Post by Rill on Nov 21, 2017 1:06:18 GMT -7
”Endless! Don’t make it worse!”
Rill awoke with a start, the words echoing in his mind. It was the last thing he’d said to Endless before…
He sat up quickly at the thought of the boy, realizing then that he had been lying on a cold, stone floor. What? Where…? He jumped to his feet and looked around wildly, though he had to squint in the harsh, almost blinding light, for a moment half expecting to find Haelrin or Sybelle ready to pounce on him, but instead there was nothing. He was in a room of some kind, though to call it a room was a generous assumption. There were four walls, also made of stone, and a ceiling set just low enough to feel claustrophobic, and though there were no doors or windows or source of light that he could find the room was uncomfortably bright, so much so that he had to squint to bear it. ”Endless?” He called, feeling along the walls for any indication it was anything but solid rock. There was none. ”Tehodis?”
Ok Rill, think. What happened?
He and Endless had been on a date. Ok, that was a great start. And then? Sybelle had shown up and told them about Tehodis, told them that she had gone to King Haelrin to make a deal. ”Oh no.”
When they got there it was too late. Tehodis had fallen to the ground, something was wrong with her, and Haelrin was ready for them. Rill had stopped at the door to the throne room, though Endless had rushed straight in for his friend. Rill wanted to call him back, tell him he didn’t know what he was doing, that it wasn’t safe. Instead he watched as Endless rounded on the god, and that was when Rill had called out to him.
That was a mistake. The moment the words left his mouth he was crushed by an unseen force, dropped to the ground to struggle in vain against the will of his god. He couldn’t move, he couldn’t speak, and he could barely even breathe as Haelrin berated him for his offense. Hiding the mortals, breaking into the castle… He would be punished, he knew, but he would do anything to stop Haelrin from turning on Endy.
Then, a blast of magic so powerful it had knocked the god off balance and shattered the windows. How had Endless done that? It was incredible, but he was terrified for what wrath he had brought upon himself for that.
Haelrin called Sybelle to take Rill away then, and thought he tried to fight against his magical bonds there was no way... no way he could escape as Sybelle picked him up and flew him away. He locked eyes with Endless one last time, Haelrin’s threat echoing in his mind.
Ok, well that was one mystery solved. He was in the dungeon, somewhere. Ok. Ok breathe. That left another mystery, and this one was less pleasant to think about. ”What happened to you?” he asked out loud to the cold, bright walls. What had happened after he had been taken away? Had Tehodis really made a deal in exchange for Endless’s freedom? It had to have been something important, because Haelrin had promised he wouldn’t have put up with Endy’s tone otherwise. Did that mean Tehodis was trapped forever, and Endless had been sent back to the mortal plane? Or had Haelrin rescinded the deal after what Endless had done?
Stop, stop stop stop. Whatever happened happened, but he would be no use to anyone stuck in a dungeon. First thing first: he needed to get out of here. More importantly, he needed to get out of here before Haelrin or Sybelle returned to torture him, or find even worse ways to ‘make him entertaining’, as the god had promised. He didn’t even want to think of what that might entail.
He tried feeling over the walls once more, working carefully across the entire surface. He had to squint this close to it, as the stone seemed even brighter somehow. He finished one wall and then the next, then the next, and then finally finished with the fourth wall. There was no way to tell the walls apart from each other though; as far as he could tell they were all completely identical. Next he felt across the ceiling, which was low enough for his fingers to brush against it when he reached up. Not much room for flying in here, was there?
The last thing he checked was the floor, which was likewise no use. Smooth, hard stone was all he found under his fingers. The walls looked like the ceiling looked like the floor looked like the walls. He was in an inescapable box.
Now, logically he knew it should not be inescapable because somehow he had been put inside of it, which meant that somehow he could be removed from it. He didn’t have the magic required to transport himself so it was possible Haelrin had poofed him into here and only he or someone else strong enough could poof him back out again. Poof him back out for ‘entertainment’. He shuddered at the thought.
He realized then that he was in his patrol uniform again, though without a cap or goggles. He had no weapons or items with him at all besides the clothes on his back, and the room was completely empty. He checked once more to make sure. Yup, super empty. Not even a speck of dust. And why was it so bright in here?
He knew why it was so bright in here. Because it was terrible. ”Terrible!” He wished he had his goggles.
Without windows or even candles, there was no way to tell what time it was or how long he had been in there. He waited for what felt like forever, expecting someone to come to torture him or punish him somehow, but nobody came. He began to wonder what he could do when they did come. If it was Sybelle, could he trick her with an illusion and sneak out? He could make a copy of himself and have it look like it was standing on one side of the room, and then put up an illusory wall in front of himself until she was distracted long enough he could run out!
Wait, that was assuming there was a door to this place at all, which there wasn’t. Shoot.
Ok new plan. If he got poofed out of the dungeon he could try to really quickly cast an illusory copy of himself and then.. somehow make himself invisible and then run away while they were distracted. Now he just had to work on making himself invisible somehow, which was something he had never done. He imagined it was possible with illusions of all magics because wouldn’t that make the most sense? But he had never asked anyone or spoken to an illusions master about it.
Back to square one?
He sat down cross-legged with his back against a wall and decided he would meditate over it. What he didn’t realize until a few minutes in was how difficult it was to meditate when the light even through your eyelids was so bright. That was fine, he was fine, he could do this. Breathe in. Breathe out. Meditate.
Without any way to tell time there was no knowing how long he had been in the dungeon. The rock box dungeon room of hard stone and bright light. He began to hear noises, though he was sure he was just imagining them, but every time he thought he heard something he tensed and got ready just in case this was the time that someone came for him and he could escape. A guard, Sybelle, Haelrin himself – he was ready for anyone. ”Come on!”
When he wasn’t hearing phantom noises (or maybe they were real, I mean it stood to logic to believe there would be other cells with prisoners in a dungeon, and it was possible there were things happening right outside his box and that was what he was hearing) he tried to practice his escape plan.
He made an illusory visual copy of himself and then picked it over for imperfections, meticulously starting right from the top and working his way around and down. He did not know how long it took him, but it felt like hours. Every time he thought he heard something he would lose focus and the illusion would fall, and he would have to recreate it to continue working on it. The whole process drained him dry though, and he realized he would need to rest before he could do that again. It also made him realize that if he wanted to pass off an illusion as himself he would need to make it look like it was moving too, and that would be even more of a strain.
That didn’t even include sounds like making it talk, or a tactile illusion to make it feel like he was actually there. That was the big problem with visual illusions – from a distance they could look as real as you like, but if a bird flew threw it or someone tried to touch it and it was just air then that ruined everything. Well, all he had was time. Time to get better.
He was beginning to think that nobody was coming for him. Or if they were, it was not going to be right away. Were they going to just let him sit here for weeks, for months before coming to find him and torture him then? That thought was somehow worse than the thought of being tortured immediately. This rock box sucked. No matter which way he faced it all looked the same, and he could barely have his eyes open all the way because no matter how long he had been in here his eyes never got used to the brightness of it.
