I opened my eyes again, finding the torchlight had become too bright. Leather and metal boots thudded and stamped, iron keys jangled in careless gloved hands. Rats squeaked and scurried away as the noise became too much for them. Voices called to me through iron bars to make sure that I was still alive.
Crude jokes and gestured passed between the guards, as they decided who would be the first to open the chamber door. I ignored them, refused to acknowledge their voices. One of them found the key, and moved closer to the door. He was younger than the rest, still had the look of a civilian and not a City guard. Blonde hair shimmered in the light as he fit the key to the lock.
He was muttering to himself, grumbling about having to be the one to open the cage and haul me out. The other Guards just laughed, big booming guffaws that echoed back to them, urging them on. There were six of them, and none but the blonde looked human as he slowly turned the key. I closed my eyes and waited.
The lock clicked as the key turned. The blonde guard stepped back to let one of the other guards come collect me. No one stepped forward, but instead they laughed at his attempt. With a sigh and a scowl he moved towards the cell door again, gloved hand brushing iron. Fingers wrapped around the bars and pushed towards me. Metal shrieked, rust rained down, and stone grated. I cringed away from the noise, making my own shackles clank together.
With the door fully open, there was now space for the guard to enter. Without a look to his comrades, he sauntered over to where I sat huddled. I struggled to push my dirt encrusted dress back towards my knees, trying to keep my modesty, but the chains linking my wrists to the wall would only allow me to go so far.
“Save the strugglin’ wench, ya’ve still got a long walk ahead o’ ya.” The guards outside the cell guffawed again, as if privy to some inside knowledge. The blonde squatted down in front of me, avoiding my eyes as he released my ankles from their chains. I wanted to reach down and soothe the flaming skin rubbed raw by the shackles, but I was still attached to the stone. He reached for my hands next, gentle despite his outward appearance. One small key click and I would be free. I could get up quickly and dash for the door, try to muscle my way past the still-laughing guards. My eyes flicked over the route.
“Don’t even think about it. They’d rip you apart the minute you got to the door,” Blondie whispered, fingers holding tight to mine as he removed the shackles from the wall and put a smaller set on each wrist, letting me move them no further than a few inches apart. He then gripped the chain links and hauled me up with him, holding me somewhat steady as I tried to regain my balance. The chains didn’t allow me to stand while I was in the cell. With muscles weak and knees knocking, I stood as straight as I could and gave a glare to the guards as Blondie led me out of what had been my home for the last few weeks.
“Don’ give us the evil eye, witch. Ya should be thankin’ us.” The tallest of the guards sneered.
“We’re here to set ya free. Or at least that’s what our orders say…” Another guard spoke up, voice trailing off as his eyes travelled my body.
Another yank on my chains brought me stumbling forward, bare feet catching on the uneven stone floor. I tried to block out the sounds; the stomping feet, the lunatic screams, the pleads for the surly guards to hear. Shrunken bodies pressed themselves against iron bars, shrivelled hands reaching through to try and catch hold of something. I was vaguely aware of the guards forming a circle around me, lost in memories as I was.