"So, any last words?" Abeke said in her sweetest voice, a knife poised at the boy's neck.
The boy didn't turn around.
"Let me guess; is it that silly little girl who tried to drown herself in a cauldron?"
"Or is it that unsophisticated idiot of a spy who was dumb enough to fall into a trap marked with a glow-in-the-dark sign?"
Abeke felt slightly irritated for a moment and calmed down again after gritting her teeth violently.
"I'd rather have that. After all, I am an amateur, so I guess I can afford to make a few small mistakes."
Abeke got the odd impression that the boy was rolling his eyes.
"Even an amateur has to be better than that." he pointed out. "You'd probably lose your apprenticeship."
"Oh, whatever." ranted Abeke. "What do you know about spies? I thought you were a serial killer!"
"I'm both." the boy said, looking slightly full of himself.
"Oh, really?" Abeke asked scathingly.
"What are you then? An assassin?"
"Give me back my staff before slice off that stupid head of yours!"
The boy was not intimidated in the slightest.
"Do you really think you could do that?" he asked. "And what makes you think that I wouldn't kill you first?"
It happened so fast that Abeke's brain didn't have time to process it.
Quicker than thought, Abeke's feet were knocked out from beneath her, and in a blur of motion, Abeke found herself pinned against the wall with her own knife pressed against her throat.
"I seem to remember that the last time we met, I promised to kill you." the boy said, his eyes cold.
Abeke let out a small nervous laugh.
"No need." she tittered. "I really don't want to give you any trouble."
The boy smiled warmly and shook his head.
"No, no," he told her generously. "I'm a man of my words, after all. Do you wish to be decapitated or stabbed?"
"Which is the less painful option?" Abeke asked timidly.
"Decapitation, I suppose." the boy said. "Though you might have to be cut a few more times if you're unlucky. Necks are hard to get through with a small knife like this one."
He pointed with his chin at Abeke's knife.
"Five times might do."
Abeke gulped. She really did not fancy that particular prospect in the least.
"I don't want to be killed at all, actually," she said politely. "Can I go now?"
"Oh, come on." the boy coaxed. "It'll be fun! It's practically painless."
"But if you really want to live, give me a good reason not to kill you." the boy offered. "If I like your answer, I might let you go."
Abeke desperately tried to think of a good thing to say, something that might make this homicidal maniac think twice of 'the value of human lives' or whatever gibberish they taught at school.
"Umm...what right do you have to kill me?" she asked.
"Because I saved it. So I feel that I have every right to take it away." the boy explained logically.
Abeke clenched her jaws. She was having a very hard time indeed coming up with an answer to such a reasonable statement.
Thinking about it, Abeke was quite sure she was done for. Goodbye, life!
Then something occured to her.
"If you were going to kill me," Abeke said slowly, "why did you save me in the first place?"
For a minute, the boy didn't react. Then, a smile slowly spread over his face, and his eyes twinkled, in what Abeke hoped was amusement, instead of murderous glee.
"Good answer," he said. "I guess I wouldn't have gone to the trouble of fishing you out if I wanted you dead."
He pulled away from her, letting his right arm, which he had been using to press Abeke to the wall, fall down. Abeke rubbed at her chest, which was throbbing from the pressure.
"Great. Now can you give me back my staff, please?" Abeke said, far more politely than before. She had decided to change tactics after her pathetic defeat.
"Yes, about that." The boy pulled out Abeke's staff out of nowhere.
"I'll give it back to you," he said.
Abeke had a creeping suspicion that there would be a 'but', or an 'if' coming after his sentence.
It was true.
"But on one condition."
The boy showed a hint of a smile. "I'll tell you later."
• • •
Days passed, and Abeke spent the last few weeks in solitude and loneliness.
'By God, I'm starting to miss that boy!'
Abeke did not receive that as a good omen. Maybe she really was going mad, bricked up in this tiny cupboard and all.
There was absolutely nothing to do!
Abeke ate, slept, stared at the wall, and slept. She simply couldn't understand why she wasn't allowed to get out of her room! She was starting to suffocate!
And for some reason, the door had been reinforced, so that Abeke could no longer pick the lock and sneak out at night.
Abeke didn't understand. How had they known? She had never been caught, had she?
The only thing that was even remotely interesting to do was staring out the window, which showed just how bored Abeke was.
Once, she had tried messing around with her staff, which was a bad idea since after she had blown off the roof of that particular building, she had been moved to a supposedly more secure cell, no, room, and confiscated her staff. This room was at the very top of a high, high tower. And for some peculiar reason, the only window had invisible bars, which was a shame, since Abeke had come up with an absurd idea to climb out of the window for freedom.
After a few days in solitary confinement, Abeke had turned all limp and floppy, and was lifelessly sagging on the edge of her tiny bed, feeling sick and wondering mournfully why there was no Wi-Fi in the magical world.
So Abeke wasted away, locked up in her small guestroom for the next few weeks before school, longing for the day when she would get back her freedom, the first day of school.