Of Mice and Bad Parenting.

The Sentry hadn't been joking. Aramancia landed hard against the unkempt, filthy floor of the dungeon, scraping her hands on the rough stone. She looked over her shoulder and shot the surly guards a venomous look before they slammed the heavy door.

"Been a while since we've had a little princess around here," a voice said from the shadows. Aramancia then realized that she was standing in a little pool of light that flooded in from cracks in the ceiling.

"About time," said another faceless voice. Aramancia stepped out of the light into a dim corner with a shoddy bench, not wanting to be put on display. A mouse scurried up to her. She extended her hand and picked it up, holding it up to her face. It was dusty, but soft, and holding it at least helped to calm her nerves.

"So what did you do, little girl?" Asked a third voice, another that she could not see. "There has to be a reason why you're down here with us. Unless you're just here for our entertainment." She could picture the perverted smirk that probably adorned his face.

"I'd watch what you say," she said coolly.

"Ooohh, a rebel," said the third man. "But you didn't answer my question. What got you down here?"

"I think it's best that you don't know," she said, keeping an even tone. The mouse squirmed out of her hand and skittered away. For the rest of the day, Aramancia stayed on that bench. Her hands were bloody and she hadn't the best impression of her cellmates, so she patiently waited for mealtime.

She first got to see the men when the guards arrived with their dinner. They stepped into the light from the ceiling to take the parcels of food from the guards. There were four of them, not three, and they weren't a pretty sight. Two of them looked like they could be sixty, while one looked young, maybe twenty five. The fourth one was even younger than her, and he looked frail and blank-eyed. All of them were dirty and sallow, and the eldest were missing several teeth each. The healthiest was the young one. He looked like he may be the dominant man in the dungeon.

After all of them had retreated back to the dank recesses of the cell, Aramancia took her food from the ground where it lay. Old newspapers were loosely wrapped around it and secured with a weak string, which broke when she tried to untie it. The paper fell open to reveal a pile of stringy meat that looked like table scraps, two slices of bread, and a banana past its prime. It was far from appetizing, but she had eaten worse on her father's ship when times were rough. So she ate silently. She even left a small amount of bread on the floor for the mouse.

Suddenly, a light tap on her shoulder startled Aramancia out of a thought. She turned abruptly and found herself face to face with the thin boy, who couldn't be older than 15.

"What is it?" She asked, on edge.

"Life here is easier if you have someone to talk to."

"Hm," she grunted. He was probably right. Lonliness in a dark dungeon probably would become pretty miserable.

"What's your name?" the boy asked.

"Aramancia. Don't ask for the last name. I won't tell you," she replied firmly.

"I'm Jun. If you ever feel like some company, I'll talk with you," he said. She nodded. The mouse ran up and took the bread happily.

"Just how old are you, kid?" she asked, changing the subject.

"Fourteen. Yourself?"

"Sixteen," she muttered. "How does a fourteen year old kid end up in a dungeon?"

"Oh.. well, I didn't commit a crime, if that's what you're asking. My parents owed a huge debt in taxes to Elivand... So rather than lose their property, they gave custody of me to the country," he said.

"That's nothing short of heartless."

"I'm allowed to come back when they pay their debt," Jun said somewhat optimistically. "But for now I have to stay here as an incentive for them to pay."

Aramancia was disgusted. Her father wouldn't have been afraid to live on the streets. Her father wouldn't have just tossed her in a dungeon under the city. Her father had pride and honor. She looked at Jun and sighed.

"Fine. I suppose I'll talk to you once in a while. What could it hurt?"


The End

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