1 - Caged Prisoners
the yelling and screaming among the chaos it was
difficult to make out what was happening as we were
all forcefully shoved into a small cage in the corner
of the large open hall. It wasn't a prison cell
designed to hold prisoners at all but rather an
animal's cage that must have once belonged to a beast
that entertained guests of the palace. There were
about a dozen of us, crammed together, with no
dignity or care for our well being.
as someone trod on my foot. My worn, soft leather
boots were already in a dilapidated state and offered
no protection against the full weight of an adult. I
couldn't even lift my leg to attend the injury for
there was simply standing room only within the
confined space. Closing my eyes I had to accept the
throbbing pain while at the back of my mind I also
had to accept our likely, soon to be, execution. This
wasn't a conventional war, it was a massacre, and the
only reason we weren't already dead was because the
queen's soldiers were busy slaughtering others from
your yapping!" Yelled a mean brutal guard as he
heaved the cage door closed pushing us up tightly
within the confines of the metal bars.
were gasps and screams along with the sound of
weeping. Every slight movement of each of us pushed
against another prisoner exaggerating its effect and
squashing us even further. I focused on remaining
still, but with the large man behind me and the other
adults around it was difficult to maintain composure.
I would likely slip to the floor and be trampled
underfoot before daybreak.
can't breathe," a heaving female voice called
out from among the cramped group of prisoners.
none of my concern!" Another guard said with a
gruff tone of voice.
heard a jingle of keys before the distinct sound of
the door being locked. Someone let out a yelp as the
can't leave us locked up in here!" One among us
let out a muffled yell from the confines of the small
cage, "We have rights!"
began to let out a loud exaggerated laugh before the
rest of them joined in with fake jollity humiliating
it with the queen," the first guard said, "She'll
be along soon enough."
guards then made their way across the large hall and
out through the main doors knowing full well we had
no hope of escape.
already ached and I wished I could sit but there was
simply no room. I wondered if the guards were
intending to leave us locked up until we died.
2 - The Queen
have been over two hours before the main doors of the
hall opened again and in walked a group of guards
accompanying the queen. It was difficult to see her
from my viewpoint so I tried my best to squeeze
through the group of prisoners around me. I hoped the
queen was reasonable and would soon put an end to
sooner we deal with this the better," I heard
the queen speaking with the guards as she made her
way closer, "To use the palace as a stockade is
cells are still packed full," one of the guards
told her, "But we'll process this lot first as
it's a higher priority."
hall needs to be spick and span by the end of the
week for the victory celebrations," the queen
added, "Make sure it gets done, and get rid of
the cage too, it's unseemly."
well," the guard responded.
queen approached she suddenly stopped causing her
footwear to squeak against the stone marble floor.
The guards, at least four of them, stood at her side,
one of which was armed with an axe as well as the
usual long sword. The queen simply gazed her eyes at
us all crammed into that tiny cage. I hoped she was
going to be shocked by our predicament and show
They've stunk this place out already," she
remarked while placing her lace gloved hand under her
nose in a daintily fashion, "Absolute savages."
queen then opened her mouth ready to say something
again but was interrupted by a voice coming from one
of the prisoners.
you blame us?" He mumbled, "We're packed
like arrows in a quiver."
queen stared at him then tilted her head to one side.
There was a long pause of tense quiet as everyone
waited for something to happen. Even her guards
I ask you to speak?" She asked the prisoner.
was another long pause as she awaited an answer, but
as soon as the prisoner responded she interrupted him.
speak when I darn well tell you to and not at any
other time!" She snapped.
queen looked beautiful in her silky white robes and
fine black leather shoes. The splendour of her jewels
around her neck reflected within the lights of the
hall and it was clear she was a woman of taste as
well as wealth. Her crown was refined, made of gold
containing diamonds and sapphires, yet its small and
light appearance made me feel it was something she
wore daily while keeping her main crown reserved for
about her demeanour gave the impression that she was
intelligent and well educated, yet her personality
appeared false, as though she was intentionally
behaving evil. I wondered if she was acting that way
as a performance to impress the guards, but then
again maybe she gained pleasure from behaving that
way and was a genuinely bad person. My suspicions
were proved with what she had to say next.
we have enough hanging ropes?" She said turning
to one of her guards but making sure we all overheard.
got plenty of ropes but only four gallows," he
replied in a gruff tone, "But it's not a problem
they'll just have to wait their turn. Do the young'uns
last because they often get messy."
