The Shapers are professional monster wranglers with over a thousand years of experience in the craft. They're smart, industrious, coordinated and would have put an extreme amount of thought into ensuring that none of their captives escape. Which raises the question, if you are one of those captives and you do want to escape, how exactly should you be going about it?
There are a number of schools of thought on the matter. Careful planning, strategic application of force, pitting wits against wits, all classic stuff. Hard to work alone, obviously, so you might reach out to allies, put a crew together as it were. Once everyone gives you the 'You daughter of a Queen, I'm in' you start piecing together your plan bit by bit under the watchful eye of your captors. It's exciting, riveting stuff that makes for amazing intellectual competition.
The other way to go is to acknowledge that your captors are smarter, better prepared, willing to invest a hell of a lot more energy than you are and so you need a different approach. How do you defeat the opponent who has more wits? Don't engage in a battle of wits! That would be freakin' stupid! No, instead you punch them the face way harder than they think you can. Then, you leg it.
Jim and I, we may not be the sharpest set of tools in the shed, but we are smart enough to know that we aren't that smart. Which counts for something! Therefore, our escape plan does not hinge on an elaborate scheme, meticulous timing or coordinating watches. It involves the two of us digging our way out, faster and better than the Shapers could possibly expect us to. Which wasn't hard for us to set up, all things considered. They've never examined my core, thus they don't truly know what I'm capable of, and my training has proceeded very quickly, especially in my particular area of focus: Earth Magic.
My worm compatriot isn't a prisoner in the technical sense and has some limited freedoms which he's used to test the boundaries of what he can get away with when tunnelling about the place. He also has refused to have his core checked for over a year and so far no Shaper has pushed him on it. What we've learned is that the compound does is fact have measures in place to prevent monsters from digging out. Magically hardened stone, barriers around the cells as well as a few other nasty surprises. Combined with the constant surveillance is quite enough to contend with.
The great worm of Earth had already been hard at work, manipulating the ground around him to create small micro tunnels that he hoped were undetectable to the Shapers who no doubt kept an eye on such things as the soil and stone integrity around their facility. It was a rare feature of his earth attuned class that he was able to manipulate soil and stone at such a range but he'd had to be careful and work slowly. If things worked out the way he wanted them to, those micro tunnels would mean he could dig through at twice the speed he could into unprepared ground.
Which meant that all I had to do was dig my own way out of my cell and meet up with him. In order for that to happen though, I need to get Granin and Torrina out of my hair.
[So Corun has Tiny out on a hunting expedition? Hope that's all going well.]
[From what I understand it's been good. Your pet has been eager to get back out hunting, Corun thinks he wants to test his new abilities.]
[No. He just loves punching things.]
Granin huffs with irritation from his position to the side on his chair.
[What are you so mad about, Granin? In fact, why are you even here? Are you sure you don't need to take a long walk or something?]
[No, I don't, and I'm irritated because I don't know what is motivating the leadership of my own cult anymore.]
[You know what I mean!] He throws his hands into the air, frustration plain on his stone covered face. [I just can't understand what is happening here and it's slowly driving me mad. Why are our traditions being thrown out after so long? What exactly are we hoping to achieve here?]
[We? You still put yourself on the same page as the rest of them?]
[Of course I do you blithering insect! I don't have to explain to an ant the idea of loyalty to the collective, do I?]
[You do not.]
Granin relapses into his muttering pensive thinking pose whilst Torrina watches from the side, concern marring her features. For my part, I'm having an internal debate. Has this situation been good? No. How do I feel about the Cult of the Worm? Not great. Who was the cult member who put me in this sucky scenario? Granin. But he and his triad have been good to me. They've worked harder than they could have ever been expected to and Granin has put himself on the line to try and help me. If possible, I don't want them to get caught up in any trouble on my account. How to warn them without letting them know what I'm planning? And what if I end up coming back for Sarah? What about the Colony? This could get messy.
[So, Granin. How's things?]
[I'm trying to think over here.]
[Right. I get that. Just hear me out for a moment. If, by some strange chance, I managed to escape from here, what would happen to you and the gang?]
[Us? Punishment, but nothing too dramatic, why? You finally sorted out an escape plan?]
[Of course not. I'm not smart enough for that.]
Why you….. I'm calm.
[Let's just say that I did escape. All I want to say is that it's probably not a great idea for you to stay here in this compound. Just in case.]
Granin unfolds his hands and looks at me seriously.
[Are you seriously trying to suggest that you would be able to threaten this entire compound full of mages?]
I think about the number of ants I'm sensing through my Vestibule.
He sits for a moment and thinks before opening his eyes and looking right into one of my own.
[You didn't deserve the sort of treatment you've received here, Anthony. If I'd known what was going to happen to you, I'd never have brought you in.]
[Thanks, Granin. That means a lot. And thanks to you Torrina, you've helped me out a lot.]
The young Shaper walks toward me and puts one hand on my carapace, the metal in her skin shimmering in the low light.
[You are a special monster, Anthony. Perhaps one day you'll ascend and fulfil our dreams.]
[Let's get out of here, Torrina. I think Anthony needs a little alone time.]
So saying, Granin and Torrina climb up the ladder and exit my cell without looking back. Strange though it may seem, I hope I see them again. They're good people.
[Alright Invidia, are you ready?]
[Freedom. I shall have it!]
[Damn right. Get that illusion cracking.]