Lydia watched the man hanging below her cell as he moved up toward her.
He didn't bother to regard the vast fall below him, hundreds of feet of empty air that ended in the distant shapes of the shadow shrouded city of the rats,
but instead only craned his neck to scope out his next leap.
At his side something short sparkled sporadically in the moonlight as he hoisted himself up on, and then jumped from, windmill to windmill.
He was careful in how he landed, only catching hold of the strong and slightly flexible beams and not the ropes, some of which moved with the spinning of the wooden blades.
The man stopped atop a windmill some feet below the slit in Lydia's cell wall. He tilted his head as he studied where the base of the wooden beams ran into the floor below hers.
A few of the ropes seemed to smoothly run in and out of the wall, but Lydia couldn't make out exactly how, as that was beyond the slice of the outer world she could see.
After a time he scanned to the left and the right of the gigantic wall that was the rat's fortress, but whatever he saw caused him to stay put.
When he looked up, as if to find another windmill to jump to, Lydia screamed out through her little window:
The man looked up, putting a hand to the sparkling thing at his side, but then he caught some part of her in the window and smiled again. He moved forward and disappeared from her view.
He was gone so long that Lydia was preparing to scream for help again when she saw his face pop up on the other side of the window, blocking her view.
She almost did scream, but instead collected herself and drew slightly back. She tried to point at the stone the man was hanging onto.
"You should be careful. The stone sounded like it would break earlier." She said, loudly over the thrum of the wind.
He frowned at her, then he spoke back to her in a language whose clear, clipped enunciations were completely unfamiliar to her, but his words sounded like a question.
"I'm sorry but I don't understand you. I'm a prisoner. PRI-SO-NER." She broke down that critical word and spoke a little louder in the hope that would get her concept across.
He continued to look confusedly at her.
In exasperation she held up her still bound wrists. At that the man nodded in understanding and gave her that winning smile again.
He wore a dark and pointed beard that was slightly bent by the wind.
His skin was dark brown, and she could see part of a scar across his forehead that disappeared into one corner of his braided hair.
After a moment of consideration, he gestured her closer. Lydia took half a step, but then held back, listening for more indications that the wall was cracking.
She wasn't sure with the wind, but everything seemed stable. She took another step, her face was now inches from the window.
The man spoke again in that strange language, and he brought one of his hands into view pressing two fingers against his lips and gesturing to her. He raised his eyebrows in question.
Did he want her to speak again?
"Can you help me?" She asked, wondering if she was trying to communicate with the windmill maintenance man.
He did the motion with two fingers again and this time curved them back toward his face in the universal gesture of "come closer." Maybe he was deaf.
Lydia leaned in closer, her face filling the window niche.
His kiss surprised her. She stepped back swinging her hand as if to swipe at the man, but her bound hands only grazed the stone. The slice of his face she could see was smiling in at her again.
"What the hell was that?" She croaked, wiping the taste of him from her lips. He actually tasted of mint, and the sweat from her hands that replaced it wasn't quite so compelling.
"I told you," he said, "for the exchange to take, we had to kiss. Language is facilitated by the mouth, and so that is where the exchange must be made." His smile didn't change.
"Well some kind of warning would have been nice." She glared at him. Then it hit her.
"I can understand you!"
"Yes that's what the exchange does. Now, it seems to me that you are in some kind of trouble. Is that the case? And if so, may I be of service.
" He nodded at her in a way that mimicked a bow, but how he conveyed it so clearly, balanced on a wooden beam over a hundred foot drop, she wasn't sure.
"Actually, I wouldn't mind your service at all. If you keep it away from my lips. Do you have any kind of explosives?"
"Is that a kind of exchange, or counter exchange? I only know a few of the more common rituals."
Lydia blinked at him and sighed. No explosives. Maybe this place didn't even know about explosives. She'd have to manage this a different way.
"What tools do you have? Got a hammer under that cloak, maybe a chisel? The wall here seems to be cracked, but I don't know how much force it would take to break it."
"Sorry, no tools except for this." He reached down and grabbed something she guessed was at crotch level.
Lydia rolled her eyes, but then his hand came back into view holding what looked to be a crystal sword. It was long and curved with a single sharp edge.
Like a diamond it was multifaceted and sparkling, but, while the outer parts were clear, as the eye moved inward a soft bluish glow emanated out from the core.
"Stand back." He said, and began to hack at the outside. To Lydia's surprise the blade didn't instantly break, in fact it survived a minute or two of testing against the stone.
The man held onto her window with one hand while he did this. His efforts ceased and his face came back into view. "No luck. Maybe you should have a try.
" Without further warning he thrust his sword in. It clattered to the ground making a ping that rang sharply.
Lydia picked up the sword and felt the cold smoothness of its handle. She saw now that in the pommel was an oval sapphire, its deep twilight blue bringing out the glow in the long blade.
The thing was probably worth thousands, if not more, but that was back home. Here, wherever she was, it was the best tool to hand.
With both of hers, tightly gripping it, she swung it at the wall aiming for the scratches she had noted.
Several good swings to no avail, she gave up, having the same effect as the strange climber outside. Time to try something else.
She took a deep breath and ran at the wall.
At the last minute she recalled the man on the other side and called: "Look out!
" Her arm slammed into the wall, the same arm that she'd rammed into her apartment's roof access door, and again nothing happened.
She yelped and bounced back, almost cutting herself on the sword. No luck. This time she didn't have her bag of tricks to help her.
"Did it work?" Came the man's dubious voice.
"No, the wall is too thick. It might break, but we'd need something stronger to slam into.
" Lydia turned and looked around her cell, two more flat stone walls, and a large stone blocking her exit. It was too large to move.
"Well, I'm sorry miss, I was hoping that would work as I'm looking for a way in myself. I'm sure I'll find one eventually, and then I could come find you. But I think I'll need my sword back.
" This last was rather apologetic.
Lydia looked at the sword in her hands. She knew she should give it back. At least now she could maybe talk to her captors and get a fair trial.
Not that she thought she could actually win a fair trial. She needed to leave now, or else she might never escape this place alive.
She gripped the sword tightly. There had to be something she could do with it. Fight her way out? Not likely.
Better to give it back, if her guards caught her with it, they might stab first and ask questions later. She would need to turn it to get it through the window slit.
It wouldn't possibly fit any other way. It would get stuck. Then it hit her.
"What's your name?" Lydia asked through the window.
"Rymond, Prince of Saphyre," He said quickly, "Now could I have my sword back?"
"No," said Lydia, "But I will send it back to you if you help me. I have an idea."
"Great," said Rymond, "I love a thoughtful woman."