Flames of Bedlam

Ch2.5 .. Captive

I’d have never stood for this kind of treatment from someone like the Invaders. I’d spent too much time as a slave and a captive.

Yet, for some reason, I didn’t fight when the Elders passed their sentence. Even though I knew that prison was temporary and this would probably end with my head on a plate. I had a lot of faith in Levi, but these people had seen too much.

The cell they placed me in wasn’t really a cell at all. Just some damp cellar somewhere. Nothing I couldn’t have busted through if I really wanted to try.

My thoughts were loud in my mind now that it was no longer clouded with the influence of the Flames. The Elders’ accusations were real. I did everything that they said I did, and there was no way to deny it.

I’d like to say I didn’t realize how wrong my actions were. That I was too blinded by my vengeance and desire to strike out at the ones who hurt me. But as angry and hurt as I was when I made my choices, they were still my choices. There’s a difference between not knowing right and wrong and being too angry to care.

The worst part, as the Elders pointed out, wasn’t just that I made a choice for myself… but I made a choice for others. And now they bore the Flames of Bedlam while I wandered around the world, mostly free of those chains.

I wanted to say I felt guilty about this. However, I don’t think I was ready to understand guilt just yet.

Still, I felt something, if only it was an acknowledgement of my wrongs. I couldn’t even be angry at the Elders for wanting to end it. They had a whole village of people to think about and protect.

They didn’t treat me poorly, however. The cell had a few narrow windows, too small to try to climb out, but enough to let light and fresh air in. It also had a bed that seemed to be well-kept. I would have slept on it if sleep didn’t elude me.

They even wasted a whole meal on me. One of the villagers brought me food later that evening. It wasn’t half bad, either. Certainly not some left overs that no one else wanted.

All in all, the village was probably a nice place to spend time… though I’d rather it be as a guest than a captive.

It was late that night when I heard a hiss outside the cell door. I ignored it at first, thinking it was just groggy senses making things up. When the hiss came again, this time forming my name, I perked up.


I furrowed my brows and strode to the door, listening through it.

“Are you awake?”

“Levi?” I asked.

“Oh, good,” he breathed.

I heard the sound of jangling metal, and then the door creaked open. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. Levi stood there, hooded in a dark cloak, a set of keys in his hand.

“What are you doing?” I asked, trying to keep my voice down to a low rumble.

“What does it look like?”

“It looks like you’re insane.”

He threw a cloak over my head. “I’ve never denied that.”

I pulled cloth out of my face and protested, “You can’t do this.”

“Why not?” He shot a strange look at me.

“Because your people forbade you.”

“When did that ever stop you from doing something?” Levi pointed out.

“And they’re right about what I did.”

He groaned, untying my wrists. “You picked a fine time to grow a conscience. Now, come on. We need to move.”

“I didn’t grow a conscience,” I argued. “I’m just…”

I didn’t even know what I was saying. This was stupid. I had my own skin to look out for. Why was I suddenly so worried about what would happen to Levi should he go against the command of the Elders?

“You’re just coming with me,” Levi said sternly.

Before I could argue further, he did something I didn’t expect. His fingers ran along the side of one of the cuffs that still restrained everything I was. With a soft click, they unlocked, then dropped to the floor with a thud.

I stared at the cuffs a moment before everything came rushing back at me. The Dragon. The Flames. The Spirits.

Wearing the cuffs kept all of of this at a distance. But now, without anything to shield me from the influence of energies around me, my knees grew weak and almost buckled.

Somewhere just on the edge of my mind, the Flames burned in hungry rage. They weren’t gone, merely distanced. And they still wanted me.

I gasped the air, grasping a small side table with both hands. It groaned under my strength as I shook. My voice hissed between fanged teeth. “You are insane.”

“I’ve never denied that,” he repeated, forcing his expression to remain calm. I could sense the concern under the facade.

This was his test. He had to know whether I’d roll right back into the Flames at the first chance I had. He was risking a lot for me… he had to make sure it wasn’t wasted. I don’t blame him. I’d have done the same.

I wasn’t sure I was strong enough. My voice croaked, “Put them back on.”

“No,” Levi said sternly. “We don’t need these anymore.”

