Welcome to the sixth installment of my fantasy web serial!
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The World That Forgot How to Dance
Ellsie was roused early in the morning by a low argument coming from the other cell. At first, the voice she heard was so frightened that she didn’t realize it belonged to Lester.
“I haven’t made any problems!”
“There have been inquiries,” the deeply disinterested voice of the guard told him.
“So, just lie to them.”
“We can’t take the risk. Come on.”
Ellsie heard the guttural clanking of metal as the cell’s door opened. Her heart thudded in her chest as she tried to pull meaning out of the conversation. Then Lester called her name with such unconcealed panic that she rushed to the edge of her cell before she gave herself the order to do so.
One of the three guards put a firm, gloved hand on Lester’s head, forcing it downward and forbidding him to make eye contact with her. His wrists were shackled together, as were his ankles: an extra precaution used mostly for dancers.
“Ellsie, they’re going to make me disappear again!” He called to her, struggling fitfully against their grasps.
“Don’t talk to her,” the guard demanded, and then ordered Ellsie to step back.
She moved closer, fingers gripping the bars. “Why are you moving him?”
“Miss, this man is dangerous. You should really step—” To properly deliver his warning, he needed to turn slightly towards her, giving Lester whatever opening he’d been waiting for.
In a whirlwind of movement, Lester stomped one man’s foot, elbowed another in the gut, and head butted the third. Then before Ellsie could follow the guard’s wise advice, Lester leapt towards her cell, thrusting his chained wrists between the bars and looping them over Ellsie’s head.
Hot, ugly terror seized her as she realized her error in trusting him. She screamed and tried to duck out of his hold before he could snap her neck, but he yanked her closer, pinning her head against the bars. She felt his mouth move close to her ear and expected some kind of threat or disturbing last words to carry with her into the afterlife, but what he said was a pleading request.
“What does the spell say?”
The guards had recovered from the short assault, and Ellsie felt jostled and helpless as they tried to pry Lester away from her.
“Please, tell me,” he begged, close enough to her ear that the guards couldn’t hear it. “You have no idea how important it is.”
She didn’t know if she reached for the stone in her pocket out of mercy or fear, but when she looked down at it, it was just a stone as common and ordinary as the day she’d lifted it from the river. “You’re not a dancer,” she said, honestly surprised.
Lester wasn’t. With more frantic urgency than ever, he struggled to remain anchored to her and said, “I know what your spell does.” The guards were making progress, and Lester spoke as one who knew he couldn’t hold on much longer. “You need to find me once you’re out. Listen: in Laenin—” He doubled over as one of the guards lost his patience and delivered a solid punch to his side.
That done, Lester was easily disentangled from her, and Ellsie watched in conflicted horror as Lester was dragged, coughing and gasping, from the cellblock. Her knees buckled once she was alone, and her whiplashed brain tried to determine whether she was scared of Lester, or scared for him.
Thanks for reading! Comments are always well-loved, so leave them below if you are so inclined. I’ll see you next Wednesday for Part 7 🙂
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