[Author’s Note: Language. I will not apologize for Alexandre’s vulgar words, but I will apologize that the swears are Earthly, and not of Dawngale. I’ll fix that in the next draft. It’s not too bad; a little less than Robocop. Call it PG-13 or 14a. G in Quebec lol. Please enjoy.]
Chapter 29: Exilic Detention I
Oh God no, it’s going to be so bad if I return to the group and she doesn’t.
Might as well go lie in that trench and let the water wash away your flesh.
Shut the fuck up.
Alexandre spat in the ditch and rounded the corner of the warehouse. Nothing. She didn’t care. Not yet. She ran the length of the building, it was probably more than a block, and then turned the next corner.
At least there are doors along this wall. To be thorough, Alexandre ran down to the last corner, saw no one, and then stared down the street that seemed to lead to the door. It was huge, the road was the width of five Solune roads, and the length seemed to run across most of the city. It was also sunken into the ground with a ditch running through the centre, and a thinner wire path running along both sides.
And it was full of people. They seemed to prefer the elevated wire section. It was like a boardwalk, but made of metal. If Chloe had been dragged down that street into the crowd, that was it. Wait, no… Alex could see clear guard checkpoints running down the entire length of the road. There were four, possibly more too for too see. They would have avoided that. She has to be in this building. Ah God, I don’t want to siege a gang hideout again… I’m so tired. Send help. She took a breath and approached the warehouse doors. Time to see if it really is a warehouse. Let’s see what you store here! She turned the bars and yanked. Locked. Fuck.
Alexandre Dirge closed her eyes. She was alone here. She was in a city that last week did not exist to her. Separated from everyone except the most important member of their team, and then? I lost her too. Her fatigue caught up with her. She put all her weight on the door.
Eight hours of walking, fighting a horde of my own monstrous kin, this spear in my back, beating down four ambush mercenaries, and how deep is this cut in my side? And… The world closed in around her.
“Who is this? … I know that, but she has no identification. Well, no I—oh! Oh this is—well, let me get the cell ready. Oh, no actually, we’ll put her in the cleaned one next to the other one. Right. Of course. Follow me, we’ll need a witness and your signature to confirm the body transfer. This way, to the left.”
Chloe woke up to grey walls and hard floor.
She stood and looked around, and then lost her footing. One leg gave out and she twisted to the ground, smacking her shoulder against the metal wall on her way down. Chloe landed in an awkward sitting position with the room spinning around her. She pulled her knees into her chest and began to aggressively inhale and exhale for nearly ten minutes. Her mind blank. Eventually, her breasts began to ache from the rhythmic pressure of her chest against her knees, and she slowed it down. Then she released her mind.
And it raced. Her thoughts crossed all the way to the Overside—back across time to when she was centuries younger; Attending councils, eating meats, reading in one of the castle’s two libraries—before the third one was built. Or perhaps walking through the forests or overgrown college grounds. And her slow breathing began to shudder. She was pulled back into the present and her senses ruptured wide. Every breath had taken in a gross musty feeling. She was certain that there was some sort of dust coming into her lung through her nose. She wanted to switch to her mouth, but that would make it worse so she didn’t. She could feel that there was some sort of mat beneath her, a sorry excuse for a bed. Her vision deblurred and locked forward.
“This is a prison. This is a Sollussa prison.”
She knew the design. This sort of thing was common, this exact layout and room size, when The Solune Kingdom was first founded a millennia ago. The earliest jailhouses predated the formal foundation of the city by centuries. She stood again, steadying herself on herself, and ambled around the room. The opposite wall had a wide doorway made of lateral bars. The walls were stone and metal bricks interlaced. Unusual. The window was different too, instead of a group of little windows one could not escape from, it was one large window that was very long, but uncomfortably thin. And there was glass in it! If Chloe somehow broke the glass, she would still probably get stuck at the hips or chest climbing out.
Chloe took a breath, and then sat back down and let her mind sink into the lingering heavy anxieties. She returned to heavy breathing. She had never felt them, but she nonetheless recognized them; the fears and doubts had been accumulating in her unconscious since things started going wrong with the Riley attack. In fact, they may have been accumulating since she left her kingdom, or even just her city. Chloe sat in kneel, with her legs splayed out to one side, and let the emotions flow forward as she breathed.