A low growl grew in the back of my throat. I saw his hands shake a bit, a twitch as if he was ready at any moment to grab the cuffs and reinstate them in the face of the grave error he made.

Yet, something within me was loathe to fail this. Loathe to disappoint him. No one had ever put this much faith into me. No one had risked this much.

“Why…” I rasped.

He came closer. Instead of reaching for the cuffs, he helped to prop me up. Helped me stand. “Because this is the right thing to do. And we are going to do the right thing.”

My mind swam as I fended off the tantalizing influences that lurked on the edge of shadows. I was stronger than this. I’d never backed down from a fight before, and I wasn’t about to surrender myself now.

Levi helped me put the dark cloak on. My legs still felt weak as he led me from the cell door.

Straight into the waiting frown of Grandma.

“Auuugg…” He couldn’t even make a true word to describe our miserable luck. His wince was enough to speak his dismay.

Grandma didn’t move or say anything at first. She held a lantern in one hand and a staff of some sort in the other. I don’t think this was a walking cane. Her eyebrow arched as she took note of the fact I was completely free of the cuffs. Then, her sharp blue eyes traced over the pain of my face, half covered by my hood.

“This is what I think it is, Levi?” she finally asked.


“I trust you have a good explanation.”

Levi seemed to be weighing his approach. In the end, he took the saucy one. “I might have one if you’d actually listen to me for once.”

“Oh?” Grandma’s mouth twitched. I swore she was trying to fight a smile.

I suddenly liked her all the more.

“You… you’re so upset about what happened to the other people… the ones he turned into Dragons,” Levi was too flustered to approach this with his usual clarity. “But what if Bahamut is the only one who is able to undo what was done? If you kill him, you might be dooming the rest of them.”

This… dropped a meteor on me. It’d never even crossed my mind to fix the things I’d broken.

“Undo…” I heard myself say, putting every ounce of pondering into the word. “Is that even possible?”

Grandma gave me a glance. It was the first time I’d said something in front of her, I realized. Her gaze was slightly approving. “At least one of you has the sense to question this.”

Levi just shook his head. “I don’t know. I don’t know what’s possible anymore. What I do know is that everything I thought I knew just flew out the window when I walked in that Glade. Things I thought were impossible… I mean… me… of all people… a Dragon! That’s just… just…”

The coiled bracer on his arm rippled a bit as his guide gave a subtle protest. Even it was getting a bit more gutsy tonight.

I’d never seen Levi so candid about his concerns before. Despite his frustration with the Elders, he must have had a close connection with Grandma to speak this freely.

Again, she responded with a motherly motion, lifting his chin in the crook of one finger.

“You’ve always been meant for something greater,” she told him without hesitation. “This has ever been something within you. Now, it’s just expressed where everyone can see it.”

“I don’t know if I want it…” He lowered his gaze again.

“Because you don’t seek greatness, is why it comes to you,” Grandma reassured him. Then, she looked at me with a frown. “Unlike those who try to steal it.”

“Heeeeey…” I spread my hands. I wanted to tell her it wasn’t like that at all. But, I wasn’t so sure what the truth was anymore.

It took a moment for Levi to recompose himself. He did it so well, as if his momentary lapse never even happened. He mustered up a lot of courage, and faced Grandma again.

“You know how you told me that a chief sometimes has to make hard choices?”

“Yes?” Grandma waited.

“Well, I’m making one. Right now,” Levi lifted his chin. “But, I’m making one for the good of everyone. Not just our village.”

She didn’t respond to this, but I could sense a hint of pride in her silence.

Levi was poised, standing straight and firm, head lifted as he looked down on her. I realized he was imitating one of my own stances. The one that told everyone else that a choice had been made and anyone who didn’t like it could jump in a pool of scalding hot lava.

Grandma finally sighed and pulled out a wrapped package. It was food, fixed and ready for travel. She’d already knew where this conversation was going to end. She, too, was also willing to risk a chance on me… or rather, more likely risk a chance on Levi’s vision.

Levi let out a long breath, the out-of-character haughty stance deteriorating instantly at the sight of the package. He knew what it meant — in secret, at least one of the Elders blessed his choice and believed as he did.

Someone believed that a struggling, reluctant Dragon and a broken, wayward Dragon could do something to make a difference.