Maybe I should have just went along with the whole thing. Vak promised he’d get me out. “Oh, like you did last time?” I asked him, furious that he would even suggest I be caught again.
“That was different, Rakayl. This wouldn’t be you really being captured, just allowing yourself to get taken in. And there‘d be all kinds of fuss made over the criminal who obliterated an entire plantation, and just think of what I could do in the distraction. ”
But I refused out of hand. So the bastard betrayed me, and there I was sitting in a cell hoping that he would get me out even though I didn’t agree to the damn plan--if you can even call it a plan.
I’d known Vak for a long time, and we’re friends, sometimes, and occasionally more than friends. But I didn’t trust him, or rather, I knew he wasn’t trustworthy. I didn’t blame him--I’m hardly a paragon of loyalty and honesty myself. But I was not going to depend on Vak rescuing me. And I sure as hell wasn’t going to stay in the dungeon, or let myself be sold or executed. And if I hung around long enough to be tried, I’d be executed.
The problem was, I had no idea how to escape. I wasn’t just in any common jail, but the best guarded dungeon in Balirmind, deep underneath the castle. The walls and floor and ceiling were solid stone, the door heavy iron, with a window too small to fit through, and barred to boot. Heavily armed guards paced outside the cell. I’d sworn that I’d learn to be able to escape if I was ever captured again, but though I’d learned how to take down basic wards and magic barriers, it would be of no use.
So I’d have to escape through subterfuge. Vak had been right, when he said that my capture would cause a fuss. A constant stream of people came to peer at me through the window. King Narden, a very young man who’d only recently been crowned, came by several times, as did various government officials, relatives of my so-called victims, and concerned or merely curious citizens.
At first, I sat in the back corner of the cell, thinking and plotting and pretending to ignore everyone who came by, though actually studying them carefully. Sir Briyad, the man I finally settled on, was well dressed and had an aura of power--probably one of the king’s more important ministers. He was clearly wealthy, and wealthy men tend to be greedy. And the greedy are easy to manipulate.
I went to the door and said quietly, through the window, “Do you know why I’m here?”
“Because you’re a mass murderer who destroyed an entire plantation.”
“Surely you don’t really believe I could have done that,” I scoffed. “Everyone knows that it was the king of Majardea that did it.” For that was the rumor, in Balirmind.
“He swears he didn’t.”
“You can’t expect him to admit to mass murder, can you?”
“Just saying I believed you--which I’m not--why are you here, then?”
“Well, it was my, erm, friend. See, he has… something he shouldn’t, something valuable, and I know about it, so he made up that whole story about me being behind all that so I’d be put away and nobody would believe anything I say. Seems like it’s working pretty well, wouldn’t you say?”
“I never said I don’t believe you--” Sir Briyad assured me hurriedly. I smiled inwardly. “What specifically is the valuable object your friend has?”
I leaned forward, and whispered, “The Mirror of Azerbjingardolinderia.” I was even telling the truth, for the most part.
He was hooked, of course, and the next time the guards brought my food, they “accidentally” forgot to lock the cell door. I slipped out, climbed the stairs out of the dungeons, and snuck out of the castle through a side door.
Vak was waiting directly outside it. “You bitch,” he said.
“You’re the asshole who had me arrested!” I retorted, and tried to step past him. He blocked my path.
“You had my mirror stolen. don’t you even realize what you’ve done? Now not only do I not have it, but some Balirmindian noble does!”
“Actually, it’s not. I have the king.”
Vak gestured to a small copse along the castle wall. I stalked over and found the young king of Balirmind tied to a tree. “So just go back in and tell your little friend that if he values his king’s life, he’ll give back the mirror.”
“Tell him yourself! I’ve no love for anyone in Balirmind, most especially the king.”
“Fine. Guard him, then.” Vak handed me a knife and went inside the castle.
It was true that I had no love for King Narden, but I wasn’t feeling particularly happy with Vak at the moment, either, so as soon as Vak was inside, I cut the king’s ropes. I then pointed the dagger at him. “Get away before I change my mind,” I growled. He obeyed. “And you should really put an end to slavery!” I called after him. He glanced back, surprised, then disappeared into the castle. I began to walk down the road.
Vak caught up with me about ten minutes later. “I have it!” he announced, flashing about the mirror. He stopped suddenly. “This isn’t it!”
“Your own damn fault for not checking,” I said.
“Why the hell did you let the king go? Didn’t you realize we could have ransomed him off for a lot more than the mirror--than a fake mirror?”
“Maybe you should have kept a closer eye on him, then. So what, you lost the mirror, it’s not like you really need it; I mean, what good is a mirror that shows the future when you don’t actually plan things out in advance?”
He ignored me. “I’m going to get it back.”
“I’m not stopping you.”
“I didn’t spend all the time you were locked up kidnapping the king. I looted the treasury bit as well. Shockingly easy, really. I didn’t take everything, of course, but I must have a good three sacks of gold and jewels. If you help me with this, I’ll split it with you.”
“You already owe me.”
“You owe me, actually, after arranging for someone to steal the mirror!”
“You owe me for getting me arrested; that was payback, and you’re going to get the mirror back anyway! And if I go back in there, I’ll be arrested again.”
“Fine, wait here, and I’ll take you to where the money is when I get back.”
“And I get half.”
“Yes, fine, if you’ll stop being so mad about the whole getting you captured thing.” He went back into the castle.
I almost just left, but I really did want the money, so I waited. And waited. It was several hours before Vak returned, dragging Sir Briyad along with him. “This oaf of a scum ball claims he doesn’t have it!”
“I gave it to you! If you lost it, that’s your problem.”
“You gave me this!” Vak shoved the fake mirror at Sir Briyad.
“Yes; that’s what I took from you!”
“It is not!”
“Is not!” Vak turned to me. “I searched him and everything; he must have hidden it somewhere, or given it to someone--”
“I gave it to you!”
“Or, he’s telling the truth,” I suggested to Vak.
“He is not. If I don’t get the goddamn mirror back….”
“Then you’ll have to go back to not always winning your bets. Find it or don’t, I hardly care.”
I thought about waiting around to follow Vak to his loot, but decided that would be more trouble than it was worth and that I really just wanted to be out of Balirmind. So I picked a few pockets to get enough money to leave the country, and was on the next ship to Majardea.
About a week later, Zyre, a friend of mine, came up to me in the Cat’s Corpse. “Rakayl! You know that mirror that we helped Vak steal?”
“If you’re going to tell me he lost it, I already know.”
“I bet you don’t already know that the king of Balirmind has it!”
I took a long sip of my drink to hide what I was feeling, and all I said was, “That’s going to make for some interesting politics, don’t you think?”