The door clicked open and Darian eyed the dark shadow in the doorway. His head still throbbed from the beating he had received from the prisoners a few nights prior.
“Come on, it isn’t safe,” the voice in the doorway whispered.
The voice was that of Beiromon. He hadn’t heard Beiromon’s voice before, or had he? He shook his head, which just caused the ache and dizziness to hit him particularly hard. He would have stumbled if he had been standing up.
Beiromon walked over to him and helped him to his feet.
“I’m not saying I believe you,” Beiromon said, “but these riots are getting pretty bad and I might feel some guilt if a prisoner smothered you in your condition.”
“I’m alright,” Darian responded, his mouth feeling like it was full of cotton, “What’s going on?”
“Prison Riot,” Beiromon responded, eying him up and down, “Looks like you were right about that.”
Darian started, and then stood up straighter, “Ok, then where are we going?”
He was already vaguely aware of the answer. The familiarity, the Deja Vu, was all there. He had already seen this all happen. He was vaguely aware of Devin’s unconscious form in the bed a few feet away. He considered trying to wake him, but he had ignored him in the vision.
“Away, we don’t want to face the wrath of the guards when they get things under control, and we don’t want to face any of the rioters either. That can get messy. We find a closet with a lock, and we lock it, keep it simple.”
“Run away?” Darian asked; he was just playing the part he remembered playing.
But why? Why was he reliving this almost like a dream? He needed to change it. He needed to make things different. Those thoughts seemed muddled though. Trying to move against the events of time felt almost like trying to move through jelly. He didn’t know if this was caused by his head injuries or perhaps some unforeseen effect of his gift.
“Rule one of engagement,” Beiromon responded, “Don’t. Not if you do not have to.”
“Wh…where did you get the key to my cell?” He asked.
He had not asked that question before. Just saying something different felt like tearing off his own skin. He shivered uncontrollably for a second. Beiromon didn’t seem to notice. Instead, he grunted, shrugging awkwardly with slightly coloring to his cheeks in embarrassment.
“Stay in prison a few years, you pick up a few things,” he left it at that.
Darian tried to say something else, to try to change the nature of events, but every time he began to talk his tongue seemed to get caught in his throat. They had made it halfway down the hallway towards the exit door when it burst open. Several guards poured through as Beiromon cursed. He crouched down to the ground, taking a submissive pose.
Darian had new this was coming, and quickly tried to replicate Beiromon’s position. It felt wrong, like trying to go against the nature of things, but he did it anyway. He wasn’t going to take a blow on the head today.
“Who are you!” an agitated guard snapped, eying the two cowering prisoners in disgust.
“Just innocent bystanders, we have no part of this,” Beiromon responded.
Although his posture suggested he was docile, he couldn’t quite pull the confidence and arrogance out of his voice. The guard narrowed his eyes, open anger in them, a shout from one of the other guards pulled his attention away.
He glanced back briefly,” We’ll see, stay back and don’t move or we’ll consider you hostile.”
Beiromon nodded enthusiastically. Once again, his chin was held just a little too high to truly be considered submissive. The guard growled but effectively ignored them after.
He recognized most of the guards that had entered into the hallways from his previous vision, and carefully eyed Tifran as he trudged in behind them. It was happening just as he remembered. He had to change things. Why? These guards meant nothing to him. Why should he risk his life for prison guards, guards who beat him down, then sat ideally as he was further beat down by prisoners. He owed them nothing, perhaps Tifran deserved to die.
However, there was a voice in his head that disagreed. It demanded he take responsibility to protect those he could. It demanded he preserve life. Where had that voice come from? From before? Before he was a prisoner and a tortured experiment? Was there a before? At that point and time, Darian came to a conclusion. He liked that voice. He liked it better than the cowering, the hiding, and the self-serving. He liked the idea of saving people, even if it wasn’t the right thing or in his own best interests.