The queen asked him.
can't hang a kid without weighing down the feet first
and it sometimes goes awry when the heads detach from..."
the guard replied.
queen shuddered and quickly shook her shoulders.
spare me the details," she quickly said
interrupting him, "Just so long as it's done is
all I care about."
within our cage started crying which caused the queen
to approach the bars. The leather shoes of the queen
trod firmly, one slow step at a time, against the
marble floor which I was sure was intentional to
intimidate us further.
cannot execute us we've committed no crime!"
Yelled a voice among us which the queen ignored as
she peered toward the girl who was whimpering
repressed tears that she tried her best to hold in.
queen wiggled her finger at her.
there," the queen said in a loud whisper, "How
old are you?"
tried to shove up to give the girl room to approach
the front of the cage. It was difficult and I almost
fell down only to be held up by the man standing
behind me. The queen waited patiently.
nine," the girl responded as she trembled
peering through the bars at the queen who looked down
people are nothing but savages," the queen told
her in a direct matter of fact tone, "Your
father a barbarian and your mother a whore. I'll be
doing you a favour putting you to death, therefore
out of your misery."
an instant the queen jumped back with total shock
plastered upon her face. I hadn't fully witnessed
what had taken place but from the moisture upon her
cheek it looked as though the girl had spat in her
face. The queen quickly wiped it using her sleeve.
little runt come here!" The queen screeched as
she put her hands between the bars and grabbed the
girl tightly by the wrist who responded by screaming
your hands off her!" Yelled one of the male
prisoners, "Royalty or not, you do not strike a
queen quickly backed off and paced heavily in her
leather shoes from side to side at the front of the
cage, her arms crossed and her face aflame with anger.
Her own guards stared wondering what to do.
said that?!" She demanded, "Get out here
turned towards one of her guards.
don't just stand there twiddling your thumbs fetch
the key!" She ordered.
hesitating her guard quickly ran across the hall and
out through the large double doors.
queen then turned back to face us, her cheeks red
with anger, her eyes wide while awaiting her guard to
return. She appeared impatient, tapping her fingers
against her arms while they were still in a crossed
position, before tutting loudly. She then quickly
hurried down the hall and through the doors leaving
both ourselves and the rest of the guards wondering
what she intended to do next.
was silence, other than the sound of the young girl
sobbing, as we kept our ears on tenterhooks listening
out at the other sounds within the palace. Within a
matter of minutes the queen calmly headed back into
the hall, with a pleased look upon her face, carrying
a large beverage container with the occasional waft
of steam emanating from its contents.
of you have eaten so out of the kindness of my heart
I offer you my broth," she said in a cheeky tone
before flinging the contents of the container into
screamed, even the people that it didn't hit, due to
shock more so than pain. The steaming hot soup
splashed, with some hitting me on the arm causing me
to take a tumble along with a lot of the other
prisoners as we piled on top of one another. The skin
on my forearm tingled with pain as though I had been
stung by a very large bee but I was more concerned
with my sore foot as someone trod on it yet again.
The more I struggled to get up the more people
tumbled on top of me due to the slippery wet broth on
the marble floor.
queen laughed with hysterics at the farcical
spectacle then immediately ceased, changing her
expression to a serious one again. She then turned
and started making her way out of the hall.
all be executed on the morrow," she said over
her shoulder, "No exceptions."
3 - Nightfall
hours later darkness fell. A dim light emitted from a
few oil lamps that the guards carried at the hall
entrance, but other than that we were in near total
darkness within our confined cage.
still standing, now with my face pressed against the
bars, with my forearm stinging and my legs numb. Part
of me felt relief at the thought of our eventual
execution because every moment within the cage felt
like torture. I was one of the younger ones, most
likely due to be executed near last, I just hoped I
didn't have to witness the others being hanged ahead
was the sound of weeping from some of the prisoners
but I tried my best to remain brave and prayed that
something would happen to release us from our misery.
