The heavy scent of wet mold, or something particularly rotten, wafted over me, my skin crawling in the chilly air. A cold clank, clunk of iron bars was loud in a desolate silence only filled by our footsteps. Other than that, I was unaware of my surroundings, though I was certain that we were somewhere in a maze of dungeons.
The guards pulled us to a halt, unmasking our faces and unbinding our limbs before roughly thrusting us into a dark, musty cell, devoid of light or comfort. A small makeshift bed was cornered in the small space, a crumbled up blanket carelessly thrown on top. Securing the doors behind us, the men left, their footsteps fading off down the halls in the distance until you could hear them no more.
We looked to one another - there was one comfort and that was we were still together. Jon massaged his wrists, rubbed red from the rope which was tied tightly around them, looking over us, “You girls alright?”
Nellie and I nodded slowly. “How about you?” I asked. He didn’t have the opportunity to reply, a piercing, desperate scream coming somewhere down the hall, forming words that at least I did not understand. And as quickly as it came, it was gone, only leaving eerie echoes that stained the silence.
“What’s going to happen to us?” muttered Nellie. We both looked to Jon, who had no answer.
I gently picked up the little blanket between two fingers, only to return it hastily. It stank like someone else - likely the former inhabitant of this place. Where he was now I could only imagine - and I didn’t want to.
“Why did they bring us here?” I asked suddenly, turning toward my two companions. Jon was seated in the opposite corner, deep in thought, while Nellie stood at the cell doors, staring out through the bars. How long we had been here, it was hard to tell. There was no sense of time in this wretched place, not even a glimmer of sunlight.
They glanced up from their respective places. I continued, “Why not keep us at the garrison’s jails?”
“They probably want to make a show out of us for all these rich city people,” Nellie gestured out into the nothingness, her face forming into a sudden frustration. She shook her head, looking back out into the obscure hallway. “Our hanging will be their entertainment. Barbarians.”
I swallowed, glancing down at my hands. A quiet fury built in my chest - was there nothing we could do? Was there no chance of escape? Was this the end? How could it be the end?
Our outlook seemed bleak. But we couldn't give up.
Jon stood from his corner, coming to my side and placing a gentle hand on my shoulder. I looked up and smiled weakly, appreciative of his offering of support. He softly pulled me into an embrace, resting his chin on the top of my head. Sighing, I closed my eyes and tried to forget about our situation for the time-being.
“I’m sorry,” he murmured, his voice soft, barely audible.
I pulled away slightly, gazing into his eyes - sorrowful, dark.
The clatter of quick footsteps made all three of us turn, looking to see several armed soldiers standing at the doors. Nellie cautiously backed away and came to us near the back of the cell.
One stepped forward from the rest, unlocking the door with a loud click. Pushing the heavy door open noisily, he came inside, observing all of us with narrow eyes set close together on a square face. Wordlessly, the man looked to a paper in his head, pursed his lips, and sharply nodded.
He looked back up at our faces before glancing over his shoulder at his men, pointing a finger at Jon, “This one - right here.”
My heart dropped, my stomach flipped, and I grew cold all at once. The soldiers marched in, reaching for him. I grabbed for him myself, meeting his eyes, willing him not to go. The men jeered at me, shoving me aside in one swift motion, “Don’t worry, hun, he should be back.”
And before I could do anything more, Jon and the soldiers were gone, the cell locked once more, the hall empty, leaving Nellie at my side, holding my hand, saying a few comforting words. But I didn’t hear her.
We needed to get out of here. We needed to do something.