“Yes. Jin, don’t you know who he is?”
“No idea. Is he important?”
“He’s pretty much the ruler of Rising until the new king is ordained. He’s the regent. In fact, remember, I’ve told you this before. Why are you asking?”
“I guess I never paid attention before. Anyways, so he’s also the one that gave your mom a servant? He’s the one that makes the decisions about how many guards are in place? Would he have been the one to send Darius on missions, too? How long has he been regent?” Va’il asked. He was becoming intense in his questions.
“Ever since Fidel passed away. Right away. He has absolute power right now. And yes, he makes all those decisions. Why? Wait, what are you implying? Him?”
“It makes sense now! It was his name! I’m so ignorant of noble and kingdom affairs, I wouldn’t have known two years ago anyways! Maybe you didn’t hear it, but those three foreigners that we ran into at that time, they mentioned Jin.”
“Did they? I’m not so sure. Maybe a different Jin?”
“No, Ruby, it makes sense if they meant him. I bet they came to see someone important, maybe it was him. Is he a good guy or a bad person, Ruby? Is he doing things he’s supposed to? Is he being forced by them to do secret things?”
“I… I don’t know. He’s been an adviser to Fidel, and Fidel’s father. He was regent before, and is again. I don’t know much about him. I don’t think he’s a bad person.”
“Then maybe something else. Maybe a foreign nation threatened him. Or something else entirely. But now, I think we should find out more about him. Meet him, maybe?”
“You might be jumping to conclusions, it’s not an uncommon human name after all. But, I’m not so sure anymore. Maybe I was just being paranoid. Va’il, what do you think we can do? Don’t you think you can just be around, a bit more, and watch out for me? See if there is anyone watching me? You’re… you’re… we should go now.” Ruby stopped, stood up, and picked up a large sack that had been on the ground.
“What’s that?” Va’il asked.
“These are something fun. I wanted to show them to you first, now that they are finally done. Once we are outside,” Ruby said. She slung the bag around neck and under her right arm, and then took a step back. She looked like she was going to fall backwards, so Va’il rushed over to her. He put an arm on her shoulder and kept her up.
“Are you alright?” Va’il asked.
“No,” Ruby said quietly, and then she fell to her knees.
“Ruby? Hey, what’s wrong?” Va’il asked. He reached down, holding out an arm. As he bent over, he realized he was dropping too quickly.
Va’il’s knees hit the ground. His balance left him. He tried looking up, but his neck had lost its power as well. He glanced sideways. Closing in on him and Ruby was a group of people. One of them was the patron that had sat just a few tables away from them. Another was the waiter. With them was also a person Va’il couldn’t make out, as well as a bearan in the uniform of a city guard.
Va’il tried focusing, but he was having trouble. He managed to focus on another object, and a startling realization hit him. He saw the teacups. The waiter, the teacups, and the problems he was now having. Ruby was still next to him, barely moving, her eyes still open and wide with fright. They had both been drugged. But he couldn’t understand why.
In another few moments, the group was upon the two teens. They couldn’t resist as the men seized them and took them out the back of the restaurant. Va’il’s vision went in and out as he was carried. He couldn’t tell how much time passed as he was moved, and he knew he wouldn’t be able to put up any resistance in his weakened state. Unable to think of what to do, he could only think of one thing. “Save us,” he thought, repeating it even after they stopped.
The dirt ground wasn’t any better than being on the shoulder of the man. Va’il and Ruby were placed in what Va’il thought was a barn or stable. A few candle-torches lit the inside, revealing that they had been closed inside while the men who had captured them conversed outside. Va’il could barely make out the words, but his first priority was to check on Ruby.
“Ruby?” Va’il asked. He had trouble saying even that.
“Unn,” Ruby replied, unable to make a real reply. Va’il heard her, managed to push himself upright with weakening arms, and turned to look at the girl. She looked back at him, unable to move. They were at the back of the stable, and Ruby had been sat upright against the wooden wall. Va’il moved himself back, until he was sitting at Ruby’s left. He took her left hand with his right one. She gripped it, looked at Va’il, and then closed her eyes. Va’il could feel the effects of the drug as well, but he managed to keep conscious.
The door to the stable opened, and a bearan entered.
“They’ll be your responsibility,” a voice from outside said.
“I know. I’ll take care of it, thoroughly,” the bearan said.
“I expect no less,” the voice said.
“Of course. Still, who are they?” the bearan asked.
“Just do your orders,” the voice said. The door then closed.
“Of course, of course. You two aren’t very lucky, are you? Just who are you?” the bearan asked. He took a few steps towards Va’il and Ruby.
“Oh, you probably can’t answer, I’m sorry. Why do you deserve this? Can’t answer? That’s too bad. Well, it doesn’t look like we can chat, after all,” the bearan said. He looked down as the couple held hands, unable to respond to their imposing captor. He grinned widely, showing the great teeth of a bearan.
Va’il couldn’t resist the tears that started coming as the bearan came closer, his menacing visage of size and teeth and claws being that of an executioner. Va’il’s thoughts at first were very jumbled, confused, and as disoriented as his limbs. Through the haze, Va’il saw the bearans hands, and the sight of sharp claws cleared Va’il’s mind. He couldn’t help but to think one thing.
“Save us,” Va’il thought. He thought it repeatedly, unable to concentrate on anything else. The extraneous thoughts disappeared as that one urgent need took over. His right hand gripped Ruby’s, which had already gone limp. And his left scratched at the dirt beside him, in what seemed to be a half-hearted attempt to move away from the advancing bearan.
Va’il looked up at the bearan, who was now directly above him. His eyes met the bearan’s eyes for a moment, but then a feeling came to him. The disgust of a large amount of dirt under the claws on his left hand arose in him. He looked down at his hand, and with what remaining strength he had, he pulled his arm away from the dirt. He placed his left hand on Ruby’s left, and then looked up at the bearan man. He wanted to give the man a final look of scorn and hatred. The bearan glanced at where Va’il’s hand had been, looked at Va’il’s eyes for a moment, and then again looked at the dirt.
“There, you have my hatred. You can’t look at me again, can you?” Va’il thought. Resigning to the inevitable fate that the claws were soon to give him, he gave in to the drug’s mercy and fell unconscious.