The Trials of King Dimitar (Background information: this story takes place during a second arranged meeting with King Dimitar. Sophie, Keefe, Lady Cadence, and Wraith are once again at Ravagog to seek the help of 800 ogre soldiers.)
“Eight hundred,” King Dimitar said slowly, rising from his throne, “Say that to my face again.”
Lady Cadence bowed curtly and kneeled at the king’s feet. “We need eight hundred ogre soldiers to help us defend our cities, Dimitar,” she said, meeting his glance, “You’ll need to help us.”
“And what makes you think I would do that?” He scoffed, pounding his feet against the hard ground as if to show how much power he held. “Please remember who’s in charge here, Cadence,” King Dimitar said in a hushed tone with urgency, looking like he was seconds away from air-kicking Lady Cadence out of his turf with his toenails.
Sophie and Keefe both shuddered as she reached for Keefe’s hand, silently praying that if it came down to a test again, they would not have to wash King Dimitar’s feet. If Keefe knew what she was thinking, his immediate response would probably be I call not getting the toenails! And Sophie would jump in with a fun fact meant to tease him and give him some serious cold feet, Did you know that there was a human who didn’t cut his fingernails for 69 years? Way to gross him out, but it felt like too much of a role reversal.
Lady Cadence seemed to understand what he was implying, and she stood her ground bravely. “I don’t want a war, Dimitar. We were once enemies — who’s to say we can’t be allies? Haste will not help you here,” she added rather hastily, making Sophie wonder what her game was.
“Wars are sometimes necessary!” King Dimitar bellowed at the top of his lungs, scaring her and Keefe ten times as much as what would’ve been if Biana appeared behind the king’s throne randomly — and brought Fitz along with her.
Being underground made her appreciate being above and breathing fresh air — she could suddenly picture humans catching air from the elvin world and selling it in supermarkets, Fresh elvin air! A perfect cleanser when you’re more than five thousand miles below or above normal altitude! When she was on the boat coming here, Keefe had been the one holding her, not the opposite — it made her want to kiss the earth when she finally regained her balance and stepped on solid ground again. For some reason, she thought she was going to have a sudden urge to pickpocket him.
Before she could sneak a glance over at Keefe and see how he was doing, King Dimitar stared her in the eye and whispered surprisingly softly for an ogre, “Sometimes you have to break before you reheal.”
Keefe and Sophie both closed their eyes instinctively and reached for each other mentally — Keefe sent her a cool mental breeze that came in a beautiful, dancing light green, while Sophie filled his mind with Silveny shouting KEEFE! KEEFE! KEEFE!
“Nice to know you two can still work together,” King Dimitar boomed, snapping them out of their trance as he snapped his fingers boredly and waggled an eyebrow. “It’s been really fun seeing you two… develop.”
Okay, I really DO NOT want to know what that means, Keefe whispered in her ear. Somehow it felt like a transmission in her mind, and she could almost feel him smirk and grin playfully. The color of light green flashed in front of her, and it was then that she’d realized that she’d never seen Keefe in colorful clothes on normal days. What would he look like in red? The selfish part of her thought, lingering like his breath.
It made her want to hug him — that much more relatable, huh? And glare at him for trying to make jokes in an underground dungeon.
“Nice job,” Lady Cadence remarked, making Sophie’s mind fog up like a pair of goggles after being underwater for too long, “You — we’ve — gotten off point. We need to discuss this immediately, and you need to promise me that you’ll consider it.”
“At the very least,” King Dimitar barked, “We should negotiate a fair trade.”
“Agreed,” Lady Cadence nodded in response almost instantly, “What would you like?”
“Don’t get too clever on me, Cadence,” he warned her angrily before sulking and returning back to his throne, taking his time to position himself properly. “Well, the most fair thing to do would be to bring eight hundred elves into my work camp.”
NO! Sophie and Keefe both screamed inside their heads at the same time. Sophie didn’t even need to use her Telepathy — she knew it, almost as well as she could feel Fitz’s mind.
