Another week has gone by?! How did that happen?
This material is first draft. Please do not quote or repost anywhere. Thanks.
A continuation of last week's post. Nikky has been kidnapped, and he has no idea why.
The man pulled him to a stop before a building on some winding back street. A tiny bit of light leaked from the building around the seam of a doorway. The man gave a soft rap on the door with his knuckles.
“Hilo?” someone asked through the door.
“Yes,” the man said.
The door opened wide enough to admit them, and Hilo pushed Nikky in ahead of him.
The man who had opened the door stared at Nikky and Hilo with a wary gaze. The room contained one travel lantern, guttering softly. Shadows lingered in all the corners. Nikky saw that he had entered some sort of warehouse. Crates, stacked several high, loomed over him.
“Where is she?” Hilo asked.
The man jerked his head toward the back of the room. A woman stepped from behind a stack of crates, her gaze immediately finding Nikky.
“Any trouble?” she asked Hilo.
“None,” Hilo said.
The woman came closer, the light illuminating her face. She was older than Nikky had imagined—he could see the lines on her face and the gray in her hair. She had dressed in an inconspicuous servant’s shift, but she moved and spoke like someone accustomed to power and the wielding of it.
“Where are you from?” she asked sharply. “Who are your parents?”
“C—Camdia, ma’am. I don’t know who my parents are.”
Her brows drew together and she searched his face. “Who are you and why are in Taolin? And don’t lie to me, boy. You won’t like the consequences.”
Nikky’s frightened eyes flashed from one face to the next. “Please, ma’am, my name is Nikky. I work as a crewman aboard the merchantman Sea Strider. I didn’t do anything.”
The woman turned to Hilo. “Is it safe to take him? What about the traders? Will they give us trouble?”
No one watched him. Nikky found his courage and made a desperate dash for the door. Hilo appeared between Nikky and the door before he had taken three steps.
Nikky stared into the face of his captor. Hilo looked perfectly ordinary. He would have blended unnoticeably into any crowd. One look into his eyes, however, and Nikky’s courage broke. Hilo's eyes were dead, and no spark of emotion or humanity lighted those dark depths.
“You’ll never get past Hilo, boy,” the woman said. “It would be better for you if you didn’t try.”
She nodded at the other man, who approached Nikky. He reached out a finger, saying something that sounded like silence and touched Nikky on the lips. Nikky jerked back.
“It’s done,” the other man said.
The woman nodded. “Thank you, Ira.”
Nikky felt as if his tongue had a clamp on it. He tried to say something, and realized in panic that he couldn’t talk. He grabbed his throat.
“Do not fight it,” Ira advised him. “You won’t be able to make a sound until I remove the word.”
The woman handed Hilo a bag that clinked.
“Make sure the traders don’t learn anything,” she told him. “Leave any messages here. Someone will pick them up.”
Hilo nodded and slipped through the door, taking one last, unfathomable look back at Nikky before leaving.
Ira and the woman blindfolded Nikky and led him from the building. He could feel the night air on his face. Nikky could hear Ira muttering a phrase over and over. Look away. Look away. He strained his hearing and could occasionally hear voices nearby, but he couldn’t make a sound, and the people never seemed to notice their silent progress through the streets.
After what seemed like hours, Nikky felt himself led into a building. The echoes of their footsteps bounced off walls. They stopped, and one of them removed the blindfold and shoved him forward.
Nikky blinked at the sudden light. He heard a door close behind him and whirled to hear the sound of a key turned in the lock. He did a quick turn around the room. The windowless walls were stone, the door thick wood, and a bed and table were the only pieces of furniture in the room. A lamp burned on the table. Nikky snatched the chimney from the lamp, thinking to burn his way out the door. The lamp contained no flame. Instead, the chimney glowed with a soft white light that had no discernible source. He replaced the chimney, despair and unshed tears forming a knot in his throat.
Caught. Trapped like a butterfly pinned to a board. And he didn’t even know why. Nikky gave a silent groan. He had his own bed and his own room, just like he’d wanted, didn’t he?