Morning came as it always did, yet there was a nervousness instilled in each and every one of the Mastery soldiers. They delivered breakfast as they usually did excepting their abusive comments, and gave Laguna and the Avarics their trays without any horrid behaviour.
'What do you know about that man?' Will asked as they sat eating in a circle, he and Laguna on one side of the bars, Carmen and Karn'el on the other.
'He's visited a few times before,' said Carmen, 'it seems like he's really high up, much higher than Sapphire.'
'It's clear that she's afraid of him,' added Karn'el, 'everybody is. I heard guards talking about his blood list, and it's high.'
'He keeps her around though,' Laguna said, painfully gulping down her cantarella-laced water. 'Supposedly, she has a rare gift that she lets him use.' Karn'el mumbled something, and she rolled her eyes, 'not that sort, Karn'el.'
'But you have to admit, she isn't shy about her allure.'
Carmen's eyes narrowed as she looked towards the draped quarters, 'just another reason why I hate her. She gets what she wants just because of how she looks,'
Karn'el chortled, 'and how is that any different from everybody else?'
'It's degrading,' she snapped. 'I bet she isn't even that talented, she's just where she is because she waggled her hips at the right people.'
'Well, can you blame her?' asked Laguna, Carmen's brow furrowed in confusion, 'as far as I can tell, the Mastery is all-male. She could be the only woman in the entire organisation, and if so, how else is she going to get ahead? It's taking the initiative, really,'
'Well said, princess.' The soft, decorous voice startled them, they looked through the cell door and saw Sapphire, crouching in front of Will's cell with an amused smile, the bottom halves of two guards either side of her. A long woollen nightgown was wrapped around her, but it clear where it parted across her thighs that she was naked beneath it. Her hair was dishevelled and she didn't look like she'd slept, but she tried her utmost to look alert and confident.
'What do you want?' Carmen said curtly, her upper lip curling.
Sapphire tutted mockingly, 'so rude, very rude. I extended the hand of friendship to you, and you continue to bat it away.' Her mouth flattened with irritation.
'Sorry,' Karn'el said flatly, 'but this isn't exactly what I'd call friendly hospitality.'
Her mouth twitched with a smile. 'Then you will be pleased to know that you have an audience with the Master, and it will not do to have you looking or living as you are. He would see you properly washed and dressed as royals.'
Laguna crawled forward, stopping in front of Will defensively. 'All of us?'
'The Avarics, notably,' she said, 'but of course, your presence would be honoured. How could the Master pass up a chance to be in the company of the Maiden of the Swirling Tide?' She rose, her body cut off from sight from her hips up. She snapped her fingers, and the two guards either side each took a skeleton key from a ring hooked to their belts and turned it in the rusty lock. The doors creaked open, and one reached in blindly, grabbing hold of Carmen's shirt and dragging her out.
She kicked her legs as his fingers wrapped around her shirt neck, repulsed by the clammy feel of his fingers on her skin, but the guard was surprisingly strong, pulling her into the open, into the blinding light at his feet.