He was starting to get hungry now. And thirsty. He hadn’t noticed at first because Fairies didn’t technically need to eat while in the Feywild because they couldn’t die from starvation or thirst or anything here, so they got hungry a lot slower than a mortal being would (especially since a mortal being would have to eat fey food to survive so the hungrier they got the more they would trap themselves here, which was probably all part of Haelrin’s plan) so he was just starting to notice the hunger now despite how long he had been in here. Actually, how long had he been in here? Was it only hours? Was it days? There was literally no way to tell and honestly it bothered him a lot.
”Come on Rill, you have to be missin’ something,” he berated, wracking his brain for anything he could think of that would help him get out of here. Reason and logic might think there had to be a door, but he’d already established that wasn’t necessarily true. If there was no door then he was well and truly hooped because he could not use the magic required to transport himself back out. That meant that there had to be a door somehow. He had to believe that.
Now if only he could find it.
Nobody had come for him yet, and he was beginning to think there really and truly was no door. He wouldn’t let himself actually think that thought though, because to acknowledge it might make it true and he didn’t think he could last in here if he didn’t think he could get out someday. ”I hope you got out at least Endy,” he muttered into his hands, while he sat dejectedly against the wall and stared at the ground through his fingers.
It was no easier now to meditate than it had been at the beginning, and in a way it might even be made harder by the fact that he still hadn’t eaten anything since he got here and he was really, really starting to feel hungry. He tried to push it from his mind and sometimes he went for a period of time without thinking about it if he got particularly caught up in thought but it always came back. It especially came back when he was trying to meditate. Clear your mind, they say, but every time he tried it would just come gnawing its way back in.
Sometimes it was easier to focus on the hunger than it was to think about anything else. Hunger was easy, but the crushing feeling of hopelessness he could feel at the edge of his consciousness was something else.
No, it had only been a few days. He could get out of this. He would be fine.
”Yeah, fine,” he scoffed.
He found the door. He’d been staring at the wall across from him for hours, and suddenly he noticed something he never saw before – a faint outline etched into the stone. He stood up quickly and just stared for a moment before he could get his feet to move him over to it, and up close it was even more obvious. There was a door hidden in the wall. There was a door in the wall! And if there was a door, that meant there was something beyond the door, and that something beyond the door was his ticket out of here!
The groove in the stone was thinner than his fingers, but he got his nails into it and gave a little pull. It didn’t move. He tried harder and got the same result. He felt around the entire outline of the door and tried pulling at every angle and strength and location but the results never changed. There was a door, but he couldn’t open it.
These past days had been hard. He’d worked on his doppelgänger as much as his strength would allow and when his magic was tapped out he just… existed. He tried talking to himself to pass the time but that sucked and had the added benefit of making him feel like he was going crazy. He practiced handstands against the wall but his feet would touch the ceiling. He flew around a bit by crossing his legs so he had more space to maneuver, but it was a tiny room and there was only so much flying in circles he could handle.
But now he had found the door. It must have been hidden by an illusion or something, because he knew without a doubt that it hadn’t been there until now. And he would know, because he had stared at these walls long enough to see that there was nothing to see, and he’d gone around the whole room more times than he could count while feeling for any secret latches.
He had not had any luck opening the door. He had tried pushing it, pulling it, hitting it, yelling at it (he hadn’t expected that one to work, but it made him feel better somehow) and even tried to make an illusory crowbar to pull it open. It turned out you couldn’t use illusions to pry open a door. Or rather, he definitely couldn’t use illusions to pry open a door.
He stood against the wall with his forehead leaning against where the door should be. He was beginning to think maybe it wasn’t even a door at all. Maybe it was just a line in the rock made to look like a door to give someone like him hope just to take it away again.
This was the true torture he was facing. ”Come on!” he shouted at nothing, hitting his forehead against the wall to punctuate his words. It hurt, but it grounded him a little. ”Come on,” he said again, quieter, before turning his back and sliding down the wall with his head in his hands. ”Come on...”
On one hand, he was pretty sure the visual illusion he created of himself was perfect now. He’d nitpicked it endlessly, and he was sure now that it looked completely indistinguishable from the real thing. As long as you didn’t touch it or expect it to move.
On the other hand, he hadn’t gotten any further along on the door, if it really was a door at all. He had made up five songs about doors. He had sung all the songs to the door, because at this point he was literally willing to try anything to open it and hey, wouldn’t it be just like Haelrin to make it have some ridiculous thing you could never guess in order to open it?
Apparently whatever ridiculous thing it was, it wasn’t singing to it.
”Rill Rill Rill come on this can’t just be the end of it. It wouldn’t have shown up if you couldn’t do something about it, right?” Oh yeah, it turned out that talking to himself was apparently something he was doing now. It was just so hard to focus sometimes. The room was so bright and he was always hungry and he only barely got enough meditation in to make it through the day and there were no other noises except the ones he was almost definitely imagining and sometimes he needed something to remind himself he was actually still here. Sometimes he wondered if he was not locked in a physical cage but rather locked in his own mind. Talking out loud helped. It made him feel more present. Whatever his present even was, anyway.
He had opened the door. He didn’t know why he hadn’t seen it before, but there was a small indent in the center of it that when he looked closer was actually a tiny little keyhole, and if he stuck his nail in it just right he could fiddle with it and then, just like that, it had opened. He was free.
Well, free was a relative term, because he walked out of the room into an equally stoney, bright hallway with doors etched into the sides of all of them. He wondered how many other fairies were trapped here like he was. He wondered if any of the rooms held Tehodis or Endless. He wondered how long it had been since he had even thought about either of them, and realized he’d been so absorbed in himself lately that he had barely thought about his friends at all. Or anyone else he knew for that matter. Did any of them wonder where he had gone? Would Haelrin have told anyone, or would they all just never know?
Had Tehodis really given herself to Haelrin in exchange for Endless’s freedom? If she had, she was still here in the feywild somewhere and Endless… Endless was gone. Possibly forever. How many days had passed while he was stuck in his cage? Whatever it was, seven times that amount of time had passed in the mortal realm. Did Endless try to come back for him? Or did he escape and decide he was better off never returning?
Had he escaped at all? Haelrin always stuck by his deals, but Endless had attacked him. The great and mighty Haelrin had stumbled to his magic. What if he had just killed Endless right there? Or stuck Endless in a room like he did with Rill? Or what if he’d made him a slave, like all of his ‘favourite’ mortals?
Rill tried to put it out of his mind. He couldn’t do anything about anything until he was out of his own situation and clearly nobody was here to rescue him yet so he had to do it himself. He might never know what happened to Endless and Tehodis but he certainly wasn’t getting any answers in here.
He quietly shut the door to his room behind him as he left and he crept forward as quietly as he could. Everything was quiet. Quiet and bright and empty. He didn’t see any guards as he moved, down the hallway and around a bend and up some stairs. He came to a crossroads and chose the left hall but when it led to a dead end he doubled back and went right instead, then down a flight of stairs and then another fork and then around a corner and up some stairs and then he turned one final corner and was faced with a giant stone door, this one with a handle. The exit.
He turned the knob and walked through it and for a moment the light was so bright it was blinding and he had to shut his eyes and put his arms up in defense. It faded somewhat and he risked a peek, moving his arm and looking out from under it to find that he had walked… right back into his own room.
He turned around quickly and walked right into the wall, the wall that was just a door but now was just a wall again. All of the walls were just walls. None of them had a door, or an outline of a door. They were all perfectly smooth, perfectly hard, perfectly grey, stone walls. He was trapped once more.