Closing my eyes I said a silent prayer, not just for
myself and the prisoners around me, but for all our
village, praying for war to end.
need to sit down," a boy near my side whispered
at no one in particular, "My legs are throbbing."
of ours are," someone responded.
against someone, that's what I've been doing," a
woman's voice said.
did exactly as she suggested and there was a sudden
movement within the cage which had the effect of a
large man pushing against my back. I had nowhere else
to move as I was practically crushed against the bars
4 - A Hero Of The Night
palace grew colder as the night wore on, yet with so
many people crammed around me I had yet to fully feel
it. My thighs throbbed while my feet felt totally
numb within my worn leather boots. I was sure to fall
over the moment we were released from confinement.
then that I realised the reason as to the coldness of
the palace, a window was open, or possibly even taken
out. How could a window pane have been removed in
silence? I wondered. I stared at it trying to gauge
if it was my imagination but there was clearly a
breeze blowing through. Even if the window had simply
fallen out there should have been a noise. Licking my
lips first I took a deep breath getting some fresh
air into my lungs still pondering as to how the
window had vanished.
was then the sound of a scuffle in the distance while
the oil lamps near the hall entrance began to flicker
from side to side causing the shadows to dance. A
deep male groan could be heard and the sound of a
thud. The hall doors quietly opened then closed again
and someone approached carrying an oil lamp held high.
the prisoners at my side began mumbling as I tried to
get a good look at the figure heading in our
direction towards the cage. It took my eyes a few
moments to adjust to the light. I could see a figure
within a cloak, their features hidden behind a shroud,
with just the reflection of a mask visible within the
dim light of the lamp. My heart began to beat more
heavily not believing my eyes while hoping with all
my might that I wasn't mistaken. I stared at the
hooded figure concentrating, frightened that my
assumption as to their identity may be wrong, while
slowly realising this was the miracle I had prayed
for. The mumbling of the prisoners around me appeared
to quieten as the figure drew closer.
the Masked Ninja!" I cried out.
that everyone in the cage let out cheers of joy only
to be immediately silenced when the Masked Ninja
silently raised his finger in front of his concealed
calmly removed a key from the pocket of his cloak and
unlocked the cage then stepped to one side as we all
tried to clamber out at once.
panic, take your time," the Masked Ninja said in
a heavily disguised whisper.
us quite some time to remove ourselves while trying
to get the feeling back in our numb legs. I had no
choice but to sit on the hard marble floor, kick off
my boots and wiggle my toes. It was taking a long
time but I would surely fall if I forced myself to
walk. I firmly rubbed my legs and feet willing them
to return to life.
at the ninja. His beautiful long silk black robe had
a very sharp Samurai sword attached within its belt
with some droplets of blood upon its blade. Under his
hood he wore a black mask covering his features that
gave the illusion that there was nothing under the
robe. He looked frightening yet heroic at the same
time like a friendly ghost from the spirit world who
had come to save us.
surprise the Dark Ninja headed towards the large
doors of the hall and waited. Was he really expecting
us to leave through the heavily guarded palace itself?
Surely the window would have been the best escape,
but I then realised under the circumstances getting
so many exhausted people through a small window would
have proved all the more difficult. I just hoped one
ninja was enough to protect us all.
were all steady on our feet we made our way over to
the ninja who heaved open the doors revealing a
number of dead guards within the dim light of the oil
lamps. We looked on in stunned silence as we stepped
around the bodies and continued down the hall with
the ninja ahead of us.
A man among our group called out in a loud whisper
before running ahead toward another group of
prisoners waiting in the hall.
embraced as the rest of the prisoners, about six of
them in all, had the look of pure joy upon their
faces whilst trying to remain quiet. No doubt they
were as pleased to see us as we were to see them, and
no doubt the Masked Ninja had been busy that night.
number of hugs, handshakes and whispered exchanges of
joyful words between us the Masked Ninja raised his
finger in front of his face telling us to calm down
then very light on his feet made his way further down
the passage. We followed placing our full trust in
his judgement. He had already placed the oil lamp
onto the floor so we were heading into darkness.
