Suggested by: Julieann Wright
Place: Train Station
Object: A Coin
Darren regained consciousness, but he could not move. He could feel his eyelids so puffed with bruising that no amount of exertion could get them open further than a sliver.
The goblins had worked till he passed out, but they were gone now. Faith was safe. He had not told them anything.
His head throbbed where they had pounded him with clubs; his sides ached where they had stuck him with javelins. They had tied ropes around his wrists and ankles and nearly quartered him. Finally the blackness had consumed him, and Darren had slipped away from the pain.
A steady dripping echoed from deeper into the cavern underneath Alexander VanTussel's stately mansion. A single torch near the front of the room cast a sputtering, yellowed light to within three feet of Darren's cell, but no further. He lay in the hard-packed dirt, just waiting for unconsciousness to claim him again.
Footsteps crunched, but Darren was beyond resisting anymore. They could just go ahead and kill him, for all he cared. He wondered if Faith and Courtland had reached Orkney by now. Soon the Midnight Dragon would be beyond the reach of anybody... And then what?
Darren didn't know what surprised him more: the human voice when he expected goblins, or the fact that he knew the voice, despite not having heard it in years. Slowly, he rolled his body toward the bars of his cell.
"Seth?" He croaked.
His old friend stepped into the light of the torch. His face was much older than the last time they'd seen each other, at the end of the fall term at university, gearing up to join their respective families for the holidays. But nonetheless, as Seth stood at the bars of the cage, peering in, Darren knew—or he hoped—that his friend remained the same.
Seth grinned. "You always did have a thing for young damsels and quests for destiny, didn't you?"
What did he—was he mocking Darren? The prisoner grimaced as he heaved himself to a sitting position.
"Seth," he moaned, "what are you—"
"Oh, save your breath," Seth sneered. "If you were any bit as good a Protector as you fancied yourself, you would have seen me there at the train station in Lancaster, following you... and the Ecrivaine."
Thoughts and emotions rattled around Darren's mind, and he wagged his head in a futile attempt to clear it. "Y-you... You're with him?" He panted.
Seth grinned, but the mirth was gone. "Of course; I'm the one who told VanTussel where you were. You might have lost the Ecrivaine by the time I found you—but I know what she looks like, so we'll find her again."
Like a candle in the rain, the hope sputtered and died. Desperately, Darren lunged for the bars. "No!" He made it halfway and scrabbled at the dirt. "You can't do this! You don't know—"
"About the dragon?" Seth cut in again, slipping his hands into his pockets with an air of nonchalance. "About the incredible power it would bring—"
"It would destroy Earth!"
"You idiot," Seth snarled. "He doesn't want to deal with Earth! He wants Phantasm!"
Darren frowned at the strange word. "What?"
"VanTussel wants to rule the Dragon's world, Phantasm. He wants to use the restraints that the Dragon has here–the Ring and the Ecrivaine—to harness it before he returns with it and sets himself over that world."
Darren snorted, but there was too much blood in his nose and instead he gave a wet, gurgling cough. "And you think he's gonna share that with you?"
Seth shook his head. "No; I know that's never going to happen, he's said as much. I'm here for you, old friend."
Darren gestured to his bars. "Not quite the scene I pictured you saying that in," he commented.
The gloating facade slipped for a moment, and Seth took his hands out of his pockets. "Darn you, Darren! Why couldn't you just tell the man what he wanted to know? What's so important that you had to keep mum?"
Darren smirked as well as he could with a fat lip and leaned his head back on the rough stone wall. "I'm a Protector, Seth," he mumbled, "It's what I do." He raised his head and looked right at his former friend. "What are you?"
"You're a fool, Darren," Seth snapped.
Grunting and growling down the hall signaled the return of the goblins. Suddenly Seth seemed eager not to get caught standing at the cage. He backed into the shadows.
"I'll be back to watch you die!" He yelled—a little too loudly, Darren thought. Something glinted as it sailed through the air from one of Seth's hands, and clanked as it hit the ground and rolled through the bars to Darren's feet. He quickly snatched it up before the goblins arrived to torture him again. By the time he looked up, Seth had vanished. Darren looked at the object in his hand.
It was a coin. Grinning, Darren tucked the coin where the goblins wouldn't find it. He would need it later to make his escape. He only hoped it would be in time.