You don’t have time for implications. Best to play along – at least that way, he’s unlikely to make any sudden moves on you.
“Is that an offer?”
“Whether it is or not depends on what you can offer me. It would be satisfying to see the look on her face, mind, but that alone isn’t adequate compensation for my trouble.”
Hmm. He’s being vague. Probably doesn’t want to give away too much about his plans.
“Before I agree to anything, I’m coming in to make sure the prisoners are okay.” You’re not happy about it, but you can’t keep this conversation going at a distance forever.
“By all means.”
You step in. The man you’ve been talking to looks at you; he’s quite old, though his outfit is very unfamiliar. He’s also quite a bit shorter than you. Taller than Shorty, but not by more than a head or so.
He nonetheless manages to look quite intimidating. Then again, Shorty can do that too.
You walk over to the door. The cell seems quite small for having two people in it. At the moment, they both seem to be asleep on a pair of benches, with no more than a few feet between them.
“Marshall? Long? You okay in there?”
Marshall stirs, and slowly stands up.
Marshall walks towards you sluggishly. Not looking good.
“Ah, that would be a side effect of the cage,” the old man says. “The ether resistance interferes with normal ether flow, which tends to make basic tasks require more energy. It’s not enough of a difference to be life-threatening, even to a novice, but it does tend to keep magicians quite a bit more passive.”
“Who’re you,” Marshall mutters weakly.
“Save your energy,” you say. “Don’t talk. I’ll help you out… somehow.”
You quietly flash the message you got from the crow at Marshall, who seems puzzled. Maybe you’ll have a chance to ask about that later. In the meantime, you glance at Captain Long, who hasn’t moved at all.
“Is Long all right?” you ask.
“I can’t really check for sure from here, but I believe he’s unconscious,” says the old man. “Tends to have that effect on older mages, especially if they’re out of practice. The physical body isn’t what it used to be.”
As he babbles, you do a few experimental pokes at the lock. You’re no expert at lockpicking, but you’re not half-bad, either. Still, this seems beyond your skills.
The old man doesn’t say anything. He’s just letting you take in their suffering, no doubt before making a very reasonable offer to help.
So. What are you going to do?
Ask Marshall to give you his glove and let you inspect his hands, pretending he had a wound.