Phoenix waited anxiously by the heavily curtained windows pacing to and fro. Biting her nails down to the point where it was beginning to pain her. Cillian was yet to return from a reconnaissance mission he’d set out for hours ago. She stopped and cautiously peered out through the heavy net curtains once more at the town’s square.
Below, the dull humdrum of the locals busily going about their work was silencing now as the crowd dispersed into the thin walls of the houses fanning out like a maze. Phoenix grabbed the antique eye-piece from the small side table, and extending its metal body gazed down upon the square, and especially at the upright, one-man wrought iron cage adorning the square’s center. Her spine tingled in anticipation of another bone chilling wail which had filtered out of the rusting inhuman cage at regular intervals throughout the day. She was kind of glad that it had stopped now. Hearing the screams of agony from a raw throat had made her feel nauseated to the point that she had at one point hurriedly rushed into the bathroom, retching.
Phoenix was drawn back to it now as a waft of wetness in the wind hit her face. She looked up at the darkening night-sky and could see the blanket of heavy storm brewing and rumbling along over the town. She tightened her grip on the eye-piece and pulled focus on the cage. It was far too dark for her to make out any movement inside. Phoenix drew a painful breath and spied the town square once again. There were still a few locals loitering lazily about, gathering their clothing off balconies, or bringing in merchandise to the safety of their stores.
A storm was about to hit Palle and its people could smell it in the air, the mud, the sharp sodden smell of earth, the crunch of the wind, the battering of the raindrops on terracotta roofs that leaked. Suddenly, an enormous flash lit the sky into day, and the town square drowned in its sudden deathly brightness.
Phoenix heard dogs barking, children’s’ frightened screams, the battering of the windows as the wind begun to tunnel its way. She saw sudden scampering as the shopkeepers hurriedly pulled their doors down, mother’s squealing at their children to get indoors. In just a minute, the square that had jittered with nervous people lay abandoned –all except one. The rebel in the cage!
“That’s right cowards, run!” Phoenix muttered under her hissing breath, tears streaming down her eyes, “You’ve tortured him enough for a day, and now you run to the feeble safety of your homes.”
Another flash, another heart-stopping clap of thunder, Phoenix turned the eye-piece back to the gloomy hulk of the cage. Darkness was now veiling the town in its dense glory. She shuddered involuntarily – the idea of being caged in an enchanted hold and left out to the mercy of Mother Nature made her skin crawl.
A hunched-back, haggard, old man was approaching the cage on shaky legs, his cane equally quivering in his weak hold. It’s low clipping on the cobalt stones reaching her eager ears. Leave him alone! She wanted to cry out, but bit her tongue. She watched him intently though. If the old man was up to anything, she wanted to know about it. Perhaps even curse him at that, since she was getting pretty good at diversionary spell-work.
The old man tapped the cage with his cane and called to its occupant through friendly hisses. Phoenix straightened up, anxious. The man tapped the cage again, but no reaction. Phoenix watched him pull closer to the metal surface.
Breath held in his lungs, the man peered through the small squares of the giant grate of the cage. Inside, the exhausted figure seemed to have passed out, crouched on the small floor, his knees pushed against one wall while his back pressed against the opposite. The old man’s young heart thundered with equal intensity of the thunder that was tearing up the sky. He was outraged. The thick bullet-like droplets of rain torpedoed down, splattering painfully on all surface. And as he stared at the young man thirsty, tired and barely breathing, thoughts rumbled through his mind. How dare they? Who had allowed such an incapable, greedy, selfish man to last so long in a position of power? Why were hundreds and thousands of men, women and children so afraid of one man and his namesake of an army, allowing him to play God with innocent lives?
He tapped the cobalt stones angrily with his cane and Phoenix felt its vibration rattle the window frame upon which she was perched. One thing was certain, looking down at the old man; Phoenix knew he was one powerful wizard that a mere tapping of one cobalt stone with his cane could rattle the town. Not that the extremely fearful people of the town would notice, but she had.
The old man rummaged through his soaking cloak. He brought out what looked like a small leather pouch, a tiny spout in one end. Phoenix jumped. Fumbling around her tied up hair for the thin wand which had once belonged to her mother, and perhaps her mother’s mother before her. She had only just managed to point it at the old man with vengeful hatred when the door of the room flew open and a small dwarf figure entered uninvited without so much a glance towards the erect frame about to curse an old man down in the town’s square.
Startled, Phoenix spun around to witness Cillian changing back to his tall self. “Put that silly wand away before you hurt someone…” he said in a single breath before collapsing like a log onto the shaggy bed, his energy all drained.
“Remind me never, ever to change into a kid again,” he weakly cracked a smile. “And this one had very disturbing thought patterns.”
Without a word, Phoenix turned her attention back to the square below. The old man was long gone. Panicked, she checked her wrist. The bracelet was still warm against her skin, and she heaved a great sigh of relief. Dean was still alive, and that was all she cared about. She gracefully pinned her hair back with the wand once more and walked over to the bed and flopped next to Cillian, whose clothes were soaking water into the mattress.
“Maybe I could go next time, disguised” Phoenix stared towards the fluttering curtains. ‘Is he going to be okay in the storm?’ She added after a pause.