Rill fell to his knees and, for the first time since being captured, he cried.
”I’m going to die here.”
Rill had spent the night, or the day, or an imperceptible amount of time he would never understand, crying. He screamed at the walls, he pounded his fists against the floor, he sobbed until he didn’t have any tears left to cry and until his throat was hoarse from yelling and he lay on the ground exhausted. He didn’t know how long he lay there, staring at the bright, grey, stone walls and unable to even think. Now, he sat against the wall with his knees to his chest and his eyes closed against the light, though it did nothing to make it easier to bear.
”I’m going to die here,” he repeated, the thought bringing with it a strange sense of finality.
”Worse,” came a voice from in font of him. He jumped to his feet in shock and saw a vague humanoid outline, shimmering like a mirage. ”You’re going to live here. Forever.”
Rill blinked, then wiped his eyes, then looked away and looked back but the shape was still there. He was at least mostly certain it was a hallucination. Wow, an honest to goodness hallucination. Had it reached that point in his imprisonment already?
The hallucination was right though. As far as he knew, fairies in the feywild didn’t die of natural causes. No old age, hunger, thirst… Trapped in this room, he could be here for eternity. Literally eternity.
”So I guess that means I have three options,” he said to the mirage, finding himself perking up a bit with even the fake presence of someone else here. ”One: I can live here forever, until I go crazy enough to lose every part of myself and I can do nothin’ but sit gibbering in a corner. I’m not really into that plan. Two: I can die here on my own terms. I have teeth and nails, and the rock walls are hard. I could end it at any time, and I would be free of this place. But I wouldn’t be alive anymore, and I don’t like the idea of that much either. And that leaves the third option: I can escape.”
He liked the last option the best, but he had already tried that. He supposed… he could always try again? After all, if he was going to be here for an eternity then that meant he had an eternity to find a way out. If he didn’t go completely insane first.
The hallucination was gone, but it had given him an idea. An idea that, maybe, could help save his sanity. Either that or it was the first sign of madness. He was okay with either, really, because he would at least prefer temporary madness to the hopelessness he had been wallowing in. Yes, this might work.
He closed his eyes and focused his magic and created his doppelgänger again for the first time since his early days here. It stood silently in the center of the room and Rill waved at it. He made the copy wave back. ”Hello,” he said. ”Hello,” he made it say back. ”Well you know what they say!” Rill announced. ”Two heads are better than one, right?
It was exhausting maintaining a complex visual illusion while simultaneously trying to think and have it talk back, but he found it gave him something to focus on. Something that wasn’t just the grey walls and the grey floor and the grey ceiling and the gnawing hunger and his own tiredness. He’d talked to himself for what felt like hours the first day, until he couldn’t sustain it anymore and it had faded into nothingness leaving him alone once more. But it was something, and if he had an eternity to spend in here then it meant he had an eternity to practice as well.
He really hoped it didn’t take him an eternity to escape.
Today he found himself talking to himself while sitting cross-legged across from himself, and he sighed. ”I miss Endy,” he admitted, thinking about the moonborn boy and his beautiful eyes and his pale skin and the way his face lit up when he smiled. The way he blushed. The sound of his voice.
He realized a little awkwardly that while he’d been thinking about him his doppelganger had morphed itself into his source of concentration, and now instead of a copy of himself sitting in front of him it was Endless. More or less. ”Is this too much crazy?” he asked himself then, wondering what the boy was going to think when he told him this story.
The amused thought shattered then as he realized he would likely never see Endless again, ever, and the illusion disappeared as he jumped to his feet and kicked at the now empty air in frustration. He leaned against the wall and put his forehead to the smooth stone and breathed in and out, each exhale punctuated by his forehead hitting itself against the stone. Endless was gone. Endless might even be dead. Endless might be trapped by Haelrin or he might have escaped and gone back to his own realm but regardless of what had happened Rill was stuck in here and. Endless. Was. Gone.
That night, or rather at some point that he decided was night, he lay on the ground in the center of his prison and stared up at the ceiling. He recalled Endless talking reverently about the night sky in Fortuna, the swirling shades of blue punctuated by the pinpricks of light coming from the stars. He waved his hand over his head and the air above him darkened. He pointed his fingers and stars dotted into life. With one final touch, a silvery-gold disc appeared in the center. The moon. The moon that had been calling to Endless ever since he had eaten the fey food. The moon that Endless might even be looking at right now, wherever he was. If he got out.
He didn’t know how long he lay staring at it before he drifted into a meditative sleep.
Rill’s wings fluttered angrily and he slammed his fist against the wall, feeling the pain ground him – remind him that he was here. He was real. It was hard to remember, sometimes. Sometimes everything just felt so… fake. He could play with illusions until he ran out of steam, but that didn’t change anything. He was no closer to escaping.
”It’s ok Rill, you can do it.” fake Endless said. ”Shut up.”
The walls were closing in on him. The air was being sucked out of the room. Haelrin was watching him like a shark and his mouth grew wide and filled with teeth as he laughed and laughed and laughed. Rill rolled onto his side and hugged his knees close to his chest, eyes shut tight against the rising panic as he struggled to breathe despite it all. He couldn’t stop shaking. He couldn’t concentrate. He screamed, but nothing could make it go away. He screamed again, but all Haelrin did was laugh and laugh and laugh.
”Ok, so here’s the plan.” Rill sat cross-legged against one wall while fake Endless sat against the opposite wall. The farther away they were, the easier it was to pretend it wasn’t just an illusion. ”There was a door once, right? So the question remains: is there still a door? And if so, why can’t I see it?” Fake Endless shrugged and Rill ran his hands through his hair in frustration. ”Useless.”
Rill had learned how to braid his own hair. It was a thrilling discovery, that it was long enough to do such a thing with it. It was also an incredibly depressing discovery, because he had been here long enough for his hair to grow this much. He wondered if his hair would ever stop growing, or if he would one day have hair so long it filled the entire room and didn’t leave any space for him. ”I don’t think that’s how that works,” fake Endless said. ”Yeah well, we might just find that out someday.”
Rill made a window. It wasn’t a real window of course, but it sat there across from him against the wall where a window could logically go, and through it he could see Loturana. If he looked hard enough, he could see his flower. He missed his flower. He missed his bed. He missed the smell, oh the beautiful smell of pumpkin and chocolate so strong he could almost smell it.
Wait, he could actually smell it. He closed his eyes and for a moment he could almost pretend he was home. Just coming back from a patrol, ready to lay down on his soft bed… a bed that didn’t make his muscles seize and his bones ache from laying on it.
Oh, he was back. He shifted slightly on the stone floor but there was no position he could sit in that didn’t cause him pain. His stomach had at least long ago stopped grumbling, though the gnawing emptiness would never go away.
”How’s that escape coming along?” fake Endless asked, having long since become a voice for Rill’s self-depreciating thoughts. The thoughts he didn’t want to think somehow found their way out anyway, and there was Endless, ready to say everything he didn’t want to hear. ”You know if they put you in here there has to be a way out.” Oh, that was a better one. He liked that thought better.
A way out, a way out, away out, awayout, awayout. Rill’s hand formed a fist and he hit it against the floor, pulling himself out of his spiraling thoughts. ”Focus Rill, you got this.” He was beginning to doubt that he did. Hah, beginning. He’d felt like that for a very long time. ”What am I even doing…” he muttered, laying his head back against the wall and staring blankly at the ceiling. ”It’s ok Rill, you can do it,” fake Endless said.