Let’s go back home. I don’t like this place. Walking is stupid.
Keep your eyes open.
Let’s go baaaaccccckkk
Wahh! What is this!? Where is everyone!
I am alone, but I am certain we will find everyone else. And Alexandre is here with me.
What is this city? Everything of steel. And this sand, it is as if it is alive.
I miss my library and my parents and my…my home. I need to go back. go back. GO BACK
I cannot go back. I came her to honour my distant kin. I came here as a duty to my father. I came here. I came here. It was me.
And now look at where I am! I have failed!
Her deep breathing had become rapid and jagged. Tears flowed down her cheeks, and her jaw locked shut, trying to push further. She didn’t know how long she sat and let her meditation spiral out of control. She would likely have worried herself unconscious if she hadn’t heard;
“Are you okay, child?”
Chloe shouted in surprise and jolted across the room and to her feet—the yelling was sustained, and continued for a lot longer than it should have; until Chloe ran out of breath.
There was silence.
“Who is that?” Chloe said, her voice raw from the breathing and screaming.
“I am Rottts. I suppose I’m your neighbour.” The voice was feminine, deep but young. Rough, haggard, and yet somehow retained an edge of youth. “You are a foreigner? A Djeb I presume?”
Chloe felt a little odd talking to a wall, but it was even stranger to talk out the doorway where the noise was really coming from. “I am a foreigner, but I am not Djeben.”
“Oh. Well, this is how the police over here are exercising their power. You must be seen as some sort of enemy of the state. It may sound ridiculous, but even the slightest legal infraction gives them the power to lock you up until trial.”
Chloe was still recovering. “I do not understand.”
“If you’re here, it means someone out there doesn’t like you. Someone in the compromised nobility, or in the police itself.”
“So I have been imprisoned for some sort of small charge? I have just arrived! And further, I am friends with the nobility! I was invited by the Prince!”
“The prince? Well. The prince isn’t that close to the police. Someone else is exerting tighter control than him.”
“Ah…” She had no idea what to do. “Well…what about you?”
“Me? They would execute me if they could, I suppose. But I’m just important enough that they can’t; not without losing a lot of social approval.”
“Who are you?” Chloe asked.
“Likely you will see as the time goes on. I don’t really want to explain the network of stupid nonsense this society has become, just so that you can understand my place in it. Just call me Rottts.”
Chloe hesitated. “Is that your real name?”
“Okay. Well.” She took four deep breaths, “well, so what about your trial?”
“What!” Chloe shouted again, the word scraping up her throat.
“This is the kind of power the police now have. When there is no monarch, competing power doesn’t just appear from nowhere. It encroaches from those who already had it.”
Chloe leaned on the wall and sank to the ground. “So?” She addressed the doorway, hoping that her voice would bounce off the walls and into the neighbouring cell. She could talk quieter. “What do we do then?”
“Wait. Perhaps a new king will be crowned and he or she will gut the corrupt officers and we’ll be free.”
Four hours passed, and no officer came to talk to her. She began dozing off.
Alexandre never really got a grip on herself, but by now she was used to the numbing pain of her neurotic anxieties. So she just pretended her mind wasn’t collapsing in on itself.
She looked around for alternate points of entry. Why are there no windows on this stupid thing.
She turned around the building, keeping her eyes out for Chloe and whatever thugs had captured her. Just in case she wasn’t, in fact, inside. When Alexandre turned the corner, she looked up—something she rarely did. The sun shone silver into her eyes. She covered them, and for the first time saw the windows, little glass lines cut into the masonry. Oh great.
She began to climb, but scaling vertical walls wasn’t really a talent of hers. She sprinted up the wall, grasping at the window ledge. She reached nowhere close.
The world is closing in around me.
I don’t care!
…can’t do this, or else—
Alexandre tried again. An entire arms-length—so a cubit and a half—below her target. The day’s exhaustion was getting to her; making her vision dark and hazed, and her balance dizzy.
You have to stop.
No. I’m getting into this fucking building, and I don’t care if it’s by window or by the front fucking door.
Alexandre ran up the wall a fourth time. Her finger touched the ledge and then slipped off.
When her feet hit the ground again, she lost consciousness. Overexertion.
She slept sitting upright, head pushed forward against the wall.