“So which one of you wants to be tortured first?” The man asked.
Gustav stared and Sapphire saw his face go hard. He opened his mouth to reply, but she beat him to it.
“I will,” she said firmly.
Gustav turned to stare at her. “What? Saph, no-“
“If I don’t come back, tell my sisters I love them, okay?” she cut him off briskly and matter-of-factly. “I won’t let anyone hurt my friends, Gustav, and that includes you now.”
“Saph-“ he began, but the man at the top of the stairs ran out of patience. He reached down and grabbed Sapphire, clicking on bound handcuffs and forcing her towards the door.
“Saph!” Gustav yelled, trying to get up. The man kicked him in the chest.
“Tell my sisters!” Sapphire yelled, determination in her eyes, and right before the door shut she saw him start to nod.
Rough hands put a blindfold on her, tying it too tight behind her head. She tried to take a step and stumbled. The man shoved her, and somehow she found her way through a maze of corridors.
Finally, they stopped. She heard someone open a door in front of her. The man shoved her again and she was taken in and pushed onto some sort of table. It was sticky. She hated to think why.
Fear was bubbling in her stomach, rising up and threatening to overwhelm her as her hands were tied to the table. Sapphire wanted to protest, to fight or make a witty comment, but the fear had paralyzed her.
The blindfold was ripped off. She took a deep breath, trying not to panic.
The first thing she noticed was the array of blood-covered instruments. Then, to her disgust, she realised she was lying a pool of half-dried blood.
She wanted to scream, but Sapphire was too terrified for that.
The door opened, and a figure strode in who she couldn’t place, but was horribly familiar.
The man smiled, a cruel smile, and she remembered. The world seemed to narrow so that he was the only thing that existed.
“You,” she whispered, finally finding her voice. “You killed my parents.”
He laughed softly. “Yes. You were just a helpless little girl, weren’t you? Watching your parents die by the hands of a man you never knew the name of. But I’ll tell you now. My name is Mevolent. And now I’m going to kill you like I killed your parents.”
Sapphire hadn’t thought it was possible to be more afraid, but the chill creeping through her veins proved her wrong.
Mevolent laughed again, a sound straight from a nightmare. “But first, you will tell me everything.”
Sapphire closed her eyes as the first blade came down.
Gustav paced the cell, listening carefully to try and hear if Sapphire was screaming. He wasn’t sure if he really wanted to know.
There were footsteps, raised voices outside the door, and Gustav looked up hopefully.
The door opened again, and the man threw someone in before closing the door again.
“Saph?” Gustav asked. He clicked his fingers, summoning a flame so that he could see.
The person on the floor wasn’t Sapphire. It was a boy with ruffled brown hair (like Gustav’s), who groaned and opened amber-brown eyes.
The boy dragged himself into a sitting position and squinted at Gustav.
“Hi,” the boy muttered. He looked around and sighed. “Seriously, villains need to get more imagination. A dark dungeon? Really? I suppose at least there aren’t skeletons and torches.”
Gustav stared at the boy, trying to think of something to say. Hi. Are you crazy?
“What did you do to get thrown in here?” Gustav asked.
The boy shrugged. “I used to know a girl when we were younger. And a few days ago someone saw her around town, so I followed her and ended up here.”
Gustav frowned. “Were you following Sapphire?”
The boy looked up, hope in his eyes. “You know her! Have you seen her?”
“Yeah,” Gustav replied cautiously. He wasn’t sure how to explain where she was.
“I’m Alex,” the boy informed him. “Do you know which cell Sapphire’s in? I need to get the three of us out of here, and then I’ll kick the living daylights out of whoever captured her.”
Gustav looked Alex up and down. He seemed a little odd. He was tall, and obviously strong. His skin was tanned and healthy. He looked about fourteen or fifteen, but looks could be deceiving. There was an empty sword sheath on his hip.
“I’m Gustav. And she’s usually in this one,” Gustav replied quietly, his voice empty. “They took her an hour ago.”
Alex sucked in his breath.
“Oh God,” he whispered. He closed his eyes for a moment, and when he opened them again they were angry.
“Okay,” Alex said. “I’ve got a plan. But if we want to save Saph, we’re going to have to work fast.”
Sapphire couldn’t think. She couldn’t move. Every inch of her body was injured. She thought a few ribs were broken. Her vision was pure red.
Mevolent had been called outside briefly, but she knew he would be back soon. It was taking all of her will power to stay conscious.
At first, it had hurt terribly. But eventually she’d just gone numb. She’d lost so much blood, the chances of her surviving were… miniscule.
Why not just give up now? A little voice in her head hissed.
And that was when the ground split open and two filthy boys climbed out.
