I was given another bowl of the delicious mush, which I ate, this time with more difficulty because my back really ached when I bent over to eat like a dog. I certainly didn’t sleep though. Oh you can be sure of that. I didn’t sleep. Knowing that you are going on trial in one hour is not nearly the cure for sleepiness that knowing you are to be executed in the morning is.
“Eaglethorpe,” a voice called.
I turned to see Jholiera bathed in the light of the setting sun as it diffused through the trees. She was no longer dressed as a boy. She had on a leather dress cut in an elven style with a leaf motif carved into it. It left her shoulders bare and though her form was slight, there was no longer any question that she was a young woman. She had golden jewelry on her arms and a delicate golden crown on her head.
“Eaglethorpe, how are you?”
“I’ve a pretty nasty stab wound in my back, and my arms are aching from them being tied behind me. I think I skinned my knee when I was trying to eat from a bowl like a dog, but there’s no way to check. Oh yes, and they are going to kill me in a few hours. Other than that, I’m fine.”
“Come here, close to the bars.”
I did as directed and she reached through the bars and cut the bands that were holding my wrists together. My muscles cried out as blood rushed back into them, and a shooting pain went from my back straight into my heart.
“I think I shall die before they have a chance to kill me,” said I. “Serves them right.”
“Don’t say that. I’m going to get you out of here.”
“I’ll be back after midnight. In the meantime, try to get some rest.”
“You have no idea, girl,” said I, as she went off into the trees.
Remarkably I did sleep this time. I must have. I don’t remember falling asleep or even sitting down. But when I was awakened by small pebbles hitting against my face, I found myself sitting against the wall of the cave.
“Ow! Stop it,” said I, as one of the small pebbles hit me in the eye.
“Quiet you,” said Jholiera. “I’m almost ready to rescue you. Get over here and wait by the cell door. You have to be ready at a moment’s notice.”
“Why aren’t you rescuing me now?”
“I don’t have the key yet.”
“You don’t have the key?”
“Calm down. I’ll be back in a few minutes.”
She did return, but it wasn’t in a few minutes. It was quite a bit later. In fact, by the time she did return, I was beginning to fear that the first rays of predawn light might make escape impossible. But when she arrived, Jholiera did have the key. She quickly opened the cell door, and taking me by the hand, led me through a maze of trees. We hurried around massive trunks and over fallen logs, through curtains of trailing vines, until we came to another small glade. Here was my beautiful steed, which is to say Hysteria.
I can tell you I had a hard time saddling my horse due to my injury. But with the elven princess’s help, the deed was soon done. As I prepared to mount, Jholiera stopped me.
“Thank you Eaglethorpe,” she said, and gave me a tender kiss on the cheek.
“You are coming with me, aren’t you?” I asked. “You can’t live with such a horrible father, or marry such a horrible husband.”
“Don’t worry. My father is not so bad. And Iidreiion probably won’t want to marry me anyway after he finds out what I had to do to get the key away from his cousin. Besides, I’ve had enough adventuring for now. I just want to stay home and be safe.”
With that she gave me an even tenderer kiss on the cheek. I climbed into my saddle and took off through the woods, just as the early dawn was beginning to break. And I never saw the little elven princess again.