Just as the guards started to reorganize themselves, the door burst open again. Darian fought his way to his feet, as he pushed his resolve, the movements became easier. The two guards that had been standing in front of the door were shoved towards their friends, knocking several of the guards down. He began to move forward, it felt easier than before.
Tifran had narrowly avoided a falling comrade, he lifted his gun to fire, but Darian was there. He caught the knife in mid air inches from Tifran’s chest. Tifran stared in shock at Darian’s hand as the knife shivered; almost demanding that it finished its flight towards his chest. He did it, he changed time. The commotion seemed to stop for a moment, as Tifran and the prisoner stared at the knife quivering in Darian’s hand. The prisoner who had thrown it, a meaty man with dark hair and eyes seemed the most surprised of all.
His shock quickly turned to anger, he roared before charging at Darian and Tifran at full speed. Tifran regained his composure, lifting the gun to fire. Darian pushed his hand as the gun fired, causing it to glaze the prisoner’s ear. Tifran glared at Darian, who ignored him, racing at the prisoner, whose momentum faltered with the hit from the bullet. He slammed into the man, shoving his knee into the man’s groin. Just because he wanted to stop people from dying didn’t mean he was going to fight fair.
He shoved the man to his right. This caused him to collide with another prisoner who in turn collided with a third prisoner. The entire momentum of the battle shifted within seconds. The guards quickly overtook the remaining prisoners once their rush had faltered. The prisoners were subdued, held to the ground and tied down with handcuffs, bed sheets, and whatever else was available to bind them.
“Well, that was interesting,” Tifran let out a breath, eying the knife in Darian’s hand.
Oddly enough, none of the guards had made an attempt to subdue him, although several of them eyed the knife uncomfortably as if considering doing so.
“I didn’t save you so you could then kill, no one dies,” Darian declared, handing him the knife.
Tifran eyed the knife Darian had placed in his hand as if he had never seen one before. He shook off his stupor and slide it behind his belt.
“People have already died, we were side blinded by this group, but another group of prisoners has already succeeded in capturing the Warden’s office. No strategic value, that, other than to drive home a point, but they certainly have hostages, and we’ll lose a dozen men taking it and subduing them.”
Darian licked his lips, “What about if I could end the conflict peacefully?”
“You?” Tifran asked, barking a laugh, albeit more forced than it might have been their last encounter.
After realizing that Darian looked serious, he eyed him up and down in an appraising look, which held just a tinge of respect. A tinge would have to do.
“You do realize that most of the prisoners here don’t hold you in a high light, even I’ve heard the rumors about that. What you’ve done here won’t do you any favors. But if you try to go in there and negotiate with them, they will tear you apart.”
“I will try to avoid that,” Darian responded, searching for a glimpse of intuition that might help him along.
At the moment, he seemed to be working without any assistance. This was all guesswork and hopefulness.
“You’re serious about this?” Tifran’s eyes widened as if he only just realized the gravity of Darian’s offer.
Tifran looked side to side at the other guards. Most of them were haggard and beaten. They were working on helping each other stand up, tending to wounds where applicable. The remainder were busy tying up or otherwise apprehending the prisoners who we still breathing. That appeared to be most of them Darian was relieved to see.
Tifran thought for a moment before responding, “I suppose I can arrange letting you in there. Worst case scenario, they tear you apart and might be in a better mood to negotiate after they get some of their frustration out.”
Darian simply nodded. He suspected Tifran meant exactly what he said. He seemed like a practical man and was just being pointed and honest. Tifran eyed him up and down once more before nodding.
“Then let’s get this done.”
Beiromon had finally stood up himself and had made his way nearby. He moved as if to join Tifran and Darian.
“No, not you,” Tifran responded.
Beiromon gave a small look of irritation before turning to Darian,” Good luck, I hope you know what you are doing.”
Darian looked to his side and noticed that Devin had finally woken up to the noise. One of the guards was securing him in his cell. He glared out at Darian with hate-filled eyes.
“So do I,” he mumbled to himself.
