I was sitting in the middle of a room, tied to a chair. My arms were duct taped to the arms of the chair, while my legs were tied to its front legs. I couldn’t move much at all, and in spite of how terrified I was, I couldn’t help but feeling like this was a scene straight out of some movie. The villain has the hero tied up in a chair, just like this, in order to interrogate them. Unfortunately, I was no hero, and this was no movie.
My eyes swept the room, which seemed to be some kind of storage room. There were shelves all along the walls, which were full of various random antiques, ranging from shards of pottery to strange looking figurines. I ‘knew’ that some of these antiques were actually artifacts, though I didn’t know which ones, or how many.
I was scared. Terrified. I was trapped and helpless, a prisoner of the very people who’d murdered those I cared about. This wasn’t how it was supposed to go. I was supposed to get Theressa and escape, not get captured myself.
“Jake,” I whispered, desperately hoping that he was all right and had managed to escape.
When I’d first found myself waking up in this room, I’d overheard a couple of the guards talking. Apparently, Jake had locked himself into a room to get away from them, and when they broke through the door, they found that he’d managed to escape. From what they said, it seemed that Jake had used his sword to cut a hole right through the floor, and had used that to get into the basement. At that time, the guards had no idea where Jake and gone, though I hadn’t overheard any updates since then.
“Get away,” I quietly said. “Get somewhere safe.”
My heart ached at the thought that he might be dead, because he’d followed me here to rescue Theressa. He’d thought it was a bad idea, but he’d come anyway.
“Pandora,” Kraesse said from the doorway.
He stared at me with a look of cruel triumph, holding up a knife. The bullet hole in my leg seemed to twinge at the sight of the knife, as I realized that I was about to get hurt a lot more than I already was. I nearly screamed in terror and rage, and the only reason I didn’t, was that I was biting my lip to keep from giving him the satisfaction.
As I watched, Kraesse pulled an apple from his pocket and began to cut it into slices. He ate one slice, then handed both the knife and remaining slices to one of his armed guards. Only then, did he turn his attention back to me.
“Pandora,” Kraesse repeated with a smirk. “I appreciate your coming here, and saving me the effort of tracking you down again. I had intended to hold your friend out as bait, but it seems that you came to take a bite on your own, before I could even set the trap.”
“I’m considerate, that way,” I responded, trying to hide my fear behind a bit of bravado.
“Now that I finally have you,” Kraesse continued, “you WILL summon your box and open it for me.”
“No, I don’t think so,” I replied with a forced smile. My heart was racing.
Kraesse just continued to stare at me. “I killed you before, yet here you are,” he said. “You were injured, shot through the back, yet you seem to have no signs of that injury either. You are remarkably resilient, Pandora, obviously due to the power of an artifact. What that means, however, is that I can use a great many methods to encourage your cooperation, without fear of going too far and killing you…” He smiled at that, and it was a cold and evil smile that sent chills running down my spine.
Then, without warning, Kraesse slapped me with enough force that it nearly knocked me and the chair over. The entire right side of my face stung from the impact, and I suspected that if it wasn’t for my enhanced healing abilities, I’d probably have some serious bruises.
“The box won’t do you any good,” I spat out, literally. My cheek had been split from Kraesse’s blow, and I could taste a little blood in my mouth. “Even if I gave it to you on a silver platter, it wouldn’t do any good…”
“You are a selfish woman,” Kraesse told me with a grim expression. “You hoard magical artifacts that can help people, that can make a difference in the world…”
I burst out in a sharp and bitter laugh at that. “And how many artifacts are you hoarding?” I looked around the room I was in, adding, “I’ve seen you and your people using them, and not for the good of anyone but yourself.”
Kraesse glared at me with a look of cold anger, and as I expected, he struck me again. This time, I nearly saw stars, like in some old cartoon. But as much as that hurt, I knew that this was a gentle kiss compared to what he could do to me, and to what he was likely to do before long. I tried very hard not to think about that, though I wasn’t very successful.
“My father, Gregor Kraesse, is a great man,” he stated, as though this was a simple fact.
After what had happened at Dora’s house, Cliff told me everything he knew about the Kraesse family, which admittedly, had been limited. According to him, Gregor Kraesse was a crime lord and businessman, though his ‘business’ involved such things as smuggling and the sale of stolen antiquities on the black market. He also collected artifacts, and had a long history of acquiring them by any means necessary.
Alexander was Gregor’s only child, and his sole heir. And, of course, he was also a murdering scumbag who deserved to be drowned in a sewer, at the very least.
