The cell doors creaked open and the guard stuck a lamp inside. Wynefrede Aumberden blinked and pulled herself to a seated position. A few feet away, Raphe Faryndon moaned and rubbed at his face, leaving dark streaks across his cheeks.
Wynefrede glanced away. Pompas was cowering a few feet on the other side of her and Barnaby was rocking back and forth in a corner, humming softly to himself.
The guards pushed the door the rest of the way open. She could smell the bean soup. It was the same meal they’d had several times already, but her mouth watered anyway.
“How much longer is this going to be?” asked Raphe. “Is there a holdup with the ransom? Listen, if there’s a problem, I can write a message to my company and they’ll take care of it if the Royal Season won’t.”
“It takes as long as it takes,” said one of the guards. “Don’t worry about it.”
They put the food down in front of them and one of them stood by the door to watch them eat while the other poured some water down Barnaby throat, spoon fed him some soup, and then put a crust of bread into his hand to chew on.
In the dim light, the two guards looked identical. Wynefrede didn’t know if they were just wearing the same avatar or if they just dressed alike and had the same taste in facial hair. Though, she had to admit, she had been having problems telling people apart ever since she got to Krim.
As before, there were no utensils. Wynefrede used her dry bread to scoop up the thick soup. The plate itself was made of wood, as was the water cup. If there was some silverware, she might have hidden it away from the guards and turned into it a tool, she thought. Or a weapon.
“What about me?” asked Pompas. “Are you even looking for a ransom? Are you going to keep me forever?”
“Don’t worry,” said the guard. “We’ve got plans for you, too. In fact, if the three of you behave yourselves, you might get a walk in the sunshine pretty soon.”
“What about Barnaby?” asked Wynefrede. “Is anyone looking for him?”
“Don’t worry about the vegetable,” said one of the guards.
Pompas got done with his food first and the guards unlocked him and took him down the hall.
With the door closed, it was dark again. Wynefrede and Raphe finished up their food by touch.
“Once we get out of here, I’m going to sue,” said Raphe. “This has got to be illegal. I mean, what if they hold us for years?”
“But the terms of service…” Wynefrede said.
“You can’t just put something in a contract and it makes it legal,” said Raphe. “Forced imprisonment for an extended length of time — that’s not something anyone would naturally expect when going into a gaming world. For a short time, sure. But not for years.”
“Maybe it’s a scam,” said Wynefrede. “They’re just scaring us, so that they get more money.” She looked over at where Barnaby was sitting. She couldn’t see him, but she could hear him gnawing away on his bread. “Maybe Barnaby is faking it.”
“Good point,” said Raphe. “I’d look pretty stupid if I tried to sue a gaming grid for letting me be captured.”
“Of course, if they’re serious about holding us for years, then when they do let us go, I can sue then. My lawyers will tear Krim apart. There will be nothing left when I’m done with them.”
“Hopefully, we’ll have escaped by then,” said Wynefrede. “Though I don’t know how. Maybe we’ll have a chance to do something when they take us for a walk.”
“Or we could chew our arms off,” said Raphe.
“Animals do it all the time,” said Raphe. “And in the past, I think, people did it too.”
“I don’t think I could do that,” said Wynefrede.
“Just think of your arm as a particularly raw steak,” said Raphe.
“And then what? We’d be trapped in here, but now with no arms.”
“I was thinking that we could bleed to death,” said Raphe.
Wynefrede lifted her wrist to her mouth and tried to bite it.
“It hurts,” she said. “Why don’t we see if we get ransomed first? Then after a couple of days, we’ll try chewing.”
“Or maybe when we’re out on the walk, we’ll find some nice big rocks to bash the guards’ heads in and escape,” said Raphe.
“Or bash our own heads against,” said Wynefrede.
“I wonder if I can hit my head against this post,” said Raphe. “Or maybe wind the chain around my throat and choke to death.”
Wynefrede turned around and felt the surface of the post she was chained to. The wood was old and weathered and coated in some kind of tar or maybe oil. She yanked at the chain. It was too short for her to get a good running start. She probably wouldn’t even be able to knock herself out.
“If we do get out of here, we’ll need to come back for Barnaby,” said Raphe. “If he’s been here for years, then there’s a potential lawsuit right there. There is no possible way that a terms of service should allow a world to turn you into a vegetable and keep you a prisoner.”
“How will we find the place again? I was unconscious when they brought me here.”
“Me, too,” said Raphe. “I’ve being trying hard to remember something, but I can’t.”
“I don’t even know if we’re still in Krim City.” She paused and listened. There were no sounds other than Barnaby’s chewing. “I can’t hear any street noises. Can you?”
“No,” said Raphe. “When they take us outside, we’ll have to keep our eyes open. Maybe we can see something.”
“Promise me if you escape and I don’t, you’ll come back for me,” said Wynefrede.
“I’ll hire everyone on Krim if I have to,” said Raphe. “I’ll have them look in every basement and vault in the whole world. Somebody has to know where we are.”