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7 - The Frozen Keep

7 - The Frozen Keep

A Story by Stories Of Atlas

Chapter 1


Floating amongst the ice of the northern sea, far from the coast of Atlas' northern continent. Far from anything that could be called civilisation was a place that hides secrets. A place constructed long ago, during war, during change, a time that had many struggles, many problems.

The exact location of this place is ever changing as it drifts around the ocean, slowly making it's way like a piece of flotsam, aimless and inconspicuous if not for the flames of life that are dotted across an enourmous glacier. Any ship passing during the day would be forgiven for not spotting the walls of stone and mortar that rise up along two sides of the glacier, the remaining walls carved purely from the ice. Few people know the secrets that are contained within, only heads of state and high ranking military personnel understand that this floating castle is in actual fact a prison complex, and even fewer people know the inmates of this place.


There was a galleon floating alongside a tower, it's zepplin balloon taking a beating from the harsh wind, the ship itself was locked in place by two large iron bars that had been slid through the windows and were tied down in several place within the ship in order to stop any collisions with the docking tower.

The purpose of such a visit was for re-stock. It was rare for a prisoner to be transferred to this facility as it was reserved for only the most dangerous criminals. There were guards receiving the goods in the tower, one of them holding a clipboard tightly, shivvering from the cold.

"Is there much more in there?" he shouted into the depths of the ship

"Nah" came a voice "Just some bags of grain"

"Good, it's freezing up here. I left my dinner for this"

A man emerged from the ship with a bag of grain over his shoulder. He stumbled along the gangplank being careful not to look down over the side of the flimsy piece of wood towards the towers base. When he reached the end he thew the bag down and the guard wrote something on his clipboard

"You left your dinner did you?" The crewman asked "Well sorry we're a little late, perhaps you should let us know where you are next time so we don't have to grid search for three days"

The guard looked up over his spectacles for a moment before breaking out in a big grin.

"We wouldn't want to make it too easy for you would we" he said.

The crewman laughed and shook his head and was walking back towards the ship when the guard stopped him

"Hey, any ideas when the next prisoner is coming in"

"I haven't heard anything. When did you get the last one?"

The guard chewed the inside of his cheek in deep thought.

"It was a couple of months ago at least I think. It was the quiet one right? The guy?"

The crewman just nodded and made his way back onto the ship.


The bitter cold was unbareable here, it was one of the reasons that it was an ideal place to put the most hardened criminals of Atlas. Even if they could escape from their cells, they wouldn't get too far.

Inside the tower the goods were being taken deeper into the warehouse structure below. The main cell block was where most of the population were kept. Next to that was the much smaller cell block which was kept for isolation cells, this was called 'Z Wing'. Z wing was practically empty, all except one cell. It was here where the more important inmates were held, the men and women that couldn't be trusted even with other criminals, it was here where all the biggest secrets were kept. Only a few of the guards were allowed to step into Z wing, as much for their own safety as anything else.

Also within the castle walls there was a small barracks and a residence. These areas were built later for the comfort of the guards and the staff here. The walls were much thicker, the plumes of smoke emerging from the chimneys betrayed the fact that they had larger fires and were kept in a greater amount of comfort than the inmates.

The guards donated by all the races of Atlas were also represented by ambassadors of all the races. All the races that counted of course. The Humans, Exiled Dwarves and the High Elves. The high council of nine had convened many years ago to create this place and they were amongst the few that knew the true worth of the facility.

Walking across the frozen courtyard came a squad of guards escorting a shackled figure through the snow. Two soldiers flanked him, their arms interlocked with his, dragging his limp body along leaving two troughs in the snow where his feet were dragged.

They were approaching a chainlink fence across the courtyard and were met by another guard.

"Who's this lucky lad then?" he asked

"Troublemaker from 'A block'" replied a soldier walking up front "He can't seem to get along with his bunkmate"

The guards behind him laughed "Yeah, he broke his last roomies jaw". The guards sniggered and another one added "Don't forget how he cut Johnsons tongue out in the canteen"

"That was this guy? Johnson must be four times bigger at least" the guard said, a look of impressed awe on his face. He took the unconcious inmates hair in his hand and lifted his head to take a better look. "Doesn't look so dangerous now" he laughed.

"That's enough!" the lead soldier shouted, obviously the superior as the others were hushed to silence instantly. "Some time in Z block will cool him off"

The border guard smiled "Let them through" he shouted and offered a salute to the sergeant who just waved him off.

"Come on, lets get this done and get back into the warmth"


The gate was unlocked and slid open, creaking under the strain as it went and the group stomped through, the prisoner groaning occasionally as his head bobbed and rolled. Z block loomed before them. A large structure made of cold stone. It had one entrance and very few windows, even though it stood alongside the main block there was no way to move between the two from inside. There was so much fear and rumour surrounding the building that the inmates had nicknamed it the 'Ice house', even though very few had been inside.

As they approached the large wooden door it creaked open and two soliders in full armour appeared. They held the plumes of a lieutenant on their shoulders and they saluted each other as they met.

"This is him Sir" the Sergeant said

"We guessed" one of the Lieutenants sighed with an obvious note of boredom in his voice. "We'll take him from here"

The guards carrying the prisoner dragged him forward and dropped his shivering body in the snow at the Lieutenants feet who picked him up roughly.

"Can he walk?" one of them asked

The guards shrugged at each other "We don't know, he's pretty out of it sir" one of them said

The two Lieutenants looked at each other and shook their heads in frustration.

"Well, as much as we like to carry prisoners to their cells maybe next time don't beat them so senseless before you bring them out here ok? Even if he did break away from all six of you where do you think he'll run too"

"Aye sir, sorry sir" the Sergeant said looking crestfellen and awkward "I take responsibility Sir"

"Just get out of here" the Lieutenant waved them all away and turned back to the door dragging the inmate with them.


Once inside they bolted the door behind them. There wasn't many guards within Z block itself, the Lieutenants were very skilled soldiers and they carried the prisoner along the main corridor. Empty cells lined the walls, the schreeching of rats was plainly audible and dust was piling high in some corners along with the cobwebs.

"Where we putting him?" one asked the other

"Might as well stick him next to the big guy"

"Really?"

"Yeah, it'll save us walking to far when we water them"

The other guard gave a snort of laughter

"Sounds like a good idea after all"


They both took a right turn, twisting the inmates body awkwardly causing him to groan and roll his head back.

"Well if you could walk you wouldn't be in so much pain" one of the soldiers laughed

This corridor was much darker than the other, except for the one torch at the end there was nothing nearby to illuminate the cells.

"Here you are big guy!" one of them called out "You have a visitor!"

At the end of the corridor there was a metallic scrape and a loud gutteral growl

"We know how much you like Humans so we figured we'd bring one for you to talk too!"

Another scrape of shackles and a thud of what could possibly have been footsteps. As the guards got closer two green hands wrapped themselves around the bars, one of them was scarred badly as though it had been burned.

"We're putting him right next to you so you can both get cosy" they laughed.

They split up, one of them propped the new prisoner up against the wall whilst the other wandered over to an empty cell to open it up. As he past by the two green hands they squeezed the bars tightly, the knuckles cracking loudly and there was a loud snort of breath from inside the cell as though it held a large bull.

"Calm down you dirty greenskin" the guard warned "You know what happens if you don't behave"

The Orc inside the cell eyed the guard angrilly but didn't say anything, without taking his pale eyes from the guard he released the bars from his grip and stepped backwards into the darkness inside the cell once again.

The guard had taken a large key from his belt and opened the cell.

"Cell door open" he called almost automatically

"Prisoner going in" the other called back and pushed the figure towards the bars.

"We just know you'll get on well with this guy" One of the said to the Orc "According to his file he's just as pissed off as you are"

The Lieutenant lined the prisoner up and pushed him hard through the door of the cell, as he stumbled his body twisted and his shoulder smashed into the iron grating and he howled in pain as he fell into his new cell. The door slammed shut behind him and the heavy key clunked the lock back into place.

