As the door was unlocked, Robert readied himself. He felt himself being dragged up and pushed out of the cell. His arms were twisted behind his back, practically immobilising him. He knew where he was being taken.
He was pushed down the corridor and outside in the quadrangle where the guards trained and the slaves were punished. He was pushed onto his knees in the very centre of the square.
He closed his eyes and heard the guard going over to the rack. He heard the clatter of a dozen small metal balls on the stone.
“Let’s have you count, shall we? To ten,” the guard commanded.
The whistle of twelve leather lashes flying through the air didn’t last for long; they were soon slashing across his back, the small balls at the ends digging grooves into his skin. His fists clenched as he tried not to cry out.
“One,” he called. “Two,” he said after another. “Three.”
And so it went on, until he finally called out ‘ten’.
“And one for luck,” the guard said loudly, before sending the whip across his skin again. This one shocked him; he hadn’t been expecting it. He couldn’t help his shout of pain.
The guard replaced the whip on the tall rack of assorted tools of punishment and strode over. Robert was dragged to his feet and marched back to his cell, being pushed inside.
The guard, after locking the cell door, picked up his friend and carried him back. When the loud clang of the metal door slamming had finished reverberating up and down the long hallway, Robert sagged back against the wall. He grimaced as the stone scraped at his raw wounds but didn’t move.
“Thank you,” said a quiet voice from the cell next door. “Thank you for stopping him.”
“It’s okay,” Robert replied softly.
The scene had reminded him of when Beth and he were being taken further into the slayerhouse. He’d heard the horrible words that the demon had spoken in Beth’s ear. He’d felt her terror and panic.
He squeezed his eyes shut, not daring to think of her anymore.
“What’s your name?” Robert asked the girl.
“Au’ra,” she replied. “What’s yours?”
“Robert. How old are you?”
“Thirteen,” Au’ra said quietly, her voice trembling.
“Who turned you?” he asked, moving closer to the wall that backed onto her cell.
“My uncle. He... He was going to sell me to a whorehouse,” she stammered. “I begged him not to and when he finally agreed, I thought he was going to let me go. I never expected him to sell me as a slave. I guess it’s the same thing for me, really; slavery and being a whore. They’re just going to use me, aren’t they?”
“Hey, we’ll get out, don’t worry,” he said softly, still clinging to the hope that he would escape.
“Will we? I hope so. Do you have someone waiting for you out there?” Au’ra asked.