Like the laboratory he had been imprisoned in before this, he had only traveled a handful of locations. The path between the cells, the mess hall, and the exercise chamber were the only routes he had previously traveled. Tifran had quickly moved off into a direction Darian had not gone before. He felt a little bit of anxiety at that but fought it down. He didn’t want Tifran to think he was anxious about meeting the other prisoners. The prisoners that most likely wanted to murder him. The lord and lady, why was he doing this?
They were abruptly joined by two other guards. One of them had been in the cellblock a moment before and caught up to them while a second joined them at an intersection. The second one-eyed Darian up and down once but made no comment as they continued to walk down the hall.
“Report?” Tifran asked, quickly straitening and adjusting the coat as it strained over his stocky bulk.
“Except for the Warden’s office, the entire place has been subdued. There are a total of 12 dead, 8 prisoners, 4 guards. We do not know how many prisoners are in the warden’s office, but they have 8 hostages, the warden, and the senior officers. Got them during a meeting I guess. We are still dragging the unconscious and surrendered back into their cells, but we don’t have a thorough account. All transport has been postponed until all prisoners have been accounted for, no one will escape,” when Tifran did not respond the new guard eyed him anxiously, “What do we do now?”
“We?” Tifran asked, an eyebrow raised.
The guard looked confused for a second, “You are the most senior officer available right now, you are in comma…”
Tifran made a shushing motion with his hands,” I know, I know, you don’t need to announce it to everyone.”
“Sir, everyone knows,” the man responded.
Tifran shook his head,” Yeah, but you don’t need to say it out loud, that makes it more official. I’ve spent a great of my life avoiding situations where I’m in charge.”
“Alright! Alright…,” Tifran sighed, nodding back at Darian,” I’m sending him in to negotiate.”
The guard looked incredulously back at Darian, “The prisoner? Isn’t he on half the other prisoner’s to kill list? He won’t last a second!”
Tifran shrugged, “Would you rather go in there in his stead?”
The guard remained silent.
“It couldn’t hurt, and his death is better than any of our deaths, and if it goes foul, hopefully, none of you idiots will put me back in charge again, besides…,” He glanced Darian up and down one last time,” I have a good feeling about it.”
The guard opened his mouth to speak again, but a sharp look from Tifran and a warning look from the other guard quieted him. They finally rounded a corridor in the long maze. Darian wasn’t entirely sure where he was and doubted he could make it back to the cells if he had wanted to. This place was incredibly large. Much larger than he had imagined while cooped up in his cell. The corridors seemed to go on forever.
In front of them sat a large receiving room. It wasn’t as large as the mess hall, but what it lacked in size it had in grandeur. A large polished wooden desk sat to the left. It had several plants scattered throughout in pots, Darian could not remember the last time he had seen a plant. There were curtains covering windows. This room actually had windows. To space, Darian presumed.
The room had several guards. Most of them had guns trained on the door across from their entrance. When they saw Tifran, a few of them saluted. Tifran brushed it away with the back of his hand before acknowledging them.
“This is an unfortunate situation,” Tifran addressed them frankly, piquing every guard’s interest,” Shut up, sit tight, and don’t question me and it will be resolved.”
Each guard took his comments a little differently. Some looked reassured, others mildly annoyed, and some simply just looked reserved. Darian was still staring around the decorated room when he realized Tifran was eyeballing him.
“Alright, I got you here, now what? And you better not screw this up,” the stocky guard glared.
Darian looked around the room. Well, his time was up. What was he going to do? Tifran tapped his foot impatiently as he took another look around the room. He was looking for a hint. It was the third look over when he realized it. His eyes kept lingering at the desk, at a package on the desk to be exact.
“What is this?” He asked suddenly taking several steps over to the desk.
Tifran stopped with his mouth open, apparently about to say something. Instead, he nodded to a nearby guard.
