Claus awoke on a scratchy pile of hay, his face indented from the chain he laid against. He couldn’t see. He opened his eyes wide but he still couldn’t see. Panic settled against his heart for a brief moment before he realized that they hadn’t given him a torch this time. That or he had slept until it had burned itself to darkness.
Claus moaned as he tried to sit up. His feet were shackled again he noticed as he tried to stretch out his legs. It looked like they weren’t going to give him the chance to lead them on a morning jog. He laid on his pile of hay, trying not to move and to let his body heal itself. His throat whined at him as he tried to take a lungful of air. This set him to coughing which only enraged his poor windpipe more. Wheezing took the place of coughing until Claus was back in the ball he had started in, his face pressed against the chain that held his wrists and he was breathing slowly through his nose.
He laid in the dark, not moving, hoping for some water, but knowing he was lucky to be breathing still instead. He wondered what time of day it was. Waking in the dark always messed with his sense of day and night. He felt like it should be the middle of the night, but it could just have easily been noon.
Verica would have known, he thought. She could always feel the daylight even if they were well underground. Part of her gift she had always told him. Having her and that gift had always been a comfort to Claus. The simplicity of knowing whether the sun still rose over the horizon every day even if he hadn’t been able to see it with his own eyes had kept him going even in the dark days of their lives. His chest ached as he thought about what could be happening to his friend while he was shackled in this cell. Well, it was that or the bruises that dotted his skin like a poor man’s plague upon him. Either way his upper body hurt.
Claus hoped Verica had been able to keep herself safe. The Lady would have gotten out of town the moment her business was threatened, he thought, but he hoped she hadn’t condemned Verica or any of the others that had lived and worked in her rooms.
The faintest sound of footfalls pricked Claus’s ears before the steps stopped again. A key creaked in a lock and Claus was almost blinded as the door swung open. Blinking away the darkness and keeping his eyes to the ground he could only watch the feet of the men who entered the room to pull him to his feet. They unchained him from the wall and shoved him out into the corridor and dragged him towards the stairs once again.
Claus’s eyes adjusted enough before the first step so he was able to avoid stumbling up the spiral. He glanced at the men around him and recognized none of them. That was either good news for him or horrible news. The path they took after emerging beside the old man and his desk was similar to how Claus had tried to escape a few hours before, at least Claus assumed it had only been a few hours. They marched him back up the corridor of statues and artwork and through a small door down another corridor.
The room they entered had mirrors running along both sides of the room. A small wooden chair sat in the middle of the room facing a long table at the far end of the room with half a dozen more comfortable looking chairs. The men sat Claus down in the chair in the middle of the room and hooked a chain that was bolted into the floor before the chair to the shackles at his wrists.
Here they left him and went to stand at the rear of the room beside Claus. Claus looked around the room. Nothing remarkable noted itself in his mind other than the long walls of mirrors. Claus was able to see the men against the wall behind him as well as his own disheveled self. If he didn’t know where he sat in the room, Claus wouldn’t have known himself.
His hair was stringy, knotted around his head from the dirt and sweat that had collected on him. His clothes were filthy and had gained more tears than he had realized after his scuffles with the guards and his disaster in the market. His jaw was swollen on one side, probably from a hit he hadn’t noticed, and the dark circles under his eyes had Claus trying to remember if he had been hit there as well. Every other inch of skin that he could see was blotchy with purple and yellow.
Claus didn’t have to wait long. A door behind the table opened and more men filed into the room. They chatt...