Unfortunately for me, the guards did not come back. I was left without food for days, and drank water from a small puddle in the corner of the cell, it was disgusting, but enough to sustain me. My lips dried out and began to crack, and my skin became rougher, as if all the water was being sucked out of me, and every drop of moisture was being retained by my body.

If Vladimir's plan was to weaken me, he had achieved it. I was exhausted, the effort of keeping my eyes open often too difficult, and moving a greater challenge as my body used the few reserves I had left. On the fifth day, the door cracked open, and I did not have any strength to fight, only enough to scramble forward and take the meager scraps of food left to me. There was some water too, I took a small sip, and decided to save the rest, and also left some bread, knowing I may not get anymore for a while. 

I lost track of time down there, without sunlight, or even moonlight, I was disorientated; it was as if I had been disconnected from life itself and was floating in a half state, not dead, but not really alive either. 

After what seemed like an eternity, the door swung open, creaking on it's hinges. I was dishevelled, my hair hanging in limp locks from my head, my skin deathly pale and eyes severely weakened and sensitive. The light from the burning torch made me squint and I needed to shield my eyes. 

"Get up" growled the guard. I tried to scramble to my feet, clawing the walls as I pulled, but landed on the ground with a loud thud. I cursed and the vampire walked over and yanked me to my feet. He dragged me along the corridors and back to the room I'd previously been in. 

"Get washed, you've been asked to attend the equinox ball in one weeks time"

"Why am I up here now then?" 

"Prince Felix demanded you be fed and bathed before the ball" the guard answered in a clipped tone, before slamming the door. In the bathroom adjoining my 'room' was a steaming bath. The room had been lit with large amounts of candles lit all around the room. It smelt divine, the smell of rose and jasmine floating from the water, the aroma was heavenly. I stripped of my clothes and looked at them in disgust, they were black and smelt vile,they would be no use again. 

I discarded them in a pile on the floor and helped myself to a towel and bar of soap which had been left on the side. Slipping into the tub, I hissed as my frozen skin was boiled by the scalding water. My skin turned pink as it was warmed for the first time in weeks, and I sunk deeper into the tub, dunking my head beneath the surface and scrubbing furiously at my hair with the soap, washing away layers of grease and grime. 

"Hmm" I sighed as my head rose to the surface, appreciating the warmth and cleanliness. I used the scrubbing brush to literally rub my skin raw, and eventually, when I finally felt clean, I rose out the tub, briskly drying myself with a towel. 

Padding back into the room, I ran the brush through my hair, the spines messaging my scalp. I repeated this until it was completely detangled, then braided it into a long, thick plait. On the bed was a night gown, and too my relief, it was cotton. It felt comforting against  my skin, a familiar feeling that reminded me of an ordered and peaceful time. A time before all this. 

I put it on and knelt on the floor, thanking God for mercy and reprieve from the dastardly cell. Under the covers, I felt warm and safe, then when my eyes flickered shut, I got sleep for the first time in nearly four weeks. 

***

I was not allowed to leave my room, nor did I particularly want too. The week passed by in a strange haze; time ceased all meaning as I gazed blankly at the ornate wallpaper for hours and hours, twiddling the cross around my neck between my thumb and forefinger. 

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