Rohman had no way of knowing how much time crawled by while he stood waiting in the darkness but he was fairly certain it was moving no faster than the Ghantha slug that shared his cell. Its steady progress along the back wall was marked by its intermittent mating call, a sound far too similar to the shrieking of a tortured tomcat for Rohman’s liking. He would have killed it after the first, nerve-fraying sound but there was not enough light to safely avoid its poisonous fangs.
When the male guard reluctantly returned to take up his female partner’s post, Rohman decided to try his luck with him to see if he could get better results than with Silence. Whatever the result, he figured it would be better than listening to that damned slug.
“Ah, good to see a familiar face,” he said through the barred window of his door.
“I am impressed,” the guard replied, his words tinged with an accent Rohman didn’t recognize. “I was certain my sister would have removed your tongue by now.”
“Well she did offer me the service but she wasn’t willing to come in here to do it.” The man allowed a wide smile to appear on his face as he settled on to the stool before leaning his back against the wall and crossing his ankles. Just as he began to close his eyes Rohman asked, “So if Silence is your sister, does that make you brother Blast?”
“Oh my,” he replied, amusement dancing with the torchlight in his eyes, “my sister must have just loved spending time with you.”
“Oh absolutely! We had a grand time, other than the tongue removal threat and the general lack of talking. The name’s Rohman, by the way.”
“Mumford. But everyone calls me Ford.”
“That’s a sight better than them calling you Mum, I suppose.”
“A few were foolish enough to try,” Ford said with a snort of laughter that seemed as out of place in the dungeon as a jester at a funeral. “So what did you do to get yourself locked up in this fine establishment? You seem to be more intelligent than the rest of the lot we keep down here put together.”
“I might have told your captain something I shouldn’t have,” Rohman replied with a wave of his hand, “and then killed the four soldiers he had with him.”
“Those four goons? I would have thought he would be grateful for the favour! I know I am, at least; perhaps now I will have a chance at joining him on his patrols. It must have been what you said then; I must admit to being curious as to what that was.”
“I don’t recall the specifics exactly,” he said, “but I think I told your captain that I planned on relieving the king’s body of the terrible burden of carrying around his big fat head.”
“Interesting.” The word was said quietly and with a thoughtfulness that caught Rohman by surprise. He shot a questioning gaze between the bars and waited for elaboration. After glancing warily to his left and right, Ford provided it. “Well, it’s just that Marius is a loyal servant to the crown… but not necessarily to the man wearing it. It is a long story…”
“… that you have no business speaking of,” Marius finished as he seemingly materialized out of the shadows, causing Ford to shoot to his feet faster than an arrow. “Wait for me at the bottom of the stairs, Ford – we will discuss your garrulous tongue there. I wish to speak with the prisoner alone.”
“Yes captain,” he replied with a crisp salute, his cheeks as red as a Rippleflower. He disappeared down the hall as quickly as decorum would allow and Marius watched him go with a scowl firmly entrenched on his face. But when he turned to speak with his captive it was replaced with a poorly suppressed grin.
“Mumford is a good man,” he said softly. “He may be of some use to us.”
“And his sister?” Rohman asked.
“Melanora is a more… complicated issue. But that will come later; we have more pressing matters to discuss on this night.”
“Has the sun escaped the sky already? I could have sworn I’ve only been in here for a few minutes.”
“I would apologize for keeping you waiting but I suspect your time here will do you some good,” Marius said with a quick grin before growing serious once more. “But I wish to draw as little attention to you as possible and rushing down to speak with you would do me little good in that regard. Speaking of which, I pray that Ford is the only one you with whom you have discussed the cause of your incarceration?”
“Yeah, I didn’t manage to get the chance to tell his lovely sister. I guess I was too busy charming her out of her armour.”
“Of course you were. I will speak with Ford to ensure that he keeps that information to himself. It will raise his suspicions but I trust him to follow my command.”
“What’s the big deal? He said you didn’t even like those guys you were riding with.”
“Of course I did not,” Marius snapped. “But if word gets out that a man who killed four of the king’s men is being held in the dungeon, said man could be certain that his execution date would be moved up significantly.”
“Within an hour of the king being made aware of your presence. And that,” Marius said, leaning in as he lowered his voice, “would most definitely interfere with our plans.”