“That’s a terrible idea,” Keefe said out loud, with so much determination and bravery it looked like it was going to break him. It was too late for him to take it back when Sophie grabbed his wrist — Wraith, Cadence, and Dimitar were all gaping at him, waiting for him to explain. The blond-haired boy Sophie was trying not to glower at looked at the king pointedly and shrugged.“What? It’s terrible! The elves aren’t used to this place. We’ve been down here barely, what, fifteen minutes, and even Foster over here thinks this place smells like a thousand gulons baking in the sun! Unless you're saying that the ogres are going to die in the Lost Cities, that wouldn’t… it’s not fair.``
He said the last word softly, but it would've had the same effect if it had been dragged out. A silent breath held, a sacrifice made, just so his thoughts could be heard. The real him. It wasn't fair that he was going to end up paying a price for it.
King Dimitar smiled, revealing all of his teeth. “I’ve never been about fairness, Mr. Sencen. Your world has never been ‘fair’ either.” He made air quotes with his massive hands.
Keefe managed to grin wider than Sophie had ever seen him do, a sure sign that it was mostly fake. “Awwwww, it’s so cute when you’re trying to counter whatever I say,” Sophie choked, but made the attempt to reach out for his hand in case it would help him at all — though having Grady strangle him did sound better. “We didn’t choose to be born as elves, just like you didn’t choose to be born as ogres. We… we don’t get to decide those things, and that’s unfair. So shouldn’t we be trying to make it all fair so we can live better lives? Isn’t that what you’re trying to do by turning us down?”
Sophie had a ton of questions and bold statements buzzing in her head almost as loudly as a human’s mind.
First: Where was Keefe even going with this?
Second: If he called the king of the ogres cute ever again, he was so done for.
Third: Why was he trying to make things go his way instead of Lady Cadence’s? His great plans usually ended up endangering and almost killing him.
And that was exactly the path he was going down as he told King Dimitar, “Give me a test. A test you never expect an elf to succeed at. If I manage to complete it anyway — eight hundred adorable ogres are coming our way!” He said in a cuddly way that made Sophie want to choke him with a squeezy hug or, well, literally choke him. “If I fail, we send eight hundred elves over to you.”
“Keefe—” Lady Cadence began, obviously not liking how this was turning out — at least, Sophie hoped.
“Nope! I’ve named my terms. King Dimitar’s right when he says that we have to stop faking and covering things and appearing as a ‘united front.’ Oh, yeah, and I’ll add a tiny one to the list I’m sure you won’t mind — Sophie stays out of this.”
If there was one thing she knew about Keefe, it was that whenever he deviated from his usual habit of calling Sophie by the nickname he’d given her, which was really just her last name, “Foster,” things usually turned out to be… intense.
“NO!” She screamed, lunging for anyone she could as Keefe pushed their fingers together. She gasped for air, not even caring what anyone might think of her. “You—You—”
Keefe exchanged a look with her that was much too serious and grave for her own liking. But she knew what he was trying to say: Do you trust me?
She tried to shake her head so badly, but it turned out as a weak, desperate nod. “Please don’t do this,” she begged with the last of her hope, though she knew it was probably pointless.
Keefe held onto her hand as he walked forward slowly, tightening his grip and not letting go until both of their arms hurt so much that Sophie couldn’t believe it was real. It was happening again — and all she could do was stand by and watch as the helpless boy who tried so hard to save her was going to be risking his life all over again.
For her. He was doing it for her, and that was the part that tore her apart.
Of course she didn’t wish that Keefe would be easier to hate, just that he could stop doing reckless things that only made him sink further and further.
“Wait!” It came out softly and dangerously, like the electric hum of a fence. She was so scared that no one could hear her in the moment that she poured all her emotions out into one scream: “TAKE ME INSTEAD!”
And it worked. Keefe had stopped walking forward and turned back with the same pleading look she’d worn on her face just a few seconds earlier. His eyes were wide open in shock like he didn’t want this to be happening, even tried to believe that — but it was too late.
She liked being too late a little too much now.
“Test me,” she said with all the strength she could muster up, pointing to herself — her blonde hair, brown eyes, and small frame. “Test me, King Dimitar. Not him,” Sophie tried to demand.