“Sapphire?” Gustav whispered, like he couldn’t believe his eyes.
The other boy silently ran over to her and took a knife from the selection. He cut through the bonds as fast as he could.
Gustav grabbed some bandages. He found a bag, emptied it, and started filling it with weapons and first-aid gear.
The other boy sawed through the last bond and gently rolled her off the table. He saw the size of the blood stain and he mouthed a curse.
Sapphire slipped off the table and he caught her. The amber-brown eyes were looking at her, and a name floated into her head.
“Alex,” she murmured.
“It’s alright,” Alex whispered quietly. “I’ll get you out of here.”
She smiled softly. He scooped her up in his arms and carried her towards the hole in the ground.
The tunnel opened up on a cliff covered in trees. Sapphire could hear the quiet swish of the ocean below, pounding away.
Alex gently lay Sapphire down on the ground.
“Gustav,” he whispered, “Do you know first aid?”
Gustav nodded. “A little. Not much.”
Alex pulled a face. He rummaged through the backpack of supplies, opened a green pot of ointment, dipped his finger in and sniffed.
Alex dabbed some of the green stuff, whatever it was, on her leg. She gasped. The pain was vanishing. She weakly raised her head, and saw the cut starting to heal.
“That’s brilliant,” she muttered.
Sapphire eagerly scooped more out of the pot and rubbed it all over her arms, legs, face and stomach.
The goo made the healing process faster, but they still had to wait a few minutes for all her wounds to disappear.
Alex smiled, his familiar lop-sided smile, and he helped her to her feet. She hugged him tight.
“I’ve missed you so much,” Sapphire said.
“You too,” he whispered back.
Reluctantly, she pulled away.
Gustav got to his feet. “So, where are we going next? Don’t forget, Mevolent will be coming after us even now.”
Sapphire chewed her lip. “The Sanctuary, maybe? They’d help us all get home.”
“It’s a long way to the Sanctuary,” Alex pointed out.
Gustav clicked his fingers and started to play with a flame. “And I don’t think any of us should go home just yet. We’re about to head into war. We should help.”
Sapphire groaned and turned to face the edge of the cliff, breathing in the salty air. “So off to war it is.”
Alex opened his mouth to say something, just as a white monster leapt out of the shadows.
Alex was sent flying backwards. Sapphire screamed. Gustav pushed at the air sending the creature into a tree. Sapphire tried to control it, but there was a block in its mind.
“It’s working for Mevolent!” She yelled. “And there are more!”
Too late. She heard the howls a moment before more creatures leapt out, snarling.
Somehow, Alex and Gustav were next to her. Gustav had lost his glasses, but they were otherwise okay. He helped her up and handed her one of the surgical knives they’d stolen.
The three of them fought back-to-back, working as a team. A creature lunged at Alex while he was preoccupied fighting another, but Gustav stabbed it straight through the heart.
They killed a lot of the creatures, but there were still three left, and Sapphire was beginning to tire. She opened her mouth to suggest a new strategy when a creature leapt towards Alex.
“Look out!” she yelled. Alex turned, but he as too late to do anything. Desperately, Sapphire jumped between Alex and the creature, swinging her knife.
She cut its throat, but the momentum sent her tumbling backwards, right to the edge of the cliff.
Sapphire nearly went over the edge, but Alex grabbed her hand. She clutched it desperately, hanging over the edge.
Alex tried to pull her up, but they were both tired from the fighting and she was too heavy for him to lift.
Over his shoulder, Gustav was desperately holding off the last two creatures.
Sapphire looked down below her. She was dangling about eighty meters above the pounding surf. She could slow her fall, but she was so tired that it might not do much.
“Saph, pull yourself up,” Alex whispered.
Their eyes met, amber on blue. “I can’t,” she whispered. “Alex, you have to let go.”
He shook his head. “Sapphire, no,” he replied, panic rising in his voice. “I’m not losing you.”
“You have to,” she whispered. “For Gustav. For me.”
There were tears in his eyes.
“Let me go,” she repeated. “We’ll meet again soon.”
There were a thousand unsaid things in his gaze, a million emotions and thoughts. But Sapphire heard Gustav yell in pain, and knew that their time had run out.
Alex let go.
Sapphire fell through the air, tumbling. Her dark hair whipped around her face as she held out her hands and tried desperately to slow her fall.
The wind caught her, and she was slowing down, but the ground was so close now, she wasn’t slow enough-
The impact took away all her breath, so that she couldn’t even scream as her right arm- why always right?- snapped.
She lay on the rocks, somewhere between life and death, not knowing if her friends had escaped, not knowing if she would survive until morning. Not really caring anymore.
Sapphire closed her eyes and waited to die.