The King is busy.
I let my head rest against the cold, stone wall at my back as I watch the flickering light of the torches dance down the never ending hallway. It seems the country has room to make plenty of enemies. So far, I seem to be the only one lodged down here. Perhaps the King has run a more peaceful regime than propagandists would have suggested.
My feet scrape across the cracked and sandy floor. For what it’s worth, it might not have been sandy before I got here. I took off my shoes awhile ago and seemed to dump out a whole beach.
Twiddling my thumbs, I let out a sigh. This is not how I intended for today to go. I should have taken a different highway into town. Maybe then I would have avoided Marcus and the king’s men altogether. Now, my life is hinging on a contract between me and royalty.
There’s a cough from somewhere down the hall. I suppose I’m not alone. I would have taken more time to thoroughly investigate this area if I hadn’t been promptly dumped in here by the soldiers who took my weapons.
Nobody is coming to get me. I may as well make a friend while I’m stuck down here. “Hello?”
My voice is carried away on a draft. There’s no immediate response. Pushing to my feet, I tread across the frozen floor and wrap my fingers around the icy bars that contain me to this cell. I press my face against them to try to peer further into the dark.
I haven’t been in here long enough for my mind to be playing such tricks.
I’m about to give up and return to my creaky bench when I hear something else. A tap. Tap, tap, tap. It’s a steady sound across the solid floor and it’s getting louder.
“Hello? Can you hear me?”
The tapping doesn’t stop. Closer, ever closer, it rings out and echoes down this corridor riddled with empty cells. That doesn’t sound like a guard and I can’t imagine a prisoner from the depths of the prison is ambling towards me. This person is unhurried and precise, the sound of their movement never wavering in their approach.
Patience may be a virtue, but it’s never one I learned. Grabbing the bars on either side of my face, I give the door a shake, the old metal rattling together in an cacophonous clatter. It makes me grit my teeth and stagger back to clap my hands over my ears. It’s loud enough to stir the dead. It has to be enough to get the attention of that approaching person.
The tapping has stopped by the time I can unplug my ears and straighten. Nothing. Gone. Maybe they were trying to avoid detection and failed when I made noise.
Ridiculous. I kick at a clump of hair on the ground, my mind full of possibilities for my current predicament. I came peacefully. There was no reason to resist when I was told that the King wanted to see me. Now, though, a niggling fear wriggles at the forefront of my skull. I was a fool. I’m going to be lead to the docks for a well-fitted rope and a pirate’s demise.
Marcus is going to barge into the administration chambers and demand that I be returned to him. My parents signed over the entirety of their estates to him before their deaths. They bought me a place in his home. While they thought it was safety and security against the coming evils of the world, it was a mistake they didn’t live long enough to see come to fruition.
I can’t go back to Oceanend’s Manor.
A low rumble behind me pulls me out of my thoughts. Whirling to face the front of the cage, I stare at the well dressed man leaning his weight onto a thin cane. The dungeon isn’t exactly the kind of place for a suit. He’s clearly the person I heard walking closer, though, so I step forward and thrust out my hand.
The man’s dark gaze flicks over my fingers and then back to my face. “I suggest you hear the terms of my deal before you go shaking hands, little girl.”
There’s a terrible power to his voice. Not something I necessarily hear when he speaks, but something I feel at my core. My soul trembles as I let my hand fall back to my side.
“Who are you?”
His full mustache wiggles as he blows out a sigh. “There isn’t time for trivial questions. I can get you out of this cell for a price. Are you willing to listen to the terms?”
No. Yes. I don’t know. Either way, I won’t be intimidated into a deal with him.
I take a step back from him. “I can just wait for the guards to come down for me.”
He doesn’t move from in front of the cell as he bobs his head in agreement. “You could. You have every right to sit here and rot until they finish their deal upstairs with a very irate man claiming he has right to the lady pirate.”
Marcus is already here.
“Why would you help me?”
His pink tongue flicks out to wet his bottom lip. “Because I, too, need help and we’re in the right predicament to help each other. Are you done with the inquisition, madame?”
I know better than to stop asking questions. Good women hug walls and win wars in silence. I’m not a good woman.
That hypnotic undertone to his voice has made a hole in my logic and left me a victim to his offer. “What are you proposing?”
Tapping the cell bars with his cane, he clears his throat. “I’ll get you out of here. I’ll outfit you in a tip-top wardrobe and give you chambers to carry out our business until the terms of our deal are met.”