The guard spoke up,” It’s the warden’s stock; everyone knows he collects wines. It’s one of his purchases. Taerra stock if I am not mistaken.”
“And he keeps them in his office?”
The man nodded, a look of confusion on his face as Darian grinned. Tifran did not look confused, he just looked curious. Darian grabbed the box and began opening it. Some of the guards shouted in protest but a quick scowl and gesture from Tifran stopped them. Within a few moments, he had removed all of the wrappings bearing two bottles of wine.
With a quick motion, he broke the neck off of one of the bottles and a gasp went resounding through the room. He poured the contents into his mouth, slurping noisily. As he drank, more than half of it spilled down his neck onto his clothing. A few of the guards gave Tifran a disgusted look, but he ignored them as he watched Darian.
“Wish me luck,” he said turning towards the room and grabbing the second bottle; he noticed that no one did.
He stumbled several steps forward. It was a shame; he needed all the luck he could get. Then he burst into the room, turning and closing the door behind him and cutting himself off from the guards outside. He heard several sounds of surprise and protest from both sides of the door. He took a deep breath and turned around; adopting the stupidest grin he could muster.
The room was easily as large as the receiving room, also consisting of a desk and several shelves full of books. More books than he had ever seen before. An entire wall was dedicated to those books. He had heard that there was a library somewhere in the prison, but he had not been to it. Still, the hundreds of books simply for the amusement of one man seemed almost profane to him. This also meant that man must be smart. He supposed liking and owning books doesn’t necessarily dictate intelligence, but he didn’t have time to dwell on it too much.
There were five prisoners. To his relief, none of them were ones he recognized from the gym fiasco. He supposed most of those prisoners were still recovering in the infirmary at this point. Of the seven hostages, six of them were on their knees in the middle of the room with guns pointed at them. Only one of them, who did not wear a one-piece jumper like the others, sat in a chair. This instantly showed him as the warden of this facility. Darian had never met the man before, although he suspected very few prisoners had.
The man had a worn look to his face with several lines. His hair was starting to grey along the edges of a light brown frame. His blue eyes seemed almost a startling contrast to the gray highlights. Something about his face tugged at Darian’s memory. He didn’t know what it was. Did he know this man? He wished he could remember his past, but had long since come to terms with the loss of his memories. What kind of man was he, before his imprisonment? There was a before, he was almost certain of that. Everything from before was gone, even Professor Faraday’s face was sometimes hard to picture, although the memory loss seemed to have stopped after the end of the experiments.
Darian quickly snapped back into reality as a gun was jabbed into his face. A hand darted out to grab his arm. He smoothly avoided it, stumbling into the room several more steps. They could have shot him at any second, although he didn’t think they would. Regardless of his intuition or powers or whatever it was that afflicted him, he was terrified that with the slightest slip-up, he would be dead. Of course, he didn’t have much of a life, to begin with, at least none that he could remember, but he still wanted to live. He still thought that he had something more important to do.
He swallowed down his fears hard, looked up at the group of astonished prisoners, and grinned even larger.
“What in the name of the lord and lady?” One of the prisoners spouted.
One of them had a look of authority. He had many scars, broad shoulders, and a poor look about him, even by prisoner standards, but the way the other prisoners glanced his way suggested he was in charge.
“Well look at this, if it isn’t that traitor from cell block F. The one that tried to spoil our little fun,” one of the other men grinned while the leader watched darkly,” Well it looks like some gracious deity has blessed us with a very good gift, seems like we’ll get something good out of this all along.”
“You mumble,” Darian mumbled, stumbling forward past the desk and the warden.
The warden furrowed his nose. Darian must have smelled from the booze. He hoped it was the drink. He reached into the back of the desk, pulling out a corkscrew he had known was there. The prisoners stared in shock, not quite sure what to make of a man who appeared to have no fear of the guns in their hands. He opened up the remaining wine bottle with the corkscrew and took a swig.
“The man’s drunk as an Usarian, what’s the fun in torturing him, he probably won’t feel a thing,” one of the other prisoners whined.
