Sieffre released the door’s lock with a quiet click, and Ilya could feel herself trembling as she peaked through it.
You can do this, Ilya.
The flashes of the men’s cold lamp lights burst and tilted from a doorway just beyond the locker room. She could clearly hear the men spitting and barking at each other as they rummaged through their room. Without thinking, she pushed herself forward into the hall, and stumbled as her knees buckled beneath her.
Cursing herself, Ilya used the wall to scramble back to her feet and started running. A figure stepped out of the blue-lit doorway just as she reached double doors to the locker room.
“Kimnkila? Ssspann.” The figure shined his lamp at her as she darted between the doors. “Sissspann! A! A! Arr’stom!”
There was a short, dark hallway before her that split into two directions. She dashed to the left just as a blue light washed over her from behind.
The hallway opened to a room broken up into shallow walkways by walls of locker doors. The men were following close behind.
She needed to hide. The lockers weren’t too much smaller than her, if she tucked in her legs…. Ilya rushed to the locker at the end of the freestanding wall, and clawed at the surface to find a flat key pad next to a key hole.
“Sieffre.” She hissed.
Cold light exploded into the room, blinding her as it reflected off the metallic surfaces of the lockers. A deep voice said something in a playful tone behind her, and chuckled. A second voice barked a question. When she didn’t respond, she heard a quick shuffle before a barefoot nudged the back of her ribs. Ilya squeaked involuntarily as she cowered against the locker. The question was repeated again, slow series of hisses to her ears.
The deeper voice started speaking again, and Ilya could hear a hint of mischief. There was another slow shuffling noise as he approached. Ilya, frozen in fear, could only squeeze her eyes shut.
A bright red light flared behind her closed eye lids as the men screamed simultaneously. A series of pops and a shower of broken glass told Ilya that Sieffre came through with his promise to blind the room if she got into trouble. Safely in the dark again, she looked up to see the two men stumbling in the light of their lamps, bare feet scraping and crunching helplessly over the glass.
Ilya pulled her jacket sleeves over the palms of her hands and managed to crawl around the corner of the free standing wall of lockers. A key pad in the opposite corner lit up and Ilya could see the door open on its own. The men must have heard the small creak of the door because they stopped their panicked stumbling. She scurried to the open door as quickly as she could and managed to shut herself into the narrow space just before a lamplight passed over the tiny ventilation holes of her door.
She held her breath, listening to them shout and blunder toward her… then away from her as they rounded the corner to the next set of free standing lockers. More voices shouted into the room, accompanied by the crackle of breaking glass and cries of pain. Her lungs burning for air, Ilya tried to ease back into breathing with slow sips, but the limited space of the locker made it impossible to take a full breath. Try as she might to stay alert, Ilya’s head felt heavier and heavier until finally she slipped blissfully into unconsciousness.
The woman gave a short grunt but didn’t move from her fetal position under the bench.
“Mari, I know you can hear me.”
“Zha gau! I’m sleeping!”
She hadn’t bothered to actually say the words. Her connection with Sieffre allowed her to pushed the angry thought with enough force for it to come across as yelling.
“And now you’ve got to get up.”
Mari rolled to her back and whimpered. “Le-heave me alo-ho-hone.”
She heard him sigh in her ear, something they both knew he did to annoy her.
“Mari, your new little friend is trapped in a locker room with very large, scary men….”
“Ooh, sounds like a party.”
“Not a joke. I don’t know how much time she has before they find her; and I don’t know how long she can even last in the locker she’s hidden in.”
“Well, who told her to hide in a dup locker?”
“Well, that… was me, but we sort of had to improvise.”
“Then improvise her back out of there.”
“Mari, she’s not like you. I think I’ve pushed her as far as she can go. Something I wouldn’t have had to do if you took better care of yourself and didn’t faint the moment things got exciting.”
“You really want to lecture me now about this? Right now?”
“Do you really want your first words to Cael to be your condolences for the loss of his wife?”
Mari’s heart jumped.
Sieffre effected a low, smoky voice. “’Oh hi, Cael. Fancy meeting you here. So sorry I let your wife die, you see, I really needed to finish my nap.’”
“Zha gau! Okay! I’m getting up.” She turned back onto her side and grunted as she wedged an elbow beneath her. “See? I’m getting up.”
“And I don’t sound like that, bawa.”
“Ooh, someone is gah-rum-py when she doesn’t get her beauty sleep.”