answered.
As I walked to the second room of kids, I hoped he told the truth.
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