Chapter XXV: Dum Spiro Spero (5/12)Mature

It was difficult to continue sleeping once the guards began their duties. The four of them woke to the sound of dirt crunching underfoot, orders being barked below, and men trailing metal cups across the bars of the cells.

'Up! Up!' one shouted gutturally, occasionally kicking dust through the bars, waking the children coughing and spluttering for clean air. Another, following closely behind was carrying a sackful of bread. He grabbed a loaf and ripped it in half with his grisly, grey hands, the nails sharpened like pencil points. He squeezed the half through the bars into the cells, and Will watched as the children scrambled for it, brushing the dirt from it and biting ravenously.

However, when they reached their cells - after Laguna had slipped into her own cell - they took a different approach. This time, they opened the doors and set their food down on trays, a half loaf each and an iron pitcher full of ice cold water, Laguna's undoubtedly laced with cantarella. Sure enough, when she gulped the pitcher, water spilling over the smooth skin of her chin and onto her chest, she pulled away shrugging her tongue from the bitterness of the poison. Whilst some gobbled down their measly breakfasts, Carmen and Karn'el appeared to be rationing. Tearing off mouthfuls and passing them to each other, they did not feed themselves, and they ate only what the other judged necessary.

Hunger ached in Will's gut, and although he tried to portion his bread, it was gone in just a few minutes, the water wet on his throat and sloshing in his belly.

The day passed in this same fashion, the only interaction from the guards being at mealtimes. Unlike the others, their four lunches of bread and gruel were warmed. As the guard set it down for Will, he fanned the starchy smell around him and grinned sardonically with disfigured teeth. He made a sarcastic comment, then swished his cloak to blow dust into Will's face. Dinner followed a few hours later, and before long everybody was sleeping, the day fleeting past them and impossible to catch.

'My family were rich, but they weren't kind.' Carmen led beside the bars of her cell, her hands behind her head, Will on the opposite side. Whilst Laguna slept and Karn'el nibbled on his ration of bread, she told him stories of the family she had lived with before Paradam had come for her. 'They gave me everything I desired...except answers. That was all I really wanted, to know where I came from, who I was, why I was. The times they were around for me to ask, they could never tell me, because they didn't know.'

'Were they mean to you?' Will asked, he knew that it would cause him pain if she answered yes, but he wanted to know everything about her, he felt like he should, as her older brother.

'Not mean,' she said, shaking her head, 'just absent. I say they were not kind, but maybe I just did not think they kind parents, and that was all that mattered to me. I never cared who they were when they went away on social calls, leaving me alone with the staff for a week. I only cared about who they were when they came back. And the truth is, they were the same people home or away. Judging, temperamental, materialistic, they gave me toys and bid me to my room when the novelty of a daughter ran out...'

The End

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