My father is also a very ill man,” Kraesse continued with a deep scowl. “He is confined to bed while his body wastes away.”
If Kraesse expected me to feel sorry for him or his father, he would be sorely disappointed. He’d taken mine away from me, along with everything else.
“And what does that have to do with me?” I demanded. BAM, he hit me again.
“You know very well, woman,” Kraesse exclaimed with a snarl.
I looked Kraesse in the eyes, trying to hide my fear. Then, it dawned on me. He’d mentioned how resilient I was, or at least, how resilient he THOUGHT I was just a minute ago.
“You think the box can heal your father,” I gasped in surprise.
I didn’t know if it could or not, but that would only work if the box somehow picked him to be the next Pandora. However, I didn’t need the box to tell me, that there was no way in hell that would happen.
“It doesn’t work like that,” I practically hissed. “It can’t just heal people…”
Kraesse reached out with one hand and grabbed my face, forcing me to look straight ahead while he squeezed both of my cheeks. He leaned down and looked me in the eyes, and I could see a cold determination staring back.
“You know very well what I want,” Kraesse stated. “You stole the artifact from my father, thirty years ago…”
That statement surprised me, though I suspected that there was more to it than he claimed. More than likely, his father had been after the artifact and Dora had beaten him to it. However, even if she did steal an artifact from him, it was probably for the best.
From what I knew of the Kraesse family, and had experienced myself, they were the wrong people to have any artifacts. I’d trust them with an artifact, about as much as I trusted Tom with that magic roofie thing.
“Perhaps I need to remind you,” Kraesse said, punching me in the stomach and making me grunt in pain. “An artifact, made of emerald and gold, shaped like an egg. It has the power to undo injuries, remove illness, and even rewind the hands of time. After all, is this not the artifact that provides your resiliency?”
Kraesse obviously didn’t know as much about the box as he thought he did, though I’d realized that a long time ago. If he did, he never would have killed Dora. In fact, if he understood the box, he would have realized that this whole quest was pointless. Even if he got his hands on the box, it still wouldn’t give him what he wanted.
“I am in a generous mood,” Kraesse abruptly announced. “I will offer you a trade.”
“A trade?” I asked in surprise.
“All I want is this egg,” Kraesse told me with a smile, the kind of obviously fake smile that belonged on a used-car salesman or a politician. “Give me that one artifact, and in exchange, I will give you your life…”
For a moment, I just stared at Kraesse. He definitely wanted that artifact, and I probably would too, if it was the only way of saving Theressa’s life. However, I wasn’t fooled for a moment into thinking that this artifact was the only thing he wanted. Kraesse was ambitious, and he wanted everything. I could see it burning in his eyes, the desire to claim the box and everything within. No, he wasn’t about to let me go, even if I could somehow manage to give him the artifact.
“Can I…can I think about it?” I asked, deflating in defeat as much as I could.
Kraesse smiled faintly, the triumph gleaming in his eyes. He knew that he had me, and that I didn’t have any choice. Or at least, that was what he assumed. At the moment, I was just desperately trying to buy myself some time in the hopes that Jake could come charging to the rescue, like some kind of action movie hero.
“You have one hour to decide, Pandora,” Kraesse said, his voice dripping with arrogance. “But make no mistake, one way or another, I will get what I want.”
After making that statement, Kraesse turned and walked out of the room, along with one of the guards. Only one guard remained, which I thought was great for me. Now, if I could slip out of these restraints and somehow overpower him, before he could get a shot off, I might have a chance of escape. However, considering how tightly I was tied to the chair, that wasn’t likely to happen.
I spent the next ten minutes trying to wiggle free of the duct tape, or at least, looking for a chance to do so. The guard kept watching me, which meant any attempts I would have made, would have been obvious to him. Why couldn’t this be more like the movies, when all the guards conveniently left the hero or heroine alone, so they could attempt their escape in private?
Then the door opened again and I gulped, bracing myself for Kraesse, who had probably decided to cut my time to think about it. But the moment the door opened, gunfire filled the air and the guard went down in a spray of blood. I winced at the sight, feeling sick at it, but also relieved at the same time.
A figure stepped through the doorway, announcing, “Come with me if you want to live.” Then Dave flashed me a grin, admitting, “I’ve always wanted to say that.”
I just let out a sigh of relief and gave him a wry grin. “Aren’t you a little short for a Storm Trooper?”
If you liked this post, you can leave a comment and/or a kudos!
Click the Thumbs Up! button below to leave the author a kudos:
And please, remember to comment, too! Thanks.