"Cell door closed" came the call that echoed along the corridor. "and it'll stay closed for a very long time" the guard leered through the bars.

They both turned to walk away but one of them stopped and turned around.

"Oh" he said "How rude of me not to introduce the two of you. Gin this is Aracel, Aracel, Gin. You two be nice to each other now" the guards laughed loudly and their footsteps echoed along the halls as they walked back to their post by the door.


Chapter 2


"You don't speak much do you"

A few days had come and gone in that cell. Aracel was sat on the hard matress of his bunk, a chunk of bread in his hand. He broke it into small pieces.

"The time might go faster if you speak you know"

He scattered the pieces of the loaf onto the floor for the rats to enjoy, 'We're all in this together' he thought as the creatures scuttled about for the small morsels of food.

Aracel smiled to himself as he watched them fight and disappear quickly into the murk of the corridor. With a yawn he rose to his feet and paced out the length of his cell, swinging his arms from side to side in time with the slow rythmic thump of the Orcs heartbeat. It was suprisingly warm in these cells, the thick walls managed to shield them from most of the cold. A grated window high in the corridor wall was the only problem, a harsh breeze floating through at night, screaming around the concrete corners deep within the cell block but during the day the sun managed to beat down nicely. Aracel lowered his hands through the braces that hung at his side and repositioned them on his shoulders, gripping his shirt sleeves with his fingertips he stretched out once again to fix the wrinkles on his clothes.

"You know, they say the worst part about prison is that you're kept away from society. Not being able to interact with people. They say that's what drives you crazy"

He looked through the bars into the adjoining cell. There wasn't much light but he could see the unmoving figure of Gin. Sat shackled in that same position since Aracel was brought in. Not moving to sleep or eat.

"Well" Aracel continued "Regardless of your silence I have no intention of going insane. I shall talk to myself, see how you like that"

Silence was the answer again

"I see you like that just fine"


Aracel took his eyes from his cell mate and wandered around his cell. Boredom was really damaging him, his mind was starting to slow down and become sluggish and he felt that that was unacceptable. He kept having to remind himself that except for the silence this was infinitely better than the other cell block.

He was haunted by sleepless nights, holed up with those murderers and fiends. The cliques, the gangs and the senseless violence. He regretted having to break his bunkmates jaw, even if it was in self defence. The hulk Johnson in the canteen had been different though, Aracel smiled to himself, he had it coming.


He looked sideways at the Orc again.

"So what are you in for?"

Silence

"So what are you in for?" Aracel repeated, this time in a low, mock Orcish voice

"Oh thanks for asking" Aracel answered himself "I thought you were going to keep up the silent treatment forever. It's actually a fairly interesting story"

Aracel sat down and mulled over the details in his head quickly.

"You see, I'm trying to find clues to my past. Spot of amnesia you see, I don't remember a thing. An old friend had told me about a blacksmith who might know something so I was heading to Arcadia on his trail to ask him a few questions.

I was only in the city a couple of months ago, late last year it was. I don't like to stay there long, too many people for my liking, too many people with too many problems all bunched together, no wonder there's so much crime in the city. Anyway, last time I was there I got caught up with this, thing, this adventure I guess you could call it, I helped a guy, a Lord no less with a little blackmail problem he had. Of course I was hired to kill him and I would have done if not for the extra details I discovered but that's neither here nor there."

He looked over towards the Orc again who still hadn't moved

"Of course, I should have killed him when I had the chance in retrospect, it was soft of me to think he would have acted any other way than he did. When I returned to Arcadia I was stopped at the main gate and quickly surrounded. I haven't been told the official reason why I was arrested but I can only assume that Lord Roberts figured I knew too much and I was dangerous to his career"

Aracels voice faded slightly as he thought about that time last October, the plot he uncovered, the two sons he had protected and the girl he couldn't. The image of Shonra laying dead amongst the rubbish in the street flashed into his mind once again, the knife buried deep in her body.

"Should have killed him when I had the chance" he repeated again softly.


"Everyone has secrets they want kept secret" the voice in the other cell replied

Aracel looked up confused for a second, caught unaware by the Orcs voice. The sound of anything that wasn't Aracel was alien to the scene and didn't seem to quite fit.

"Humans are especially protective about their secrets" Gin added

Aracel stood up and approached the bars that divided them.

"And here I was starting to think you were mute" Aracel laughed

Gin looked at Aracel before standing up, his joints creaking as they came to life once again, the shackles around his feet weighed him down heavily but he seemed to move with an agile grace that suprised Aracel.

Gin approached the light and for the first time Aracel was able to see the Orc properly. He was almost completely naked apart from a ragged pair of ill fitting trousers, his body was a mess of scars, burns and welts. There wasn't a patch of flesh on him that hadn't been harmed in some way. His head was shaved and his tusks were broken.

Gin noticed Aracel looking him up and down.

"Don't worry" he said "I had a lot of these before I came here"

Aracel raised his eyes and looked the Orc in the face

"Gladiator?" he asked

Gin nodded. He raised a burnt and scarred hand to his stomach, to a scar that was evidence of a brutal and deep cut. "I guess you could say I'm here because this wound didn't kill me"

Aracels mind was working, his eyes flickering as though searching his mind for something "I should have guessed" he said finally "You're from Lorkia aren't you"

Gin nodded again "I guess news travels fast"

"Everyone thinks your dead, I heard there was some sort of revolt"

"Yes, that was me. I guess it didn't go to plan" Gin sat down on his bed again. The memories seemed to weigh him down more than the shackles.

Aracel watched him for a couple of minutes, allowing the silence to flow back into the cell. The slowing thud of Gins heart seemed to get louder once again, the sound of skittering rats scratching their way through the dark, empty corridor.

Aracel pointed at Gins welts "So, they beat you to try and find out more about the revolt?"

"That's right, that and because I have green skin of course. The stupid thing is I didn't do it for any revolution"

Aracel leaned in closer to the bars

"I knew there was a movement but I wasn't a part of it. I was just a warrior, I wanted to protect my friends not put them in harms way. I attacked the guardhouse because they had medicine for my wife"

Aracel remained silent and let Gin repeat "I don't know anything about no revolt"


"I wouldn't tell them that if I were you" Aracel said

"Why not?"

"From what I can tell that's the only reason they're keeping you alive. They want to know about the other members and then use you to quash any action they take. If you keep your mouth shut, act like you know something, you'll live a lot longer."

Gin didn't reply straight away, he just sat on his mattress contemplating the thought over and over in his mind, making fists with his hands and releasing them again and again. Aracel could sense a change in him all of a sudden, Gin's heart had started to beat faster and harder.

"And what do you think I want to live for?" Gin said, his voice a lot softer, his eyes dark.

All of a sudden he exploded with activity, he jumped to his feet and rushed to the bars, the chains linking his ankles straining under the charge. Aracel sprang back just in time to avoid a green hand shooting through to grab him.

"What have I to live for?!" Gin screamed through the bars, flecks of spit hanging from his lower lip. "My wife is probably dead now because of me! I tried to save her and all I did was get her killed!" he was apopleptic with an uncontrollable rage, he roared through the bars like a beast, shaking them violently causing concrete dust to fall from the ceiling.

Aracel stood at the far end of the cell watching him in silence, his own eyes wide and ready for anything.

It didn't take long for Gin to realise the futility of his aggression and his rage slowly subsided. He punched the bars a couple of times in frustration. Aracel smiled to himself and watched as the Orcs eyes grew pale once again.

"Then you don't know shes gone" Aracel muttered softly, testing the waters

"What?" Gin barked back

"Your wife" Aracel said louder "You don't know shes dead for sure. There's still hope"

"No" Gin replied "No hope, not for an Orc"

Aracel thought for a moment, his mind was a blaze of thoughts and calculations

"If it was me I'd want to get out of here and back to Lorkia"

Gin didn't reply.

"That's just me though" Aracel added with a soft smile that Gin didn't see.


