You can find the other parts of the story on my profile! (I'm too lazy to link to them all right now...)

A while later

One day, Kenno woke early, as he’d planned. He’d taught himself a while ago to wake up at whatever time he chose, but he would have been too nervous to sleep longer anyway.

Rayad had made a mistake.

Kenno ran his thumb across the smooth wood of the bowl that he held in his hand. Yesterday, Rayad had sent someone else to give Kenno food—he must have been busier than usual, or maybe he was simply tired of dealing with Kenno.

But that man had brought the food in a wooden bowl.

It was a tool. Though it wasn’t very heavy, it was hard and solid. And it was the first thing Kenno had noticed that he could use to escape.

But how could he do this to Leyon? came the unbidden thought. Kenno gripped the bowl tighter in front of him. No. Leyon wasn’t his friend. Leyon was working for Rayad, and Kenno would do whatever he needed to in order to get out of here.

After what felt like an eternity of waiting beside the door, the bolt opened with a soft click. As the door opened, Kenno swung the bowl with all the force he could muster straight at Leyon’s head.

Leyon’s arm shot up instantly, blocking Kenno’s swing and twisting his arm to the side.

No. He’d failed?

There was no time to think. Kenno lunged forward, trying to get Leyon in a chokehold, but the man easily spun under his arms and threw Kenno to the ground.

The bowl clattered out of Kenno’s hands as he fell. He hit the ground, the impact smashing against his shoulder and hip. He hurriedly backed away from Leyon, but he soon ran into the wall and stopped, trapped. For a moment, both men were silent, breathing heavily.

“What are you doing?” Leyon asked incredulously. He reached down and picked up the bowl. It looked like a pathetic weapon now.

“I was trying to escape,” Kenno muttered. What was the point in hiding it now? Then he added reluctantly, “This was the only way I could think of to do it and still protect all three of us.”

“Three?” Leyon said.

Kenno sighed. “You, me…and Doken.”

A slight look of surprise crossed Leyon’s face. “I thought you didn’t believe me,” he said.

“I couldn’t believe you,” Kenno said. “There’s a difference.”

Leyon watched Kenno quietly for a moment, his face impassive. Then he set the bowl down on the ground and drew a knife from his belt.

Kenno shrank away from the knife as Leyon walked toward him, but there was nowhere he could go. Leyon reached toward Kenno, who braced himself for whatever was about to happen.

But instead Leyon carefully took hold of the rope that bound his hands together. Each second Kenno still expected to feel the cool knife blade against his skin. The man’s fingers whispered across the knots that had held Kenno here for so long.

Then the rope fell to the ground.

Kenno didn’t dare move. As he waited, frozen, Leyon reached down, and in one smooth movement, sliced the rope binding Kenno’s feet together.

“What are you doing?” Kenno asked, echoing Leyon’s question from earlier.

Leyon handed the ropes to Kenno and held out his own hands behind his back. “I’m letting you escape,” he said.

“What?” Kenno managed.

“I’m letting you escape,” Leyon repeated. “If you want to get out of here, tie me up now.”

Kenno couldn’t comprehend what was happening. “But—” he protested.

“This is no different than what would have happened if you’d succeeded,” Leyon said. “I can lie, remember?”

Kenno remembered the conversation he’d had with Leyon so long ago. “You lie every day,” he murmured.

“I’ll tell Rayad that I stumbled upon this place,” Leyon said, “that I went in because I heard noises and I was concerned, and that whoever was in here knocked me out and tied me up. You’ll have to take the knife with you, as well as actually knock me out when you leave. Gag me if you can, to be safer.”

“So you’ve been telling the truth this whole time?” Kenno said, unable to think about the escape itself yet. He shook his head. “I’m sorry—”

“Like you said,” Leyon interrupted, “you couldn’t know. It was the smart choice not to trust me.”

Kenno couldn’t answer that. He reluctantly reached forward to fasten the ropes around Leyon’s wrists and ankles. Glancing at the faint scars left around his own wrists, he hoped that Rayad would find Leyon soon.

“Tie them tightly,” Leyon said. “I’ll be fine.”

Kenno pulled the ropes tighter, hating that he was doing the same thing that had been done to him. But at least Leyon had wanted it. In Kenno’s first plan, Leyon wouldn’t have had a choice.

Kenno wanted to tell Leyon about his family—about everything he hadn’t been able to tell him before—but he still couldn’t risk it. He had to keep all of them safe, including Leyon. Kenno still didn’t know if Rayad had a way to get information from the man.

So he worked in silence as he knotted the ropes again.

“Cut part of my shirt for a gag,” Leyon said.

Kenno used Leyon’s knife to slice a strip of cloth off the edge of his tunic. Then he stood there holding it. After he did this, Leyon couldn’t say anything else to him. He wanted to put off those last words.

“Turning left out the door will take you north, away from Rayad,” Leyon said. “You’ll probably want to go that way.”

Kenno nodded, inexplicably disappointed, though he told himself not to be. What had he expected? A tearful goodbye? That wasn’t like either of them.

Kenno still waited, gathering the remaining food and water into a bundle and fastening the knife and its sheath around his waist. Then he tied the cloth around Leyon’s mouth as gently as he could and picked up the bowl, turning it in his hands. He didn’t want to do what he had to do next.

Leyon caught Kenno’s eyes and gave him a single nod.

“Thank you,” Kenno said, trying to convey in those few words his gratitude for everything Leyon had done. He couldn’t, but he hoped Leyon would understand.

Then Kenno took one more breath, reached back, and swung the weapon at his friend’s head.