She could feel the shackles above her head digging into her wrists.  She couldn’t feel the cold of the iron anymore.  Her shoulders were like pins and needles.  Drifting in and out of consciousness a chill ran up her back and piercing cold ran beneath her eyes. 

Weeks ago she had stopped being aware of whether her eyelids were open or not, after she had lost track of the days.  Not that there was a window in this stone cell.  She felt a draft across her bony back and heard the hinges of the door open behind her.  No.  In front of her. The draft blew against her calves.  The murmur of a human voice, meant to be heard by her but she could barely decipher the sound let alone the words. 

She felt fingers in her mouth and something breaded and sweet against her tongue.  She forced it down almost choking as it was promptly followed with some liquid that might have been water.  Might have been a lot of things. 

                A large amount missed her mouth and spilled down her chin to her neck.  She could hear her own voice, an agonizing sound that reminded her of a kicked dog, responding to the stinging ripple pouring down her back.  Her captors had put her in a paper thin silk slip that ended at her knees so many weeks ago.  Maybe months.  She began to shake uncontrollably, the cold taking over again.  She shouldn’t be alive.

                She saw stone above her that danced to a blurry gray.  She remembered the game she used to play to pass the time, to focus her sight once a day for one minute.  But that was when she could still tell time, when she could feel the world around her.  She looked up at her hands and a sob erupted from her chest.  Her wrists had ceased to bleed and her fingertips were a deep blue.  She couldn’t tell if she was hanging by her hands weightlessly in the air or just leaning against the shackles.  How had it started?  Did they put the shackles on first?

                She had been in a grove.  It felt like years ago.  She was standing next to Devan.  They were talking, she remembered talking to him.  It seemed- the memory seemed important.  And then a shout, and a sting in her chest and a bright red light.  After that, she couldn’t remember… there were words with a man in a hood… did they want something?  Well, she wouldn’t give it to them.

                The shackles made a snapping sound and she could hear the clinks as they descended to the ground and her wrists, elbows, and shoulders followed all the way, thousands of feet to the ground.  She sobbed again but this time she could hear her voice.  Suddenly she felt her ears grow hot and could feel the pound of her heart in her neck and then searing, stinging, brilliant fire blazed through her shoulders and elbows.  She sobbed again and screamed as her eyes focused on her navy fingers as they turned to scarlet red.  She blinked furiously, willing her muscles to move but they would not obey.

                “Might as well…”

                Blood began to seep from her wrists and a pain that had been cold was warm.  Then hot.  Blistering.

                “…I’m not waiting, you ponce!  You know what he’ll do…”

                She heard the clinks again as the chain started to disappear in front of her face.  Suddenly her scorching wrists were nearly pulled off as she was dragged through one door after the other.  Let it end.  Help.  From one dirty floor to another she was dragged along the ruddy dirt until she could feel soothing warm hands underneath her elbows.

                “Stand!  Don’t…”

                A gust of wind and she saw it.  The end.  An immense wooden platform with her chains already being pulled through a pulley at the crest.  A bell rang up above, being shoved by the blasting air.  And below was a crowd, of countless faces, all screaming in rage.  At her.  Though it seemed to her that their fury had no sound, their straining throats kept shrieking.  She could feel their anger in the vibrations in the air.  Mothers holding children, the elderly, even her own soldiers. 

                She knew she could not control her feet, it must have been those warm hands that had pulled her to the post in the middle.  The warm hands let her go and the numb in her wrists returned, but stinging with new blood now.  She sucked in a ragged breath and let the last breath drop, “I’ll tell you.”

                She heard laughter behind her.

The End

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