Francesca shivered on the cold, stone floor of her cell, stuck in endless black, growing crazier every immeasurable minute. Fran didn’t mind the timelessness of her prison, but the dark terrified her.
Rough, muffled voices broke through the sealed door of her cell, and she crawled towards the sound of her kidnappers, desperate for light. Finally, as the entrance cracked open and she stole a glimpse of the dim torches in the catacombs, Fran let out a sob of relief. She attempted to move closer to the light, but one of the brawny Everymen pushed her back to the cell floor.
Fran looked up to see another tall rogue, a woman with long, light blonde hair, holding out a bowl of water. Fran’s instinctual thirst took over and she pulled the bowl to her lips, but she quickly realized after the sip that it was poison.
Fran spit the poison out and pushed herself away from the woman, but Arron’s cold voice drawled, “Grab her. Make her drink all of it.”
The woman was much stronger than Fran. She grasped Fran’s chin and poured the remains from the bowl into her mouth. She frantically tried to choke it out, but the tart, spoiled liquid was drowning her, and the blonde-haired woman held Fran’s face up until it all snuck down her throat. The women finally loosened her hold and Fran flung away. She tried to gag up the poison, but the ground was already swaying.
Francesca looked up and saw the woman and the brawny man stalking above her. She glanced at the doorway, where Arron the leader of the Everymen stood holding a lantern in his hand, illuminating the side of his face with a missing eye. Fran was finally able to heave something out, but it was only a small black glob that fell down her chin. The repulsive black hole that Arron showed off like a trophy sickened Francesca; the sight of it seemed to make the poison work faster.
A sickly looking boy stood by Arron’s side. The boy looked like a survivor of some harsh plague; covered head to toe in poorly healed blisters.
Find the hero with boiled scars,
Alvis, Fran thought.
In an instance, Francesca’s mission changed. She stopped cowering away like an animal and straightened her posture for duty.
“My name is Fr… My name…” She tried to speak her words with the confidence of an appointed page, but she gaged on another slimy lump that slide up her throat. Her head throbbed and the room spun.
The man and woman began wrapping a rope around her hands. Fran weakly tried to hit them away, but her movements slowed like she was fighting underwater. As the tightly fasten her bounds, Fran called out to the young man, but everything she said came out in whimpers.
“Pick her up, Morgens,” Arron said, his words echoing in her ears, “Dalin won’t have time to escape the forest if we don’t move now.”
The man lifted her off the ground, and Fran’s world became even more dizzying. She couldn’t tell which direction they were moving, and every effort to keep her eyes open made her nauseous. Still, she spoke to the boy, Dalin.
“You…you need to listen.”
Arron spoke again, “When the Silent Hour starts, you have to take her as far as possible. You can’t worry about not making it back in time.”
They exited the claustrophobic tunnels of the catacombs and entered into a large opening of the Everymen’s hidden cove. The opening seemed like a hub; it was better lit and more people wandered around and spoke to each other, but their voices were inaudible grumbles and the lights were flares in Fran’s vision.
“If she isn’t torn to shreds out there, if she stays alive, you will be blamed.”
“Yeah, yeah, I’ll get it done.”
“You better, merchant boy.”
The son of greed will free the bars.
The gruff hands of Morgens set Fran down in a wagon; she heard the hooves of the horse attached to it. The siblings drifted away from Fran’s sight, and the silhouettes of Arron and Dalin walked towards her, Dalin stepping with a limp. Arron handed him his lantern and a burlap sack.
“Leave now, the Silent Hour already started.” Then the foul leader of the Everymen left his recruit to do his task.
Dalin the merchant boy knelt down over Francesca. The light of the lantern revealed his unfortunate features. Slimy brown hair fell to his chin. It framed his gaunt face, which grimaced in pain. The disease that ailed him might’ve gone, but its symptoms left a mark. The fleshy blemishes seem to eat away at his face, as a chunk was missing on the tip of his nose. He looked like a rotting corpse expect for his golden eyes, which shone sharp and alive.
Everything was closing in. Fran couldn’t fight the toxins much longer, but if these were the last words she spoke, it’d be the most important message of her life.
Dalin was about to put the sack over her head, when Fran used all her energy to sit up and grip Dalin’s wrist, glaring into his living golden eyes.
“You are destined to free the Alvis, the Oracle.”
Dalin’s face paled. He broke away from her. His expression was of someone who just realized they’re destined to be more than they’ve always been. This boy probably got wrapped up in the Scorched Everymen the way many others have: by convenience and circumstance. Francesca could tell he has only ever been asked to survive, to go on one more day. Dalin looked around his surroundings, contemplating his past, present, and now his call to action.
He glanced back at Fran with shame. Dalin stood up and put the sack over her head, launching Francesca back to darkness.