Chapter 3


It was hard to gauge the passing of time in the prison. The high window didn't allow much light into the concrete corridors and the glaciar was drifting slowly, rocking and turning to the tune of the ocean so the window was never facing the same direction. Aracel spent a lot of time in deep thought, passing the time in his own mind, trying to plot an escape if an escape was even possible.

Time here was different from the main block of cells. Isolation had replaced the dull chatter of people, the footsteps of guards and the rattle of swords against cell doors was replaced with silence. There was no real threat of violence, there was no blood and fighting, there were no threats and sleepless nights. No queues for food or showers, there were no showers and food was slung between the bars, occasionally landing back onto it's plate but more often than not spilling out across the floor.
Aracel didn't miss the old block so much as he was bored of the new. Gin spent most of the time in silence, speaking occasionally and only when it suited him. Conversations would always end in anger from the Orc, his fury echoing down the corridors until one of the guards showed to threaten him into silence, although Aracel had no idea what they could do to further injure the ailing Orc. Since their first meeting Gin had taken to wearing a loose woolen jumper, together with the ripped baggy trousers he was wearing he had a pathetic air about him however it was an improvement to the sight of his bare, badly scarred flesh.

"Feel like talking today?" Aracel ventured into the darkness

"What is left to talk about?" Was the eventual reply grunted by Gin

"We can talk about anything, we have plenty of time to discuss all the topics on Atlas"

Gin stayed quiet. Aracel rolled his eyes, another day like this. Sometimes Gin would be talkative and other days he would drop into a menacing silence. There was something about him that Aracel didn't trust and he got the impression that Gin felt the same way about him. There wasn't many places an Atlas where a Human could meet an Orc on equal terms. Orcs were rarely sent to prison, in most cases a greenskin that broke the law in anyway was executed and thrown back to his people to deal with.

Aracel jumped to his feet in boredom and stood in the center of the cell, stretching out his arms above his head and cracked his neck one way and then the other.

"Well if you aren't going to talk" he muttered to himself "I'll just have to kill some time another way"

Standing tall with his feet together and his hands by his side in three quick movements he spread his feet by first pushing his heels out, then his toes and then his heels once again and at the same time he raised his fists, palms up, parallel with his chest. His breathing was slow and relaxed as he held the pose for a short time. Gently turning to the side he pushed his weight to the back foot and gently pushes his right hand forward, twisting out the palm as he does it.

Gin watched out of the corner of his eye as Aracel continued with a combination of moves that looked almost cermonial. To Gins eye it looked like a dance as Aracel ducked and bobbed in his cell, his eyes set in deep concentration.

"What are you doing?" Gin asked impatiently

Aracel didn't answer, he leant back further on his back foot, spreading his weight unevenly and raised his other foot, snapping it forward for a series of kicks.

"What are yo.."

"I'm training" Aracel replied before he could fully ask the question again. His motions carrying on regardless of the distraction

"Training?" Gin laughed "Training for what? The ballet?"

Aracel slowly moved his body back into the original stance and let out a long deep breath
"It's a fighting style" he said eventually.

Gin laughed hard and loud, his body starting to shake and he slapped his thigh, tears were forming in his eyes as he tried to control and quiet the uncontrollable, overpowering feeling inside him.

"You call that fighting?" he managed to say eventually. He was doubled over on his bed, still unable to stop himself from shaking with amusement. Aracel just calmly stood in his cell, a soft smile forming on his lips.

Gins laughter slowed "Fighting isn't a dance you know" he said "Fighting is raw, pure. It's instinctual, not something that can be rehearsed whenever you feel it. That little routine of yours won't stop you getting run over by a cavalry division or protect you against a volley of arrows aimed at your head. You have to feel it, the conflict surging in your veins, the grip you have with mortality, you have to be an animal, a predator." his fists were clenched and his eyes were closed as he spoke. Aracel could almost see him becoming a beast.

The Orcs of the present were a long way from the Orcs of the past. Being cut from the arcane realm and being closer to a civilisation had changed them, given them language, taught them to walk on two legs instead of two legs and a hand in most cases the race had calmed down, become passive but Aracel saw in Gin a difference, he'd sensed it the first time they spoke, Gin's anger was more than just an emotional response, it was almost like he was becoming a beast once again.

"Where did you learn to fight?" Aracel asked him

Gin opened his eyes and climbed to his feet to stand before Aracel who was secretly glad that they were seperated by steel bars.

"I didn't, it's in my blood" he replied with a smile "I come from a line of strong Orc alphas" he added with pride.

"It looks like the learning curve is pretty steep though" Aracel countered, pointing to a scar that was visible on Gins neck

Gin raised a hand to the small blemish, almost reliving the moment that the arrow had skimmed past his neck.

"Each of these scars is a reminder that I can be better, I can be faster and stronger"

"And that works does it?"

Gin smiled "I'm alive aren't I?"

Aracel flahed the Orc a smile as well and let a silence hang in the air for a short amount of time.

"I think if I could take that kind of punishment without dropping dead I wouldn't train either" Aracel sighed

"Humans are just cowards, hiding behind their walls, relying on technology to get them through battles" Gin grunted "Your battles are less about honour and more about a forced stalemate. Your cities are surrounded by walls so that the only choice your enemies have is to lay seige to your cities whilst you wait for reinforcements. It's a cowards way of fighting"

Aracel wandered the the other side of his cell and leant his back against the wall

"Well" he said with finality "we're alive aren't we?"


"What's all this noise?!"


Gin and Aracel both turned towards the voice. The guards were approaching from the main corridor, no doubt they had become curious from Gin's laughing. The two Lieutenants approached the cellmates twice a day, to bring food and water mainly. Aracel was suprised by how little interaction they had with the guards since arriving, no questions had been asked, they hadn't had any exercise, the guards were glorified maids for all he could tell, all be it maids wearing chain armour with broadswords hanging at their hips. They each also had a large keyring that held a couple of large keys, Aracel knew that one was for the cells and assumed the other was for the cell block door.


"What d'ya think was so funny?" said one of the guards to the other

"I couldn't say, they don't seem to be laughing now, perhaps it's a secret"

"Nah, couldn't be a secret, we don't allow secrets do we Gin?"

Gin remained silent

"Well I don't know what else they could be laughing at, nothing seems funny"

"I don't think Id be laughing if I were locked up here to rot, eating this crap day in, day out"

He rocked the bowls slowly in his hand, the grey sludge inside slowly pitched and spilled over the edge, a blob dripping to the floor with a dull splat.

The guard laughed and slid one bowl through each of the doorways clumsily, not caring if the bowl remained upright or otherwise. Aracels bowl landed on it's side unexpectidly and rolled along the cement, leaving a trail of the gloop until it came to a clattering stop somewhere under his bunk. One of the guards laughed

"Looks like you'll be going hungry then mate"

"Unless he can beat the rats to the floor" the other guard laughed as rats had already started to silently sniff around the floor.

Aracel raised an eyebrow and sat down on the bed, reaching under the bunk for the bowl. The guards, realising that either of the inmates were going to rise to their bating decided to turn and head back to their post.

"When are you guys getting some fresh fruit in?" Aracel asked innocently

"Ha, you'll be lucky if you get anything fresh. The good stuff is for the guards"

"We'll be sure to throw some scraps to the rats when the boat lands next week though" they laughed "the rats are better treated than the scum in this prison"

They both laughed heartily at this last piece of wit and Aracel rolled his eyes as he scooped out some of the sludge with two fingers and tried to swallow it without it touching his tongue and waited until the guards were out of sight and sound.

"Did you hear that?" he said excitedly when they had gone "The next boat docks in a week"

"So?" Gin grunted

"So? What do you mean 'so'? That's my way out"

"Ha!" Gin replied "Stop fantasising will you"

"It may be a fantasy for you but I'm getting out of here"

"Well your escape plan is going well so far" Gin laughed

"I imagine you're talking about being locked up in this wing aren't you?" Aracel smiled "I guess it does seem odd to get myself transferred to a cell block that everyone else is afraid of but is basically unguarded"

"Oh really?" Gin said, his voice full of mock interest.

"Of course, the whole time you've been here have you ever seen anyone except those two Lieutenants?"