The leader just watched him quietly as he fell back in one of the chairs. They were not particularly comfortable, but Darian did not have either the room or the experience to complain.
“We can at least kill him, one less snitch to make our lives hell,” The prisoner growled over at the one Darian saw as the leader.
“A snitch?” Darian slurred with incredulity,” I’m not a snitch, I’m a fortune teller, how was I suppose to know who you are and what your plans are unless you tell me?”
“Why would we tell a snitch like you anything!?” The man shot back, stopping when he realized the fallacy in his own argument; no one had told Darian anything.
The man in charge rose his hand and the prisoner went quite, “Why would I care to believe you didn’t know? And why shouldn’t I kill you anyway, simply on principle?”
The leader was surprisingly articulated, much unexpected for a man that looked as rough around the edges as he did. Darian leaned forward, placing a drunken sneer on his face, made slightly easier by the fact that he had ingested quite a bit of alcohol and it did seem to be having an effect. When was the last time he had alcohol? He shook the errant thoughts away.
“I have a question for you,” he responded, “Why are you here in this room? What do you hope to accomplish?”
The man’s face flashed anger, but Darian couldn’t stop now, he had to keep going.
“Because I can see the future, and you will fail, and every prisoner in this room will die.”
The man’s anger flared even more. His face turned red. He lunged forward, grabbing Darian by the clothing from across the desk and dragging him up, their faces almost touching. The bottle fell to the floor and broke.
Darian’s words did seem to have a visible effect on the others though. It appeared that there had been at least some spread of rumors suggesting that he was a psychic. These men, on the other hand, were near the breaking point already. He had only one chance to make it out of this alive. It was a thin narrow path that he seemed to be walking down, like a walking rope. The slightest error and he would fall to his death. This was it, this was the gamble. This would be his death or his salvation.
Darian whispered in a voice that only the leader could hear, “Trust me. I can get us both out of this alive. More than that, I can help you avenge your brother.”
He hadn’t initially intended on saying the last part. He had no clue why he did, other than it felt right. He couldn’t read the man’s mind or know how the man felt, but he knew what he needed to say to survive the situation, and so he said it. It felt odd, just saying things that randomly popped in your head, which was made stranger when they had some relevance to the person overhearing them. The man’s face went white for an instant.
“How did you?” he looked with questioning eyes, but the anger quickly returned.
With a swift strike, he hit Darian across the cheek. Darian went to the carpet. That had not gone the way he had hoped. He supposed that it was too easy. Or maybe he was wrong. He felt at his head. It looked like the alcohol was good for something, after all, certainly took the edge off the pain from his previous beating. He slowly rose to his feet.
“You can’t trick me. Why are you here?” The man asked angrily.
“Oh me?” Darian smirked, leaning back against a bookcase against the wall.
He felt around for a second until his hand fell on a particular book, he had a good feeling about that book,” I’m just here for the booze.”
Click. He pulled the book, releasing a small mechanism. A carefully hidden door swung open at a nearby cabinet. Darian turned to it, already suspecting what he would find. Alcohol. Four shelves were full of every kind of alcohol. Many of them looking quite high in quality. Several of the prisoners make exclamations of surprise.
“Drink up boys, that’s your way out of this. Let me handle the rest.”
At first, the prisoners looked at each other in confusion. However, the reality seemed to dawn on each of them one by one. They were going to die in this room, surrounded by guards ready to storm in. At least they could claim one last prize before that happened.
One by one they each grinned. The warden made an exclamation of protest but quickly quieted himself after a look around the office. After checking to make sure each of the hostages was gagged and bound, the prisoners moved towards the shelves, perusing the shelving and grabbing their individual alcohols of choice. All except their boss, who eyed Darian darkly. After a moment his eyes relax and he sighed, his shoulders going lax.
“And just like that, my little rebellion is over…” he shrugged in resignation, “It seems like my soldiers would desert me. Fitting I suppose.”
