Wayne frowned. “That was easy,” he said.
One of his cultists stirred. “Too easy,” she said. “There’s some kind of trick going on.”
This time I did laugh, if only to see them wince. “Very well. I will not do the ritual, then. I assume someone will take these handcuffs off before you all leave? It is not like I invited any of you here.”
It took them all a collective moment to work through the problem — esoteric cults, honestly, do not attract swift thinkers — before the talkative cultist asked me “But we fed you the candy that you used to mark the other victims! You’ll share their fate, now!”
Have you ever shrugged while in handcuffs? Do not bother. I satisfied myself with a sardonic reply: “And? You would eventually come up with a painfully inventive way to make me perform the ritual. We might as well stop wasting time, so that I can get on with freeing the Owl.”
“So it is an owl, then?” murmured Wayne.
“Yes,” I said. “And no. I call it an Owl because dragons have no feathers. I wonder if it was once a god; and if it was a god, what its worshippers were. It is very old, I think. Older even than the possibility of humanity, perhaps.”
“And you want to see it freed,” said Wayne.
“Well, of course,” I replied. “I assume that the rest of you feel the same way? So, yes, I will freely free the Owl. Marked candy, or not.”
Wayne turned to the cultist standing next to me. “Release him, then.” The talkative cultist looked daggers at that, and Wayne turned to her angrily. “What else are we supposed to do? Just sit here in the basement until we die of boredom? I told you that we should have just recruited him! If there is a problem here, it is your fault!”
While this was going on I stood, chafing my wrists where the handcuffs used to be. “Yes, you should have recruited me. But it is too late now, so I am going to begin, and get this over with.”