”Okay, so here’s the plan.” Rill was pacing back and forth in the same place he had been pacing back and forth in for… who knew how long. A day? Had it been a day yet? He couldn’t stop pacing, because if he stopped pacing he stopped thinking and he needed to think. ”Okay, so here’s the plan,” he repeated, reaching for what the last part of the sentence was supposed to be. ”Okay, so here’s the plan…” He threw his arms up in frustration and turned to a wall, smacking his hands against it in anger, randomly at first and then rhythmically, like a drumroll. ”I gotta get outta here.”
How long had it been? Hours? Days? Years? Had it already been centuries and he didn’t know because there was no way to tell time? How long had it been for Endless? If he had escaped, did he ever think about coming back? He had seemed so upset when Rill was taken away, but if he got out would he risk it all to come back and save him? Could he even be saved? Had Endless moved on with his life now, forgetting all about the feywild and Rill?
Was Tehodis Haelrin’s slave? Had she ever awoken, after Haelrin had sent her sprawling to the floor? Had she promised her eternity to him? Had she escaped somehow? If she was still here, maybe she could come for him. ”No Rill, she didn’t see you. She doesn’t even know you were taken.” Did she think he had just abandoned her? That he went back to his patrol fairy job and left her to be Haelrin’s slave for all eternity?
The first drop of blood surprised him, the tiny sound it made as it hit the stone floor sounding enormous in the quiet of the room. He realized then that the nails on his fingers had dug into the palms of his hands so deeply they had broken the skin. He squeezed, and more blood fell. It was almost mesmerizing in a way. The stark red against the grey was a welcome change.
He released his fists and looked at his bloody hands. ”You’re sitting dangerously close to option one,” he heard Endless warn. ”Or maybe closer to option two?” Rill ran his hands through his hair in exasperation and it was only afterward that he realized he’d now streaked his hair with blood. ”No no no, nononono I’m fine, I’m fine this is fine, I’m fine, this is fine this is fine I’m fine.”
He found the door again. The outline in the rock was there, obvious and inviting, as though it had been there the whole time and it was just waiting for him to find it. He knew it hadn’t been. ”Remember last time,” Endless warned him, and he started feeling around for the keyhole he’d used to open it last time. It wasn’t there. ”No. The part where you ended right back here anyway.”
”How d’you know? This might be a different room. Next time I just have to find the real exit. It’s a trick. It’s a trap. It’s a trap but I can trick him too. I can trick the trapster. Trip the trackster. Trap the trickster.”
He had to believe he could get out. Sometimes it was the only thing that kept him going.
He had found the keyhole again, once again after it appeared mysteriously where it had not been before. He’d opened the door and run the maze and this time he’d flown through it, for the first time using his wings in a way that mattered. He didn’t even want to go through any of the doors, maybe he could just fly through the empty hallways forever.
But then he’d found a door that was different than the last time. He’d opened it but before he went through he looked to see where it went. And it went into a different hallway, one with torches instead of light that came from nowhere. One with doors that looked real instead of just the etched outline in a stone wall. Had he… had he really found the way out?
He fluttered through the door slowly, afraid that once he was through it would just be his room again, but as his feet landed on the other side it truly was a new hallway. ”Did I… did I do it?” he asked no one, his heart racing with hope and possibility. Could he really have found the escape?
He heard a noise from behind one of the doors and he just about jumped out of his skin. A real noise? Not something he had created or imagined? He hadn’t heard a real noise in…. well, not since he’d gotten here, he thought. He walked cautiously over to the door and saw there was a small window at the top with a set of bars to look through and keep out. Behind the door was a small room, about the size of his own room, and on the ground by the back corner sat the hunched figure of a boy who looked to be about Rill’s age. Well, ok, looked to be about Endless’s age. Rill realized at that moment that he didn’t know how old he was. ”Focus Rill.”
The boy in the cell startled and stood up quickly, shouting ‘who’s there’. Another person’s voice. A real voice. He couldn’t stop the tears that pricked at his eyes, so overwhelmed he was by the simple existence of another actual person after so long. ”Hey hey it’s okay, I’m gettin’ outta here, wanna escape with me?” He flashed a smile. The boy it his lip and after a moment he nodded.
”Are you sure about this?” Endless’s voice warned. ”Yes,” he replied insistently. ”I can’t just leave him here.”
The boy shrank away and Rill realized he must think he was batty. Which he… was. ”Hey hey it’s okay,” he said again, beginning to look for a way to open the door. He found a lock and started picking at it with his fingernail until he heard a satisfying clunk that indicated he had succeeded. He carefully pushed the door in and held out a hand. ”Come on, we’re breakin’ out.”
The boy moved to the corner of the room and curled up on the floor. ”Hey hey it’s okay,” Rill cooed, crouching down to make himself appear less threatening and taking a few steps toward him with his hand out. ”Let’s get outta here.”
The boy looked up then and screamed and Rill fell back with his hands over his ears, eyes shut tight as the sound buried deep into his head and hurt in a way he’d never known sounds could hurt before. It felt like he screamed forever, the sound echoing upon echoes of it endlessly until he didn’t even have room to think and he curled up on the ground and screamed back, screamed until he didn’t have any breath left and finally, finally, finally, finally… the noise stopped.
There was silence.
When he slowly opened his eyes he was greeted with a familiar sight. Bright, grey, stone, walls all around him.
Rill lay on the ground and stared at the ceiling blankly, eyes half-lidded against the uncomfortable brightness.
He tried to remember the feeling of the wind on his face as he flew on patrol, but he couldn’t.
He tried to remember what it felt like to awaken from meditation feeling actually, genuinely rested, but he couldn’t.
He tried to remember what it felt like to not be hungry, or thirsty, or sore, or sad, or angry, but he couldn’t.
He tried to remember the taste of chocolate or pumkin or mint or anything, anything at all, but he couldn’t.
He tried to remember what the last thing he ate was, but he couldn’t.
Rill lay on the ground and stared at the ceiling blankly, wondering how long it would be before he forgot everything that ever mattered to him.
He didn’t think he had meditated for days. There was no way to know, though. It could have been a minute. It could have been years. Once again, he found himself wondering whether he was even alive at all.
He raised his hands and examined them. The crescent scars on his palms were the only indication that what happened here was real. He curled his fingers into fists once more and squeezed. The pain was real. The pain was real. The pain was a reminder that he was still alive. He was still here. He was alive… He was trapped. He was alone. He was alive. He was tired. He was hungry. He was alive. He was lonely, he was exhausted, he was angry, he was angry, he was angry. He slammed his fists against the floor and the walls, every punctuation of pain reminding him of the most important thing.
He was alive.
There was something wrong with the idea of using an injury to tell time, but after he had seen the scars on his hands he had realized it was the only way he could. He couldn’t believe it had taken him so long to think about it, considering how often he wished he could tell how much time had passed. He knew his hair had grown out, reaching past his shoulders now where it used to settle around his ears, but that wasn’t as easy to measure and he tried to keep it braided out of his face anyway. No, this was better. Well, kind of.
His thumb brushed over the red line on his arm, already mostly healed from when he’d cut it over a week ago. He assumed it was over a week, anyway, because he’d seen how long scratches had taken to heal before and this seemed about right.
