Christa stood alone in the midst of a dreary, dimly lit passageway, its icy chill seeping into her bones. She hated the cold. With a deep sense of regret, she gazed back at the fire through the gaping hole she had just squeezed through. The heat of the flames was unable to reach her any more. Though she missed the comfort of her little fire, she gathered her resolve and wished it well as she continued forward, further in to the cold.
The dimly lit passageway seemed to shrink around her as she continued, the darkness closing in on her like a physical presence. A musty smell of mildew and decay filled the air. The walls were damp and slick with moisture, she made sure not to touch them as she made her way through. The flickering flames from the fire outside cast eerie shadows on the walls, adding to the already oppressive atmosphere. Christa's breath fogged in front of her as she struggled to keep her wits about her.
She knew all too well why she and her brother had been chosen for this task. It was because they lacked the blessings that others in their world possessed. They were the descendants of a forgotten people, ignored by the gods or deemed unworthy of their favour. But in a world where blessings were everything, their lack of them had become a blessing in its own right, making them very good at what they do. Had they borne the mark of a blessing, they would have been detected long before they had even begun their mission.
Eventually Christa arrived at the cells. They were lined up along a long corridor of thick iron bars, each one enclosing a small cell. The cells were barely large enough for a single person, and their floors were littered with straw that had long since turned grey and musty. The only light came from the moonlight through a small window at the end of the corridor, and underneath it sat a guard, fast asleep.
With a steady gaze, Christa surveyed the slumbering prison guard realising with a hint of relief that her movements had gone unnoticed. Had the guard been awake, her fate would have been sealed and the mission, a failure. The plan had been for Jax to create a distraction, drawing the guards away from the prisoner's cell while Christa snuck in to free the prisoner. She realised with amusement that since the guard was there, Jax had most likely not given the signal yet. But she had already set the fire outside, and knew that it was only a matter of time before others took notice.
She turned her attention back to the cells and behind the bars, she found the prisoners huddled in the shadows, their faces obscured by beards and matted hair. Some muttered to themselves, while others stared blankly ahead, their eyes haunted by fears of the future. The air was thick with the stench of sweat, urine, and despair.
She held her breath to shield her from the smell and silently walked forward hoping to find the prisoner. But she had no idea what he looked like. Christa had a habit of never asking the questions that really mattered, a trait that often left her in difficult positions. What’s the signal? What does the prisoner look like? How can I tell him apart from the others? It was different from her usual thievery, where the worth of her loot was easily determined. In these cells, however, she saw only hopeless eyes staring back at her.
With no other options, there was nothing she could do but ask. So, she repeatedly whispered “Orin?” as she walked past each cell.
Eventually, a hoarse and scratchy voice from the cell where the corridor began responded “Who are you?”. The prisoner was a small man, thin and frail-looking, with a wild shock of hair and a beard that reached down to his chest. He looked up at Christa with eyes that glittered in the dim light, and for a moment, she was taken aback by the intensity of his gaze. “You don’t look like any of the guards I’ve seen walk through here before?”
"I'm here to rescue a man named Orin," Christa replied, her heart racing with adrenaline.
The man grinned, revealing a set of yellowed teeth. He had a single golden tooth in place of one of his canines. "Well then, let's be about it."
Christa was overjoyed to have finally found the prisoner she was looking for. She reached the cell door and pulled out the divine lock pick that Jax had given her, her hands trembling with nerves. However, the joy didn’t last long because from the shadows of another cell, a voice spoke up. “No, I’m Orin”.
And then followed another voice, declaring “I’m Orin. I’m the one you need to rescue.”