The king smiled crookedly, like he was enjoying this a little too much for his own sake. “I suppose we’ll have to ask the boy.”
“I won’t let you,” Sophie smiled, suddenly feeling bursts of energy and strength in her stomach that spiraled from nowhere. You are Sophie Foster. You are the Black Swan’s moonlark. You hold immense power, and you’re able to control when you use it and when you don’t. You can ask for simple things like these — for protecting a friend.
She got slightly choked up on that word as she imagined her thoughts being written down on a piece of parchment that Keefe’s lips had grazed. Friend didn’t really summarize it. Neither did any other word she could think of, and it didn’t help that all the words she’d ever known popped out of existence when she tried to rack her brain for one she could use to describe her relationship with Keefe.
He brought her back every time she needed it, and so did she. They were balanced, two pieces of a puzzle that didn’t perfectly fit into each other — one piece was missing a part that someone had taken off.
But when they were created, they could slide into each other’s missing fragments perfectly.
It was time to get that missing part back by doing what she’d been doing all along.
Was it right? Of course it was. She could feel it pumping through her veins.
King Dimitar managed to cover his smirk with a hacking cough. “Then I suppose you would do the same if he was in your position.”
“Of course I would,” she fired back, feeling immense power brewing in his stomach. “You never had to question that.”
She turned toward Keefe, whose eyes were pooling with tears. His face seemed to wear every emotion ever — an adorable side that cheered Awwww, our little Foster is growing up so fast! Another side that explained his tears — thankfulness. And an angry and betrayed side that warned her that she shouldn’t be doing this.
And his quirked expression that was usually a smirk or grin, replaced by his bottom lip twitching every second as if he was deciding between a few million things to do.
I don’t doubt your ability to protect yourself. I never did — okay, I might have before, but this is entirely different. This is about me. And I might change everything.
And beneath him, she could see a different boy. A boy that could be anything he wanted, even if he was being ripped to shreds.
That part broke her.
She could feel him change as he nodded, very obviously still not giving up while mouthing a silent Thank-you to her.
King Dimitar laughed — a breathy snort that made Sophie’s temples and stomach churn with anger. “Then I suppose you’ll have no problem being my subjects together,” his eyes darted between the two of them.
And that was the moment she felt the ground rise beneath her feet, like she was a gladiator in an arena and fighting with a teammate who she felt like was meant to be her worst enemy and her best friend.
And the worst part was that it wasn’t his fault, not in the slightest.
But that was what kept them going.
As strange as it was, Sophie felt a tug at her stomach; the next thing she knew, Keefe’s fingers were laced with hers tightly as he pushed them forward as much as he could so they could cover every opening together, and it was then that she knew he didn’t want to let go. He saw that it might be necessary, which was what made the day seem weirdly normal — as if today still had the potential to turn out like any one of her other days, which were good considering all the things that could’ve happened to her and her friends but nothing like this one, not in the slightest. Keefe’s attention didn’t shift from Sophie as he squeezed tightly, and Sophie did the same — this time, they were both together, but was it purely by choice?
A glint of moonlight sparkled in the dark version of Ravagog, and Sophie understood what the vision meant. All that glitters is not gold.
“Here are the rules,” King Dimitar announced, scowling at Sophie and Keefe’s expressions — Sophie looked like she was about to dig up an invisible dagger from her pocket and aim it at Dimitar’s head (Lady Cadence had advised her not to bring any weapons or wear any clothing with pockets as to not seem intimidating), and Keefe looked like he was seconds away from passing out — Sophie didn’t know if he was faking it or not, but the greenish tint of his skin worried her.
“Oh, stop it, boy,” Dimitar’s eyebrows creased and he made little attempt to flatten them out, “For faking after using being fair as one of your arguments, I’m surprised by your audacity all the same.”
“You won’t be for much longer,” Keefe promised. Something flashed in his eyes for a moment before it returned back to its idle state, searching the room.
Dimitar clenched his jaw. “Rule number one — if one of you forfeits, both of you, or should I say all of you, forfeit,” he said, waving his arms and gesturing at everyone who had come to challenge him, “And you’ll all be facing the same punishment — though I might be more tempted to draw more blood from you,” he added to Keefe.
