Chapter XXV: Dum Spiro Spero (11/12)Mature

'Carmen!' Karn'el protested, scrambling forward on weak legs, out of the cell and putting a leg up to stand. 'You get off of -,'

Yet, when he tried to stand, his legs wobbled and gave way, and accompanied in a wave of dizziness, his knees hit the ground. His body jolted with pain, falling forward, he barely caught himself with his arms out.

'Karn'el!' Carmen exclaimed, pressing a hand against his chest to keep him from toppling over further, 'are you alright?'

'I'm fine,' he said, his voice strained. 'Never better.'

She smiled sadly, 'you have to be careful.' She looked up, realising the guard was glaring down at them and making irritated grunting noises, urging them to stand. She looked towards Sapphire, her face blank, and Will saw his sister's composure change. Gone was the little girl who had cried in his arms the previous night. Now, as Carmen began to stand, very slowly to bring feeling back to her limbs, her strength shone through her muddied face and tangled hair. She pulled Karn'el up with her, forcing his arm across her back and supporting him, despite how she already struggled with her own weight.

'Move,' grunted the other guard, opening the cell door for Will and Laguna. She nodded at him, gripping his arm, a gesture that both sent and sought comfort. She eased forward, crawling out of the cell and rising up onto her legs, which were thin and shaking. Will followed, though he wasn't fast enough for the guard's liking. He was dragged out of the cell the remainder of the way, lifted into the air and placed on his feet. It felt like his joints had slipped apart, his ankle disconnecting, and he forced himself to fall against the cavern wall as opposed to over the ledge.

'Once I am done with you, you will be ready for the likes of royal court,' said Sapphire, leading them down the stairs, a guard spaced between the twins and Will and Laguna. Will kept one hand against the wall, the other around Laguna as they both struggled down the stairs, the guard behind refusing to slow and practically pushing them down.

They passed the closed quarters and a pack of guards and soldiers, who stopped and glared as the children walked past, looking at them with disgust at their dirty and weak conditions.

Sapphire led them through a short corridor, and into a room of sweltering, sulphurous heat. There appeared to be geysers in the ground, but were actually hand-dug pools filled with steaming, boiling water. There were four, and in the centre was a table stocked with luxurious products, oils, milks and scrubbing utensils that the regular men were clearly not at liberty to use.

Will felt himself begin to sweat the moment he entered the room, taking a deep breath as he adjusted to the humid air.

'You may thank the Master for being given this privilege,' said Sapphire. There were girls standing around, dressed in rags, yet clean and scrubbed, that approached her as she dipped her toes into the water. She stood as one undid the sash on her nightgown, the other standing behind and slipping it from her shoulders. A third stood with a towel spread behind, obscuring her as she descended naked into the water, pulling it away when she was deep enough. Sapphire reached the other end of the pool, spreading her arms out on the ledge, turning to the children, just the swell of her breasts visible above water.

The End

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