Livia’s mouth hung open as she stood motionless, her heart hammering in her chest. Guards rushed into position around them. By the time her shock had diminished sufficiently that she thought to draw her sword it was too late. Her eyes flickered from the blade in her hand to the contingent of guards surrounding them. Her sword clattered to the ground. She did not wish to die today. The guards approached, tentative eyes fixed on her, prepared to fight at the first provocation. Her sword was kicked away as two guards seized her. Another patted her down, relieving her of her remaining weapons. She felt a temporary surge of pride at terror in his eyes, no doubt sparked by her fearsome reputation, before remembering her predicament. Once the guards were convinced Livia no longer posed a threat to them Nyx was hauled to a standing position and the decent to the dungeon began.
After being dragged from the throne room and through a labyrinth of hallways, Livia and Nyx were escorted down a seemingly endless flight of stairs. Torches dotted the walls at regular intervals illuminating dull grey stone. Damp stale air assaulted their lungs. The stairs finally opened into a hallway lined, with dingy barred cells. The guards paused at the closest cell opening the door and shoving Livia inside. With a second shove, Nyx tumbled in behind her. The door slammed shut with a thunderous clang. The click of a key in lock signified the finality of their imprisonment. The two stood, listening to the retreating footsteps of the guards until they were standing in silence. The silence did not last long.
“What did she mean non-royal mage?” Livia paced back and forth her agitation written on her face. “How can that be possible? Magical ability is hereditary and the queen’s ancestors executed all mages of non-royal blood centuries ago. The last non-royal mage died four-hundred years ago.”
“Either magical ability is less hereditary than the queen would like us to believe, or they didn’t manage to kill all of them.” Nyx frowned. “I guess it’s also possible my family is of royal lineage. The queen herself does not know. That’s why she has yet to kill Cassandra. She wants to study her, find out how it happened.”
“I’m going to assume it’s one of the first two options.” Livia snorted in derision.
“I could be royal!” Nyx protested.
“You appear to be a full-blooded elf and I noticed the queen has a distinct lack of pointy ears.” Livia chuckled.
“You don’t know that!” Nyx bristled. “If it had happened generations ago…”
“The royal family like to keep their bloodline… pure…” Livia smirked.
“Are you implying there’s something wrong with elf blood?” Nyx bared her teeth advancing on Livia with a growl.
“I am implying members of the royal family only lie with each other.” Livia shoved Nyx backwards with ease. “Not that you could do much in the form of retribution if I was insulting your bloodline. It is not wise to threaten me little elf.” Nyx scowled as her back met the cold stone wall. Livia recommenced her pacing. It was only a moment before Livia broke the tense silence.
“How are you planning to get us out of here?” She glanced at Nyx
“Why would you think I possess the ability to escape the royal dungeon?” Nyx huffed in response.
“You helped your sister escape.” Livia explained in a patronising tone.
“Actually, I didn’t!” Nyx glared at Livia “I have no idea how she escaped. She never specified the details, just sent me a message telling me where to meet her. That was where I was going before you abducted me. On which topic, it’s pretty presumptuous of you to think I would take you with me if I did have a means of escape.”
“Are you saying you would leave me here?” Livia growled.
“I don’t see why not. This whole situation is your fault after all.” Nyx explained.
“You also bear some responsibility.” Livia retorted.
“How so? I warned you that taking me to the queen was a bad idea!” Nyx surveyed Livia displeasure etched on her countenance.
“If you had told me the truth…” Livia began.
“You would not have believed me.” Nyx interrupted. Livia had no response for that, it was true. They settled back into an uneasy quiet.
Nyx sat down in the corner whimpering as her bottom met the hard stone. She repositioned herself lying on her stomach. The heavy sound of boots meeting floor notified her of Livia’s continued pacing. Propping herself up on her elbows she fixed her eyes on the wall and resigned herself to studying the cracks.
“Still hurts I see?” Nyx could hear the grin in Livia’s voice. “I do hope you choose to provoke me some more. I’m starting to get bored.”
“I look forward to your execution.” Nyx hissed “I was hoping to kill you myself but I’m willing to settle for second best. I shall ask the queen to let me watch. Not only will it be thoroughly satisfying it might even provide an opportunity for escape. For me of course. Not for you because you will be dead.”
Livia was across the room in an instant. She snarled as her fingers snaked through Nyx’s hair taking a firm hold before yanking her upwards. Nyx yelped, leaping to a standing position in an attempt to relieve the strain on her hair. Livia kept hold of Nyx her eyes brimming with rage.
“I could kill you right now, little elf.” Her voice was ominously low. “Now I am no longer getting paid, and you have made it clear you cannot help me escape, I have no use for you. I may not have a weapon but I could snap your neck, or choke you. Perhaps I could smack your face against the wall, over and over until…” Livia’s threats were cut off by the sound of someone clearing their throat. Livia spun around letting go of her hold on Nyx. A cloaked figure stood on the other side of the bars. She held a torch in one hand and a key in the other.
“You can kill each other later if you really want to…” she surveyed them impatiently “…but we don’t have time for that right now.”