Come Dance in the Dungeon by the Candlelit Corridor - A Short Story
She reached through the bars and grasped his hand, the rust scratched her soft skin and left a dusty red trail of residue. "Thank you" she said, aware that he had no intention of welcoming her here for fear that it would place her in danger. As she touched him and spoke, Aratis didn't flinch. Instead, he kept his head down, as he crouched in the corner of his cell. It had been over a week now, and each night Sorsha had come to visit him. Down along the worn, marble stairwell, torch in hand. She wore no shoes to keep silent. The ground was freezing, patterned by the water that dripped from overhead. Each night when Sorsha came, she would bring him food. Entering the underground, she always wondered how the seven thousand candles that lined the dungeon walls were lit. Drunk men often told tales of this dungeon, myths of ghosts and how it went on for lengths beyond the city walls. The question helped to keep her mind off of the situation at hand.
She knelt there beside him. Holding back the tears, placing her fears elsewhere, somewhere in the back of her mind as she had always done so well. "Tomorrow they will come for you. Talk to me," she said, clutching his hand ever tighter. Aratis continued to stare at the floor. It seemed like the better option, rather than letting her know the truth. She would never forgive him, or herself.
"I know you didn't do it. You wouldn't end a life like that", she sighed. "Tell them, tell them it wasn't you". Aritis had already tried to explain all he could. "I had told you to leave. To run away with me, and I am still telling you to leave," he stated calmly.
"I don't understand" she replied,"I'm happy here, my family are here, my life is here, and I am the future of this kingdom, the heir without brothers."
Aratis knew there was no point in his pleas. " Calias was found dead in the hallway," She cried ", you didn't do it, I know you didn't, say it! He was just a simple servant."
He turned his face away, and paused before turning toward her as he spoke. "He was outside your chamber, plotting, waiting for you." he said. As he became visible through the candlelight Sorsha became aware that his face was badly bruised, his nose mashed on the bridge and his left ear cut deeply. Sorsha's eyes opened wider, filling with tears, but she didn't budge.
"Who did this to you" she asked sadly, a tear running down each side of her face. One cheek then the other.
"Sorsha, you need to get out. You won't believe me either way. You need to leave, run away. Just get away from this place," said Aratis sighing deeply, his breathe leaving him more with every word.
"Aratis, you're not making any sense," she cried, becoming more upset by the minute. It had only seemed like weeks before, that they had danced in this dungeon through the candlelit corridors. Down here they had peace away from the bustle of the world. They had grown here together, exploring each other, moving closer in the mysterious castle underground.
But now they were children no more, and the world around them had slowly crept in. If anything it only seemed fitting that it would be here in this dungeon that they would see each other for the last time. Sorsha was no fool. She had arrived this night well aware that unless Aratis would cooperate, then this would be their last. Once her uncle muttered his punishment from the heights of her fathers cushioned throne it was irrevocable.
Aratis dug deep, his face full of hate, his words squeezing through his grit teeth.
"It's your cousin, he wants you dead. You're standing in the way of his crown." He explained, grasping her hand tightly.
Sorsha couldn't believe it. The thought of her beloved taking the life of another made her doubt it all. Was it true? Or was Aratis creating this tale in an attempt to survive or in some foolish attempt to protect her? "Go Sorsha, flee tonight," he said clambering closer to the bars that separated them. "You killed Calias?" she asked, sobbing loudly. She was unconcerned by the dungeon guards, as she knew them well and they were the very ones who had allowed her to enter the dungeon in secret.
"Yes," replied Aratis, bowing his head in shame, "He was sent to kill you. I had no choice".
Sorsha had no idea how to respond. Aratis was no killer. And he wouldn't have told her to flee without him if it was part of some intricate plan. No, She knew him better, she loved him more than that. Her paranoia began to retreat now with every word.
"You need to leave, and go far away," he exclaimed. She reached further through the bars of his prison, the rusted metal squeezing her arms tighter now as she gripped his head. "Ok," she said nodding in sorrow. "ok...ok!" She kissed his battered mouth one last time, squeezing his hand tightly. "You need to go," he said quietly, backing away from her.
Hysterical, Sorsha turned her back on her love, and got to her feet. She didn't say goodbye. Instead she ran quickly, following the candlelit tunnel as she went, her mind filled with torment. Thoughts, flashes of the life she was leaving behind. The pain of all that she had blocked out in the past. All that she never saw coming. Her cousin, insane and now attempting to off her. Her lover in chains, doomed to death and all to save her.
As she went, she glanced at the candles that lit the corridor. Moving quickly the lights blurred through her tear filled eyes, helping to focus her mind once again on something else. It helped to block it all out once more as she left the dungeon and entered the cool dark air. She wiped her tears away and watched as her breathe reached high above her, disappearing through the night in an effort to show her the way.