In a way it was better now, but in some ways it was also worse. Now he could keep track of time as he withered away for all eternity in this inescapable box.
”No, not inescapable. I just… haven’t found the way out yet.”
He’d let himself have his pity party. He’d had more than one since he’d come here, times when he had felt so defeated and alone that he was sure it was the end. But it wasn’t the end. He couldn’t let himself give up hope, however small, that he could get out of here someday.
And when he did he was going to find Tehodis and free her from Haelrin, if that was where she was, and he was going to find Endless, wherever he was. He was going to find them both, and he was going to leave the Feywild and maybe never come back, and he would see the real night sky that Endy had loved so much and he was going to live outside in a huge open field with no walls and no ceiling and only soft grass as his floor.
”You know, everything was good and easy before you came,” he said, standing up and turning around to face the Endless he created. ”You and Tehodis. If you’d just gone back to your plane like you should have… If I hadn’t fed you, hadn’t trapped you here… If you’d just let Tehodis make the deal… If I hadn’t fallen for you...”
It was so stupid and he knew that now. He’d known the boy for barely any time at all, barely enough time to justify a crush let alone getting captured because of him. But at the time, there was more vibrancy and life in that short time than there had been for months leading up to it. He loved his job, really he did. But there was something he’d been missing and he had never realized it until Tehodis and Endless had stumbled into his life.
He rounded on the fake Endless and stalked up to him, placing his hands on the wall on either side of him and staring into his pale silver eyes. ”You did this to me.”
He sighed and hung his head. ”You did this to me.”
He had found the door again, a few days ago. He had opened it the next day. He had followed the twisting hallways until he’d found a skylight and flown up to it, and when he’d broken through the glass and opened his eyes he had found himself right back in his room again.
He knew now that it was an illusion, somehow. The hallways, the doors, they only ever led him back to his own room.
Now he sat cross-legged in the air while he let his wings get some exercise, fluttering in place as he hovered. He had been neglecting taking care of himself for… a while. It was hard to think it was worth it, if he was never getting out anyway. He created the illusion of a ball and dropped it to the ground, bouncing it back up to where he ‘caught’ it in his hand. He was getting better, at least.
It was hard to focus though. His thoughts were scattered and sometimes he realized in the middle of a sentence that he didn’t remember what he’d just said, or what he was going to say. Sometimes it still seemed like the walls were closing in on him. He wondered if that would ever stop, or if it only got worse the longer he was in here. He wondered if maybe the walls really were closing in on him. Maybe one day he would wake up to find he barely had room to stand, and he would have to live like that for all eternity.
He didn’t know what to do. It had been three scars since he’d first started telling time and he was no closer to finding an escape. He was no closer to finding an escape than he was when he’d first been captured.
He was laying on his back staring up at the night sky he’d created when he heard a noise and he turned his head to see the door on the wall was there again, but this time it clunked open by itself and swung outward. Knowing what he knew, Rill’s heart started to race - not with excitement but with fear. This was different, but not in a good way. This was bad different.
”Are you going to check it out?”
Rill looked over at Endless and scoffed. ”How about you go check it out and report back.” Endless looked unimpressed. ”Okay fine. I’m fine. This is fine. I’m going. You wait here. I’m sure I’ll be back soon enough.”
Not if this was a trap, his mind reminded him. But really, a trap? This late in the game? Maybe the fact that he wouldn’t suspect it was exactly why it was this late. Maybe Haelrin hoped he had broken him and was going to torture him even more somehow. Maybe he was being called out so Haelrin could gloat that Tehodis had finally kicked the bucket, worked to the bone as a slave until her frail Kina body couldn’t take it anymore. Maybe it was so Sybelle could do all the terrible things her evil little mind could think of.
Maybe he was going to be set free.
Oh don’t be so naïve, they’re never letting you out.
Not unless its to something worse than this.
”Is there anything worse than this?” Pain? He could take it. Torture maybe, for a while. Forced to be a slave to Haelrin? He could do that. He could handle almost anything, really, if he wasn’t going to be alone anymore. If he could get out of his tiny room and actually stretch his wings, see the sky, feel the grass, talk to someone that he wasn’t just imagining was there, he would be willing to do a lot of things. Including taking the first step out the door.
He clenched his fists and nodded to himself and walked out into the hallway, feeling the walls press in on all sides as he moved through it. He was ready for something to jump out from behind every corner, but not only did nothing jump out but there were no corners. Just long walls on either side with doors etched into them, and a seemingly endless path ahead.
His nerves were on fire and he was feeling twitchier than usual, and as he walked he pushed on some of the doors to check it they would open. They didn’t.
He took to the air then and flew down the hall, being careful not to catch his wings against the low ceiling, and he whooped happily at the feeling of being able to fly fast again after so long cooped up in the room. It was a few moments later though, as he sped down the endless hall, that he realized it really was endless. The light at the end of the tunnel so to speak never got any closer no matter how long or fast he flew.
He slowed then and landed and turned to look back at where he had come from, and sure enough: there was door to his cage. He hadn’t moved at all.
He sat down facing the door to his room, stubbornly refusing to go back inside. If he couldn’t go anywhere, he could at least choose to stay out here.
It turns out he couldn’t choose to stay out there. When he opened his eyes after meditating as well as he could for a while, he was sitting in the center of his room again and the door was gone.
Rill lay on the ground, head propped uncomfortably against the wall. He threw the imaginary ball and it bounced on the ground once before being caught by the imaginary Endless. ”Good throw.”
Endless threw the ball back and it bounced on the ground and then Rill caught it again, as much as you could catch or hold anything that didn’t exist except in your mind.
The brightness of his room never stopped hurting his eyes, to the point where he didn’t recall what it felt like to be able to have his eyes fully open without being in pain. ”This is fun,” he deadpanned, sitting up properly and chucking the ball as hard as he could across the room. It went through Endless’s head and both of them disappeared.
He looked at his arm and ran his thumb over the fourth line. Almost healed now.
”…and then he fell off the mushroom and landed face first in the cotton candy bush! The mushroom laughed and laughed and when he popped back outta the bushes he had a cotton candy beard.”
Rill smiled, maybe a little sadly, and looked over at Endless. ”You shoulda seen it Endy, it was great. O’course I sent him back to the mortal plane before he could eat any of it.”
”Like you tried to send me and Tehodis back.”
Rill nodded and sighed, eyes going distant. ”Yeah, like that.”
He wondered what he would be doing right now if he weren’t in here. ”Surfing. Eating chocolate. Flying. Patrolling. Doing somersaults.” Endless’s voice sounded more like an approximation of his voice now, as his grasp at the memory of the real sound of it loosened and he only had previous iterations of fake Endless to work with. He was sure fake Endless didn’t look exactly like real Endless either, not as he was and definitely not as he could be now. If he was in the mortal realm it could have been years since he escaped. After all that time he’d probably moved on and forgotten. Rill couldn’t move on, because there was nowhere to move to. He was stuck in this stone cage with nowhere to go. Nothing to do. And his last memories before this were with Endless. The date, the kiss, the castle, the capture.
Now he only existed in Rill’s head.
He hadn’t given up hope of escape, really. He just… forgot he was trying to work towards that end sometimes. It felt to unattainable that sometimes he just forgot about it.
