"Stop!" Hands pulled the man away from her, grabbed her wrists, hauled her from the room. "You don't touch her, do you understand? She is under my protection! You aren't meant to be down here - now get your arse up to the hall immediately, and maybe I'll think twice about having you executed, d'you hear?" The man practically ran from the room, desperately hitching up his trousers as he went.
"He - he..." Elena could hardly speak. The fear had left her shaking and she no longer even knew what she had planned to say.
"I'm ever so sorry about all that," said her rescuer, and she saw that it was the master. "They all had strict instructions to leave you alone, I promise. He shall be disciplined, I shall make certain of that." She nodded, unable to trust herself with words. "I realise that I haven't told you - call me Rich, Elena, none of this 'master' business, all right?"
"Y-yes," she stammered, sounding like the servant that had been kind to her, and felt her knees give way beneath her.
"Get yourself to sleep. I'll have your room guarded if I have to sit here all night myself - you'll be safe. And tomorrow night I'll take you to a different room. I don't know how they found you, but they won't do it again. After all, what is a bargain if I don't keep my own side of it?"
"I..." Hating herself for her weakness, Elena allowed Rich to help her onto her shelf, still trembling. His hands were surprisingly gentle as he tucked her in, the blanket warm against her icy skin. "Thank you. For coming. I thought - I thought..."
"I saw you," he told her, pointing to the camera. "And I promised you that so long as you danced, you would be safe. Why should I break that promise? I came straight down." Elena nodded.
"What would have happened to me if I hadn't danced?" she asked. "You said it's the only thing keeping me safe. If I was a normal girl, what would you have done?"
"If you were a normal girl, you would have abandoned loyalty long ago and told us everything without hesitation, just to escape the boredom. But you had something to do. Thus, you are safe. But don't worry, I'm not still trying to get that out of you. I don't need to. I know perfectly well who your friends are and always have done." Rich smiled at her. "Don't concern yourself about what would have happened. It's not important."
"And how long must I dance like this? How long must I give everything that I am to keep myself safe?" Sleepy, she lay her head down on the hard shelf; Rich put a hand on the wood and felt the hard surface, clucking his teeth.
"Look at this," he muttered. "Appalling." After a second he seemed to remember her question and said, "I don't know. As long as it takes for me to get bored of you?" From the wink he dropped her, Elena knew that his kindness was just another lie. He didn't care any more than the rest of them; he was just trying to put her at ease.
"I can't dance forever, you know," she told him.
"Your friends won't wait forever." The way he spoke, it was as though he had met them and knew everything about them. "Don't worry, Elena, I'm sure you'll get out of here one way or the other. I'm not paying for your food forever." He patted the blanket one last time and walked over to the door. "Sleep well."
"Thank you for saving me," she said quietly, but he had already left. Surrendering, Elena closed her eyes and allowed herself to drift off to sleep.