Sophie threw her hands up. “No, you’re not!”
King Dimitar smirked. “I have to say, your bravery is surprising me. Not to mention how you’re giving into this so easily. I would’ve expected the rambling to go on a lot longer — which makes me wonder if you two had plotted something before you arrived here,” he said suddenly, as if the thought had just occurred to him.
Surprisingly, it was not Keefe who nearly cut the king’s words off again but Lady Cadence. “Dimitar, we came here to be fair,” she dragged the last word out rather hesitantly, “Regardless of your attitude, we will continue to fight.
“I’m sure you will. Right to the very last second,” King Dimitar retorted bitterly, turning back to Sophie and Keefe before Lady Cadence could jump in again. “Rule number two — no screaming. Any kind of screaming from fear whatsoever will result in an immediate summon of eight hundred elves from the Lost Cities.”
Sophie suddenly felt relieved that a member of the Council wasn’t here to supervise them. This would likely have to go through the Council first in order for the trade to be carried out — but Dimitar had surely thought of that. What was his plan?
Concern naggled at Sophie's stomach where she was trying the hardest to keep things at bay. She tried to fight something about to drip down from her eyes that wasn't a tear. What she hated the most and hurt her the most was how her concern, as frustrating as it was going to be, was never going to get them anywhere. It would be thrown away and denied, and this time her concerns weren't going to be lost in a sea of others — to Dimitar, it was a sign of their weakness.
Her frustration was like drinking water lit on fire, feeling so natural and a side effect of every emotion. Would it be better if she just felt nothing at all?
"Thirdly," King Dimitar let out a little grunt before his deep voice continued, "You — you and the boy — will be part of the eight hundred."
Sophie expected a tiny "No!" yelp to escape her mouth. But the noise she made came from the back of her throat and sounded like a hybrid of a cough and clearing her throat.
Beside her, Keefe was clearly struggling. His feet hovered just above the ground as if he was planning to suggest a spar with Dimitar again, but his eyes were more empty and devoid of emotion than Sophie had ever seen them. Sophie blinked as Keefe's lips finally stretched into a look that said I'm going to throttle all of you right now if I don't manifest as a Telepath! Rattling off a colorful string of words from his time at the Neverseen made Sophie almost wish they were each other.
Guilt gently washed over Sophie and she tried to transmit an apology to those still above. Although she was seen as a hero to some, she still had done many things that people deserved a sorry for. Sophie Foster never took pity on herself for her role in this battle, but she felt sympathy for the elves she never got to meet. And now... she might not ever have the chance again.
"Let's get you prepared!" King Dimitar clapped with a crooked smile on his face, sealing the nails on Sophie's coffin — and seven hundred ninety-eight others.
"Breathe, Foster," Keefe reminded her as they walked side by side, their footsteps almost perfectly in sync. He squeezed her hand and laced his fingers with his, allowing them to hang down as Sophie took a deep breath, prepared for the sweetness of Keefe's mental breezes.
They never came.
Sophie's grip on Keefe loosened a little bit and it was then that she realized how sweaty his palms were. Keefe didn't seem to notice it, however, looking around blankly as if searching for a purpose. His hands were the clammiest Sophie had ever felt and she smiled with bittersweetness. This could be the last time.
"I'm breathing," she tried to say, but it didn't seem to bring Keefe back.
Keefe suddenly turned his head around with a fluid motion and gestured at King Dimitar. "How much time until we get there?"
"You'll see soon" was his only response, and he seemed glad to announce it.
Despite everything about her that told Sophie not to scream, the paleness of Keefe's skin was definitely something to be worried about. It was pale enough for her to reach up and tug at an eyelash, but someone grabbed her wrist worriedly and guided them back down.
"You've got this, Foster." He didn't seem entirely convinced somehow, and the look in his eyes said that he was sorry for it.
"Just a typical day, right?" She smiled weakly. "Being escorted to Ravagog, having people's lives depend on us. No big deal."