“What is your name?” Darian asked cautiously.
“Roan,” the man answered slightly reluctantly.
The other five prisoners had already completely abandoned their weapons, popping open bottles and noisily slurping down alcohol at an alarming rate.
Roan looked at Darian uncomfortably before speaking, “Will you, do what you promised? How did you know?”
“I told you, I’m psychic, I seem to be saying that a lot today,” Darian shrugged, “But I promise you, I’m a man of my word, at least I’ve decided that’s the kind of man I want to be.”
Roan hesitated for a moment,” It’s strange. I seem somehow…compelled to want to trust you. You’re a strange man, and I don’t even know your name.”
“Alright Darian, what do we do now?” Roan asked.
“I’ll work on what comes next, right now, drink some top-shelf alcohol, may be the last time any of us get that opportunity in a long time.”
A grin broke out on Roan’s face for the first time since Darian had met him,” I suppose I can manage that.”
Roan went over to the cabinet, pulling out a selection of scotch. Unlike the others, who drank from the bottle, he poured a cup and lightly drank, the slight smile staying on his lips as he savored the liquid. Darian was actually a little shocked that the prisoners had so easily been swayed with the temptations of alcohol. As he thought about it though, he realized these men were already beaten before he had entered the room. They were looking for a way out, even if that way was at the bottom of a bottle.
Darian observed each of these mean, beaten down as they were, as they continued to drink. At time went on, most of the prisoners eventually ended up on the floor, collapsed in a drunken stupor. Darian secretly contemplated what each of the men had done to end up there, and what they were before then. He imagined the short-haired man could have been a small business owner; perhaps he had embezzled some money. Another older grizzled man might have been a trade laborer. Perhaps he got into a bar fight one night when he got too drunk. Then there was Roan. He sat quietly in the corner, drinking his scotch while watching the hostages with a wary eye. He occasionally glanced over at Darian, before mumbling and shaking his head and taking another sip.
“That was quite an expensive collection of alcohol you just wasted on these ruffians,” the man in the chair suddenly spoke as the last of the prisoners had collapsed in a drunken stupor, save for himself and Roan.
“It was either that or your life,” Darian responded.
The warden nodded reluctantly,” It was clever, I will afford you that compliment.”
Darian decided not to take offense at the briskness of the warden’s comment. He supposed that this was simply that kind of man. Direct, haughty, and confident to a fault. Darian sat down in the chair adjacent to the aging man.
The warden had gaunt cheeks and darkness under his eyes that suggested more than this single night of lost sleep. He kept his chin up just slightly higher than what Darian would have considered polite. Perhaps this is how all nobles hold themselves? Was this man a noble? Darian had never met one, but he supposed warden would be an acceptable title for a low ranking noble. He’d follow through with his promise. He’d get them all out of this. However, it was still a razor’s edge, and he had to play his part perfectly.
“I suppose you’ll be wanting a reward for this?” the warden asked after a moment.
“For what?” Darian looked up.
“For freeing me,” the warden sniffed with a hint of confusion in his voice.
“Why would I free you, now you are my prisoner,” Darian shrugged.
The hostages who overheard this shifted uncomfortably, their growing excitement for their inevitable escape being tarnished somewhat. To the warden’s credit, he didn’t blink. His eyes darkened a bit though.
“So, that is how this is going to play out, is it?” the man said with a tinge of anger in his voice.
“Don’t get me wrong, you can go,” Darian placated, “After I receive some assurances.”
The warden eyed Darian suspiciously, “What kind of assurances?”
Darian walked over to the cabinet, pulling out a bottle of whiskey. He had no real taste for alcohol. The bottle he and swigged as part of his rouse burned going down. However, his head did feel better now. Either way, this bottle looked expensive and rare. He also had an inkling the warden was susceptible to it. He put the bottle down, pouring a glass for the warden.
“Sit tight, this is going to be a long night,” Darian smiled.