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08. The Living Nightmare

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Reuben woke up in a bed that wasn't his, in a stone room he didn't recognize. That in itself wouldn't have been too strange: he often woke up in unfamiliar rooms, when he had gotten drunk the night before and the proprietor of the inn had had to carry him up the stairs. The fact that Reuben was missing his sword, tunic, and pants however, and that there seemed to be three arrows sticking out of his back, was slightly more disturbing.

Quickly, Reuben reached behind and checked where exactly the arrows had pierced his skin—on the right side, far away from his spine, his lungs, and his heart, so the injury was not life threatening. He wondered why he had passed out in the first place. He must have been thrown forward by the arrows and knocked his head on something. Of course, he couldn't remember feeling any pain in his head, but that was the only logical conclusion.

How embarrassing!

Because of this stupidity he now was here, probably the prisoner of the very men who earlier this day had had the audacity to demand his surrender. He, a prisoner? Bah! His face contorted in a grim smile. We'll see about that.

Nimbly, he jumped to his feet. The arrows in his back twisted a bit from the motion. It was a curious feeling.

In a flash, he examined his surroundings. He was in a friendly, warm-looking room with a carpet on the floor and drapes displaying a cheery pattern of flowers in front of the narrow windows. Quickly, he took a few steps along the wall to measure the space. The room was about fifteen feet wide and twenty-three feet long. Its furniture looked well-made, and consisted of a comfortable bed, a chest, a wardrobe built into the wall, two chairs, and a table with a chess board on top. Beside the chess board stood a little vase, in which he could see a few daisies. Reuben frowned. This didn't look much like a prison cell.

He went to the door and pushed. It swung open, easily. A further indication that his original theory had not been correct. Reuben knew from long experience that prisons tended not to have unlocked doors.

He pulled the door shut again so that nobody passing outside would notice he had awoken and went to the window. The movement twisted the arrows in his back again, and he felt trickles of blood streaming from his wounds, but he paid them no heed. There were more important things to think about right now.

Having reached the window, he measured the narrow gap in the stone wall with a practiced eye. Too narrow for him to climb through—damn! Well, at least he could have a look where he was. Maybe that would give him a hint as to who was holding him and why they had brought him here.

Reuben had a very bad feeling about his current situation. If people took good care of you, that usually meant they wanted you to live so that they could have the pleasure of torturing or enslaving you later. Personally, he wasn't up for either of those options.

His plan was simple: to get out of this place and far away as quickly as possible. He had no clue where he was—the last thing he remembered was fighting the men in the clearing, and after that, there were only the strange and terrifying visions of unconsciousness. The dungeons... Yes, he remembered dreaming of the dungeons while he was unconscious, and of the aghast faces of his interrogators, and the darkness, and the girl...


He frowned. Why had the girl played any role in his dreams? The girl he had robbed only today? Normally, only his torturous days in the dungeon plagued him. Nevertheless, he could have sworn that for a minute he saw her face floating above his. Why was that? Well, she had been a pain in the ass. Maybe, he thought with a wry smile, enough of one to be lumped in with his other nightmares.

Shaking his head, he berated himself. These useless meanderings got him nowhere. The girl was long gone and he was awake now. His only aim was to get out of this place, quickly, and if possible, alive.

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