Keefe's lips curled up in a small grin. "Yeah, yeah, I get it. All the hero nonsense I'll never get," he added softly.
"I'm not some grand solution you've been looking for all along!" Sophie snapped, causing Lady Cadence's eyes to widen from behind them. It was at that moment she realized how tired Keefe looked from head to toe, like he was covered with the ash from the Neverseen fires.
Keefe looked to be shrinking as he swallowed and gulped. "I'm... sorry," he whispered, his breath feeling far away even though it was almost right by her ear.
Sophie buried her face in her hands, not even caring who might be watching. "It's not your fault. I'm just... I'm just sick of being depended on so much. I'm not just invincible because everyone thinks I am! Sometimes I wish this never happened." She shook her head and imagined King Dimitar's smile hovering over her, and suddenly all she could see was darkness and his menacing eyes glad to see her defeated as they flipped around in her head.
"You have every right to be upset, Sophie." Keefe told her with a glint of determination to help. "And I'll..."
His words were cut off by the glittering room of gold that seemed to be closing in on them. All of its walls and even its ceiling was made out of something so pure and radiant you couldn't deny it was real. On second thought, Sophie realized that this room was probably carved out of gold to intimidate whoever stepped foot in here, and suddenly she felt so suffocated she could barely breathe.
"Like it?" King Dimitar smirked as his eyebrows quirked up in a sly grin. "This is the Trials room. Your trial will be held over here," he pointed toward a tube, and Sophie followed his gaze... and nearly choked.
A single tube that looked to be ten times as suffocating as what she was going through now suddenly made Sophie feel as if she was breathing the freshest air on earth. It looked like a life-size testing cubicle designed to break you into pieces, its clear glass panels just begging to be smudged. Shivers ran up the back of her spine and she could only imagine what was going to happen.
It was only when Keefe hurriedly grabbed her elbow that she realized he'd been holding on to her all along. No, they were holding on to each other. But this time his touch was for a different reason.
"Look," he pleaded, turning Sophie to another angle.
Quickly she noticed that the tube was connected to something that came out of a wall that didn't resemble a plug or pipe at all. It was white and looked almost as intimidating as the glass, matching King Dimitar's winking face.
"Welcome to the Trials of Dimitar," he said, his face saying the words too. His eyes searched the room until they found Sophie's and they pierced her with lightning.
"In," King Dimitar ordered with authority, pointing a finger at the cubicle. Sophie barely had a chance to exchange glances with Keefe before her feet pointed her forward. Shocked at her response, she felt some mysterious force that was still part of her lift her ankle as if she was in a simulation.
Then her eyes widened as the king quite literally threw her over his shoulder and into the testing tube. Still unable to move, she landed sitting on top of her hands with her hair caught in her eyes. This level of disgust... she didn't have a word for it. She didn't have a way of showing it. All she could do was glare at the crystal-clear glass and press her face against it, her features distorting in her reflection.
Then the lid popped into place and, with a slow twist, locked her in.
The shock still setting in like a loss that she was all too familiar with, all she could do was watch, terrified, as Keefe charged toward King Dimitar like a verminion with huge, gorgodon-like steps and kicked him in the stomach, his mouth open shouting a battle cry. Dimitar gasped and wheezed at the sight of Lady Cadence conjuring a shield that separated him from Keefe and sent it smashing through the king's face, framing him like Sophie.
"That. Will. Be. Enough!" King Dimitar shouted as he sent a dagger spiraling toward where Lady Cadence's neck was moments ago. If Sophie had been in her position, she would've thought it was coming straight for her and moved so the dagger actually did go through her skin. Its insane speed made Lady Cadence lunge forward and grab Keefe, shoving him behind her as the two crashed against the wall.
Sophie's mouth opened as Keefe ran toward her and smashed against the glass of the tube so hard it almost fell down like a chunk of ice breaking. With a nasty growl, King Dimitar stepped toward Keefe. Knowing there was no way he could escape, Sophie braced for impact and tried to think of ways to make it quicker — except she had lost the ability to think.
