A man was sitting in a cold and badly lit cell of an ancient tower, whose stone walls were whispering tales of forgotten secrets. Time seemed to lose its meaning. Days, weeks or months. None of that mattered. The man was a prisoner and his own thoughts were his only company.

Suddenly, the heavy wooden door broke the silence. A man dressed as a priest entered the cell. The first human being he had seen in many days. The flickering light of the candle, which the priest was holding in his hands, was dancing on his face.

‘Good evening,’ the priest greeted the man. His voice was a mix of authority and curiosity. ‘I have come to speak with you.’

‘About what.’

‘You know very well.’ The priest looked up at the little window above his head. No light was coming in through it. It was the night-time.

The prisoner’s eyes were filled with weariness and resignation. ‘All I know is that I am hungry. Otherwise I have no idea of what you want from me.’

The priest pulled up a chair, which he had brought in from the outside, and sat opposite the captive. He clasped his hands together and went on: ‘You possess the knowledge about certain documents that could alter the course of history,’ his voice was earnest and mysterious at the same time. ‘Our organization wants those documents.’

‘I don’t know what you are talking about.’

‘Do you not?’ replied the priest and smiled. ‘Let me tell you this. The man you are trying to protect is dead. The only thing that matters now, are those papers.’

‘You are lying.’

‘I am not lying. I am a priest!’

‘Well, priests lie the most.’

The priest only smiled. He seemed to be a patient and understanding man.

‘We need those papers, sonny.’

‘I thought you came to pray with me.’

‘We can do that later. But first things first,’ said the priest. ‘We need your help.’

‘Help?!’ said the man and suddenly became furious. He lifted his hands with chains on them and shook them furiously. First you put me in chains, and then expect some help from me??’

‘We had no choice.’

‘Oh, please,’ the man laughed. ‘You bury me here alive because you had no other choice?’

‘Exactly,’ said the priest calmly. ‘We do not want your life, but cannot let you go either, because of what you know.’ The priest put one of his hands on his knee and bent forward. ‘You see, we are not the only people looking for those documents. The others are looking for them too.’

‘Who are the others?’

‘The people who killed your friend. You don’t need to know more than that,’ said the priest. ‘Now they know where to look for the documents, and we don’t. We are in a race against the time, my friend. And if you do not help us to find those papers before they find them, many innocent people will die.’

‘What’s in the papers?’

That doesn’t concern you. It’s better if you do not know.’

‘But I want to know!’

‘Do you really?’ the priest raised his voice. ‘Your friend knew and now he is dead.’

The prisoner’s eyes filled with hesitation. ‘And what will happen if I tell you what I know?’ he inquired, his voice calm again.

A faint smile played upon the priest’s lips as he leaned forward even more. His eyes were piercing into the prisoner’s soul. ‘If you cooperate fully and reveal all that you know, you will be free to go.’

‘And,’ he added in a low and friendly voice, ‘you shall be rewarded.’

“So I will be free to go,” the man repeated the priest’s words, as if he wanted to make sure that he understood him well.

The priest nodded. ‘Yes, indeed. Free as a bird,’ he said and knew, that no other words were needed.

L-3: Free as a Bird - Sparrow's English Reader, Vrabec English - Level 3 English for beginners
Blog: L-3: Free as a Bird

flicker /ˈflɪkə(r)/ – (mihotať, blikať) – (of a light or a flame) to keep going on and off as it shines or burns

captive /ˈkæptɪv/ – (zajatec) – kept as a prisoner or in a space that you cannot get out of; unable to escape

possess /pəˈzes/ – (vlastniť) – to have or own something

alter /ˈɔːltə(r)/ – (zmeniť) – to become different; to make somebody/something different

earnest /ˈɜːnɪst/ – (úprimne, vážne) – very serious and sincere

The only thing that matters – (jediné, na čom záleží) – the only thing that is important

furious /ˈfjʊəriəs/ – (zúrivý) – very angry

innocent /ˈɪnəsnt/ – (nevinný) – not guilty of a crime, etc.; not having done something wrong

That doesn’t concern you. – (To sa ťa netýka.) – It’s none of your business.

hesitation /ˌhezɪˈteɪʃn/ – (váhanie) – the act of being slow to speak or act because you feel uncertain or nervous