Right now he was standing in the center of the room with ‘grass’ covering the ground of his cell. It was still and silent, the blades sticking up like tufts of green hair. The walls themselves looked like the sky, a soft blue with white fluffy clouds sitting unmoving across it. The ceiling was the sun, the hot and awful sun that never stopped shining no matter what he did to the room. It wasn’t perfect, but for just a moment he could almost feel the breeze.
The door had reappeared in the wall. The etched outline taunted him, but he refused to look. He had been preoccupied for some time now on the persistent thought that he was being watched. He had to be. What purpose was there to put someone in a cage and then just leave them forever? Haelrin seemed like exactly the kind of god who would love watching someone go crazy, right? He had said he would find ways to make Rill 'entertaining'. Maybe this was it.
They had to be watching him.
Maybe Sybelle too, that little demon fairy would enjoy nothing more than watching his pain.
”You hear that! I know you’re out there!” he shouted at nothing, turning to look at the ceiling from all angles despite knowing it would look the same no matter how he looked at it. ”I know you’re there! Coward! Don’t hide behind the walls, come on out!” He punched the wall, but all it did was hurt his hand. ”Let me OUT!”
Dying couldn’t be that bad, right? ”Right?” It would at least get him out of here. He’d been a good person, right? ”Right?” He wasn’t evil. He could go to the afterlife and spend eternity there, somewhere nice. Maybe someday he would even meet Endless there.
The problem with eternity was that it was… well, an eternity. Alive or dead.
But at least alive he might get out of here for real.
”You don’t believe that,” Endless chided, speaker of all his darkest thoughts and fars. ”Maybe. But I can always change my mind about this decision later, but there’s no going back from the other one.”
”Maybe this whole thing is an illusion.” It was not the first time he had thought that, and it wasn’t such a far-fetched idea. After all, Haelrin was the god of the fairies and his illusory powers were incredible. It would explain why he always ended up back in his room no matter where the door led him.
Hell, maybe he wasn’t even in the room at all. Maybe this was all in his head and he was laying somewhere in a coma.
Maybe he was already dead and this was just what happened while you waited to be judged.
Maybe this was the judgment.
Time bled into itself inside the room. Some days felt like they stretched into eternity, and then sometimes he looked back and couldn’t remember what he’d only just done. It had been like that for a while, really. Forgetting.
He looked down at his arms again and frowned. He couldn’t even remember the last time he’d cut himself, but he must have because the scars ran from his wrist to the crook of his elbow on his left arm, and now there were two red lines at different stages of healing on his right. Why had he done that?
”You’re looking rough,” Endless commented, sitting down beside him against the wall. ”Yeah well, bleh to you too.”
”The door’s still there, you sure you don’t wanna check it out?”
Rill turned to look at the wall he’d been avoiding for… an untraceable amount of time. The groove was still there, the outline of the door waiting patiently for him to acknowledge it. ”I’m not going to play into their games,” he replied, shuffling his body to turn away from the wall. ”You hear me Haelrin? I’m not going to play into your games!”
”Then what are you going to do?” Endless was visually gone now, but Rill heard his voice in his head anyway. It was always there. Like the constant brightness of the room, or the constant dryness of his mouth, Endless was his constant companion. Not Endless, really, not after all this time, but Endless enough.
Rill wondered where he would be in his life if he hadn’t been captured. Like, if Tehodis and Endless had never come to the Feywild at all. Would he have made more friends? Got new furniture? Met some nice fairy boy and fallen in love?
It was impossible to tell, really. But as it happened his life had stopped the moment he got captured, and he was stuck like a snapshot in the moment when he was first thrown into this prison. He had no books to read, no music to listen to, and honestly after all this time he couldn’t even remember the tune to any of his favourite songs.
He was getting less and less rest when he meditated these days, though to say he had ever gotten decent rest from it while in here would be a stretch. He could feel the effects of it though. Sometimes he could barely think straight. ”You’re delirious,” Endless commented. ”Yeah well you’re imaginary so I guess we both have our problems.”
He had more scratches on his arms that he didn’t recall making, but this time it was worse. They ran across and along his arms like he’d been attacked by an angry cat, but he knew, he knew there was no one in the room but himself. When had he done this? ”Well it’s finally happened,” Endless told him, leaning casually against the opposite wall. ”What?” Rill pulled his sleeves back down over the cuts, wincing as he did so. It hurt, but the pain always seemed to ground him when he got too out of control.
”You know what.” And he was right.
If he used the pain to ground himself when he started going off the deep end, and here he had a bunch of new cuts he didn’t recall making, it could only mean one thing.
”I’m really losing it now, aren’t I.”
The door was still there. It was taunting him. In fact, he was pretty sure the door had moved to a different wall than it was on before. There was no way to know though, because all of the walls were completely identical.
Time seemed to be passing quicker now, in a way. That tended to happen when you forgot sometimes huge chunks of time. It wasn’t that he was sitting around doing nothing and it was all just melding into itself, but rather that even when he did do something he often didn’t remember it later.
He wondered if maybe his brain just didn’t want to make new memories at all, but it didn’t happen all the time. Just often enough to make him worry. He would realize he was talking but forget about what, or for how long. He would find new scratches. He would sometimes realize he was just yelling endlessly, one long, sustained ”Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah!” until he ran out of breath and started again. One time he realized he had been knocking head against the wall for ages.
Whatever game was being played here, it was clear he wasn’t winning.
That was why he finally decided to try the door again. He picked the tiny lock in the center and took a deep breath and then had to stop and calm himself down as a rising tide of panic overcame him at the idea of what he might find on the other side of the door. ”It’s fine, it’s fine it’s fine I’m fine, this is fine, I’m fine, this is fine. I can do this.”
He pushed open the door to reveal the hallway.
It was different again, this time extending out to the right and left right than straight ahead. He looked both ways to no avail before deciding to go left. He flew, but slowly and cautiously as his heart was racing and his nerves were on edge and he didn’t want to be unprepared just in case this time was the time that there was something ready to jump out at him.
After what felt like forever, he found the hallway turned a corner to the right and continued along its way. Again, doors just like his were etched into the wall all along the way, but none of them would open when he tried. The hallway felt endless and he kept looking back over his shoulder, expecting something to sneak up behind him and catch him by surprise. Without a wall there it felt like anything could just run up and attack.
Again, he reached a right hand turn and continued along, becoming more and more paranoid of something sneaking up behind him while he wasn’t looking until he was practically flying sideways with his back to one of the walls, looking back and forth between where he’d come and where he was going, just to be safe. He found another right turn.
He continued down the hallway carefully but picking up speed until finally he took one more right turn and he wasn’t a math genius or anything but he was pretty sure that made a square. This hallway though did not have any open doors. None of them opened when he tried. There was no sign of the door to his room, and he tried to push down the mounting panic.
So he continued.