"Those two heavily armoured, highly trained Lieutenants do you mean?

"Pfft" Aracel replied "I can take them out easily"

"And how do you fancy doing that?"

"I still have a week to iron out the details of course, but that's plenty of time to work out where they're keeping my weapons and how to get out"

Gin grunted with disinterest once again. Aracel chewed his lip, he didn't want Gin to know that he needed him for the escape, that it would be almost impossible to even reach the ship without his help nevermind flying it off the glaciar.

"When I get out do you want me to contact anyone for you?" Aracel asked softly

Gin stayed quiet so Aracel probed a little deeper

"You said you have a wife right? I could get a message to her if you like, tell her you're ok"

Once again there was silence coming from the other cell

"Any other family I could say hi to you for? I could drop by Lorkia easily before I go to Arcadia. I could go anywhere I wanted with a well stocked ship. I've flown before you know so as soon as I get aboard I could do what I like you know" Aracel rambled slightly off topic "I could go anywhere, that ship would for all intent and purposes be rightfully mine so......"

"Rightfully yours?" Gin mumbled to himself quietly

"What?"

"Take what is rightfully yours" Gin said, his face locked in deep concentration at those words as though they held some deeper meaning.

Aracel looked a little confused "Thanks" he said "I'll do that"

Gins mind swam with the memories of that day three months ago at his home. His brother feeding his anger, confusing him, driving him almost to the point of madness. His blood had already been pumping hard from the combat in the arena, he had already shed blood that day but his brother had shouted at him, filled his head with ideas, wanting him to go and get medicine for his wife from the prefect, Flo had told him to...

"Take what is rightfully yours" Gin repeated. Aracel could hear the Orcs heart beating louder and faster once again. Gins voice was soft and menacing his pale blue eyes shining brightly even in the dark. Aracel's senses were on fire, warning him of the danger of the beast in the cell next to his. It came on like a burst of thunder Gin roared, a fury that seemed to come from nowhere, a spark that lit a memory that exploded in the Orcs primative mind. He threw the bowl across the cell as he stood up with a beastial roar that shook the walls, the veins on his neck were bulging and his eyes grew dark. The civilisation seemed to drip away from Gin who was unrecognisable from the Orc that had sat there moments earlier, he dropped down low, keeping himself balanced with one hand, he seemed to be poised ready for a charge. His back arched once again and he raised his head to the ceiling roaring a loud gutteral roar. The chains that bound his ankles rattled loudly and he grunted as he seemed to suddenly become aware of them, he sniffed the air low on the ground and padded around on three limbs.

Aracel watched him nervously, afraid of what he was witnessing. The Orc, this creature that used to be Gin gripped the chains with his free hand and grounded himself solidly. All it took was a quick tug to bend the steel and shatter the links. He opened his hand and let the remains fall to the ground and let out a final roar of triumph.

That's when the alarms sounded. The guards had no doubt heard the roars and called for reinforcements. Whistles and shouts echoed along the corridor.

Aracel sat back down on his bunk causing it to creak awkwardly. Gins head turned quickly like a panther taken by suprise. Aracels body froze and his eyes widened as the Orc slowly approached the bars. The sound of boots moving up the corridor was getting louder, to Aracels ear it sounded like perhaps twenty soldiers had answered the alarm and were closing in fast. Gin seemed to not notice, or not care he gripped a bar with one hand and leant in close.

"I'm in" he growled

Aracel just smiled and nodded "Good choice"


Chapter 4


The guards had subdued Gin after his outburst. Injecting him through the bars with some kind of tranquilisor before taking him away to a different part of the compoud. When he returned it wasn't under his own power. Three guards pulled him along the corridors on a wooden sled and when they got to the cell they rolled him in as though he were dead.

"He'll think twice before making a scene again" one of the guards had said to nobody in particular.

Aracel watched carefully from his bunk, trying to pretend to be asleep. Two days had passed and he hadn't expected to see the Orc again and was busy planning an escape for himself and by the look of Gins condition he thought a solo escape might still be the only choice.

The footsteps of the guards echoed along the halls, their chatter grew quieter and quieter and through the slants in his eyelids Aracel knew it was safe to move around again without being seen. He rolled off the bunk and towards the bars dividing the two cells. Instantly Aracel could see that Gin was wounded badly. Blotches of thick black blood dripped from a wound on his chest, some of the fresher scars had re-opened and his back was a mess of rips as though he'd been flailed.
Aracel turned away and cursed to himself, the escape would be a lot harder without help. He went over a plan in his mind once again, a plan in which he had hope Gin was involved. He had to find a way of reaching success without him now, it seemed almost impossible

"Urghhh"

"Shhh" Aracel replied

"Shush yourself"


Aracel turned around to watch Gin stand to his feet with relative ease. The blood trickled down his torso and soaked into his trousers. He raised his hands to press down on the chest wound, inhaling through his teeth as he dealt with the stinging pain.

"What are you looking at?"

Aracel took a step away from the bars, suddenly aware that he was staring at the Orc with his mouth open.

"I'm just amazed you can stand, you look terrible" he finally managed to say.

"I'm fine" he found his jumper screwed up in the corner of the cell, he easily tore one of the arms off and wrapped it loosely around his chest as a makeshift bandage. "I've dealt with worse than this, they could have at least waited until I woke up to move me though"

Aracel looked on in amazement, he'd heard rumours of Orcish resillience of course, but he'd assumed it had been exageratted at least a little. The wound he saw before him would have left a Human or Elf comatose from the shock alone but Gin stood before him lucid and concious, almost as though nothing had happened at all.

"You're still staring" Gin said, throwing him a glare through the bars.

"Sorry" Aracel replied, still so shocked that he couldn't really think straight.

Gin grunted loudly as he explored his wounds, he winced quietly and turned his head, he didn't want Aracel to know he was trying to hide a lot of the pain. His culture had hated weakness, it was based on strength and power and any admission of being less than the strongest could lead to being ostracised. Aracel could see the pain behind his eyes though, the way his fingers lightly explored his back as he reached to explore his wounds, moving slowly as though he were afraid of what he'd discover.

Aracel didn't say anything, he knew of his own pride and how he hated to be seen as weak or defenceless. His mind whirred back through his memories to the time a few months ago when he met Sky. There was something about her that was scared him, he couldn't understand her, her abilities and the more time he spent in her presence the more unease he felt. He was sorry to leave the way he did, he wanted to show his friend G'rak more respect this time, to explain where he was going and why but he just couldn't. He intended to wake G'rak up in the middle of the night and explain why he couldn't go any further with them, how he'd always be around to help if it was needed but he was to frightened of Sky, of contemplating just what consequences her existence meant for the rest of Atlas. Aracel was scared of her, but he was to proud to admit it. When he looked at Gin he could see the same pride, almost as though he was a mirror. So instead of being concerned for the Orc he just smiled at him in admiration.

Gin noticed and prenteded to ignore it, leaving his wounds alone and putting his jumper back over his head.

"I saw where they keep the weapons" Gin said casually

"What?" Aracel said, his attention turned to the rats on the floor

"The weapons, I saw an armoury when they were taking me to interrogation"

"Are you sure?" Aracel asked. Gin glared at him

"You think I don't know an armoury when I see one?" he asked. There was always a hint of rage in Gin's voice, Aracel didn't know where it came from or how to avoid it flaring up, it seemed to be always present and it needed to vent every now and again to avoid an explosion.

"I meant to say, are you sure it's where my weapons would be" Aracel said slowly and calmly, not wanting to tempt another outburst from the Orc

Gin looked confused "What difference does it make? Weapons is weapons right?"

Aracel sat down on his bunk and rubbed his face with his hands, mostly to buy him a short break from talking so he could think.

"We could always steal swords from the guards" Gin added "That way we can go straight for the ship"

"No" Aracel said impatiently "We must find my weapons"

Gin growled with menace, not liking Aracels tone all of a sudden. "And just whats so important about getting your weapons?"