Keefe seemed to have been expecting it too, the reality of what he had done setting in as he leaned back and wrapped his arms around Sophie's tube, staring up into the king's eyes with a maddening smirk. Dimitar grunted, disgusted, and grabbed his shoulder without a second thought. Sophie could barely hear her scream as Keefe was thrown across the room, landing on his shoulder with a groan.
"Stop this. Right now," she pointed, but no words came out of her mouth.
The king seemed to understand what she was saying and smiled sadly. "I'm afraid you've left me with no choice."
Her failure forced her to swallow her words and allow them to sink in as King Dimitar lifted the tube and, without any warning, let go and allowed it to drop.
Her scream built up in tears but never left her eyes. Standing there — no, sitting — with her hair a mess and falling in her eyes was the most defeated Sophie Foster had ever felt. It felt like the end was near, like she had lost the ability to see in color, like all hope had been lost. It was the only emotion she could ever feel.
The king played with a small, forced grin on his face. "Get the boy in here," he pointed to Wraith — Sophie hadn't even remembered that he'd been there since the beginning — and sucked in a breath that reminded her of hospitals when she saw Wraith grabbing Keefe's elbow and walking him slowly toward Sophie, as if it was the last time they would ever see each other.
Wraith stopped and looked at the king with a gesture Sophie couldn't read while he distractedly whispered something in Keefe's ear. Keefe nodded once as Wraith gave him a gentle push forward before fading into the background again. The next second, it was as if the Black Swan Collective member had never been there.
King Dimitar muttered something about elves before popping the top of the lid off. Normally Sophie would've realized that it was her opportunity to breathe, but what did it matter? They were going to die anyway. With a few kicks and a glower, Keefe fell into the tube smoothly just as swiftly King Dimitar popped the lid back on.
"This place messes with your head, Sophie," he said, shaking his head, "Don't you see? This is... this is more than we could hope for!"
18.104.22.168 wrote: I don't really understand what's happening, like at all.
i'm so sorry for not responding to your question as quickly as i should've. at the peak of the war with the Neverseen, Sophie and Keefe, accompanied by Lady Cadence and Wraith, arrive at Ravagog to ask for assistance from King Dimitar in the form of additional soldiers. he then requires a challenge and negotiates a trade so that eight hundred elves from the Lost Cities will be sent over to the ogres if they lose. Keefe was initially chosen to be challenged but Sophie steps up in place of him, and the king decides to test them both.
"What?" She was sure she'd heard him wrong. In a place like Ravagog where trials existed, the only rational thing to do was assign yourself blame. It may have been out of fear.
Keefe's eyes took on the personality of the glass tube caging them in. After a few moments, however, they melted back into its normal state without the softness and with the daze that made him seem unaware or unattentive. "I needed a shower anyway. Don't you think, Foster?"
"How can you joke about this?"
It was the last thing she said before the water started pouring in.
The pipe connecting the tube to some mysterious source suddenly lunged forward, coming to life like a snake as something moved through it that made it bulge. Sophie jumped back momentarily and didn't even blush when the back of her head slammed right against the glass and then bounced into Keefe's shoulder. From the impact, she could almost see the mark her head made from the perspective of Lady Cadence or Wraith.
This isn't so bad. A little bit of head pain she could live with. A little bit of nausea she could fight through. Every peak meant that there would soon be relief to her pain.
As if it could get any worse, the absence of Keefe's mental breezes suddenly popped through a hole of her pain. The pain from that took a while to settle in, but when it did... Sophie realized that a different kind of pain could exist and live while another was present. It would be hard losing the ones closest to her. Maybe it was about to happen. But if it did, she needed to fight through it.
Sweat suddenly became apparent on her forehead as the ache numbed to an imaginary background noise. But if something was over, it never meant that you were supposed to forget it.
And the real pain set in when Sophie felt something splash at her feet. A tiny hurricane formed at the bottom of their tube. Her eyes widened in disbelief and shed the brave shell it had been putting on this entire time, or what seemed brave compared to how she was going to fail miserably at combatting this challenge. Tears pricked the back of her eyes and she accepted defeat, knowing they would soon be hidden in the water.
