Simon Marandur Edmund ran his filthy fingers through the layer of grime on the cell floor, tracing irregular designs into the dust. He had nearly encircled himself with peculiar, apparently pointless shapes when he paused, noticing the growling of his stomach. Running his hands up and down his sides, he considered the prominence of his ribs.
How much longer, do you think, boy?
Until you starve to death, of course. What else?
“Oh, shut up, Snake,” he muttered, returning to his drawing. “I don’t want or have any desire to listen to your ears, so sock a put in it.”
Snake chuckled, and Simon could detect the sneer in its voice. Sock a put in it, eh, maaadboy? Listen to my ears? Do you ever make any sense?
Simon jumped abruptly to his feet. “Shut UP, I said!” he shouted, stamping his foot and shoving his fingers into his ears. “Shut the fuck UP!”
A few feet away, his cellmate startled from his lethargy and glanced at Simon in alarm. Simon took note of this and unplugged his ears.
“I wasn’t talking to you,” he assured the only other sentient being in the room.
Seoc averted his eyes and hugged his threadbare blanket to his shoulders. “I did no’ think you were,” he replied, his voice so hoarse that it was scarcely more than a whisper. “But you scared me.”
“I meant to not.”
Seoc had grown accustomed to Simon’s abnormal syntax and scarcely noticed. “That’s alright. Ye’re forgiven.”
Simon opened his mouth to reply, but he was interrupted by the rattle of a key in the lock of their cell door. Seoc tensed and went deathly pale.
“Shit,” he breathed, shrinking behind the other’s back. “Simon, dinna let them get me! I dinna want ta be—!”
The door creaked slowly open, but there was no guard on the other side. Instead there stood an ancient mermaid—or rather merhag, Seoc thought. ‘Mermaid’ did not seem to suit the creature in front of them. Merrow, Seoc decided. That title was a better fit.
The merrow held a bony, clawed finger to her purplish lips, indicating silence, and beckoned them toward the door. Outside in the corridor, a cart waited, full of corpses to be taken and burned. To this the merrow woman pointed, making it clear to Seoc and Simon that they should climb inside.
“Play dead,” she mouthed.
The two prisoners stood motionless, staring with a mix of surprise and disgust.
“Do you want to get out of here or not?” the merrow whispered.
Simon’s features lit up. “Henry sent you, didn’t he?”
She nodded once, putting her finger to her mouth again. “Shh.”
They crawled into the cart and lay down amongst the cadavers, trying not to think to hard about what was happening. Meanwhile, their unexpected rescuer closed and locked the cell door behind them, stowing the ring of keys down the front of her ragged dress, and began to push the cart along the dark, reeking tunnel.