"They aren't just iron and steel like other weap...." his voice trailed off as he noticed the blank look on Gins face "Nevermind" he waved a hand in the air in a motion that suggested Gin wouldn't understand. Aracel saw that he didn't seem to comprehend the difference between one weapon and another but then with such strength that the Orc posessed the balance and edge of the blade probably didn't change the fact that it was in the hands of a furious, seven foot beast.

Gin exhaled sharply through his nose like a frustrated bull and sat down heavily on his bunk.

"You have a plan yet?" Gin asked

"I'm working on it" Aracel replied robotically.

"You don't have long, the boat could land at any moment"

"I'm working on it" Aracel repeated. He didn't want to betray the fact that there really wasn't much of a plan, beyond escaping the cell block and reaching the docking tower he really had no idea what they would encounter, the month he'd spent on the icy prison had been eventful but he hadn't seen much beyond the four walls of various cells and he was working from assumptions and counting a lot on fate and luck.

He knew that Gin was nervous, he didn't say anything but he was nervous. His slumps into depression were dangerous and he needed that anger, that fury to put the guards on the back foot should they become overwhelmed and confronted by overwhelming numbers.

"You're still coming with me then?" Aracel asked

Gin just grunted. Aracel tilted his head, he couldn't see Gin from this position but he could see his feet, outstretched in front of him, a deep scar on his foot marking out some old battle.

"You aren't to" Aracel searched for a word "damaged?"

"I'm fine"

"So you're coming?" Aracel asked again

"Yes I'm coming" Gin said through gritted teeth, he sat bolt upright trying hard to keep the volume of his voice low "it's either rot in here or die in battle isn't it? What use is wasting away when I can die in combat?"

Aracel smiled to himself. He needed to control that anger to be able to turn it on at will was the key to this escape, to manipulate the animal within Gin, to use him as a living battering ram. He had to keep him frustrated, ready to boil and then release the valve and watch him go.

"Ok" Aracel said calmly "Just needed to know" and then realising what Gin had said "You don't fancy our chances much then?"

Gin's rage subsided quickly and he laughed loudly "Forgive me for not trusting a Human" he laughed "If you can plan as well as you dance then we might be ok though"

Aracel let the slight go, he had enough faith in his skill that he didn't need to defend it from attack, besides, he didn't want to put himself in a situation where he would have to divulge more information about the escape than he had worked out.


Chapter 5


It was dark out, Gin had fallen quiet over the last couple of days and was busying himself in his own mind. Aracel would leave him to it most of the time, seeing that Gin was clearly still in pain, there was something deep within the Orc though that was more profound than the wounds on his body, he would fall deeply into a depression, he was easily frustrated and Aracel could see pain behind his pale blue eyes that Gin was trying to conceal.

Aracel had a keen eye for reading people, spotting lies and weaknesses was something he was adept at, it had got him through some tough times in the past and it came second nature to him, it was key in manipulating people, just as he was manipulating Gin to aid him in his escape. He felt almost sorry for the Orc who seemed intelligent at times but Aracel knew that language doesn't make a person clever.

Aracel stretched out his arms and squeezed the backs of his thighs, his body ached with inactivity and his mind felt sluggish, it was frustrating to feel that he was so close to something before being captured and taken away. He had been on the trail of his past and had been led to Arcadia again where he was supposed to track down a blacksmith. G'rak had told him that there were few people who could work with black steel, the same metal that Aracels daggers had been constructed with. He needed to find out who he was, where he came from, it sometimes felt like his past was dragging him back, blocking his way and stopping him from moving on and he needed to know, needed the answers to the mystery.

His breath hung heavy in front of his face, the glaciar had spun around once again, the icy wind filtering through the window high above, Aracel ran a hand across his chin, his bristles scraping the skin on his hand making a pleasing sound. He closed his eyes and slowed down his mind, it felt like ages since he was last able to sleep, becoming restless as the thought of escape occupied his every thought, slowly he became increasingly aware of a dull roaring sound. A sound that seemed so distant that he wasn't sure he heard anything at all. He opened his eyes and sat forward on the bed, his movement causing the bed to creak and the dull roaring sound disappeared. Aracel closed his eyes again and concentrating, turning his head this way and that until the sound returned, slightly louder this time, an unmistakable dull roar that could only be man made.

The ships here he thought to himself with a smile. Excitement gripped his body and he leapt up from his bunk, for a few moments forgetting the plan all together. He kicked the bars to the neighbouring cell

"Wake up" he hissed at Gin

"Wake up!" he repeated louder when there was no reply.

Gin grunted and rolled his shoulder over "What?" he murmered

"It's time" Aracel said, trying to hide the excitement and anticipation in his voice

"What? Now?" Gin replied "Can't it wait until morning?"

Aracel kicked the bars again causing chunks of mortar to fall from the ceiling and sending a cloud of dust into Gins cell.

"Alright, alright I'm up" Gin complained. He rolled his body over and swung his legs over the side of the bed. His movements seemed laboured and tired and Aracel watched him with a little concern. He stretched his green hands way out in front and cracked his knuckles together.

"What's the plan then? How do we get out of the cells?"

Aracel gave him a little smile and winked "We use the key"

Gin didn't have time to question Aracel as before he had chance to speak Aracel had run to his cell door and was shouting "Guards! Guards! Help, he's gone insane".

"What do you think you're..."

"Shut up and blow your light out" Aracel hissed as they both turned to hear footsteps approaching them.

Gin nodded and blew the light out, casting him in deep shadows, only the rhythmic beating of his heart was audible from within the gloom.

"Guards!" Aracel called out again and in a more hushed voice he said "When you get a chance grab the guard and get his key"

As Aracel stopped talking one of the guards appeared

"What's all the fuss? What's going on?"

"He was reaching through the bars to grab me" Aracel said, feining panic in his voice "He said he was going to kill me"

"Oh is that so?" The guard drew his sword and walked slowly over to Gins cell. Aracel spied the keys hanging loosely from the guards belt, he was tempted to make a grab for them himself but waited too long and he walked out of reach.

The Lieutenant dragged his blade across the bars sending a metallic ringing noise echoing down the corridors at every impact.

"What are you up to in there?" he asked rhetorically "Turn that light on or you'll be coming down to interrogation for some more fun with the lads" he laughed

Aracel saw the guards face fade into concern, it was clear that he didn't want to go into the cell, that he was afraid of the monster inside it.

The beating heart rhythmically thumped from inside the dark cell, slowly increasing in tempo. The guard stopped in front of the barred door
"Don't make me come in there" he threatened, a slight quiver in his voice giving away his fear. He stepped closer to the bars and tried to see through them. His grip tightening around the hilt of his blade.

"Right" he said "That's it" he pushed the blade viciously through the bars in a stabbing motion, hoping to come into contact with something but instead Aracel saw a green hand shoot out into the light grabbing the wrist of the guard and pulling him in closer, his arm disappearing inside the cell and the sound of crunching bone as it was wrenched against the bars. The guard yelped loudly, his face growing pale as Gin grabbed his neck and pulled it hard, slamming it against the bars and then twisting it sharply until the guard fell to the ground dead. He landed with a loud clatter of armour and the sword dropped from the deadmans grip. Gins hand still reaching out from the bars dripping with blood as he opened his fist something slopped to the floor. Aracel looked from the hand to to the dead guard on the floor and realised a large chunk of his throat had been torn away.

Aracel realised that he had been holding his breath, the vicious attack, this brutal murder had been exhausting to witness, no grace, no mercy, no humanity, it was like watching a bear attacking it's prey.

The swords blade poked through the bars once again, this time from the other direction, it's target Aracel knew would be the keyring from the guards belt. Gin pulled the guards as close as possible with his spare hand and hooked the keys, managing to snap them loose from the belt and claim them in his posession. There was the rattle of metal from the next cell.

