by M. Vance
“Joel, wait!” Matt was running after him. “Look Joel, maybe you’re right.” Joel stopped and turned around. “I was wrong. These are good people.”
He stopped in front of Joel, standing awkwardly. Then suddenly Matt’s fist shot forward and Joel felt something hard hit him on the chin. He realized groggily that Matt had punched him just before blacking out.
When Joel opened his eyes, he could see nothing. He was surrounded by complete darkness. Where was he?
The ground beneath him was a stone floor. He put out his left hand and felt a stone wall. Slowly, he stood up. Keeping his left hand against the wall, he moved forward. At each step he felt that something would reach out and get him or that he’d fall off the edge of a cliff. At his fifth step he kicked something soft.
“Don’t trample me, boy-o!”
Joel yelled and jumped back.
“Calm y’self, Fergus. You’ll scare him t’death.” This voice came from behind Joel.
Joel placed his back squarely against the wall. “Who’s there?”
“I’m Dermot MacCarthy, chief o’ the leprechauns,” said a third voice, this time across from Joel. “My friends are Fergus O’Dea and Michael Mahony.”
“Might as well sit down, lad,” came Michael’s voice. “’Tis a good strong door they’ve got. You’ll not be getting through it.”
Joel sat down reluctantly. “Where are we?”
“Dungeon of Fort Mingen,” Fergus answered. “Who are you?”
“I’m Joel Sanders.” He paused. Maybe it wasn’t the best idea to tell them he was an Overworlder if they’d been imprisoned by Matt. “I told Ma—King Matt that I didn’t like him enslaving my friends.”
“What friends?” Fergus asked suspiciously.
“Kalin and Aunt Nimia.”
Dermot laughed heartily. “Faith, you suffered an earful during your journey here, then. That Nimia is quite the talkative one, and her nephew takes after her. But why have they come all the way to Mingen? Surely Kalin has crops to be tending?”
Joel hesitated, but somehow felt he could trust Dermot. “Well, we were looking for you. I was hoping that you could help me get home—I’m an Overworlder.”
“Ah, we knew you was human,” Dermot assured him. “It shouldn’t be any trouble at all getting you home once we’re back to the hills, but in turn you have to do me a favor. I’ll get you home if you take Matt with you.”
“Take Matt?” Joel echoed. “There’s no way he’d come with me.”
“Not willingly,” growled Fergus.
“But how are we going to get out of this dungeon?” asked Joel. “We’ll have to do that before I can worry about Matt.”
“My men will be tunneling in to us,” Dermot said. “They should be through any day now. That only leaves the problem of getting to Matt.”
“And rescuing Kalin and Aunt Nimia,” Joel interjected.
“I’ve got an idea,” Michael said. “When we escape we’ll take Matt with us, and free Nimia and her nephew as well. Here’s how…”
Joel’s hands were chained behind his back. Drums pounded out a steady beat as the guards at his elbows marched him up the stairs onto the platform where the guillotine waited. He was forced to kneel, his neck carefully positioned under the shiny, sharp-edged blade. He turned his head to see his executioner. Matt sneered down at him. The drums came to a sudden halt as Matt reached for the release lever. The crowd began to yell. Matt’s hand on the lever tightened. Jerked.
Joel woke with a start. The dungeon was still pitch-black, the only sound the snores of his cell-mates. He sat up, shuddering at the reality of the dream. Leaning back against the wall, he could still hear those drums pounding. He leaned forward to stretch, touching his toes. The drums stopped. He leaned back against the wall. Drums again.
Joel scrambled across the dungeon. He suddenly knew what the drumming meant. “Chief Dermot!” He felt around in the darkness until his hands found the small body of the leprechaun. “Chief Dermot, wake up! I think your men are almost here!”
After what seemed like hours, Joel and the leprechauns finally heard the sound they’d been waiting for. Dirt and stone rained down into the cell and onto the pile of straw they’d shoved against the wall. “Chief?” came a low whisper.
“Aye,” Dermot replied. “What time of day is it? How many men with you?”
“Middle of the night,” came the reply. “And we’ve five men here, five more at the other end of the tunnel.”
“Thirteen of us then,” Dermot mused. “’Twould be unlucky were it not for our friend Joel. Is the tunnel large enough for a human boy?”
“Quickly, then,” whispered Dermot. “We’ve work to do before sunrise.” He crawled into the tunnel, followed by Joel, Michael, and Fergus.
At the tunnel’s end, Dermot paused a moment. “You five go with Michael and Joel to the slaves’ quarters, the rest with Fergus and me to see to Matt. Luck, lads. We’ll meet you at Lachlan’s Hill.”
Joel followed Michael and the other leprechauns to the building where the slaves were kept. A stone from a sling knocked out the guard. Michael stayed outside to act as lookout. Everyone else crept inside and spread out to look for Kalin and Nimia.
Tip-toeing around slaves sleeping on their pallets, Joel peered at every face. Finally he spotted Kalin. He knelt on the floor and put his hand over Kalin’s mouth. Instantly Kalin started struggling. “It’s okay,” Joel whispered. “It’s me—Joel.”
Kalin stopped struggling, and Joel took his hand away. “Sir Joel,” Kalin whispered, eyes wide. “I knew you wouldn’t leave without saying goodbye. Where have you been? I told—”
“Not now,” Joel interrupted. “Come on. We’ve got to find Aunt Nimia and get out of here.”
A muffled yell from outside made Joel turn. The door burst open, the moonlight revealing four guards, one of whom was holding Michael in the air, a knife against his throat. The gleam of the knife reminded Joel of the guillotine in his nightmare, and his mouth went dry as he realized that the guards blocked the only exit. They were trapped.
© 2007 by M. Vance
Original fiction debuting at Residential Aliens.
M. Vance is a University student who enjoys reading, writing, and discussing Harry Potter. A member of Scribes & Scribblers, a writing group at church not very familiar with fantasy, Vance decided to give them something different.
Read Part 1.
Read Part 2.
This is Part 3.
Read Part 4.