He didn’t know how long he flew through the hallway, taking right turn after right turn after right turn after right turn, but every time he took a turn and it led to another empty hallway full of doors he felt the panic rising in his chest until he was shaking and flying faster and faster as though that might get him to where he needed to be but it didn’t, of course. Was he going to be trapped in this endless hallway forever? Would he ever find his way out? Would he even find his way back to his room? His room, his safe safe room with four stone walls and no unending halls and--
No, no no no, no, no no. ”No!” He stopped and slammed his fists against the nearest wall. ”Let me OUT!” He sunk to his knees, forehead rested against the cold stone, breathing erratically as he tried to calm himself down but the bile was rising in his throat and he couldn’t stop, couldn’t stop, couldn’t stop, couldn’t calm down, couldn’t breathe but he could feel himself hyperventilating and he was never getting out and the hallway was never going to end and Haelrin was laughing, laughing, laughing and he was trapped.
”It’s okay Rill, you can do it.”
”No, he lamented, hands against his eyes to block out the horrible incessant light that never went away. Somehow, he could still see it even then. ”I can’t Endy, I tried but I can’t. I tried, I tried, I tried.” The mantra continued in his head, echoing in upon itself until it was a cacophony of noise that drowned out everything.
I tried, I tried, I tried.
”Then try again.”
He shuddered at the thought, but slowly but surely he pushed himself to his feet, his body shaking and his heart still thundering unsteadily, though he tried to calm it. ”One more try then, just for you,” he said. This time he walked, shoulder against the wall, down the entire length of the hall, and when he reached the right hand turn he closed his eyes before stepping around the corner, not sure if he could handle seeing another long, empty hallway.
Instead of a hallway though, he walked right into a door. His door. He opened it and with the greatest and utmost sense of relief he walked into his room and closed the door behind him. These walls were safe. They kept him safe from the endless hallways. He decided to never go through the door again.
This was the day Rill decided to die.
The decision had been haunting him since he’d first thought of the possibility, and the longer he was trapped the more he felt himself slipping and slipping and slipping away. He worried that if he didn’t do it soon he might be lost forever, reduced to a shell of a person sitting, empty, in this bright, cold, stone prison until the end of time.
He’d talked it over with Endy while he was re-braiding his hair, though mostly it was just him talking and then forgetting what he was saying and then repeating it. He thought maybe Endless would try to talk him out of it, but instead all he’d said was ”It’s ok Rill, you can do it.” He took it as a sign that even his subconscious, imaginary companion realized it was the only way out.
He wondered if dying would hurt less than living.
But then, a moment before he was to make that irreversible decision for the last time, he heard a baby’s laugh. It sounded distant, like a memory, and he was so startled by the sound he jumped back and looked wildly around the room. He hadn’t heard the sound of laughter for so, so long. And then one of the walls grew dark and tiny specks of light dotted across it like stars, and then they started moving and swirling and after a few moments the center cleared, and he saw… he saw outside.
A beautiful green field lay in front of him, and he could see cows grazing and a farmhouse in the distance. A boy stood up into view and, looking in Rill’s direction, jumped backward with a surprised ”Whoa!” Rill couldn’t believe his eyes. ”You… you can see me?” What was happening right now?
”Aye mate I see ya, whatever ya are, but I don’t understand what’s goin’ on here.”
Rill ran to the wall then and tried to go through the window, but it was just that – a window – and it was closed. He could see and hear through the portal, but he could not go through it himself. He fell to his knees then, crushed by this one last and greatest disappointment, and cried. The other boy, who had jumped back as Rill ran at him, now came cautiously forward again. ”Oy, hey it’s okay, I’m sorry? I didn’t mean to--” “No, It’s, it’s not you. It’s just… this is such a cruel trick. Haelrin really will get the last laugh, showing me the most beautiful freedom, but knowing I can never escape. Maybe it’s a sign, a sign that not even killing myself will free me from this hell.”
As he spoke the boy looked more and more concerned, and at the mention of killing himself he put his hands up and went, ”Whoa no no, don’t do that, don’t do that buddy it can’t be that bad, y’know? Like, whatever’s going on sounds like it’s real bad but you just gotta push through, y’know? You just gotta push through the bad stuff to find the good stuff on the other side. Don’t think too much, just… push through it and you’ll see.”
Rill let out a rueful chuckle. ”Yeah, I used to think that too.” But the boy was gone, and so was the field, and the wall was just a wall again.
”Push through to get to the good stuff,” he scoffed, standing back up and turning away from the wall in frustration. ”What do you expect me to push through, huh? I’m trapped!” He went over to the wall and smacked his hands against it angrily, then again, and then once more before he stopped and took a step back. ”Push… through.”
It wasn’t the best idea, but it was an idea. He’d been so focused on the door that he’d never stopped to realize there was never a door. He’d been letting himself get tricked by thinking there had to be a logical way out, but maybe there wasn’t. This was Haelrin, God of the fey, and creator of fairies. He didn’t work on logic, necessarily.
It was one last thing to try, anyway.
Rill moved to the wall across from where the imaginary portal had been and with an angry yell he ran at the wall and slammed his shoulder into it as though trying to tackle it down or break right through it. Nothing happened, but he walked back and ran at it again. He channeled all his anger and fear and sadness and even, dare he say, a little bit of hope into it and ran at the wall with reckless determination, and this time when he slammed into it he felt something shift. Wait, what? He couldn’t be sure if what he’d felt was real or not, but he moved back and readied himself and ran at the wall a third time, hoping against hope that something, anything would happen.
And something did.
At first there was just another shift, like an earthquake, but then the room felt like it was tilting and tilting and then falling, and he was too excited to even be frightened because something was happening. The cell shook and felt like it smashed into something and Rill was flung against the walls and floor until he hit what he thought might have been the ceiling and was suddenly flung out and sent tumbling through the air, eventually landing heavily on the ground with a thunk and a groan.
”What…?” he muttered, rolling to his back and rubbing his face with his hand. He felt like he broke his nose on the landing and his eyes were shut tight against the pain until he realized something and that something was that it wasn’t as bright against his eyelids as it normally was. As soon as he realized that he opened his eyes and scrambled to his feet while his eyes adjusted to the strange new environment. It was much too dark at first to properly see, and he realized that everything beyond a certain point was fuzzy and out of focus, but eventually what he did see was a giant wooden bookshelf with hundreds upon hundreds of grey boxes filling the shelves. And then at his feet, he saw a little grey box with a broken lid.
He wanted to scream. He wanted to scream and shout and throw the box at the wall and curse Haelrin and Sybelle and everyone and everything that had led him to this moment but he didn’t because he didn’t know where he was and he couldn’t risk anyone finding him and putting him back in one of those things.
Rill stepped back and leaned against the far wall, taking comfort in the familiar feeling while he tried to work this all out. He had been inside that tiny box? Which meant he must have been shrunk to fit the tiny box, which made sense because that would make each prisoner take up much less space. And then what? He’d just knocked his box off the shelf? What about the doors and the hallways he’d seen inside? Could it really all have been an illusion? Endless torment for those trapped in the boxes forever?
But then, what about the boy? And the field? Where had that come from? The boy had not even known what fairies were, how could he have known what was going on with Rill? Had it all just been a coincidence that his advice was what freed Rill? And who was that boy?
Rill was left with more questions than answers but of one thing he was absolutely sure – he could not leave here knowing that each box may contain another trapped and suffering fairy. He had to free them, but he didn’t have the time to take them all out one by one. So he went over to the shelf and grabbed it by the side, pushing as hard as he could until he felt it shift, then begin falling over. As it fell the boxes came tumbling down and from each one came a fairy that popped back into full size as they were released.
