Chapter VI: Conviction
Early the next morning, moments before the sun began to rise, Leinheart was already up and about. He was careful not to move Shadow. She continued to sleep peacefully. He was getting ready to leave, but before he left, he took one last look at the pup, who slept comfortably in his hammock. He approached, and gave a gentle stroke through her sleek, black hair. Her only response was a slight adjustment to her position. He smiled, then headed out. He was suddenly greeted by a fist to the face as soon as he opened his door, and was knocked down forcefully. He recovered, but was quickly grabbed by two dragon guards in armor, and pinned to the wall. The sudden commotion woke Shadow, and she quickly jumped out of bed and looked for a place to hide. Leinheart struggled to break free of the guards. He was smacked in the face, and dazed. A familiar face walked in. It was the warden he dealt with some time ago when he was trying to help Shadow. He approached Leinheart while he was still dazed.
"What's the meaning of this?" Leinheart demanded. The warden smacked him across the face.
"Shut up. The Heirarch demands your presence. You've had this coming for a while now." He looked at the guards holding Lein down,"Take him away. I'll get the pup." They did as they were told. The warden turned his attention towards Shadow, who was hiding in the corner. There was no where for her to run. She was scared. Her heart started racing faster and faster as the warden came closer, and finally grabbed her by the hair."You're coming with me."
Leinheart was brought to the main castle. He had never seen the inside before. He was carried to the throne room, dragged along a vast red carpet leading straight ahead, then suddenly and violently thrown onto his knees. He was held down by the shoulders, and was forced to look up. Sitting in a large throne was a hooded figure in a dark blue robe. It was impossible to see his face, but he had scaly grayish hands and feet. He wore some sort of necklace that appeared to be dragon teeth hanging from a string. It was clear that it was the Heirarch. This was the first time Leinheart had ever seen him. He became nervous. The Heiracrh looked at him and huffed.
"I've had quite enough of your insolence, Leinheart. You have already been spared due to your youth. It will not save you again. You have been brought here today because you have been seen leaving city grounds, knowing full well that all who bear the mark are forbidden. This goes for slaves as well." Leinheart began to think about the wolf pup.
"Where are you planning to do with Shadow?"
"The pup? I wouldn't worry too much about her. She'll get what's coming to her soon enough. You should worry more about yourself, given the situation. For leaving the city as a bearer of the mark, and for taking a servant as well, you are sentenced to death. You will be publicly executed on the morning following the next." Leinheart looked down shamefully. As much as he wanted to say or do something, he knew it was futile to even attempt."You are a true disgrace to the dragon empire. Your death will be a good reminder." The dragon lord looked at the two guards holding him down and ordered,"Take him away."
Shadow was taken somewhere underneath the city, leading to a place colder than the cell she first found herself in. The interior was vast, lit dimly by torches and filled with cages. She was thrown into a cage of her own. She heard a click behind her as she pulled herself up. It was the warden locking her up. He gave a sinister glare, sending a chill down her spine. Eventually, he walked away.
She spent almost an hour huddled in the corner of the cage, sitting up and curled up like a ball with her head between her knees. She couldn't help but feel guilty over what was happening, and worried what happened to Leinheart. She began to cry.
"Don't cry, sweetheart," a voice suddenly said. She almost jumped immediately at the sudden sound. She looked around for whoever it was that spoke, and then she heard it speak again,"Over here." She looked in it's direction. Right next door to her cage was another housing another prisoner. The dim light made it difficult to identify, but by the sound of the voice, she could tell it was female. A closer look revealed snowy white fur with icy blue fur at the hands, feet, and underneath the fluffy tail. She also had blue, shoulder length hair, and her ears stuck out and pointed perfectly from underneath. Her eyes glowed a greenish-blue, and she wore raggedy clothes much like the wolf did. It was a fox. It was the first time Shadow had ever seen one, let alone a white one."My name's Valentine. My friends call me Val. You may." Shadow came closer until she was within reach of the fox.
"Where are we?"
"This is a holding area for the 'undesirables'. Basically for slaves who've done things they probably shouldn't have. Most who come here don't go back out. Not alive, anyway." The thought sent chills down the wolf's spine.
"So what did you do?" she bluntly asked.
"My so called 'master' started touching me in a way I didn't approve of. When he wouldn't stop, I decided to act out. I broke his arm. Some guards overheard his screams, and the next thing I know, I'm locked up and alone. What about you?" Shadow was afraid to answer at first, but somehow found the courage.
"I encouraged my owner to step out of the city, even though he was forbidden to do so." She felt ashamed just thinking about it.
"Forbidden? He wouldn't happen to be Leinheart, would he?" Shadow was a little shocked at her response.
"How'd you know that?"
"Few dragons are forbidden from setting foot on the outside, and Leinheart is the only one I know of. I've heard some interesting stories about him, even before I was brought here."
"I couldn't say for sure. It's mostly just rumors, and I don't like to talk unless I know for sure if it's true."
"Oh." Shadow was a little disappointed, but understood."What are they gonna do to him for this?"
"I'm not sure, but I've heard that a second offense is punishable by death." Shadow felt her heart sink, but felt a sense of relief when the fox continued,"though it's not immediate. He still has a few days left." It didn't really make her feel any better, only worse, thinking he was going to be killed because of her. She felt the fox grab her hand for comfort."No worries, though. I'm sure someone like him is bound to have friends somewhere, whether he knows it or not. Someone will come. I know it." Shadow felt a bit of comfort, but still didn't know whether or not to believe her. But she did her best not to fret over it all, because as much as it felt like it, it wasn't her fault.