Chapter 70 - Marcus

Run and keep running. Run as though a pack of wolves were chasing you. Run until you can run no more.

Marcus held her hand in his. He didn't want to admit it, but Svenja was slowing him down. He kept pulling on her hand, urging her to go faster.

In the distance, he could hear the sounds of many sets of armor scrambling, hurrying, tending to an emergency. Something must have happened — but what? Had a witch escaped? Had a fellow knight rebelled? If that the case, then Marcus thanked them in his heart; this meant that no one would check on the solitary cells and notice that Svenja was gone. With a little more luck, Reinhard would never get the report that he had taken over the evening shift

Yes, Marcus breathed, the winds of fortune were in his favor — and that was precisely why he did not want to slow down. Get out of this prison while the storm of distractions lasted.

But who were they chasing?

Svenja's hand left his.

Marcus came to halt. He turned back.

Svenja was on her hands and knees. Her face was dripping with sweat, her eyes wide open. She was breathing with her mouth, her heart pounding so fast that it might burst.

"What's wrong?" Marcus got down to his knees.

"Water," she gasped. "Water."

He gave her the last of the water. He should've brought more. He helped her sit up against the wall. She was so thin, he noted. How long had she been in the prison, he wondered. All those months, maybe even years, of sitting in the cell with barely any room to move. All those months without seeing the sun. Her muscles must be weak.

And the food didn't help, Marcus thought. The food was designed to keep the witches alive — not fit. After all, a strong witch was more likely to break out.

The echoes grew louder. Clanging metal footsteps. Dozens. Hundreds. It was impossible to tell.

"These handcuffs," Svenja raised her harms, "are sucking away my power."

Gransia. Marcus frowned. It sucked away the magic in a witch's veins — but it seems that it also acted as a parasite on their stamina.

He took a deep breath. Ignore the waves of echoes. Ignore everything that was happening. Marcus cleared his mind. There were two things that needed to be done before even breaking out of the prison: water and something to break apart the handcuffs. Without water, Svenja could not go much further. And with these handcuffs on, even if they made it out, people would immediately see that there was something wrong.

Marcus glanced about. Water. But where? He had never been in these tunnels before — he didn't even know that these tunnels existed. When had the military tunneled this much under King's Pride? Why had they done it? Where did these tunnels lead to? The front line? The Eisen Kingdom?

Marcus looked at Svenja. She was still breathing deeply. Her face was pale. Her eyes gaunt. Her whole body was shaking.

"We have to get away from this place," she said.

What is it?

"There is something out there," she whispered. "Something big...it wants to devour me. I can feel it. We need to get away from this place."

She grabbed his arm and pulled herself up.

"I can't feel anything," Marcus said. He could only hear the echoes of the soldiers — left and right, up and down. Confusion everywhere.

"I can feel it," she said, "I can feel it, it's there...it's heart is beating. It is...it is crying."

"Crying?"

"Like...a child, an infant."

"I don't understand."

Svenja closed her eyes. "I don't know how to say it...it is like a child who has lost his mother. It is wailing. It...it is mourning."

Svenja glanced left and right. And then up. This is where they had to go.

"Can you walk?" Marcus asked.

"I won't die so easily."

They continued to go along the stone corridor until they found a staircase to their left that led them upwards. Where did it go? It didn't matter. Svenja said all that mattered was that it went up.

Her gransia handcuffs clinked against Marcus's armor. "Heh," she scoffed. "Whoever thought that having magic could be a burden."

Marcus said nothing. Her eyes, the pulsing golden glow was a constant reminder of the power within. He ignored the seed of doubt. There was no time for it now.

They go up and up.

They stop. There were two footsteps. Not in the distance, not echoing. But close. And approaching fast. One pair was light, the other was heavy and armored.

Reinhard and Zofia, Marcus thought. He looked at Svenja. She nodded.

Carefully, they retreated until they found a wooden door that led to a dark room. A dead end. Gingerly, he opened the door and they slipped inside.

Marcus closed the door and pressed his back against the wall, sword drawn and ready.