"Get us out of here" Aracel hissed "before the other guard comes along". Silence was the response but Aracel could just make out a hand between the bars, a long key protruding from it trying to twist around and get into the lock. There was a grunt of effort and frustration as Gin struggled with the lock. The heartbeat got heavier and the sound of teeth grinding together in frustration. Aracel had to think quickly, Gin didn't have the dexterity to unlock his cell from inside and his anger was building already.
"Pass me the key I'll get us out" Aracel said into darkness

"I can do it Human" Gins said in a low growl

Aracel looked down the corridor, there was a glimmer of light that was getting brighter, someone was coming up the corridor

"The other guards coming Gin, give me the keys"

The sound of footsteps was coming louder and louder and the torchlight brighter. The jangling of the keys as they bounced around on the ring and Gins frustrated grunts was torturous in Aracels ears as he began to see his plan, his escape and his freedom slipping away because of the stupidity of the Orc.

"He's almost here you dumb beast, give me the keys"
"NO!" Gin roared


The rattling stopped

"What the hell is this?" the guard was there, he'd spotted the corpse on the floor. He waved the torch closer to Gins cell but before he did Gin threw the keys through the bars towards Aracel, they landed in his hands quietly and Aracel breathed a sigh of relief.

"What did you do?" The guard said almost silently

Gin laughed "I gave him a good night kiss". The Orcs figure was being lit dimly by the light, it was clear that there was already blood on his face, it shimmered in the embers of the torch.

The guard shook with rage "You're dead now" he screamed at Gin "The Captain won't stand for this you'll be tortured, you'll be killed slowly and painfully. Gin smiled in his cell which only fueled the guards anger, his face contorted inhumanly with rage.

"Yeah you smile" he said, ihis voice shakeing slightly "it'll be the last time you do"

The guard turned away, taking quick steps to get back to his post and sound the alarm. Gins laughter followed him down the corridor and caused the guard to look back only to be face to face with Aracel. The torch dropped from his hand in shock as Aracels fist landed squarely on the guards throat, he started to choke as the breath shot out of his body but Aracel, so quick on his feet had already sidestepped the guard and with a quick spin brought his elbow hard into the back of his neck. There was a crunch as the impact shattered the connection between body and brain and the guard gurgled his last breath and hit the floor with a thud.

Aracel backed away a couple of steps to watch the guard, ever wary of his foe but after a few seconds of silence he decided the man before him was dead and he headed back to set Gin loose.

"There may be something to this dancing after all" Gin laughed

Aracel didn't look him in the eye, he just unlocked the cell door and muttered "Come on". Aracel didn't like having to take a life without good reason and he was disgusted by Gins delight in murder. Is this a mistake he thought to himself as he watched Gin toy with the blade in his hand, slashing the air as though he'd never held a sword before.

Aracel picked up a sword of his own and frowned at the imbalanced, dull weapon. He couldn't wait to have his own weapons back in his posession.

"Lets go" he said and motioned for Gin to follow him down the corridor. The pair disappeared into the dark, the only sound left in the cell was the beating of Gins heart which grew fainter and fainter until all that was left was darkness.


Chapter 6


As Aracel had expected the rest of the block was deserted and dark, they both crept towards the exit though, ducking into doorways and keeping to the shadows whenever possible, the large bulk of Gin trying his best to step in Aracels footfalls but his heavy frame letting him down, each step landing heavy and clumsy and he brushed against loose bricks sending shards of stone echoing down the hall.

Aracel didn't dare look back, not enjoying the thought of the Orc behind him, not able to keep an eye on him but fearing the chaos if Gin was leading the way.

They turned the corner at the end of the row of cells and could plainly see the exit. Aracel breathed a sign of relief, easy so far he thought to himself as he increased his pace. The guard station was also empty, a few garot cards littered one of the desks and a book lay open, face down on the other. The whole area was cast in darkness and it was only because of Aracels finely honed senses that he could see anything at all. The same could not be said for his companion as Gin stumbled around in the dark clumsily, bumping into one of the chairs that was carelessly stranded in the middle of the corridor.

Aracel didn't bother looking back. The sound of the ship outside was louder now, the guards, if any, would be distracted by the docking process and so, for the moment, it didn't matter what noises the Orc made.

Aracel placed a hand high on the door, pushing softly, testing it's strength. It gave slightly, the freezing breeze blew through the gap and Aracel quickly closed it again, amazed that the door was unlocked.

"Which way to the armoury?" Aracel asked without turning around

"It's the hut on the left as we go out"

"Good"

Aracel swallowed hard, he had no idea how he was going to get through this, he hated stepping out into the unknown, especially teamed up with such an explosive mystery as Gin. He pressed his palm to the door once again, taking a deep breath before turning around.

The Orc was standing a few yards behind him, the sword hung low like a club in his hands which engulfed the hilt.

"You ready?" Aracel asked him, looking directly into Gins eyes

"Sure" Gin said without much feeling.

"We go quiet for as long as we can"

"Ok" Gin replied

Aracel had no idea if he could trust the Orc or not, he didn't know Gin even knew how to tred quietly but he didn't really have any choice. He turned back to the door, closed his eyes, breathed in deeply and pushed the door open.

The frozen wind whipped around the room instantly and Aracel felt like his entire body had been stung, even Gin recoiled slightly from the cold, taken slightly off balance by the change in atmosphere. Aracel stepped out and into the open. The courtyard seemed to be empty, there was a patrol slowly disappearing around the far corner of the other cell block and another group of guards heading to the skydock, seperated from them by a chain link fence.

Aracel motioned behind him without looking for Gin to follow and he ran noiselessly to the left, hugging the wall as he went, making no sound at all like a panther sneaking up on his prey. The hut Gin had identified as the armoury was directly ahead and seemed to be unguarded on the outside. Aracel couldn't believe his luck. He turned to check on Gins progress and his jaw dropped when he saw Gin strolling along the wall towards him, looking over his shoulder lazilly as he walked.

"Get down" Aracel hissed

Gin just shrugged and continued to walk closer at a relaxed pace.

"They'll see you, at least stoop a little bit" Aracel said when Gin was within hearing distance

"If they see me, they see me" Gin replied "I much prefer a straight fight, none of this cowardly sneaking around. There's no honour in hiding" Gins voice trembled with frustration as he reached Aracel who's eyes were full of disbelief.

The armoury was just a few yards away.
"Did you see any guards when you came passed here before?" Aracel asked him

Gin just shrugged "A couple of em came out to help drag me"

Aracel rolled his eyes and took another look at the building. It was a fairly small area that linked on to the guards quarters. The doorway was straight ahead of them and there seemed to be a short corridor that led into the main building. The sun was slowly coming up over a ridge on the glacier and long shadows were being cast across the ice. The ice berg wobbled in the waves and slowly started to spin, the shadows of the prison block slowly coming round to cast the approach to the armoury in darkness. Aracel smiled, finally some luck.

"When the shadows cover the doorway go up and knock" he said.

Gin looked confused but before he could ask him what he was talking about Aracel had disappeared around the corner and was running for the wall of the building opposite. Gin watched him go and walked closer to the corner to get a better view. He moved so quickly with so little sound, it was like watching a tiger moving through the jungle. The sword behind him hung low, almost hidden from sight but ready to strike whenever danger arose. When he reached the armoury wall he looked around the walls slowly, Gin couldn't see what Aracel saw but he assumed there was a window as Aracel disappeared from view. The cold was effecting Gin more than he wanted to let on. He was used to the warm desert air of his home and the cold just made his body hurt, the wounds that covered his body seemed to sting and his bones ached. His breath hung in the air in front of his face before disappearing and he watched the shadows moving. He was getting frustrated already. Aracel seemed to have a plan, a reason to escape but Gin felt he had nothing of the sort. He had nowhere to go, he couldn't go home and Orcs weren't allowed to travel anywhere freely. At least in prison he had food and a place to sleep under a roof.

There was a loud mechanic clunking noise from above him, the ship was docking. Gin looked up to see the metal teeth sliding out from the tower to hold the ship in place. The sight reminded him of Lorkia, each ship bringing more spectators to watch him fight, more tourists to spend money in the city.

His mind drifted back to the arena, to the death that surrounded him, to the sweet smell of blood and fear that was almost tangible. His knuckles turned pale as he gripped the sword, he was leaning lazily against the wall of the cell block, hidden in the shade.