Perhaps he thinks that I’m frivolous enough to give away my hand for the offer of fine clothing simply because I’m a woman. His mistake. “And what do you need from me?”
There’s a wicked gleam to his eyes as he tilts his head, the flames seemingly dancing across his pupils. “I need a champion, Amelia Evans, and I believe Fate is too wise to bring me a capable woman for it not to be you.”
There’s a compliment in that statement that has my guards falling further down. Nobody has ever insisted that I’m capable. I have fought tooth and nail for everything that has come my way in the last year. Just today, my crew gave me up because it’s easy to replace me with a wealthy man.
“A champion for what?”
My words barely wriggle past my tight throat. Everything about this man makes me want to say yes. The deal can’t be that bad if it gets me out of here and far from Marcus.
One eyebrow pops up towards his dark hairline. “You’ve not heard about the King’s proclamation?”
“I just got into town a few hours ago.”
Every syllable is tugged right out of me. This man is a force I’ve yet to meet in my short experience outside of this country. I’m losing my ability to think for myself. It’s as if a ribbon is tying itself around the both of us, trapping us in an ebb and flow of conversation I have no chance to contradict.
The man is nodding to me, a slight grin curving his lips. “The King’s daughter is to be married to whoever wins the competition. Not all people can make the trip or attend the battles, so he has allowed for neighboring kingdoms to send their champions as well. I would like you to be mine.”
“So, if I win…”
“Participate and I’ll grant you your freedom when this is over, Amelia Evans.”
Hope is a bird flapping its wings against the confines of my chest. “I don’t have to win?”
His smile widens. “I know you will.” He extends his left hand through the bars. “Say yes, so we can move you to better quarters and start planning our victory.”
My fingertips are centimeters from his grasp when I remember to stop myself from just giving into his demands. “Say I don’t have to win. I have no idea what’s waiting for me out there. I want my freedom even if I lose.”
“Make it into the final game, Amelia and, win or lose, you’ve done enough to be granted your freedom.”
The final game. I have no idea what it will take to get there, but that seems like enough wiggle room for me to earn back my right to live my own life.
Our hands are nearly touching, the strange man almost statueseque as he waits for me to close the miniscule distance. “I’ll be needing money and a boat when we are done with each other.”
Mischief curls his grin. “Do well for me, Amelia, and I will grant you your heart’s desires after each portion of the game.”
It seems too good to be true, but the alternative is sitting back down on that bench and waiting for fate to find me. I grip his too warm hand and give it a confident shake. “Deal.”
Invisible fire licks up the expanse of my left arm. I try to pull away, but his hold tightens. We’re bound together as the heat intensifies and pain scrapes across my forearm. My knees give out and he continues to hold onto me as I gasp for air from the floor.
Seconds or minutes pass. I can’t tell. Eventually, he murmurs for me to pull up my sleeve.
In doing so, I find a perfectly formed rune burned into the flesh of my arm. “What the hell is that?”
The man releases me. “It’s been said to be the mark of the devil, Amelia Evans.”
There’s no chance for me to say something in return. The world tips sideways and blackness washes over me.
Thank you for reading this week’s prompt! While Phoebe would have been the obvious choice to use after last week’s hint of a demonic deal, I wanted to challenge myself to something different. Here’s the second installation of Captain Evans and the journey she has unwittingly began.
As always, if you enjoyed this story, leave a like and a comment down below, so I know to continue tinkering away at this character.
If you’re looking for more of my writing, Lore Ep. 17 is already available on Kindle Vella. Check it out if you’re in the mood for a fun romance between a vampire and the girl who stole more than just his wallet: Lore by Anglica Reece
Be sure to check out Bridgette’s “deal with the devil” prompt as well: http://bridgettetales.com
Have a great week and we’ll see you back here next Saturday!
3 thoughts on “Devilish Dealings”
Equal parts wicked and delightful! You always paint such a vivid scene and I was drawn in right away. When the devil appeared I was absolutely charmed by him. Wonderful job making him appear reasonable and alluring. I wonder what the fine print of that contract says? It’s too good to be true, which we all know is the devil’s biggest trick. Captain Evans is such a likable character. You’ve made me root for her and I want to see her compete in whatever the competition turns out to be. You always leave me wanting more! Keep writing.
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Thank you! This was a fun prompt. He was giving me Jafar meets Aladin in the dungeon vibes lol
Hopefully we’ll do another Evans story soon 😊
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Angelica is one of the best writers I know. She keeps me coming back over and over just to see what new and delightful stories I can read.
Please never stop writing!!!!!
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