It was quiet. Not a single sound or light, with the sole exception being the small cracks of it slithering out from around the door. “Alright, here goes.” He sighed to himself, walking into the abyss. As he went further away from the light, he found his vision adjusting to the darkness, and he was able to make out the area he was in. It was a cavernous hallway, the ceiling and walls were occasionally embedded with pieces of uncut alexandrite. As he continued to wander into the darkness, he finally found a part of the hallway that was lined with several urns. Placing it down, the boy began to make his way back to the door. Only to find out, after the trek back, that the door had been locked. Banging on it, he was hoping his father would let him out. But he never did. It felt like ages of knocking the door, begging for it to be opened, but no response. Resigning to his fate, Lionel decided to go back to where the urns were. There was more past that area. If he was here, he might as well go as deep as he can inside of these catacombs. He normally was not allowed down here, so it was a rare opportunity to explore a new part of the estate. Wandering deeper and deeper into the the unknown, he readjusted his eyes to the darkness, allowing himself to better witness the depths of the basement. There was luckily just one linear path. And all he had to do was keeping delving deeper along it. He had no idea what was awaiting him on the other side. However, it would be better than the beatings and abuse that awaited him should he return to the house. At this point, it was all beginning to make sense to him, Lacey’s warnings. Anything would be better than living in these conditions. Even death, as his mother showed him.
Speak of the devil. There was a skeleton, sprawled on the floor before him. Somebody had actually died in these mines. At first, it was terrifying, but then Lionel remembered that he had just cremated his mother’s corpse and had to act as though nothing was wrong just a day ago. Or was it weeks ago? He had no concept of time in the darkness. He did not even remember how long he had been wandering in the catacombs for. However, he noticed something in the skeleton’s hand. It was a paper airplane. “No. This can’t be her.” He shuddered, pulling the airplane out of the corpse’s hand. It was hard to read, due to the cavern being only barely illuminated from the glow of the gemstones, but the boy could still make out what was written on that sheet of paper. “Lionel, in the darkest of places may just be your last hope. You might think that hope is lost, but you need to keep wandering on. They tried to lock me here, but they did not realize that they just set me free. I am free now. Free from this prison and free from them. Join me, Lionel. I will be waiting for you on the other side. Be brave, my little brother. -Lacey”. Taken aback, the boy tried his best to fight back the tears. That skeleton, it really must be her. She must have died here, locked up from their parents. But then he remembered what was written on that note. He could not stop here. He had to keep moving on. If he stayed here, his father would eventually find him and punish him in another twisted way. Either that or continue to leave him here to rot and die. Either way, he was not ready to succumb to such a fate. He needed to keep moving deeper into the darkness, and towards whatever hopes he still had for his freedom. If he gave up now, then he would have nothing left to live for. He had to keep living, for Lacey, and for his own freedom.
Wandering deeper into the depths of the catacombs, Lionel finally came to a dead end. It appeared to be a cave-in. Stones upon stones smothered any sight of the other side. “Oh no….” He sighed, leaning in to better inspect the rocks. He had not lost hope just yet. Even if he had to dig his way out, he would do it. Noticing that a roughly potato-sized rock, towards the top of the pile, was shifting to his touch, Lionel pulled it away, and darted back in caution. No avalanche. Much to his relief and slight disappointment. He was hoping that the rocks would give way to the exit. However, what come out of that hole was something else that he had sought after. Light. Not the glow of alexandrite. Natural sunlight. “Yes!” He gasped in relief, as the boy continued rummaging around for another loose rock to pull. He found it. Yanking another, then another, then another, Lionel smiled as more sunlight poured through as the hole grew larger. Wherever this cavern led to, he was determined to get away from Fangnis. “Finally!” He beamed. The hole was large enough for him to crawl through. Pulling himself out, he sighed in relief. It was a grassy green hill, much like the backyard of their estate. However, unlike his favorite viewpoint, this one was connected to a long slope of grass, leading downwards to a lot of smaller buildings. Buildings…. the town. He slowly realized, smiling. Lacey! She might have escaped after all. The boy realized. Turning around, he shuddered as he was faced with that cavernous mouth of darkness, tinged with a faint glow of alexandrite. Grabbing some rocks and dirt nearby, Lionel started to stuff that hole, trying his best to bury the darkness, the pain, the trauma behind him. He could not let him father believe for even a second that he escaped.
Satisfied with his handiwork, Lionel got up, and brushed the dirt off his hands. He managed to cover the entire hole with a combination of mud, rock, and sticks. There was no way that any light could slip through those cracks. Turning back around, he took a deep breath. This lifestyle that he was about to embark on, he had no idea what to expect. How long would his freedom and happiness last? Shaking off all of his doubts, he started running down the hill. The village was drawing nearer. He could feel his heart beating out of his chest with anticipation. The hill, with Fangnis sitting on top of it, was vanishing into the distance. Putting a stop to his sprint, the boy finally made it to the base of the hill. “Oh, it’s rare that we have visitors to the village.” An elderly farmer looked at the panting boy. “What is your name, young man?” Pausing, Lionel took a second to catch his breath. “My name?” He didn’t want to state the name he was given. In the event his father ever catch wind of him being alive, he needed to be ready for that. He had to erase any trace of his old life. “Regulus.” He lied through his teeth. “I am a young traveler from a neighboring country in Regensberg, just passing by.” “Well, welcome to our fair village, young man. If you need a place to stay for the night, my wife and her sister own a hostel.” He offered. “Thank you, sir.” He smiled. “It’s not very often we get visitors. I think that the last time was years ago. A young lady, around the same age as you.” He noted, much to Regulus’s shock. “Do you remember what happened to her?” The boy asked, trying to mask his excitement. “She settled in the village for a few years, but left maybe a month of two ago. She said she wanted to explore the world.” He explained. This was Regulus’s only chance to reunite with Lacey. She was still alive. He had just overcome one of the hardest journeys of his life, escaping that hell, but another adventure was about to begin. He was going to reunite with his sister.