Gin waited and waited for the shadow to creep along the ground on it's journey to the armoury. It moved like lava across the ground, slowly dribbling along the ice engulfing everything in darkness until it had finally move far enough.

Gin quickly looked around for any signs of danger. The guards must still be busy with the ship he thought to himself and without to much thought he ran across the courtyard directly to the door. He lacked the grace and speed of Aracel and he lumbered heavily across the ice, his eyes locked on the destination. There was no sound from behind the door. Gin paused and gripped the sword tighter before raising a fist to pound on the wood.

It rattled and shook at his strike and he just stood there not knowing what to do next. He felt stupid waiting and his fingers itched to break the door down and strike out at whoever was unlucky enough to get in his way.

He raised his fist once more and brought it down upon the door a few more times, sending the vibrations of impact up through his arm. He waited for a few seconds before he heard some footsteps from inside coming closer. The unmistakable sound of armoured boots on stone.

He readied himself, lofting the sword above his head with the point aimed at the door, ready to slam it down through the armour of the approaching guard. The handle of the door started to creak and turn and Gin gripped the hilt tighter, extending a hand in front of him for balance.

The door opened inwards and Gin locked eyes with the guard. Terror filled the Elfs eyes as he looked up into the face of the Orc before him, his mouth opened as if to scream but no sound came out. Deftly Gin brought the sword down, the blading piercing through the armour as though it didn't exist, the force so great that the blade cut clean through. At the exact same moment a blade made it's way out through the front of the guard as well, cutting through the Elfs stomach where his own blade had punctured his chest. Gin looked stunned and confused at his own sword entering the front and seeming to exit the front of the guard who had died instantly with a sharp exhalation of breath. Gin stared at the blade protruding from the mans chest for a few moments, blinking with disbelief before deciding to withdraw his own. He pulled back sharply and slid the sword away but the sharp metal still protruded from his enemy. He was about to touch it when he heard a laugh from behind the guard and Aracel stood into view, the man crumpled to the ground as Aracel released him.

"You almost got me with that attack" Aracel laughed

Gin couldn't help himself from smiling, his confusion gave way to admiration at the attack and the speed and silent way he was crept up on the guard. He quickly coughed to cover the smile

"There's no honour in not facing your opponent" Gin said as he pushed his way indoors. Aracel smiled

"Well if I was a seven foot warrior I might stand and face more opponents" he mumbled to himself as he pulled the body out of the doorway and slumped him in the corner, the blade still sticking out of his belly. He closed the door with a slam.

"Looks like you were right by the way" he called down to Gin who had wandered into the main building and was looking around, the blood dripping from the tip of his weapon "This place is an armoury."

Gin didn't respond, his eyes fixed on a large trunk labelled 'Z Block' which sat in the far corner of the room.

Aracel joined him "Yeah, I saw that too. This must be us"

He knelt down and opened the trunk carefully smiling as he instantly recognised his belongings. He took out his coat and his hat and instantly put them on. Next he removed the mithril blade given to him by Anya all those months ago. He had bought a double wrap belt and sheath for it before he had been arrested and he wrapped it around his waist quickly. Finally he found his black steel daggers, he smiled as he inspected them, twirled them around between his finger tips and slid them into his belt.

"That's better" he said with a satisfied smile "Now we can leave"

Gin glanced at him "Are you sure? You don't have a dress in there or anything"

Aracel smiled, he wanted to believe he sensed a fondness in Gins voice. "The only things left in here I assume would be yours" he said.

Gin glanced over at him "I don't have anything" he said softly "they gave me these clothes when I got here"

Aracel smiled "So these Orcish leathers are someone elses then?"


Chapter 7


Gin stood up slowly, the leather armour seemed to weigh him down a little, his face showing his discomfort.

"It suits you" Aracel lied

Gin saw through him instantly and scowled, a lowl rumble beginning in his throat.

"Well it's a good start" Aracel continued "You'll find bigger and better things in the real world, you don't think you start out with kit like mine" Aracel said with a glint in his eye as he drew his mithril shortsword halfway out of it's sheath to show Gin.

Gin grunted which seemed to shift the rumble. "Shut up" he said slowly.

Aracel laughed. "Well come on, we've wasted enough time, the real fight starts now"

Gins mood picked up almost instantly at the thought of a proper fight. "We aren't sneaking around anymore?" he asked

"A little sneaking but if someone gets in our way we have to get them out of the way"

Gins lips curled and he picked up the sword once again gripping it hard, his knuckles cracking around the hilt.

"Let's get on with it then"


*


Outside the courtyard was still empty. Aracel peeked from around a corner with Gin close behind him. They had made it out of the armoury and moved along a wall towards the skydock. Between them there was a fence, the expanse of the yard and then a guard post situated in front of the dock. Two guards were sat there playing dice, not looking towards the armoury. The sound of the cups of dice slamming against the table could be heard from this distance, as well as the noise from the ship unloading far above them.

Aracel scanned the area once again. He didn't know how to proceed through the fence.

"Lets just cut through" Gin said

Aracel considered it for a moment but wondered if the efforts to cut through the fence would be detectable.

"I think the fence will shake too much and if we can hear them playing dice then they'll hear us cutting through. We have to think of something else"

Gin grunted with annoyance "Let them hear us" he barked, all be it quietly

Aracel took the keyring from his belt and checked the few keys on it. None of them seemed to be the right size for the padlock he could see on the gate, they all seemed like heavy door keys. He put the ring back into his belt, poking the keys into his trousers so they didn't make a noise when he moved.

He turned to Gin and shrugged "Any ideas?"

"Just one" Gin growled and before Aracel could do anything to stop him the Orc had stood up hurled himself into a full sprint heading directly for the fence.

His clumsy footsteps rang out and sounded like thunder in Aracels ears. He watched with horror as the figure of the Orc seemed to speed up even though the world around Aracel was slowing down. Gins shoulder dropped as he approached the fence and he roared with fury as he threw himself into it. The resulting crash echoed around the stone structures, Gin roared as he impacted against the chainlinks. The guards at the far side looked over to see the fence folding under the weight of Gin who crashed into the ice floor of the courtyard and slid a couple of feet to a halt.

At the other side of the yard the guards were already on their feet. One of them was blowing a whistle, sounding the alarm and they both were running towards Gin with swords drawn. Aracel swore under his breath and ran forward, removing his knives from his belt as he ran. Gin was slowly climbing to his feet but when he heard the high pitched alarm and saw the guards running he quickly jumped up and reached for his sword. The two guards were almost on him, they were yelling for him to put his sword down but Gin stood strong, his feet digging into the ice, his knuckles cracking around the hilt. The first guard reached him, the blade swung in from high and Gin easily sidestepped it his own sword flew in like a heavy club and sliced through the guards armour and into his stomach. He crashed to the ground heavily as the other guard stabbed forward viciously, narrowly missing Gin who jumped back just in time. The next attack caused him to stumble off balance and the guard quickly pounced on the opportunity, bringing his sword around ready to strike at Gin.

"Duck down!" Aracel shouted from behind Gin

Without thought Gin fell to one knee just in time for Aracel to leap up, using the Orcs frame as a step to thrust himself high into the ground, twin daggers in hand. The guards attack was broken as he stumbled back trying to bring his weapon around for defence but it was too late, Aracel was upon him. Gravity brought him crashing down upon the guard. They collided hard and Aracel wrapped his legs around the soldiers his black steel weapons easily peircing the armour as he repeatedly stabbed the guard, sending plumes of thick red across the ice.

Aracel stood up leaving the guard dead on the ground, turning to Gin with rage behind his eyes

"What in saviours name do you think you're doing?" he yelled

Gin just shrugged. "One of us had to do something" he said

Aracels mouth hung open in disbelief and anger. Gin actually thought this was the right move to make. He couldn't find the words to explain what was happening, his mind spun with fear and anger and what was going to happen next.

"We have to go" Gin said, breaking a short silence. Aracel didn't respond. "We have to go now!" Gin shouted.

