To those that hadn’t experienced having a spell burned out of their head, Lucy had no way to explain the pain. It was like a hot coal made its way inside her head. That combined with lack of sleep was starting to get to her. Even when she was trying to sleep, it wasn’t that comfortable to do with a gag and all of the chains preventing her from moving about. Since the only time she could practice was when she was supposed to be sleeping, it resulted in very little good sleep.
Like it or not, she had to continue. She only had perhaps another day or two before they reached the end of Dalgare. She wasn’t exactly sure on that, but based on the maps she had seen and what she knew of how fast people travelled, they should be reaching the border soon.
Would the last night be tonight, or tomorrow night? If it was tomorrow, she could sleep tonight and try her plan the next night. If tonight was the last, she would have only the tiniest chance of success. Perhaps she was wrong, and tomorrow night wouldn’t be too late… but if they stopped at an inn, she wouldn’t have a chance. She needed them to be camping to succeed… and that was true tonight, even if her head ached like someone was hammering on it and she could barely stay awake.
Lucy slowed her breathing to be like the other girl whose name she didn’t know. She had to seem completely normal, though she was anything but. She also couldn’t breathe too loudly, or they might notice she had shuffled herself over to the tent flap where she could peer out. The guard walked past the tent. Was that the right one? It was too dark to see clearly. She hadn’t seen the key ring, but maybe she’d just missed it. How many more times would he come by again? The later it got, the worse her chances would be. She’d already waited until past midnight for all the soldiers to be asleep.
Then it came. The jangling sound of keys. It came closer and closer to the tent, then the figure passed by. In her excitement, Lucy almost forgot the words. Or rather, the whole image of the spell. Even though she had memorized it or some version of it dozens of times over the last handful of days, it barely stuck in her head. If she had proper rest, she would have more than one attempt… but things just hadn’t worked out that way.
She concentrated. It was much harder to do this than just chanting. There, she only had to remember one word at a time… here, she had to remember everything at once. Just as the guard walked past, a hand glowing with runes appeared next to Lucy. No matter what she wished, the runes would glow- at most she could mute them. As the guard turned away, she sent the hand forward with as much haste as she could manage. The hand, along with her own real hand, grasped, grabbing onto the keys. She could feel them in her real hand… as well as the pulling as the guard moved away.
Lucy struggled to keep her hand at the same pace as the guard, then used her thumb to unlatch the keys from the belt. The force pulling on her hand suddenly loosened, but she still felt the keys in her hand. She held tightly as she retracted the mage hand, keeping the keys from jingling. If the guard had actually been watching for her, she had no illusions she could succeed. However, bound as they were, what could two women do? The soldiers had nobody dedicated to watching over them directly. Instead, they were watching for others. Though they seemed to have successfully conquered Dalgare, that didn’t mean they’d dealt with all the resistance groups yet, or even the ill will of the common people.
The key ring clanked slightly as Lucy slid it past the tent flap. However, the keys were close to being in her own, real hand. Unfortunately, before that she had to get one hand free. Now she was glad for the slight glow of the runes. They gave her just enough light to see her wrist as she tried one key after another, wincing each time the keys clanked and scratched against each other. She didn’t want to find out what would happen to her if she was caught escaping… or what might happen if she didn’t escape.
After going through every key in the ring, none of them fit the lock on her wrist. At that moment of realization, Lucy almost hit her head against the floor, and her gag was the only thing that kept her from screaming in frustration. Somehow, she kept a hold of the spell, though it continuously burned in her head. She started going through the keys one at a time again… and this time actually managed to find the right key. One of her manacles slipped off… and her spell broke apart from the relief.
That was fine. She could feel for the key in the dark… with a few tense moments, her other wrist was free. Was the key the same for her ankles? Yes, that was right. What about her gag? It wasn’t just a piece of cloth. There was a lock on the back. It was… a different one. She felt very carefully through the keys for something that seemed the right size. She could use her light spell- but her head could barely handle any more magic, and a glowing light in the tent would give her away immediately.
Click. She breathed out through her mouth, then in. It was wonderful. She looked over to the form of the other young woman. She carefully crawled over, then set to work freeing her- feet first, then hands. “Shh. Quiet. I’m going to remove your gag now.” She tried to have her voice be as calming as possible- it was entirely possible this girl didn’t understand her if she was from Dalgare. The similarities in their languages weren’t that close, especially when taking into account someone just woken in the middle of the night. Lucy thought she saw her nod.
Click. The other young woman likewise took a deep breath through her mouth, then whispered. “Quiet.”
“Okay. We’re going to escape from here, okay? You know where the horses are?” A head nodded in the dark. “Listen for the next guard. After he goes past, I’ll go out and you follow.”