5 - Escape To Freedom
us prisoners trembled while following the Masked
Ninja out of the palace gates, into the crisp night
air, and finally to freedom. I was terrified that we'd
be spotted by more guards, and while I had my full
faith in the Masked Ninja I still knew he wasn't
indestructible. It was certainly possible we'd have a
bloody fight on out hands if we were outnumbered.
sight of four sets of gallows caused a shiver down my
spine as we all carefully crept out of the palace
grounds towards the forest beyond. I could only
imagine the horrors of what had awaited us giving my
heart of warm feeling of relief at being spared such
you think we're being followed?" Someone among
us asked in a timid whisper.
glanced around but it appeared we were all safe for
the time being. The Masked Ninja continued ahead as
we followed on from behind.
out a breath then suddenly inhaled sharply as the
Masked Ninja raised his hand indicating for us to
stop, there were voices ahead. He removed his sword,
raising it above his head as he slowly crept forward.
The rest of us remained as quiet as a mouse,
crouching as low as possible, as we saw the Masked
Ninja vanish into the treeline. The silence was
broken by nothing but the gentle breeze. Within a few
short moments the Masked Ninja returned and replaced
his sword into his belt. I couldn't tell if he had
made a kill or if the voices had simply passed by,
either way I felt safe within his presence.
on," he whispered quietly waving his hand.
continued to follow the ninja in the direction of the
dense trees of the forest ahead and onward towards
6 - Back To Our Village
continued to walk well into the night, on and on, me
in my sore bare feet, until the sun began to rise.
Some of the younger children were being carried
including the girl who the queen had struck who was
now being carried by the Masked Ninja himself. I too
wished someone would carry me but I was perhaps
considered a little old for that. In fact everyone
was exhausted and I wasn't sure how much longer we
could travel before having to stop to rest. My sore
feet had become encrusted with mud making each
footstep all the more heavy. My shoulders too felt
heavy, as though I was carrying a great weight
pushing down on me, causing me to walk in a contorted
fashion. It was only my belief in the Masked Ninja
that kept me going. He knew we should press on and
not risk danger by resting.
a stone bridge nigh on ahead," one of our group
said while pointing up a small grassy hill, "It
leads to a cavern then a small valley which is just a
couple of miles from the village."
out an internal sigh of annoyance at the thought of
having to walk uphill, yet at the same time was
pleased that we would soon be home. I dreaded the
thought that there may not be much left of our
village to return to. In fact our small group, less
than two dozen of us, may prove to be the only
survivors of this terrible war.
approached the stone bridge, and its cobblestones
which felt cold underfoot, the Masked Ninja stopped
which caused everyone in our group to immediately do
the same in fear of upcoming danger. Luckily that
wasn't the reason why the ninja had stopped.
is where I must take my leave," he said in a
loud whisper as he placed the girl he was holding
onto the ground causing her to wake from her half
slumber, "You'll be safe for now but I can't
hold back the forces of your enemies indefinitely, so
I suggest you and your people leave your village and
find somewhere else to settle."
what we expected to here, we hoped the ninja would
help defend us, so one of our group approached the
then that vile bitch queen would win!" He said
firmly causing others to nod their heads in agreement.
Masked Ninja slowly shook his head from side to side
with a look of saddened disagreement. He then raised
his hands against his face and removed his mask
leaving just a veil beneath to hide his features.
However from the unmistakable bright eyes the ninja's
identity was revealed.
only wish life were that simple," the Masked
Ninja responded in a deep whisper, "But survival
is more important than who wins. You need to swallow
your pride and move on."
stared at the Masked Ninja's unmasked face revealing
the very evil queen from which we had been fleeing.
hold back my forces for as long as I can," she
said in her usual tone of voice, "But when they
launch another offensive against your village I hope
for your sake that you've already abandoned it. Now I
wish you good day."
her face then walked into the opposite direction
leaving everyone bewildered as to her true intentions.