They both started running towards the sky dock. The ship was still there but whistles and alarms were starting to sound all over the prison, it wouldn't be long until the whole place was locked down.

Aracel, breathing hard, quickly looked around him. He could spot guards moving around back at the armoury and there was figures moving in some of the windows of the cell block but he couldnt tell if they were guards or prisoners. Then something rushed through the air and landed hard into the floor.

Archers Aracel cursed as another arrow zipped through the air and skittered across the ice. His instincts told him to keep low and he ducked just as an arrow was let loose and flew through the space where his head had been just seconds ago and embedded itself in Gin's shoulder, the armour gave and a spurt of black blood dribbled out.
"What's that?" Gin shouted back

Aracel stared at the bolt for a few seconds

"Just keep running" he called back to him, amazed that it hadn't even broken his stride.


The door to the sky port was right ahead. The tower seemed to erupt from the ice, it's heavy foundation tapering at the top where the galleon floated, held in place by the metal bars.

"Get inside" Aracel shouted, still shielding his head from the arrows that were flashing through the air around them.

Gin dropped his shoulder once again and hammered his body into the door, smashing it to splinters and landing on the other side in a heap sending a guard, who was behind the door sprawling across the floor. A second soldier within the lobby raised his sword to attack Gin but before he had a chance to make his move the lithe figure of Aracel charged into the room leaped into the air and brought a dagger down into the mans neck, dropping him dead instantly.

"That's twice I've saved you now" Aracel smirked as he retrieved his weapon

Gin grunted loudly and looked around the room as he dusted himself off. There wasn't much to look at, a doorway led to a large storage warehouse and chairs lined the far wall. A stone staircase circled it's way upwards towards the ship. There was a wooden platform suspended halfway up the tower, no doubt it was used to raise and lower the goods that arrived.

"Quick" Aracel shouted "Block the door with something". Gin looked around the room again slowly, not seeing anything that would form a barracade. The door lay in splinters strewn across the floor and the few chairs and tables that remained in the room were not nearly big enough. There was shouting coming from high up in the tower which was almost drowned out by the sound of arrows hitting the side of the building, some burying themselves in the doorframe.

"They'll be rallying outside ready to storm the tower" Aracel said as though telling himself. As he finished the tower started to shake and shudder, a mechanical grinding noise echoed down the stonework and a mettalic screaming noise filled their ears.

"What's that?" Gin shouted, covering his ears as best he can

Aracel looked up and then back at Gin in horror "We have to go now! The ships leaving!" he shouted.

They both looked upwards and at the same time before running towards the staircase. Aracel reached it first and taking two steps at a time, a dagger in his right hand, charged upwards with Gin hot on his heels. The higher they got the more shouting they heard getting closer. The metallic scrape getting closer and closer the loud clunk and clatter of the mechanism still ringing in their ears. Beneath them the guards had started to file into the lobby and had begun to give chase up the stairs.

"Go faster" Gin shouted forward but Aracel ignored him and carried on, already running as fast as he could. He glanced up and spotted a guard ahead, without breaking his stride he readied himself, the guard swung across from his standing position on the stairs, Aracel ducked the blade and threaded himself between the guard and the wall, then with both hands he pushed against the wall and threw his back into the guard knocking him totally off balance and sending him falling down the center of the tower, landing hard on the cargo platform which snapped in half under the force.

Gin passed Aracel on the stairs and they both continued upwards, archers had gathered in the lobby now and made use of the clear line of sight to fire arrows upwards, hoping to strike their targets with a lucky shot.

Aracel moved closer to the wall but Gin strode on, his movement less clumsy now, where he used to be sluggish he was now energised and full of life. Aracel pursued him closely as another guard put himself in their way. Gin didn't even make an attempt to avoid the blade that swung down upon him, the fear in the guards eyes as the Orc charged at him was enough to make Gin roar with power, he struck him solidly in the jaw with the back of his fist sending him over the edge of the staircase as arrows thumped into his tumbling body.

Gin slowed to watch him fall

"Go go! go! Go!" Aracel shouted at him as the clunking sound stopped "The ships leaving!".


Gin followed the staircase spiral for the last few bends and reached the top breathing hard with Aracel joining him a few seconds later. The ship was a few yards away but between the duo stood four guards, weapons drawn and ready for them.

The galleon was moving away from the dock, making slow progress as the propellors slowly whirred into life as the steam built, the wind doing more work than the engines at the moment.

"We have to go" Aracel said slapping Gin on the shoulder, the arrow still protruding from his armour.

Gin growled low and gripped the sword tighter in his hand. Aracel replaced his dagger and squeezed his hands into fists, sweat dripping from his brow. The guards at the end of the jetty took a step back and looked nervously at one another. Gin and Aracel exchanged a look

"Lets get out of here" Aracel said

Gin roared, his back arched like a beast as he broke straight into a run. Aracel charged after him his sword high above his head joining in with the battle cry. Gin threw his sword with a ferocious force at the defending soldiers causing them to stagger in different directions in confusion, forcing one of them over the edge. The rank was broken almost instantly and another roar from Gin intimidated them so much the defensive line shattered he closed in quickly swipeing his fists at the nearest, breaking his jaw and sending him sprawling into the other two who fell back into a pile of cargo.

Gin charged on with Aracel behind him, matching him now step for step. The edge was in sight and the ship was still close but drifting away. Each stride brought them closer and closer as the ran side by side. Counting down the distance before they had to leap for their lives. They could see the crew looking towards them with horror in their eyes, none of them soldiers, just merchant sailors, civilians hired by the government, cowering at the sight of the two prisoners making the way closer and closer towards the ship.

Three feet away.

Two feet.

"JUMP!" Aracel shouted as they reached the edge of the jetty. The ship just a few yards away. They leaped out into the nothing, hands stretched out forward, fingers twitching with hope and anticipation of reaching the ship, reaching their freedom. Aracel prayed to the saviour that they would make it safely and not be dashed on the stone structures beneath them.

Time seemed to slow almost to a stop until flesh touched wood, and his body crashed into the side of the ship. Aracel yelped in pain as he felt something crack inside his body but was able to muster the strength to pull himself up, moving purely on adrenaline now, exhaustion seemed like something to deal with on another day.
The crew on deck all backed away from him, Aracel look around him with menace in his eyes, not able to hear what the crowd was saying under his own heartbeat. He smiled and allowed his body to relax, his heart to slow and he heard a voice behind him.

"Help me up you damn Human"

It was Gin. Aracel turned to see one green hand gripping the edge of the ship. He raced over to it and looked over the edge. Gin was hanging heavily from the bow. Arrows flying through the air and striking all over the ship. Aracel reached down and Gin took his hand in his and they both struggled to get him aboard. They landed on the deck together in an exhausted pile.

"Get off me" Aracel laughed

Gin rolled ove and lay on his back, the arrow in his shoulder snapping.

The ships propellors kicked in and with help from a gust of wind the ship slowly gathered speed.
Aracel instructed the Captain to continue on the course and they'll all leave with their lives, Gin was there to back up the threat. Slowly the glacial prison disappeared into the distance, with no way of pursuing the escapees.



Aracel stood at the stern and watched it disappear over the horizon. The crew were busy with their duties, terrorfied of the beast on board which prowled around growling threats at them if they looked at him in a way he didn't like.

Gin saw Aracel standing at the edge of the ship and wandered up towards him.

"So what now?" Gin asked as he drew alongside him
Aracel looked out across the ocean pensively

"Now we go back and finish what they interupted" he said softly

Gin accepted the answer, he thought about his people in Lorkia, he had decided back in the prison that he wanted to face whatever was happening to them, even if they hated him he would stand with them.

"And what about the crew?"

Aracel turned to look at the men and women working hard

"They aren't a threat. We'll put down at the nearest port and let them loose"

"And then?"

Aracel laughed "Then we'll find our own crew"


The End




© 2010 Stories Of Atlas



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Another great read. Have a great day.

Posted 2 Years Ago



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Added on June 30, 2010
Last Updated on June 30, 2010