Chapter XXIV: The Butterfly and the Leech (8/11)Mature

The cell door shrieked open, and Will was thrown forward with unnecessary force. He hit the ground in a cloud of dirt, his vision impaired as he heard the door close behind him with an echoing slam.

'See you around, your Highness,' a guard chuckled, flourishing his hand and bowing sardonically. They both turned and descended the carved stairs which curved around the wall to the lower level. Will shook his head, dirt sticking in his hair and mouth, he spat and coughed as he inhaled both dust and the overpowering scent of body odour. His sight cleared and he soon saw how dark and small the cell was. He was knelt on his hands and knees, there would be enough room to stand if he was a hunchback. Slits of light did little to penetrate the corners of the cell, but he was surprised to see that the walls to the left and right of him were bars, allowing all of the prisoners to see each other all along the row.

The others cowered, they made such little noise that it was easy to forget they were there. Those that Will could see were either slumped against the cavern wall, knees to their chests in idle languor, or curled in the dirt like pets near the fire, asleep. Will turned and sat near the cell door, looking down over the rest of the cavern.

He was on the second ledge, the ground plunged below him like a sink hole, the stone of the altar darkened with blood, the drapes of Sapphire's luxurious quarters closed, and soldiers milling around the main circle, black cloth trailing behind them. The remaining cells of the circle were visible directly in front, and at the end another set of sweeping stairs, meeting with the other at the entrance Will had first passed through.

Will crawled to the back of the cell, there was nobody to see his weakness, he no longer needed to bear a strong countenance. He was alone with the weak and the afraid, something which seemed to catch, and he felt tears rising in his eyes both from the drifting filth in the air and the unforgettable sights of Kaelin. Will wondered where he was, Sapphire had sworn he wasn't dead, he was a halfling now, a fate more constraining than the release of death. What was somebody without a soul? Will had never believed in souls and spirits very much before, but where could magick come from if not from the purest and truest part of you?

Psst. The sound came from the cell to his right, he closed his eyes and kept his head down. Psst. It came again, and Will looked up, wondering if it was in fact directed at him. The prisoner was indeed looking at him, they sat mirroring his position. 

'Hey,' they whispered, the voice was parched and subdued, but it was female. 'Are you hurt?' Will was lost what to say, he wasn't hurt, he'd been treated well simply because of his name, he could hardly tell that to somebody who must have suffered for months at the hand of the Mastery. 'New kid, did they hurt you?' she said again.

'No, no, I'm alright,' he said eventually, trying not to obviously stare at her. Her body was covered in red mud which had once been wet but had now dried to a cracking shell, it hardened at the ends of her pale hair, smudged across her face like a mask around her bright, blue eyes...


The End

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