This is set in the second world Jamie visits in Nightrise, one of the ten billion versions I could write for this plot bunny. I must admit, this has been sitting in my Word Documents for well over a year now, and I keep revising and changing it, but hey. Here goes nothing.
Sapling nodded, and glanced upwards. The sky was dark and cloudy, but it was always dark and cloudy. In fact, if it had been anything but dark and cloudy, Sapling would have been worried.
"Into positions," the leader of the small army, Marcus, called out as softly as he could.
The troops stood, some placing the things they were holding like food and books down on the ground, while others picked up their weapons from where they had lain them down while they rested. All of them moved quickly and quietly into a formation behind Marcus; too well trained to talk.
Behind a large hill that hid their entire small army from view, Sapling poked his head out and glanced at the house they were preparing to storm. He wondered if this was the place where Matt had been held captive for the past thriteen months. He, Scar, and Flint had searched everywhere, everywhere for Matt, but the Old Ones were thorough in hiding him. It still made Sapling slightly sick to remember that feeling of being so helpless, of not knowing if their leader, if their friend was even still alive, or if he had succumbed to the torture they were sure to have put him through.
Scar had gone near frantic with worry; she'd been the only one of them who had always stayed optimistic, and she hadn't allowed Sapling and Flint even think of giving up. She'd gone from begging to demanding, then to shaming, then at last to being outright angry with them. Finally, she had found Matt in the dream world, and briefly managed to talk to him. Matt told her that he was being kept underground in a house with a secret passageway, and that he was by the ocean, because he could hear the waves at night. Unfortunately, he didn't know anything other than that.
For a month now, Scar, Flint, and Sapling had been searching every single house they could find by the ocean in vain. They had started out working together, all three of them, and one army, forcibly entering house after house.
However, as they received more and more tips as to where Matt might be, they were forced to split up to cover more ground. However, they still kept in touch by the dream world, coming together every night hoping one of them would have some new information, but no one ever did.
Sapling and his army lined up at the very edge of the hill. Sapling drew his sword, and he swung Frost a few times, testing it, and then satisfied, he nodded to the leader beside him.
"Move in!" Marcus whispered as loudly as he could, and as one body, all the soldiers started to run forward to the house.
Sapling and the first few soldiers in the formation reached the door in a matter of seconds. They kicked open the door and streamlined into the house, followed by the other portion of the army who had caught up with them.
Having been over this many times, the soldiers dispersed into the different rooms, looking for levers, secret rooms, trapdoors, anything that looked suspicious. Sapling led the way to what looked like a spare bedroom, and engaged in knocking on the walls to see if anything echoed.
After a while of finding nothing unusual, however, Sapling was just about to called out and be forced admit that this was, like every other house they had searched, another false lead, when a shout came from the other end of the house.
"Sirs! We've found something! In the bedroom!"
Sapling immediately stopped what he was doing and turned around to get the hell out of the spare room. As he ran down the hallways and rooms to get to where the shout had said they were, all of the soldiers got out of his way so he could have a clear path. Like him, the soldiers had way too much experience in these things, and had learned that sometimes the only way to help was to move out of the way.
Although Sapling didn't like it, this was not the first time they found a secret passageway in a house by the ocean. They never led anywhere, and they only had things like food and forgotten possesions in them, but it was enough not to make him hope too much.
Barging into the room, Sapling took in everything, as by now, he was used to doing. There had been a large dresser in front of a door, and now the dresser was pushed to one side and the door was opened. There were steps leading downwards into pitch blackness, too narrow to allow more than one person on them at a time. Sapling walked to the edge of the stairs and peered down, but could see nothing.
"Who found this?" he asked, stepping away from the edge.
"I did sir," a broad shouldered young man came up before him, "with these three," he guestured behind him to three more young men.
"And what are your names?" Sapling asked, feeling stupid for not already knowing them. He wished he had time to learn everyone's names that were in his army, but there were simply too many of them, and he did not have that kind of time on his hands.
"I am Anthony, and this is Jacob, Michael, and Thomas."
Studying them, he made his decision. "Very well. You four come with me. Everybody else stay up here unless I call out for you. There's not enough room for everybody down there. We will be back."
A chorus of 'yes sir's greated him, and he nodded for the young men (and even though they were young, they were quite a few years older than him) to follow him as he walked down the stairs. They fell comfortably into single file. Somewhere behind him, one of the men, Michael, if he remembered correctly, lit a torch and passed to it to Anthony, who passed it to Sapling in the lead.
Sapling accepted it with a nod of thanks, and continued on. They walked in silence for what seemed like forever, but was probably in reality only a short time, something like ten or fifteen minutes. Somewhere down the line, Sapling lost count of the number of stairs, and focused on keeping his sanity. The air was so heavy that he almost felt like he was being buried alive, and had to focus hard to keep himself from feeling claustrophobic.
Finally, they reached the bottom and the end of the stairs. It tapered off to a wide dirt hallway with a low ceiling with doors leading to other rooms along the the whole hallway, and the whole thing had a faint metallic smell of blood to it all.
Sapling had a surge of hope, but he quickly stamped it down. Even after all of this, Matt still might not be down here. All five of the company were able to stand shoulder to shoulder again in the wide hallway, and Thomas was about kick in the first door when Sapling reached forward and stopped him.
They had no way of knowing what was behind the doors, so Sapling reached out with his mind, calling out softly, and stretching to find any other human's mind. As they all could see the end of the tunnel by the torch, there was no need for the other four to move, or to do anything, so Sapling held up a hand to still their questions while still searching for a mind.
There! His eyes flew open, and he hurried to the last door on the right. "It's this one," he said, turning to face the others. "It's this one!"
Sapling barely had time to notice that the smell of blood had gotten stronger standing outside the cell, when Thomas managed to break the huge lock by hitting it with his mace, and Sapling hurriedly pushed the door open.
"Matt!" Sapling spotted him lying on his side on the dirt floor that was stained with old blood and as soon as he reached him; knelt down beside him. "Matt, it's me, Sapling. We've come…"
He faded off as he saw Matt's eyes begin to open.
"Sapling…?" he whispered uncertainly.
"Yeah it's me," Sapling said, looking worriedly at him.
Whip marks covered every inch of his back, and some even looked to be as recent as a day or two old because they were still sluggishly leaking blood, while others were clearly older and infected. It almost looked as if chunks of his back had been torn out, and Sapling had a flashback to a whip he had seen once that had glass lining the ends of the whip, designed for that very purpose.
Bruises, severe burns, broken bones, cuts made meticulously with a knife—Sapling had to shut his eyes against the grusome picture. The Old Ones had had a year to torture Matt, and they hadn't been idle.
Jacob stepped forward and gently lifted him up without asking his permission. Matt had cried out weakly when he lifted him up, but then made no further noise of protest. Jacob appologized profoundly for disturbing his wounds, but Matt was too far gone to even notice.
Sapling took his hand and squeezed it, though careful not to hurt him, then stepped around quickly to walk in front of them and lead the way up the stairs. He wanted to be the first to spread the good news to the soldiers, and to his brother, and to Scar. They would be so happy, although they would also be worried for Matt's injuries, like he was.
But they wouldn't let Matt die. They couldn't. Not after everything Matt had been through, and now all of this. He just couldn't die. Sapling knew in his heart it would take Matt a long time to recover, both mentally and physically.
But Sapling didn't care, because if they knew for certain that he'd be ok, it'd be worth it tenfold times over.
Review? I never (ever) reply to them, but I treasure them so much, I can't even tell you. Thanks for reading, anyway.