Then the breeze finally came. It hit, peaceful and calm and strangely satisfying like shooting an arrow that found its target, before the target revealed itself to be a friend. Sophie felt the sky turn gray and dissolve into black. In a moment, the very air had became the color of evil. So why couldn't it turn around again?
Keefe sensed her unease and pulled his hand out of her grasp. Even after he let go, Sophie could still feel how sweaty his palms were, and his touch didn't even linger.
The glassy darkness stayed, warmer than it should've been. It should've been the feeling of Keefe's fingertips. But it felt as sticky as a spray of blood.
The water rose up suddenly and soaked the bottom of her boots. She felt like she was stepping on a puddle of melted ice. This was an impossible trial. How were they supposed to escape?
Looking over at Keefe, his face was every bit as dumbstruck as she was defeated. Don't act on impulse, her mind tried to reason as if he could hear her thoughts somehow.
The next thing Keefe did was every bit heroic and desperate. He stepped back and slammed against the glass with every force he could muster, and Sophie felt her sight go red as she let out a scream that would've pierced right through the tube if it was any higher. Drops of water splashed onto Keefe's hair and she finally managed to pull him back.
That isn't going to work.
A smirklike feeling brewed in her mind. Not going to ask for permission before you enter, Foster? I thought this was about trust.
The hurt in his voice, although mental, made Sophie consider that this might be what the trial really was about: trust.
It is. The words felt like a lie. We have to get out of here.
What do you think I was just doing? The replacement for his scowl was a quiet, patient voice, which scared Sophie even more than Keefe's anger.
Think outside the box, she whispered, feeling her voice reach him like a shadow.
The tube. Sophie, we're not in a box. Something about his voice explained her frustration. There's no point thinking outside of the box — or the tube, anyways — if we don't understand why we're being tested.
Sophie held a finger up to her lip in a shhh sign, although there wasn't really a need to be quiet. Pressing the other palm against the glass, she felt the touch of her fingers next to each other and deducted that it was just the normal type.
Keefe let out a loud groan in frustration. "It's not you, Sophie," he shook his head, "And I'm not claustrophobic. It's just..."
Sophie opened her mouth to try to reassure him before her mental voice took charge. Why she couldn't talk out loud, she had no idea. Dimitar wouldn't make the test impossible.
Please stop repeating that, Keefe winced, the droplets of water clinging onto him more visible.
Sorry. It was the least she could do. I have an idea.
Keefe's tiny smile of glad pushed her out of her barriers, forced her to think. Councillor Bronte had always taught her to store her energy in certain parts of her body in order to inflict. But he'd also told her that she was more powerful than he ever expected her to be. Which meant... what if she never really used up all the energy she'd stored? What if there was a little bit left?
Telepathy. With two brilliant ideas coming in at the same time, Sophie felt as if she'd gained a boost somehow as she separated her abilities into two tasks she could manage at the same time. When she concentrated on her Inflicting, her Telepathy turned on too, mirroring each other as she focused on sending a blast of positive emotions into the inside of the tube while sending a HELP! request into Lady Cadence's and Wraith's minds.
Behind her, Keefe let out a few shaky breaths. Sophie crossed her fingers, a nervous habit that she probably shouldn't have developed as her transmission was sent out... and hit her in the face like a boomerang returning.
For a while, all she could do was stand, shocked and not knowing what to do, as her body shrunk against the wall.
Then the water started spinning. Sophie grabbed on to the nearest tangible thing she could find — in this case, Keefe's arm — as it continued rising. With a sickening dread in her stomach, the realization that the water must've kept rising while she tried to get help hit her fair and square. Her arm started hurting with the stretch and she pulled herself closer to Keefe.
"You got any ideas, Foster?" Keefe shouted over the whirl of the water. Was it just her imagination, or had it gotten colder since it first trickled in?
"None." She wasn't sure if Keefe could hear her. But why— no. She refused to feel pity for herself. Her emotions had gotten her here.
Keefe pounded his fists against the glass that was as hard as a layer of brick. Sophie didn't know how to tell him to stop. How do you tell someone who's already stopped fighting to stop fighting?