The Girl and the Lion

She pressed herself flat against the stone wall, her heart pounded in her chest in nervousness. What if one of the winkies found her? Or worse, the witch? She’d been sneaking down to the dungeon where the Lion was being kept, passing him scraps of food she saved after preparing Trystine’s meal. Toto stayed close to her legs, after last time, the black terrier didn’t venture away anymore. The young woman listened for any noise down the hall but nothing so she slipped off the wall and continued on.
She clutched the small cloth bag close her chest, her breathing erratic. She was terrified and she knew the only thing protecting her, the only keeping them from killing her, or throwing her into a dungeon herself, was the silver slippers on her feet. Toto whined softly and she glanced down at the dog with a grim smile.
“Don’t worry, we’ll get out of here soon. I’m working on it.” It’d been a few days already and she still did not know what became of the Scarecrow or the Tin Man but she couldn’t allow herself to continue to cry about them every night. She had to start taking action and that was going to start tonight. It got colder in the dungeons, a chill went down her spine and she pulled her jacket tighter around her.
“How did you know?” She asked as she pushed into the room, seeing her friend in the large brass cage. He paced back and forth, his long tail swishing against the floor. He sat, in front of the door and Dorothy sat crossed legged in front of him. She opened the bag and passed the bits of meat, fruit and vegetables she managed to hide away. He purred softly and began to eat.
“I can smell you. I’d know you from anywhere. Plus, I could smell this.” Toto, no longer afraid of Lion, trotted over after being distracted by his nose and sat in front of the cage, his dark eyes on the larger animal, his tail wagging excitedly. Dorothy petted him behind his ears with a soft smile. “Did you bring anything for yourself tonight?”
She hesitated for a moment. She hadn’t really eaten, she wasn’t very hungry, plus, the Lion didn’t get to eat every night so she gave him both hers and his portions.
“I already ate earlier. Just eat Lion.” They sat in silence, the only noise came from the small crackles of the torches in the room. “I came down to here to also talk to you about escape.”
She watched his ears flicker and his tail swooshed. Perhaps with interest. The Lion knew this would come up again, it happened the second night they were here, as the Witch barely let the girl out of her sight the first day, biding her time to steal away those slippers but unlike him Dorothy was strong and brave. She held out and the witch grew bored, at least for now. He wanted to escape, to find their lost friends, but… at what price?
“I don’t know about this.” He leaned forward into a resting position and shook his head “The witch has been very generous. I don’t see why we can’t just-“
“Lion!” Dorothy said sharply, her brown eyes widening at him. The Lion looked away recognizing the anger in her face, it wasn’t the first time it was directed at him. He remembered when she slapped him. “We can’t stay here. The whole point of us even coming here is to kill her for the Wizard. Don’t you remember? What you want?”
Her eyes pleaded with him to understand, to be on her side, to help her find a way out, to fight. He remembered what he wanted, he wanted to be the king again, he wanted courage, something he never had, but these creatures, the Scarecrow, the Tin Man, this girl and even her dog were braver than he and he is a lion!
“Yes.” It came out as a grumble. He wasn’t going to win this argument, not that he really wanted to anyway. “What do we have to do?”
Dorothy’s eyes lit up, her smile widened and the glow of the fire danced across her brown skin as she leaned forward, her voice dropping to a whisper. “I’m trying to think of a plan of how to get us out of here, to at least find the others. Make sure they’re okay. But first, I need to get out of here. Do you think, just in case I can’t steal the keys from the winkie guard, that you could break out yourself?”
The Lion sat up, his head tilted to the side curious at her question. His amber eyes glanced at the bars before looking at her.
“I don’t think so.”
“Lion, you have to try, you have to want to try.”
He shook his head, his fear causing him to move up and move away. He couldn’t do this. He wasn’t going to be able to protect her. He was sure her plan required him to be brave and he couldn’t. He just couldn’t. Then he stopped, his ears twisted and he jerked his head towards the door.
“Someone’s coming.” Panic crept into his deep voice, it turned into a slightly whimpering growl. “You’ve got to leave.”
Dorothy jumped to feet, Toto’s ears pricked as she scooped him into her arms. His small frame tucked against her chest. “How far away are they?”
“Down the hall, you should be able to make it without them seeing you. Go Dorothy now-” she nodded and ran towards the door “-go hurry!” She flung open the door and darted up the stone steps. The Lion watched her go. He wanted to be brave for her, he wanted help her, help the Scarecrow and the Tin Man, but he was just a coward. He was nobody’s hero.
Dorothy’s legs carried her up the stairs, Toto bounced against her chest but it was better than losing him in the dark. She could hear the footsteps of the guard and she plastered herself against the wall as he neared. He paused near her, she pressed hard into the shadows, hoping he wouldn’t notice her and if he did, he didn’t say anything. When he continued walking, she waited before going back to her designated room, the kitchen. The fire still crackled. She released her dog and stoked the fire with a bit more wood. It was warm and the bed wasn’t uncomfortable but it didn’t matter because pretty soon they were going to be out of here. They were going to return to the Emerald City and the Wizard will grant them their requests. She was sure of it. But first… sleep and tomorrow, they were going to find their friends.


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