A Prisoner’s Name Day

(( This week’s prompt is to write a story about a birthday. Again, I wanted to set my story in Naren, and they don’t celebrate birthdays there. They celebrate name days instead, which occur four times a year, and usually come with a big celebration in each town. I decided that since I already wrote about the name day celebrations in previous prompts, I’d choose someone who is less excited about it. ))

She was barely recognizable anymore. Her once soft, wavy, red hair lay tangled and matted over her shoulders.  Her blue eyes remained closed, though he was sure  she heard him enter. She rested curled up on the bench in the corner of her cell as he stepped further in. The cell door slammed shut behind him, and he heard the guard’s keys jingle as the lock clicked.

“Fifteen minutes. I’ll be back to let you out when the time is up, Lord Melith’endre.”

Ellorian turned briefly to nod at the trained adahi guard, then turned his attention back to the woman in the cell with him. He waited until the guard’s footsteps faded away in the distance before speaking.

“Hello Naevys.”

Her eyes fluttered open at the sound of his voice. “Ellorian, hi.”

“Happy Name Day.” Ellorian pulled a small wrapped box from one of his robe pockets.

Naevys grunted, “Is it happy? I have a difficult time celebrating the anniversary of the day I was found to be a mage. Especially now, considering where I am.” She glanced down at her hands. “I’m afraid you’re going to have to open that for me.”

Ellorian nodded, noting the iron mitts that had been placed over her hands to prevent her from casting. They had trusted her enough to have them removed as a reward for her good behavior a few years ago. He wondered what she had done to warrant them being put back on. He was sure he could guess, but decided to let it slide. He began to unwrap her gift.

As if reading his mind, Naevys spoke as he removed the ribbons from the small box, “I wasn’t trying to escape this time.”

“No?” Ellorian asked, genuinely surprised. She had tried to leave Thril Gandir on her own so many times that it would have been easy to assume that was the reason. Unfortunately, rules were rules, and not even their family’s wealth and status could keep her from her punishment. If only she had been more like him, patient enough to wait. She could have been living in relative freedom as he did now. He was even allowed to visit her unaccompanied by his own adahi, which he was thankful for. He certainly didn’t need Rissa’s comments on the matter.

Naevys shook her head as Ellorian continued to carefully unwrap the gift. “I was trying to help someone else.”

Ellorian raised a brow, “Really? You were trying to help someone else escape? Who?”

She nodded, and gestured towards the door of her cell. Her iron mitts prevented her from pointing. “Him. The one in the cell across from mine. He doesn’t belong here.”

Ellorian turned towards where his sister indicated, still holding the partially wrapped package in his hand. The other cell was dark, much darker than his sister’s which was lit with a magical globe of light that hovered over the center of the cell. He took a couple of steps closer as he peered into the darkness. He couldn’t make out much of anything in the other cell. He thought he saw what looked to be a blanket laying across the floor, rumpled and uneven. He took a few more steps, walking right up to the bars. He could just make out the form lying on the bench against the far wall. The blanket that lay spread across the floor seemed to wrap around the back of the prisoner. More of the blanket seemed to bunch up on the other side between the prisoner and the wall.

Just as Ellorian was beginning to think it was the biggest blanket he had ever seen, it occurred to him that it wasn’t a blanket at all. The material looked more like leather, and not like any sensible blanket material. That and there were points on the blanket, and thicker parts that emerged from those points that he had mistaken for rumpled folds before. He now recognized there was an underlying bone structure. He was not looking at a blanket. He was looking at wings.

He didn’t turn to face his sister as he asked, “What is he?” The package remained in his hand, momentarily forgotten.

“He doesn’t belong here. He is a lucaja.”

Ellorian blinked, not quite believing his ears, but what else could the being in the other cell be? He’d never seen one in person, despite his town being fairly close to the mountains that the dragons made their homes in. To his knowledge, all lucaja were enslaved to the dragons. There were some who said they were little more than dogs, and unless dogs were considered slaves, then neither were lucaja. Others claimed to know they had language and complex thought, which meant they were more than trained dogs. Ellorian quickly asked his next question, “Does he speak?”

“No, but they are causing him harm. Look at him now, his wing is broken. They take him out every few days, and bring him back in worse shape. He needs to get out of here before they wind up killing him.”

“Who? Who are the people hurting him?” Ellorian asked as he looked closer at the wing spread across the floor. It was bent at an odd angle in one spot along the upper edge. His ear twitched. Naevys was right.

“I don’t know their names. I believe they’re some of the researchers.”

Ellorian frowned. It didn’t matter whether the lucaja were sentient or not, they didn’t deserve to have new spells tested on them. He turned from the door, and walked across the cell to join her on the bench. He spoke in a whisper as he resumed opening the small box. “I’ll need a few days to prepare, but I will be back to visit soon.” He pulled the sparkling hairpin from the box. It was gold with rubies set in it in the shape of a flower. He heard footsteps of the guard returning as he clipped it into her hair.

“Thank you, Ellorian.” She smiled slightly as he rose and walked to the door of the cell. The guard’s keys jingled in the lock.

“I’ll see you soon, Naevys.” He said before being escorted away. Now he only had to convince Rissa not to turn him in for what he was planning to do.

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