He couldn’t stick around. He’d done his part in this, and now he needed to get out of here before someone noticed and came running to capture them all again. He bolted.
It had been 200 days since he had flown any real amount of distance, but it wasn’t a skill that could be so easily forgotten. He dodged through the hallways of the castle, fighting down the irrational but rising panic as he began wondering if maybe this too was just an elaborate illusion – maybe these hallways would never end and he would be trapped trying to escape forever just like before – but eventually he came to what he was looking for and stopped to stand before it. A door that led outside. It was through this very door that he had brought Endless when they’d come for Tehodis. How fitting it would be that it was the door through which he escaped.
He opened the door cautiously and almost sobbed in relief when the image on the other side was the real outside world and not the stone walls of his cage. He flew across the threshold like a comet, not daring to look back or to think about where he was going next. He was going to fly until he couldn’t fly anymore, until his lungs felt like they were going to collapse and his heart was ready to burst and it was then and only then that he would feel safe enough to stop.
It was unnerving to be outside after so long and it didn’t take him long to realize that his eyes were still unfocused and it was hard to see with any clarity what was more than a few feet ahead of him. With no walls around him and no ceiling above him he felt exposed, like a tiny mouse running through a field while a hawk circled dangerously above. He found himself looking around often, the paranoia never really going away as he flew. He couldn’t let it stop him though. He had to get away.
He didn’t know how long he flew before his body gave out on him, but it was far enough that it had been ages since he’d seen a town or village and he’d been flying over strangely-coloured forests and marshes for some time. He was losing altitude though as he lost his strength and eventually he dropped through the trees to land unceremoniously in the mud. He tried to pull himself out but he was exhausted and all he could do was lay there and feel the world turn to static and darkness around him.
The world was bright through his eyelids and Rill was convinced everything had been a dream. He would open his eyes and he would be back in his too-bright, inescapable stone cage and even just the idea of it made him want to vomit. He could feel tears start to build and fall down his cheeks and he never wanted to open his eyes, he never wanted to face the truth and that truth was that –
”Hey, he’s awake!”
Wait, what? Rill opened his eyes and started to sit up but a hand was placed on his chest and it gently pushed him back down. ”Lay still, you are sick.” He squinted and could make out the kindly face of an old elven woman, and behind her stood a bright-eyed young elven girl who looked like she belonged to the voice he’d heard a moment ago. ”I’m not sick,” he responded, his words sounding scratchy and pained compared to the woman's. ”Not that kind of sick. Your body will be fine. It is your mind and your soul that are ill. You need rest.”
That was the last thing he heard before he went under again, and he wasn’t sure if it was magic or exhaustion but he stayed under for a long, long time.
The first thing he noticed when he awoke was how nosy everything was. His room had been silent but for the noises that he made, but now he could hear the soft rustling of leaves, birds singing in the distance, and the sound of people – real, actual people – talking nearby. His body was sore but it didn’t hurt like it normally did. He’d almost gotten used to the way his very bones ached from the stone, the way his skin was red and sore after laying on it for any period of time, the way he could never find a comfortable way to sit or lie down. The soft bed he was laying on felt wrong beneath him.
He stirred and when he opened his eyes the light of the day was filtered softly through a canopy of leaves and it was hard to make anything out in the dappled shade, but he eventually focused enough to see that he was in some sort of natural building, a little hut made from trees that formed the walls and left spaces for two windows and an entrance. He curled into the bed, hiding under the blanket, which he realized now was soft moss, and tried to think about what he was supposed to do now.
He didn’t know where he was except that he was still in the Feywild. The woman from earlier had been an elf though, and he thought there were no elves in the Feywild. Haelrin had banished them ages ago.
He bolted upright at the thought of the god. He would know by now that Rill had escaped and he might even know it was him that had knocked over the boxes and freed the other fairies. Oh no oh no oh no no no what if he found him here and killed the elves and put him back in the box? Only a new box, one that was chained shut that he could never escape from. The mere thought of it sent him spiraling, knuckles white as he clenched his fists and tried to bring himself back.
”Calm down Rill. If he knew where you were he would have come already.”
The familiar voice was comforting, and the words it said were true. He managed to calm his breathing slowly, and eventually felt present enough to speak back. ”Yeah, ok, but I can’t hide here forever,” he replied, looking over to see Endy leaning against the wall much like he’d done so often in the stone room. ”So now what?” The other boy shrugged and disappeared into smoke as the elven lady from earlier walked in, having heard Rill’s voice. She didn’t ask who he had been speaking to, and Rill didn’t offer the information. Instead she offered him tea and a small biscuit which she instructed that he eat slowly.
It was hard to do after so, so long without food but he did as he was told and as he carefully chewed and swallowed and drank the tea to help his dry throat accept the food the woman spoke and answered the questions he hadn’t asked. She explained that despite Elves being banished from the Feywild there were still groups who had stayed and made their lives here, and that he had found his way to one such group. That was where he was now. He couldn’t imagine why any elves would choose to stay here.
She informed him that the night he had been found in the marsh the entire village had awoken from a dream that he would be there. The very stars had seemed to lead them to him. She paused then and raised a brow thoughtfully, asking him if he had any idea why such a thing might have occurred. He was brought back to the starry black portal that had revealed the boy and led to his escape, and he thought then of Endless and his love for the night sky. The connection he had to it that was so strong he couldn’t stand to be away from it. The reason Rill had been captured.
”I don’t know,” was all he could think to reply. He didn’t know, not really, but it was starting to feel like there was something going on that was much, much greater than himself. The woman nodded and left him to rest some more.
He spent many days there recovering, eating small amounts of food until his stomach could handle the sensation again, and finally being able to get proper rest. Sometimes he drifted, lost in though, and jolted back into reality with the fear that it had all been an illusion. But it wasn’t. He was still here, still free. Whatever that meant now.
He told the elves his story, how he had been captured and imprisoned, after he’d been there for almost two weeks. It was then that they had told him a story they had heard, of a great bird swooping in and attacking the castle. A bird of the gods, they said. And they spoke of Haelrin’s anger when it left, for it had stolen something that belonged to him. Rill couldn’t be sure, but a part of him thought that maybe, just maybe, that meant that Endless and Tehodis had escaped. Maybe whatever god the bird had been sent by was the one that had shown him the boy, and had shown the elves where to find him. Maybe everything was connected, somehow.
The elves were kind and generous, caring for him like one of their own, but eventually he got restless. He was healed up enough that staying here was starting to feel like he was trapped again, and he could never shake the feeling that at any moment Sybelle or Haelrin or one of the scout fairies would find him and drag him back. The elves assured him that nobody had ever found them before, but with each day that passed he became more and more convinced that he would be found out. And another part of his mind told him that every day that passed here was a week in the mortal realm, and if Tehodis and Endless had really escaped they were getting further and further away from him with each passing moment.
Finally he thanked them for everything they had done but he had to leave. He had to get out of the feywild. He knew how to travel between the planes easily enough, as he had taught many wayward mortals how to return to their own plane, but this would be the first time he had ever done it himself. The thought was terrifying, but less terrifying than what could happen if he stayed, and so it was without ceremony that he left the village that had been his home for almost a month – telling time by the sun was something he would never again take for granted – and found his way to a fairy circle, a portal between realms that even he could work.
”You ready for this?” He took a breath and nodded. ”Yeah, I’m ready.”